Judith Burfoot, founder of All Welcome Here (AWH)-a non-profit group focused on anti-racism in Prince Edward County-brought words of gratitude to the Thursday’s Committee of the Whole Meeting. Burfoot spoke of the great community support at the recent demonstration in support of the Black Lives Matter Movement (BLM) and how the community can move forward against racism.
Burfoot also fielded any questions council had regarding the movement and the demonstration.
“I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept,” she began, reciting a fitting quote from Angela Davis, political activist, author and professor.
AWH was established in Prince Edward County by Burfoot in 2019 with an exclusively anti-racist agenda and a focus on people of colour (POC).
Earlier this year-long before COVID-19 or the explosion of the BLM movemement iterated Burfoot-AWH had received a municipal grant to support their work.
Since then, their presence has grown.
The work of AWH, thus far, has included leading the recent peaceful demonstration in support of BLM. Scores of people lined Picton Main Street, joining many other towns and cities across North America in support of the BLM movement and in outrage at the systemic racism that has filtered through generations.
“The OPP counted over 1,000 people lining the streets Friday, June 5,” noted Burfoot. “But they didn’t count everyone in vehicles honking horns in support or those tuning in from home.”
“I want to acknowledge the unprecedented support from this community. To know, here in our small rural community, all people were ready, willing and able to come to the streets of Picton and stand in support of the BLM Movement and of their BIPOC (black, indigenous people of colour) neighbours and colleagues,” Burfoot stated. “They came in support and solidarity and to be part of the biggest civil rights movement this planet has ever seen. They came to say it’s time for deep, lasting change to happen and they came to say they don’t believe the lie that Canada isn’t racist,”
Apart from thanking those members of council, organizers, volunteers and all supporters who attended the demonstration, Burfoot acknowledged the sanctioning of the event by BLM Canada
She noted AWH received over $200 in unsolicited cash donations at the event and that the money will go directly to BLM Toronto. Meanwhile, as of June 11, the group had raised over $1500 online.,
AWH also has two online Facebook groups, one open to POC and allies and another solely for POC. Both have seen numbers soar in the past few weeks.
“This is incredible, organic growth and yet another indicator of how engaged our community is in this group,” she enthused.
For those looking to support our BIPOC neighbours and friends, Burfoot had some advice.
“Support black people directly. Support our businesses. Donate to BLM Organizations and welcome us as neighbours and visitors. Educate yourself without asking POC to do the emotional work of educating you,” emphasized Burfoot.
Furthermore, she emphasized the importance of spreading anti-racism knowledge and being actively anti-racist.
“Spread it to all your friends and neighbours,” said Burfoot.
Councillor Kate MacNaughton commented on the profound nature of demonstration and how it comes at a time where humanity is seemingly poised to reorganize dysfunctional systems and institutions.
“I found it profoundly moving and I was surprised at how many in our small, rural community came out. It feels like, in general right now, this is a time where there’s a critical mass of people hungry for change,” said MacNaughton. “We’ve got an opportunity to reorganize our systems and institutions better with a new eye to social justice and equity.”
“Your efforts reinforce that,” she added.
Along with the BLM Movement, and in the wake of egregious police brutality, many are calling for the defunding of police services.
Councillor Bill McMahon noted seeing several posters at the demonstration calling for the defunding of police and asked Burfoot what her stance was on this issue.
“Looking on social media and some pictures my wife took, I noticed a lot of people were holding ‘defund police’ banners. Does your organization have a position on that and how does that play out,” McMahon inquired.
Burfoot explained that the term ‘defund the police’ which has been bandied about recently is actually more about refunding social care.
“I think when people hear defund the police, they get reactive and frightened and that shouldn’t be what it is,” she noted. “I think one of the biggest rallying cries right now is that police are often being asked to do mental health checks. Why are there not mental health workers to assist with that? We’ve gutted those services, and I say ‘we’ because we are all voters here.”
We need mental health support, stressed Burfoot, adding that such support needs to be a priority.