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Photo by Mariah Wilson

Calgarians turn out for Black Lives Matter candlelight vigil

By Jenn Gorrie, June 6 2020—

The death of George Floyd garnered attention from around the world including thousands of Calgarians that have been participating this past week in the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Despite Covid-19 and the rules surrounding social distancing, Misgana Mentesonot, a SAIT alumnus, made time to attend all the events including a Candlelight Vigil on June 3.

“It is important to me, because I am black myself, and I have faced some of the hardships,” said Mentesonot. “Thousands of people every day are taking time out of their lives to bring awareness. It’s 2020 — people shouldn’t be treated this way.” 

Mentesonot sees the impact the protests have made and said he hopes that a sense of seriousness is a takeaway for people.

“This isn’t for fun,” he said. “I don’t want to be protesting — there could be a lot of other things I could be doing.” 

Photo by Mariah Wilson

After being detained twice in his life by the Calgary Police, Mentesonot has also dealt with some depression but decided to spend his time working on art by creating T-shirts and music that focuses on discrimination.

Though he thinks it’s a great time to release his work, he does think it is also important to take the time and donate the profits toward a good cause.

Mentesonot said that he would be interested in donating money from his T-shirts to the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP), an organization that focuses on equality. 

Viola Hewak, a screening officer in Calgary, also attended the Candlelight Vigil bringing along her friend Marlee Fitzpatrick, to show their allyship in the Black Lives Matter Movement.

Fitzpatrick had never attended a protest before, or any similar event but said on Monday her “eyes became wide open” and she wanted to “be more active in the community.”

Fitzpatrick thought she knew what white privilege meant, but after hearing the speakers at the vigil, she realized that it goes far beyond her current awareness.

“I want more of my white friends to not be so quiet about this,” said Fitzpatrick, “It’s just so frustrating. It’s not just a States issue, everyone around the world is protesting right now, because this is systematic racism, it’s not just in the States.” 

Photo by Mariah Wilson

Both Fitzpatrick and Hewak agreed that it is important to also start supporting local black companies. 

“Everything is now under critical review — like they said, put it towards local businesses, put it towards black businesses, your money speaks and it’s important to put your mouth where your money is,” said Hewak. 

From changing their makeup brands to supporting black-owned companies, being more open to different foods, and taking into consideration what they put on their bodies, they both acknowledge these are only small steps when it comes to the Black Lives Movement.

“There is power in unity, there is power in numbers, if we push and push and believe and show our support, we will get results, we will see the change we want in the world,” said Hewak.

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