Anti-racist campaign in Russell Township

Isabel McIntosh

Local Anti-Racist Campaign in Response to Hate Incident in Russell

October 22, 2020, Russell, ON – In August of 2020, Russell Township made the news for the fourth time in six months related to racism and hate-crimes. A black boy, who was with his white friend at the time, was called racist terms and beaten – his arm broken in two places. The friend tried to intervene but the two aggressors overwhelmed the two young boys.

The news hit many families hard. Several racialized families came forward to share their own stories and express their concerns about the unacceptable but entrenched attitudes towards race that still exist in Russell and other rural communities. Many families from all over the United Counties of Prescott and Russell rallied around the young boys and their families to validate their experiences and to demonstrate support for racialized people, who are a vital and integral part of our communities.

Within days, a small group of women from all corners of Prescott and Russell joined forces, virtually, and formed an activist group called the Anti-Racism Work Group. “Our goals are: 1- to support the local conversation about race in Prescott and Russell, and 2- to ask local citizens to become actively Anti-Racist instead of standing back and identifying themselves as passively Not-Racist.” declared Jessica Sarrazin.

Isabelle McIntosh, a resident of Embrun located in Russell Township, started the Facebook group: Embrun/Russell Communities Against Racism and Bullying, which now has over 200 members. “I wanted to create an open, safe space where people could express their opinions and share resources so we could learn from each other. I feel very strongly about anti-racism. I’ve personally benefited from being surrounded by individuals of diverse cultural backgroundsand am outraged by others’ racist judgements” says Mrs. McIntosh and adds “Our community leaders need to stop ignoring this issue, change policies that are not inclusive for all, provide ongoing anti-racism learning opportunities (for everyone), and speak up against the unfairness, injustices and inequalities that continue to exist. These policies hurt everyone.”

The Anti-Racism Work Group have put together short and long-term strategies, which include a soon-to-be-launched campaign of lawn signs for community members to express their stance against racism. They also plan to raise and collect funds to provide on-going anti-racism learning opportunities for community leaders, administration and residents. They are invested in working collaboratively with local, relevant groups such as the recent committee set up by Russell Township to address racism and inclusion as well as 613/819 Black Hub, a community advocacy organization that brings people of African descent in Ottawa-Gatineau together to coordinate volunteer-led efforts to address anti-Black racism through systemic change primarily in education, justice, employment, business and politics (613819blackhubnoir.ca).

The Anti-Racism Work Group’s aim is that our communities are safe, inclusive and healthy for all.

For more information, contact the Anti-Racism Work Group at: antiracismworkgrouppr@gmail.com

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