Artist and organizers shocked as Black Lives Matter mural in Quebec City defaced in just 3 days

·3 min read
In just three days, the collage was defaced with graffiti reading 'kebe-quoi,' with 'quoi' spelled as the French word for 'what,' and a question mark at the end.   (Franca Mignacca/CBC - image credit)
In just three days, the collage was defaced with graffiti reading 'kebe-quoi,' with 'quoi' spelled as the French word for 'what,' and a question mark at the end. (Franca Mignacca/CBC - image credit)

The artist responsible for a Quebec City mural in honour of Black lives says the piece being vandalized in such a short time reinforces its importance and relevance.

Two new street art pieces — a fresco reading "Les Vies des Noire.e.s comptes," or Black Lives Matter, stretching a full city block in the Saint-Roch neighbourhood, and a collage of photographs depicting people of several races standing in solidarity with Black people in the Saint-Jean Baptiste neighbourhood — were inaugurated Monday.

By Wednesday, the collage was defaced with graffiti reading "kebe-quoi?" scrawled across it, with "quoi?" spelled as the French word for "what?"

"I found this particularly difficult for the people who were photographed," said artist Wartin Pantois. "For me it was an act of intolerance."

Marika Wheeler/CBC
Marika Wheeler/CBC

Michelle Osbourne, one of the people pictured in the mural, said she wasn't surprised the art was defaced. But she's still hurt by its message that people of colour aren't welcome.

"Some people might just see it as graffiti, but it's not," she said. "It's tough waking up every day feeling hated for existing."

Osbourne, who's lived in Quebec City for seven years, says she's going to keep fighting, because she doesn't want her daughter, who she plans to raise in the city, see her give up.

"I'm disappointed because we sent a message of solidarity and justice," said Mbaï-Hadji Mbaïrewaye, the founder of a collective of five organizations that came together to create the two pieces.

Marika Wheeler/CBC
Marika Wheeler/CBC

Mbaïrewaye said he was surprised by how quickly the art was defaced, and that it sends the message that Black people in the city should shut up and suffer in silence, but they will not.

Quebec City police say they received a complaint about the vandalism around 7 p.m. Wednesday. Officers also found graffiti with the same wording on Parvis Street and Fleury Street.

The incidents are being investigated.

Franca Mignacca/CBC
Franca Mignacca/CBC

Osbourne said she was "humbled, honoured and grateful," to have been included in the project, especially because she sees it as a historic piece that would not have happened when she first moved to the city.

"As someone who's had a really difficult time being an anglophone in Quebec City, it makes me so proud," she said.

The collective Mbaïrewaye started came together in response to a lack of recognition from city officials and police officers of systemic racism.

"There is some concern about us here in Quebec City, especially about racial profiling," Mbaïrewaye said. "The police service and elected officials in Quebec City don't like to talk about this problem."

He said he's not blaming all police officers, but he's calling for systemic change.

In an email earlier this week, the Quebec City police service wrote it does not consider there to be a systemic racism problem within its ranks.

Spokesperson David Pelletier wrote there are hundreds of employees within the SPVQ, which reflects Quebec society, and the organization is paying attention to this issue.

He wrote that officers are trained in what they call a cultural context, which addresses racial profiling.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

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