United against hate

Hal­i­fax United 2017 aims to “bring peo­ple to­gether in the face of the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal cli­mate.”

The Coast - - THE CITY - BY RE­BECCA DINGWELL

Hal­i­fax United 2017 Satur­day Novem­ber 18, 12-5pm Hal­i­fax Fo­rum Bingo Hall, 2901 Wind­sor Street

Com­mentsec­tions and so­cial me­dia have made Hal­i­fax feel like a cesspool of ha­tred as of late. Out­rage over a Hal­i­fax Pop Ex­plo­sion show and a Face­book post from months ago are a cou­ple of the causes of con­flict, spurring ac­cu­sa­tions of dis­crim­i­na­tion from all sides. The ugly threats against women of colour are par­tic­u­larly dis­turb­ing.

A mul­ti­cul­tural event tak­ing place next week­end aims to counter the di­vi­sion with unity. The event is ap­pro­pri­ately called Hal­i­fax United 2017, and fea­tures per­form­ers and speak­ers such as Dal­housie Stu­dent Union mem­ber Ma­suma Khan.

“I think bring­ing peo­ple to­gether, be­ing united—what we need from that is sol­i­dar­ity, at the end of the day,” says Khan, who is still deal­ing with the fall­out of a for­mal com­plaint over a Face­book post she made dur­ing the sum­mer. The com­plaint was dropped, but not be­fore na­tional me­dia cov­er­age and a storm of anger de­scended on Khan.

“I don’t think it ever re­ally tames down. I think that’s just what hap­pens when you’re a very vis­i­ble racial­ized per­son who’s speak­ing out,” she says.

Paul Vi­en­neau, a pho­tog­ra­pher and mu­si­cian known around the city for his ac­ces­si­bil­ity ad­vo­cacy, came up with the idea for Hal­i­fax United due to the racially-charged con­flicts hap­pen­ing lo­cally.

The ini­tial cat­a­lyst was the Proud Boys’ takeover of an In­dige­nous cer­e­mony at the Corn­wal­lis statue on Canada Day. Other in­ci­dents piled up—the daugh­ter of Vi­en­neau’s friend was called the n-word on Face­book, for ex­am­ple. Vi­en­neau also saw the ef­fects of the threats against Khan.

“This isn’t like some white saviour bull­shit,” says Vi­en­neau. “I’ve been treated very well by every­body of ev­ery de­scrip­tion through my life, and I feel like I owe it to good peo­ple ev­ery­where to try to fa­cil­i­tate some­thing where peo­ple get to have a voice.”

Aside from Khan, speak­ers at Hal­i­fax United will in­clude El Jones, Re­becca Thomas and An­dre Fen­ton. Soul singer Dutch Robin­son will also be per­form­ing.

“When we’re united, there’s more of us than the peo­ple who seem to be against us,” says Vi­en­neau.

Khan talked about min­i­mum wage dur­ing a women’s rally held this past Mon­day, which she says is the first time she’s spo­ken pub­licly in the last few months. She isn’t yet sure what she’ll be speak­ing about at Hal­i­fax United, but “you can be sure that it’s gonna be around so­cial jus­tice,” she says.

“Ed­u­cat­ing folks on the kind of ally­ship that re­quires ac­tion, I think, is what can come from these sort of talks,” says Khan. “That’s what it means to be united. We have to rec­og­nize in­equities through­out this so­ci­ety if we want to be united and if we want to have an eq­ui­table Hal­i­fax.”

Khan takes is­sue with the idea that point­ing out racism and priv­i­lege is the same as “di­vid­ing us.”

“We’re al­ready di­vided,” she says. “We have to ac­knowl­edge that the lived ex­pe­ri­ences of peo­ple are very dif­fer­ent and I think that’s the only way we’re go­ing to ap­proach unity.”

Ad­mis­sion to Hal­i­fax United is free, but food bank do­na­tions and mone­tary do­na­tions (char­ity TBD) will be ac­cepted. Vi­en­neau em­pha­sizes that the event is fam­ily-friendly, al­co­hol-free and ev­ery­one is wel­come.

“If con­ser­va­tives show up, they’re also in­vited be­cause they are our neigh­bours. And we’re only di­vided when we feel like can’t come to­gether and have a dis­cus­sion,” he says.

MEGHAN TANSEY WHIT­TON

Ma­suma Khan will be speak­ing at the event next week­end.

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