We, the past and present African residents of Doone street and allied organizations have written an open letter to express our disappointment in the City of Fredericton’s response to the well documented and reported incidents of systemic racism in the Fredericton community including in the Doone Street community. We have been raising this critical point to the City of Fredericton and offering strategies to representatives, and the response we have faced is either silence or performative activism.
Dear Mayor Kate Rogers and City Councilors:
On Feb 8, 2021, the CBC news ran the story “Leaving Doone Street” that shone a light on racist incidents that have been happening in the community for years. Through the support of the New Brunswick African Association, we shared our experiences publicly. While only our stories were shared, there have been many other incidents of racist violence and threats in our communities that have been occurring that remain untold and unexamined. Our goal in sharing our stories was to heighten awareness of what is happening in our community and to drive transparency and action in addressing systemic racism in our communities – not just on Doone Street, but across Fredericton.
It is disheartening that on the public face of it and in private meetings, there seems to be mutual agreement on the importance for engagement and involvement of individuals and grassroots organizations, yet when it comes to action, the response from the City of Fredericton continues to be deliberately vague actions and commitments, passive attitudes and disregard to the concerns of the communities most impacted by systemic racism.
As individuals who have lived through this racist harm in Fredericton and Doone Street, as members and allies of the Black/African and racialized community of Fredericton, we are appalled. The City’s current approach has it using existing and ineffective committees including the Cultural Diversity Advisory Committee (CDAC) and Fredericton Local Immigration Partnership (FLIP) to attempt to address the concerns identified in the news article and other concerns around systemic racism in the Fredericton community and on Doone Street. This is regressive.
Celebrating diversity is important but using it as the means to solve anti-racism and anti-Black racism is a clear sign of the level of ignorance and lack of depth in understanding of the racial injustices faced by Indigenous, Black/African, Asian and racialized residents of Fredericton.
The impact of anti-racism and anti-Black racism is seen in recreation, policing, justice, community services, economic development, job opportunities, public health, education, and access to decision-making. Therefore, to limit the scope of the work needed to address these systematic issues through existing advisory committees unequipped to tackle anti-racism and certainly, anti-Black racism is insulting.
Anti-racism is not a cultural issue.
Anti-Black racism is not a cultural issue.
This is why we are asking for an Anti-Racism Task Force to be formed that is autonomous of the current and existing committees, directly liaising with the City Council. It is imperative that this Task Force has clear goals, terms of reference, and recruitment policies and membership created with the input of those that are most impacted by racism at the forefront – the Indigenous, Black/African, Asian and racialised residents of Fredericton.
We ask the City Council to engage directly with individuals and communities being impacted by systemic racism. We ask that grassroots organizations, led by Indigenous, Black/African, Asian and racialized communities and organizations, who priorities addressing systemic racism, be involved and help decide on the goals, mandate, recruitment, terms of reference, and other aspects of the Task Force.
We want to ensure that the work which will address the issue of racism is directly reported to the Council and, at the same token, that the Council has direct accountability for this work. Anything short of this arrangement will be tokenistic and will not be accepted by the African community, past and present residents of Doone Street community, allied organizations and allies.
Our experience with the City of Fredericton has been very disappointing, devaluing, and a clear example of performative activism.
We are tired of the attempts by systems and institutions to dilute the serious systemic and structural issues of racism as merely cultural or diversity-related issues. We must move forward our proposal for the Task Force as soon as possible so that the Indigenous, Black/African, Asian and racialized community members in Fredericton can begin to see positive changes in this city.
You can do better. You must do better.
For more information, please contact:
New Brunswick African Association, Inc.