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Detail from 'Liberty Assaulted' by Judy Coates Perez. Courtesy of the artist

Solidarity without borders

While speaking freely about racism, one can always use a little bit of help from friends

By Carolyn Pogue

My husband Bill and I drove to Ontario this summer before heading down to New Hampshire and Massachusetts to visit friends. Still, several people in Canada have told me that they won’t travel to the U.S. until there’s a new president, and it gave me pause.


But I wondered how I would feel if friends wouldn't visit me because of my prime minister. I recalled travels in El Salvador, Guatemala, Israel and Palestine to stand with peacebuilders in those countries. At the time, they said that they appreciated our solidarity. So why would it be different for Americans? After all, peacebuilding can be rather lonely work.

On Aug. 19, we were visiting Diane D'Souza, Art Weingarten and their family near Boston when we decided to attend a counter-demonstration to the "Free Speech" rally, which was put on by Nazis. Boston immediately went into action as roughly 40,000 protesters came together on Malcolm X Boulevard, just outside of an Islamic Centre, and walked over to The Commons, the city’s downtown park.

It was fun. The police were there but mostly looked happy, as they had little to do but watch. Black Lives Matter activists led chants and singing, as did some other participants from unions, and the peace and LBGTQ communities. Plus, it’s always enjoyable to read people's clever signs and shirts in a peace parade: "Will Trade Racist for Refugees” and “Didn't we do all this in the Sixties?" And at the end of the walk, we learned that the handful of Nazis actually fled as we approached.

For me, one of the best parts of the march was reaching the Episcopalian Cathedral, which is situated directly across from The Commons. Doors were flung wide open. And gowned priests and lay volunteers with “Welcome” signs invited everyone in for food, water, washrooms, prayer or rest.


Rather than follow the others, though, I felt drawn to a silent, sunny chapel when I entered the church. There, I saw a beautiful wooden statue of the Black Madonna waiting in an alcove. Carved about 500 years ago in Bavaria, she has resided in Boston for a century and was a breathtaking surprise at the end of a scorching two-mile walk. I placed my "Black Lives Matter" sign at her feet.


The following day, Bill and I drove to Concord, NH to visit Reverends Bob and Hannah Anderson. En route, we took in “The Threads of Resistance” quilt show at The New England Quilt Museum in Lowell, Mass. I was struck dumb by Judy Coates Perez's "Liberty Assaulted” in particular. “I don't want to fight to maintain our freedoms, access to healthcare, and a clean environment, but I will,” the author, teacher and artist writes about this piece. “[This presidential] administration is an assault on people of color, women, the poor, education, science, facts, the environment and the personal freedoms and rights that made America the land of the free.”

Although it's always good to come home, we know that we have our own work to do. Rev. Paul Walfall, a minister in Fort Saskatchewan, Alta. writes, “. . . By not calling out white privilege, white supremacy, bigotry, hatred and prejudice for what they are means that we are implicitly saying that they have dominion over us.”

Speaking freely about racism, and standing close to friends and allies are necessities. And this summer, our physical presence seemed to mean more to them than we ever imagined. To us, too.



Author's photo
Carolyn Pogue is a Calgary author and longtime Observer contributor. New posts of The Pogue Blog will appear on the first and third Thursday of the month. For more information on Carolyn Pogue, visit www.carolynpogue.ca..
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