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Dismantling racism in Calgary a multi-step process, says local activist

Last Updated May 24, 2021 at 11:16 am EDT

CALGARY – A year after the murder of George Floyd saw thousands in Calgary hit the streets to demand police accountability, one activist took her fight from the streets to a seat on the Calgary Police Board’s anti-racism committee.

Shu Porter says the battle may have gone behind closed doors but she is just as committed to getting action.

“I was adamant… to make sure the narrative wasn’t just talking about what was happening to our brothers and sisters in America–with George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, the hundreds of thousands of Black lives robbed from us– but to really be able to turn a spotlight on what’s happening in our city. A lot of things that happen to our people go undetected because it’s not captured on video,” she told CityNews.

“They associated that the reason we’re so angry and the sole reason was because of the killing of George Floyd. George Floyd was the thing that broke the bucket’s bottom.”

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In response to the racial awakening, the Alberta government formally banned carding and regulated street checks.

Calgary Police Chief Mark Neufeld admitted there was systemic racism in policing and made eliminating it a key priority.

The force set up an anti-racism committee, which Porter was chosen to sit on.

“It’s too early to tell [the impact]– this is not a linear process. For those that expect that within four months of the creation of the ARC organization we’re going to see overall change, [you’re] setting yourself up for failure,” she said.

However, she does say she’s been impressed with the leadership on the board so far.

“To hear someone that is not Black – without being told, ‘Say ‘I understand’’ – say that a lot of the things that happen is covered by the laws, covered and normalized by our training, but not because that is the case that, makes it right. And that’s why we want you to be a part of this conversation,” she said.

“Leadership does determine the level which something will be pushed – but that doesn’t mean people getting directive won’t be push back.”

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Porter isn’t afraid to rock the boat to get her message heard.

She organized a rally outside the Calgary Board of Education building, as education, like the justice system, is rife with anti-Blackness.

And she’s called out city council at its own public hearing into anti-racism, saying the hearing was all for show.

“This can’t be done in three days, this is a formality. What you do today is a check in your book that you did it – that’s performative,” she told council.

She says combatting systemic racism is a multi-step process, starting with conversation.

“Step one is verbal commitment. Step two is setting up structure to hold those verbal commitments to task. Step three – the hardest part – do what supposed to do.”

Porter says for many, it won’t’ be until that final step that they feel supported. And until that happens it’s on all of us to make a difference.

“We want people who want to be comrades, not just allies, to use their privilege and resources to make change.”