Coleen Hardisty says she, like many people, feels overwhelmed by the recent flood of information and resources about protests against racial inequality across North America.
It’s good that the news is “inescapable,” she said, but with so many different funds to donate to, and things to listen to and read, she wasn’t sure about the best way to help.
“I was so overwhelmed to the point that I couldn’t make a donation,” she said. “I was like, there are so many I don’t know where to start and I’m way up here in Yellowknife and we’re in the middle of a pandemic.”
Hardisty decided to create Denendeh Donates to BLM (Black Lives Matter). The public Facebook group provides a centralized place for current and former NWT residents to find information on supporting the movement.
Within an hour of creating the group on Thursday morning, Hardisty said it had gained 77 members. By that evening, membership had grown to 173.
The group is a way to bring attention to the National Bail Out fund, Hardisty said, a network of Black-led and Black-centred grassroots organizations in the US. The fund bails out arrested protesters and helps with their legal fees.
“I think the biggest focus for me has been the amount of people that are getting thrown in jail for protesting violence and that have experienced violence while protesting those very same violent acts,” Hardisty said.
Protests against racism and police violence began in cities across the US and parts of Canada following the death of George Floyd while he was in police custody on May 25.
Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck for several minutes, has since been charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Three other officers involved have been fired and face charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
According to the Associated Press, more than 10,000 people have been arrested at recent protests in the US.
Work ‘needs to be done by everybody’
Hardisty said she has taken time to do research and educate herself about Black history and the experiences of Black people in North America.
“It’s a lot of work emotionally, mentally, but I think it’s work that really needs to be done by everybody,” she said, adding there are free resources available.
“I really encourage people to do the difficult thing and look at the anti-Black biases that live inside them because those biases live inside everybody, whether we like it or not.”
It’s especially important for white and white-passing people to put in the work and donate, she said, as they face fewer risks than people of colour.
Hardisty noted Indigenous and Black people have long stood in solidarity with one another during struggles.
As someone with Dene roots, she said police violence has always been a part of her life. The RCMP historically helped move Indigenous people onto reserves and forcibly removed Indigenous children from their homes, placing them in residential schools.
Now, Hardisty said, “we’re in a time like no other in history” as people are more connected and events are filmed from all angles.
“It’s getting harder and harder, I think, for people to deny all of the evidence that points to a supposed first-world country killing its own citizens directly or indirectly,” she said.
“I think a part of me always thought that things would never change, and now I’m starting to believe that maybe things could, and that’s really powerful.”