This summer was marked by heightened visibility of police violence in the United States and Canada, leading to an eruption of protest, prayer, and public mourning. The horrific strangulation of George Floyd on May 25 was witnessed virtually by millions of people around the world. In Toronto on May 27, I felt a punch to my gut when news broke of the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a 29-year-old Black and First Nations woman, during a police intervention. This grief was compounded when on June 4, New Brunswick police responded to a mental health “wellness check” for Chantel Moore, a 26-yearold Indigenous mother, and shot her five times in the doorway of her home. When Regis Korchinski-Paquet died, her body lay on the street for five hours and forty minutes. Her family and community were outraged by this gesture of disrespect to her body. Desmond Cole wrote of this:
“There has been almost no public reporting or conversation about this blatant act of disrespect and collective callousness by our public officials. The state and its agents can treat Black death as our natural state, devoid of any sanctity or need for care. Such neglect mirrors White indifference to our living struggle, and demonstrates that, within the context of this global White supremacist nightmare, our lives do not matter.”
More than 10 people of colour have been killed by Canadian police since the beginning of 2020. Grief-stricken and overwhelmed by the voracity of loss, I reached out to fellow clergy for prayer, support, and solidarity. The only person to reply to my plea was the Rev. Jacqueline Daley, the priest-in-charge of St. Margaret, New Toronto, and co-chair of Black Anglicans of Canada. In response to the killing of George Floyd, Black Anglicans of Canada had begun a weekly Wednesday night webinar series on confronting anti-Black racism. In our grief-thick conversation, Jacqueline generously offered to share this platform with Toronto Urban Native Ministry (TUNM). We held a joint meeting with community leaders from the Black and Indigenous communities, built relationships, and together developed a three-part series titled “Anti-Black and Anti-Indigenous Racism: Shared Pathway Series.” We also brought our hearts together to host a joint worship service of “Lament for Lives Lost” on July 19, which can be viewed at any time in the video section of TUNM’s Facebook page. The worship service featured songs of lament from Black and Indigenous traditions, a riveting sermon by Jacqueline, and prayers for all killed by police violence in our beloved communities.
Within the pandemic of COVID-19, our communities are also responding to the ongoing pandemics of anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism. Though we have not been able to gather in person, we have found new ways of grieving, praying, and resisting together. Our Shared Pathways Series held three online webinars throughout the month of September and has been viewed by hundreds of people. Participants “zoomed in” from all over the world, from the Caribbean to the United Kingdom. All webinars from the series can be viewed on the Black Anglicans of Canada YouTube page.
In these sessions, we learned from diverse voices about how Indigenous and Black people were both enslaved in the first several centuries of colonization. We learned how, after emancipation in Canada, Indigenous communities helped hide Black people escaping the tortures of slavery and seeking the underground railroad to freedom – how they shared pathways of liberation. We learned how Black and Indigenous communities are not separate, but deeply and intimately connected. We learned how Black clergy are overwhelmingly underemployed and unsupported in our Church; we dreamed together on decolonizing and shifting power dynamics in the Kin-dom of God. We learned from women who are both Black and Indigenous, from Aleshia Johnson of Osgoode Law School and Monica Forrester, Director of Trans Pride Toronto, about their experiences of racism and tools of resilience. Throughout the series, we co-conspired how we can build solidarity across Black and Indigenous experiences, to support each other in building spaces of transformation as we confront White supremacist violence against our community members.
These dialogues, our joint worship service, and the wisdom of Black Anglicans co-chairs Lance Wilson and the Rev. Jacqueline Daley, brought me into a deeper awareness of our living God. I encourage you to engage the 11 webinars that Black Anglicans of Canada has created since the series began in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. Amplify Black leadership by sharing their series with your parish, friends, and communities.
I close with a prayer by Brother Reginald Crenshaw from the third episode of our Shared Pathways Series: “We thank the Holy Spirit for being present among us, for allowing us to break our silence, allowing us to have this kind of conversation… inspire us to continue to have these conversations, to continue to organize, to continue to heal, and disrupt, and lead. Amen.”