“When there are people in your community who are suffering, that is also your suffering.” – Desmond Cole

Desmond Cole — who is a former CSI Community Animator — recently published the Skin We’re In: A Year of Black Resistance. The book chronicles just one year—2017—in the struggle against racism in this country.

When in Halifax for a launch event for his book, Cole spoke to the CBC about why he thinks things are not getting better:

People are desperate to hear that we are, and people are also angry that when Black people are asked that question that we don’t say, ‘Oh yeah well we’re not in chains anymore so things are better.’ If there’s such a small Black population in this country, why are so many of us in jail? Why are so many of us being apprehended? Child apprehensions in Black communities in Toronto are going up. We are almost 40 per cent of the new child welfare cases. That wasn’t the case a generation ago. Why is that happening?

Not everything is on this natural, as people believe, upward trajectory toward everybody being great and equal. And I think that that really bothers people because they think, I don’t have to work for it. I just have to live off the avails and the fumes of being a Canadian, and if time passes things will automatically get better. Not if we don’t fight for it.

Until all of us are free, none of us are. So when there are people in your community who are suffering, that is also your suffering. If there are people in your community who are afraid to call out for help when they need it because they don’t think that the help is going to come, that affects the health and safety of the entire community. When some people live in fear it makes other people live in fear.

So anti-Black racism might not affect everybody in this province directly. It might not affect everybody in the country directly, but it creates a set of circumstances where our well-being is tied to one another. And so I wrote this book primarily for Black people first and foremost to see ourselves and to see our stories, but justice is a collective enterprise. It’s for everybody.

Read the full interview here.


Are you looking for a way to be part of a conversation about 600 years of Black history in Canada? CSI member Michael Bolé is producing The Melanin Project, an art show celebrating over 600 thousand years of Black History. The event invites collaboration by combining dance, poetry, music, and food while celebrating black excellence a culture of kings, gods, goddesses, and queens.

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