Mar 062017

On January 28th, 2017, Solidarity Halifax was invited to offer remarks during a community gathering aimed at encouraging movement building and organizing in the wake of Donald Trump’s inauguration as President of the USA. The following is adapted from a speech delivered by Solidarity Halifax member Jackie Barkley at the North Memorial Library for this event.

Greetings and solidarity with all the panelists and all the people here willing to listen and participate. Unless you are here to support fascism, in which case I think I can speak for all of us in the room – leave!

Yes, we are on unceded Mi’maq territory, but let’s all avoid this assertion becoming a cliche, a self satisfied often guilty white concession to history, and rather use if as a commitment to solidarity in practice – which is the hard part.

Let’s also take a moment to recognize that this library has been the Black community centre of the North End for more than 30 years.  Let the tone of our debates and discussions recall and honour all the Black family meetings, the Black history month openings, the songs and plays of struggle, the largest public collection of Black literature and history east of Montreal, and the launch of Lindell Smith’s campaign a year ago.  And, if the first task in the fight against racism is learning and listening, let’s all get a library card, and go to the next room over.

I’ve been invited to speak on the topic of anti-racist and long term organizing.  I’ve got 5 to 7 minutes.  So, I give up. I will instead try to focus on some ideas to guide the discussion. For the anti-racism part of this presentation, I’ve brought  our detailed, but work in progress, guideposts for how Solidarity Halifax holds ourselves accountable and tries to guide our anti-racist work.  It took a year of work to develop this small document, so have a read.  I think those efforts at anti-racist organizing that are useful to share are because of, not in spite of, the long term organizing part of what I want to talk about next.

What is effective resistance? What are the key elements? And who is “we?”
I suggest the key elements are:

  1. First, the incredibly difficult work of working together, of agreeing and disagreeing, of independent organizations and coalitions and united fronts, of building well organized collective locations and groups for debate and action, and for accountability.  Individuals can be shamed for our racism (and white people must not get so defensive in our fragility that we reject shame…..if the shoe fits.)  But shame is an emotion that fears accountability, so we need to organize ourselves so that we are publicly accountable for ourselves and our actions. We must organize ourselves so that shame becomes action – trustworthy, reliable action and not flash-in-the-pan pop up politics, however self righteous and noble the latter makes people feel.
  2. The second key element is fighting the individualism, which is at the core of Capitalist ideology and infects our movements.  It’s about my struggle and yours, about my personal location and yours, and how we can bring these together, not fly apart like exploding buckshot.
  3. The third key element is to reject ideological, as well as material (in action), white supremacy in those aspects of linear Eurocentric thought that require us to always choose the “or” rather than the “and.”  It’s not about “you’re right and I’m wrong,” or better yet, “I’m right and you’re wrong.” It’s about creating organizational structures that can sustain disagreement and criticism and take the partial truths in all our radical, left and progressive traditions.
  4. The fourth key element is showing up and sticking around – not with our friends alone, but with allies and comrades who work together. We cannot avoid taking positions, ideological and practical.  That’s not the hard part. Critiquing our enemy is not hard – that’s why so many people have been sending around awesome placards from the marches and rallies last Saturday. The hard part is actually staying for long meetings, waiting our turn, not taking up all the space (a particular weakness of mine I should mention), being at the meeting whether we feel like it or not, meeting our commitments, saying I will and then doing it, not getting bored with analysis and history, listening, not assuming our personal group culture or style or dress or timing or location is actually meaningful to the persons we want to work with, ethical compromise, examining the difference between selling out and cashing in…

Who is “we” in any particular time and place? It can be a dangerous term if not contextualized.  Are we progressives? Or the Left? The Left might be seen as the white activists, or the white feminists, or the white working class, or the Left of the G20 protest, or white trans comrades.  Or the Left might be seen as the landless peasants reclaiming public land in Brazil, or the radical Black activists of the civil rights movement, or the miners of Cape Breton who supported the Communist, J.B. McLachlan, in the 1920s or the fishermen from Canso who built the fishermen’s union, or the Mi’kmaw defending their rights in Burnt Church or now in Sipekne’katik. We have to both name who we are as individuals and how we choose to organize ourselves.

Who I am is a 69 year old, white, cis gendered woman, with two grown sons, a long time activist, of French background, white privilege, of the  working class, but that part of the working class with a home worth a fortune because of the displacement of African Nova Scotians and poor white persons from this community, and that part of the working class that had a good salary and a pension.  I have the privilege of time, health and enough energy to keep on keeping on. I am a very proud member of Solidarity Halifax, an organizational work in progress. And I hope the space I’ve taken today has helped build a movement because I’m afraid we are not ready yet, but have no time to lose in our resolve to fight fascism.

Mar 042017

The organizers of our counter-protest today have rightly named the so-called “March for Freedom” a “thinly-veiled anti-Muslim” rally. M-103 is a motion in Parliament that names Islamophobia as something that needs to be condemned. The backlash against M-103 that emphasizes “all religions” is eerily similar to the slogan “All Lives Matter”. These alternatives attempt to erase the issues of violence at hand.

The point of course is that Muslims are facing hatred daily, and to fight this targeted discrimination, it must be named – hatred against Muslims is Islamophobia. It is not enough to say that all religions deserve respect, when a particular religion, Islam, is being villainized, stereotyped, and misrepresented today.

The organizers of our counter-protest today rightly called for the destruction of any platform for the far-right. Instead, today we create:

  • A space to condemn neo-Nazis and white nationalists, who hide behind the idea of “free speech” while actually defending white supremacy and the ruling class; we create
  • A space to condemn Islamophobes, and those who are unwilling to name and condemn Islamophobia; we create
  • A space to condemn those who will not recognize that we are here on stolen Mi’kmaq territory, and that those of us who are settlers in Canada must support decolonization and Indigenous self-determination

Today we create a space to name the Canadian politicians who have rejected M-103 out of a fear of the very word “Islamophobia”:

  • Kelli Leitch
  • Kevin O’Leary
  • Maxime Bernier
  • Steven Blaney;
  • Andrew Scheer; and more.

Shame on all of them!

Solidarity Halifax strives to build a culture of solidarity. So what does that mean today?

  • It means listening to our Muslim comrades and friends
  • It means recognizing that there is no single experience of being Muslim, no single experience of Islamophobia
  • It means taking opportunities to meet Muslims, to go to mosque open houses, to go to events hosted by Muslim Student Associations; to connect and to unlearn prejudice
  • It means committing to self-education and to education in our communities – our families, our workplaces, our classrooms, our organizations, and among our fellow athletes, artists and friends
  • It means joining the struggle for the liberation of Palestine, and for an end to imperialist wars that thrive on the spread of Islamophobia
  • Solidarity means intervening in situations of Islamophobic harassment
  • It means challenging the people in our lives who make Islamophobic statements, who justify attacks on Muslims, and who will not support M-103 because of the use of the word “Islamophobia”
  • It means supporting Muslim refugees and migrants, and people from Muslim-majority countries
  • It means supporting Muslims in the LGBTQ+ community, Muslim women and non-binary people, disabled Muslims, and Muslim victims and survivors of violence
  • Solidarity means condemning racist carding practises by the Halifax police that leave Black people more than 3 times more likely to be carded than white people, and Arab or West Asian people almost twice as likely to be carded as white people; it means recognizing that the Black people named in those stats include Black Muslims
  • Solidarity means leaving no space for white supremacist organizing in this city
  • It means making space for continued and organized feminist, anti-racist, anti-colonial, anti-imperial, and anti-capitalist resistance.
Feb 132017

March 1 @ 4:30pm-8:30pm
The Bus Stop Theatre Co-op
2203 Gottingen Street, Halifax

Please join us in celebration of African Liberation Month for an art exhibit of six local Black Nova Scotian artists. We will journey through these experiences through narrative performances of the local theater group iMOVe, and be reminded of the resilience through instrumentalists, and vocal performers.

The event is free and everyone is welcome! Locally catered refreshments and free childcare will be provided on site. Cash bar will be open.

This event is a collaboration between CUPE NS and Working While Black. Working While Black is a project of community groups Ujamaa, Solidarity Halifax and the Kwacha House Cafe.

Dec 122016

On December 12, 2016, CBC radio aired this commentary by Jackie Barkley. Jakie is a social worker, long-time anti-racist organizer and a member of Solidarity Halifax.

Once again the African Nova Scotian community has been struck in the past week with multiple deaths of young men, losses to the families of the victims, and to the whole Black family. But this is definitely not a time for White people to stand aside and wring our hands in disingenuous pity. No, this must be a time to own responsibility for the generations of white supremacy that have led to the current devastation.

The way suffering and rage are manifested are sociologically and psychologically complex, but that complexity is not and cannot be the relentless excuse made to sidestep urgent and immediate steps to redress wrongs and provide the resources to move forward. And while “immediate” may sound overly urgent, the fact is that many of the proposals made by African Nova Scotian persons, organizations and communities are in fact decades old.  So, acting immediately would only be acting on dusty proposals for action made over 20, 30 and 40 years ago, and actually late, not immediate!

Some ideas are not complex, provision of entry level jobs, summer jobs, and jobs paid at a living wage, not minimum wage (and this would create justice for all low income workers in NS, not just African Nova Scotians); specialized training programs located in the African Nova Scotian communities; the examination of the overrepresentation of persons of African Nova Scotian descent in the criminal justice system, and the immediate start of targeted re-entry programs designed with the assistance of the Black community, to meet the needs of young persons on probation, on parole and upon release from prison; the creation of a position in the Department of Community Services of an African Nova Scotian child welfare specialist (of course outrageously coming after Black social workers appealed to the minister not to ram through legislation last winter that would disproportional impact racially marginalized peoples), review of all the recommendations made in the BLAC report, the immediate implementation of the recommendation of the 2012 mental health strategy’s specific proposals concerning the Black community, and finally the silencing of those politicians who inappropriately intervene in the affairs of the community and sow division, such as Minister of Education Karen Casey did two years ago in the circumstances around the Council on African Canadian Education (CACE).

So, anyone at the deputy minister level, or the ministerial level, or in the legislature who whines about not knowing that “they” want, must stop such preposterous assertions and just start reading and listening. The needs, the requests, the appeals, are all there, just hidden by the collection of dust.

Years of austerity politics, for which those who’ve suffered most become targets first, must be challenged at every level. Nova Scotians – all of us-in unions, in community organizations, in municipal, provincial and federal political locations, in all our life places, need to mobilize to support the rights of African Nova Scotians, not tomorrow, but today. Black lives must matter to all of us!

Nov 062016

Recently, Solidarity Halifax has begun building relationships with organizations outside of Canada and Québec, in particular with the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) and Brazil’s Landless Workers Movements (MST).  Yesterday the Landless Workers Movement’s Florestan Fernandes National School (ENFF) outside Sao Paulo, Brazil, was violently stormed by police.  Solidarity Halifax condemns this attack and invites other organizations to join us in signing this statement.

ALBA Social Movements Canada condemns the attacks against Brazil’s Landless Workers Movement

Canada – On the morning of November 4th, 2016, Brazilian military and civilian police used violent force to storm Brazil’s, Landless Workers Movement’s (MST) Florestan Fernandes National School (ENFF) in Guararema, outside of Sao Paulo in Brazil. According to several witnesses, the police stormed their way into the facility by forcing their way through the main gate shooting live bullets, and threatening people.

As a founding member of Via Campesina, the MST has worldwide recognition as an important peasant social movement, with a commitment to the protection of rural communities and workers and the struggle for land reform. The Florestan Fernandes school has been committed to building social consciousness and popular unity for over 10 years.  Hundreds of students are currently studying at the ENFF which is administered by the MST to provide political and socioeconomic education to working class youth and adults from around the world.

The act is clearly a violent action taken by the current illegitimate government to intimidate the MST and their allies, who stand in clear opposition to the administration of Michel Temer, who led the parliamentary coup against elected president Dilma Roussef and took control of the government in August of this year. The attack is part of a broader policy of criminalization of social protest and attacks against the MST.

The campaign of terror against the MST has already left its mark on two other states in Brazil: Parana and Mato Grosso do Sul, where civil police arrested members of the MST calling them members of criminal organizations, despite the Supreme Court of Brazil recognizing the MST as a legitimate organization.

We the undersigned organizations and social movements condemn this violent act against the ENFF and the MST, which stands in stark contrast to the democratic and constitutional rights Brazilians have fought to secure. To organize against an oppressive system is not a crime, it is a responsibility. We express our total solidarity with the MST and demand the appropriate investigations be launched to bring the responsible to justice.  We also ask the international community to join us in solidarity with the largest social movement in the Americas.

América Latina al Día
Circulo Bolivariano Louis Riel
Common Frontiers
DeColonize Now
Idle No More
Latin American and Caribbean Solidarity Network
Solidarity Halifax
Socialist Project
Students united in representation of Latin. America
The Dawn News – International Newsletter of Popular Struggles


ALBA Movimientos Canadá condena los ataques contra el Movimiento de Trabajadores Sin Tierra de Brasil

Canadá – En la mañana del 4 de noviembre de 2016, el ejército brasileño y la policía civil utilizaron fuerzas violentas para asaltar la Escuela Nacional Florestan Fernandes del Movimiento de los Trabajadores Sin Tierra (MST) en Guararema, fuera de Sao Paulo, Brasil. Según varios testigos, la policía entró en la instalación forzando su paso a través de la puerta principal disparando balas en vivo, y amenazando a la gente.

Como miembro fundador de la Vía Campesina, el MST tiene reconocimiento mundial como un movimiento social campesino importante, con el compromiso de proteger a las comunidades rurales y los trabajadores y la lucha por la reforma agraria. La escuela Florestan Fernandes se ha comprometido a construir la conciencia social y la unidad popular por más de 10 años. Cientos de estudiantes están actualmente estudiando en el ENFF que es administrado por el MST para proporcionar educación política y socioeconómica a la clase trabajadora jóvenes y adultos de todo el mundo.

El acto es claramente una acción violenta del actual gobierno ilegítimo para intimidar al MST y a sus aliados, que se oponen claramente a la administración de Michel Temer, que dirigió el golpe parlamentario contra la presidenta electa Dilma Roussef y tomó el control del gobierno en Agosto de este año. El ataque es parte de una política más amplia de criminalización de las protestas sociales y ataques contra el MST.

La campaña de terror contra el MST ya dejó huella en otros dos estados brasileños: Paraná y Mato Grosso do Sul, donde la policía civil detuvo a miembros del MST llamándolos miembros de organizaciones criminales, a pesar de que el Tribunal Supremo de Brasil reconoció el MST Como una organización legítima.

Las organizaciones y los movimientos sociales abajo firmantes condenamos este violento acto contra el ENFF y el MST, que contrasta fuertemente con los derechos democráticos y constitucionales que los brasileños han luchado para asegurar. Organizar contra un sistema opresivo no es un crimen, es una responsabilidad. Expresamos nuestra total solidaridad con el MST y exigimos que se lleven a cabo las investigaciones apropiadas para llevar a los responsables ante la justicia. También pedimos a la comunidad internacional que se una a nosotros en solidaridad con el mayor movimiento social de las Américas.

América Latina al Día
Circulo Bolivariano Louis Riel
Fronteras comunes
DeColonize ahora
Inactivo no más
Red de Solidaridad de América Latina y el Caribe
Solidaridad Halifax
Proyecto Socialista
Estudiantes unidos en representación de America Latína
The Dawn News – Boletín Internacional de Luchas Populares