The words still ring in the ears of Phiona Durrant several months after the fact.
Sitting down with another woman of colour, she recalls her conversation companion saying, “I’m tired of White people asking me what to do or asking me to explain racism. Google it.”
The words stung, says Ms. Durrant, because, in her mind, that is not a way to foster a connection, let alone build a bridge over a cultural divide. It is most important to ask a question and open your heart to an answer.
This is one of the driving philosophies of the Aurora Black Community Association, a group which planted roots on Facebook last year, but has since grown into something much larger.
Now incorporated as a not-for-profit organization, the Aurora Black Community (ABC) will officially launch at Town Park next Saturday, August 28, from 5 – 7 p.m. with “music, food and fun for everyone.”
“This is a family event,” says Ms. Durrant. “We know it will be a busy weekend with Ribfest and all, but there is space for everybody.”
There is also space for questions.
“I have way too may people saying these two things: from Black voices, I hear, ‘Why are White people on the Board or part of the main foundation of the Aurora Black Community?’ The second one, from the White community is, ‘I don’t know how to get involved. I’m White – how will that be received?’ That alone concerns me so much because our colour should not stop us from giving support. I don’t want that fear.”
“We want to make sure everyone knows it is a place for them. The mission is to really bridge culture and bring community. If we’re going to bring any healing or build with people, I feel that is the best way and that’s the mission to really bridge culture and build community by doing that.”
That goal is not going to be met through a simple Google search.
“[Using that line] says, ‘I don’t care, you’re too White.’ If you’re authentic, I don’t think you can be too white. We want to be your Google! Nothing happens without trust. Trust is there and people can really feel safe to talk and not be shut down. There are some gaps where people are uncomfortable and don’t know how to get involved. [They might ask themselves], ‘Am I going to offend? Who am I stepping on?’ We want to get rid of that.”
Since the establishment of the ABC last year, the group already has a number of accomplishments under its belt. In addition to being an advocate for area BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) residents, they played an integral role in the development of online programs this past February to celebrate Black History Month, and, following the launch, they hope to continue to make more strides.
They want to be in the schools building programs once health restrictions allow. They are in the midst of partnering with local restaurants on cultural exchanges from a culinary standpoint – after all, what better way to get to know somebody than to break bread together – and expand their online programming wherever they can.
The one stumbling block, says Ms. Durrant with a chuckle, is the group’s name – still a work in progress – as they aim to be a bridge between all cultures and backgrounds.
“We realize there is a definite need to have this opportunity to do what we do,” she says. “People are reaching out to us for a lot of things. Some might not think we need another organization, but this seemed to fulfil a unique need. From the beginning, the name was one of the things we were – and still are – all over the place about, but we want to make sure everyone knows it is a place for them. The mission really is to bridge culture and bring community together.
“The longer we have a conversation in the community, another Black-only group or support, for me, is, in my experience, only going to be another version of segregation. If we’re going to bring any healing forward or build with people, the best way is to build a community by doing that.”
Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran