It was the same thing with not participating in Canada Day, which we never have, mind you, because students aren’t on campus. The SUB is closed. We’ve never participated in Canada Day, so it was really more of an action of solidarity. You know, it got some backlash.
Were you surprised by the response?
Yes and no. I expected there to be different opinions, but I didn’t expect it to be so targeted.
Targeted at you?
Yes, because I’m not the issue. If you’re going to target it at the issue, let’s talk about Indigenous issues. I don’t want to be the focus of that.
People feel really strongly about Canada, especially with folks who are immigrants. They feel a responsibility to this country to show love and respect because it’s given them a safe home. I understand that. My parents are immigrants too. But I don’t believe that because of my parents’ displacement I need to abide by the oppressive rules of this land in displacing Indigenous folks.
In response to comments from the Young Progressive Conservatives, you published a Facebook post saying you wouldn’t stand with “privileged white people” celebrating “over 400 years of genocide,” along with a few hashtags, like “white fragility can kiss my ass.” Why’d you post that?
At the council meeting where I brought up the motion, a council member basically told me if I don’t like Canada, I can get out. I think Canada, this land, needs more people like me that will stand in solidarity. I was upset, and to see a post criticizing the DSU for taking a solid stance and action in solidarity was really hard for me. Especially someone who comes from a long line of resistance. My family, on my mom’s side, is part of the last royal family of Afghanistan. My great-great-grandfather was actually the king. He fought the second Anglo-Afghan war and helped kick out the British. My family has this long history of decolonizing the land.
I was angry, and anger’s valid. That was my way of reaching out to my support groups. Somebody asked me to make it public because they thought it was an amazing post. So I did, and got more backlash, which is fair. People are allowed to have their opinions.
Why’d you delete it?
The decision was not entirely my own. I think it’s fair to say a lot of people have been disappointed in my post or angered by it, or felt like they dealt with some kind of racism from me pointing out white privilege. I was being pressured by some group—I can’t say who, definitely not the DSU—but I was being pressured over my actions and my words. They felt I was being discriminatory to those who identify as white. So the post was deleted because of that.
How much pressure is there to be a “good” activist, who’s respectful and doesn’t show that frustration or anger?
A lot of people come up to me and say, “You should be more like Martin Luther King.” I’m more of a Malcolm X type of gal. He was my role model—an activist who was Muslim, finding his way through the civil rights movement, who had no tolerance for any kind of injustice and really ridiculed the system. This is the kind of person I want to be.
People are like “You need to speak more eloquently.” Why is it I need to use this language in the way you want me to portray my own feelings, when I can use this language in a way I want to convey my feelings? Nova Scotia here, we use the f-word like it’s the second word after thank you. That’s just how we are. We’re Scotian, that’s how we speak. But people had a problem when I said it. To them, my anger is not valid and they don’t want to give me space to validate myself in the world. For them, my anger doesn’t exist; my injustice doesn’t exist; my identity doesn’t exist.
How do you avoid getting burnt-out?
Go cuddle my cat. I surround myself with supportive people. I’m very close to my sister, so I hang out with my sister a lot. My mother is an amazing woman, and my father is an amazing man as well. Sometimes you just need to go home and eat like a good meal, eat some Mama’s cooking and get full in that way.
What does Halifax still need to confront about itself?
Our racist history. People don’t talk about the fact that Citadel Hill was made by the Jamaican Maroons. They don’t talk about Africville, even though we know it. They don’t talk about Cornwallis, or when we do the mayor is like, “Mmmmmm, we’ll see!”
People are taking action in the States. We’re supposed to be this multicultural, diverse, inclusive country, but we’re not. People aren’t acknowledging the fact that genocide has happened here. The stealing of land has happened here. Environmental racism has happened here. They don’t even recognize that these injustices, on many levels, happen every day here.
Halifax, wake up, have your cup of coffee in the morning, breathe in this fresh east-coast air and realize there’s a lot we need to change in our city. It’s time we get to it.
Jade Byard Peek and Khan hype up the crowd last fall at a march agaisnt tuition fees.