Shanicka Edwards calls for community action not words following last week’s attack

"This is our opportunity to grow together"

In a press conference held at Shak’s World Community Centre in downtown Barrie on Friday, founder Shanicka (Shak) Edwards outlined a call to action against anti-black racism in our community.

You can view the full conference on Shak’s World’s Facebook page.

Last week, Barrie police charged a 30-year-old woman in connection with an assault that occurred on Maple Avenue, in which the Downtown BIA said in a Twitter post was a “racially motivated” attack on a community advocate.

Video of the incident shows a woman getting out of her car and approaching Edwards outside the Shak’s World Community Centre, and she can be heard using profanities and racial slurs.

At Friday’s news briefing, Edwards demanded real action with impact from governments, corporations, organizations, communities and individuals across Simcoe County.

She said the local effort, mainly words of support and performative actions, has clearly not been enough.

Shak’s World runs youth programming, with a focus on mental health, and provides mentoring for black youth in the community.

The actions outlined at the conference were split into four categories:

Government and Corporations

  1. Direct funding now to programs and organizations so that they can fully sustain the work required. Organizations are struggling to survive.
  2. Enhance the programs and organization that are already here with resources you have access to (i.e. skilled employees as volunteers, access to in house services like social media, graphic design, grant writing, fundraising)

These things will help us

● Remove all barriers for youth to access the programs and services by directing funding to that effect (i.e. dedicated transportation for youth from across Simcoe County, financial support for youth to attend programs at no cost)

● Provide sponsorship of our programs in their entirety, including administration costs, so that they can effectively be implemented.

● Allow us to do the work we know is needed without micromanaging and overseeing us to the point we can’t be effective or efficient with our limited resources.

● Collaborate with a united/coalition of organizations that share the overarching goal to dismantle anti-Black racism, rather than only consulting them individually for your own purposes.

● Recognize and eliminate actions and behaviours that are performative or check-listed, and replace them with long-lasting meaningful actions.

Organizations

  1. Come together as a united coalition of organizations focused on dismantling anti-Black racism in true collaboration through shared leadership, collaboration and partnership.
  2. We invite all groups focused on dismantling anti-Black racism to meet, collaborate and pledge to work as partners in a united coalition.
  3. Eliminate duplication of service offerings and competing for space among organizations with the same prime objective – dismantling anti-Black racism. There is room for all of us, and with our respective limited funding and capacity, we need to strategically come together.
  4. Avoid rushing into conversations and taking actions without engaging all the voices and perspectives.
Shanicka Edwards
Shak Edwards was joined via zoom by Michael Bowes of Simcoe Muskoka Family Connexions

Communities

1. Contribute regular financial donations to the organizations doing the work, helping them stay operational.

2. Start learning and unlearning rather than waiting for us to educate you. Then, when you come to us, you have more insights into the inequities around us. You’ll be more equipped to do the work alongside us in solidarity.

3. Recognize the value in everyone regardless of their differences, through your actions

Individuals

  1. Learn about cultures other than your own, to better understand each other.
  2. Treat others with respect, appreciation and genuine acceptance.

Several members of the community also joined Shanicka Edwards at the conference including Dr. Claudine Cousins, CEO of Empower Barrie.

Dr. Claudine’s organization was an early partner of Shak’s World, and she spoke about the accepting and open nature of the community centre that Shak has created. Calling it something for our entire community, not just the black community. She pressed the need for action saying, “No more platitudes, no more words. No more expecting those experiencing racism to carry the load.” She went on to say, “We all love our community, we all love Barrie, but we have some work to do. Let’s do it together.”

Related Local News: Barrie Police: ‘Hate crimes in the sense that the public uses the term do not really exist in Canadian law’

Created and run by Shanicka Edwards, Shak’s World is a fully accessible community centre in downtown Barrie that offers a variety of recreational programs for all ages. Its focus is to give youth a safe space that promotes physical and mental wellness. Youth are encouraged to use the centre to complete homework in their safe studies space or just drop in and use the gymnasium to stay active. The staff at Shak’s World is also made up of many Social Workers and Child Youth Workers who can help struggling youth deal with issues they might be having.


Featured image: Coady Fitzgerald

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