UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds
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..
Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!
Promotional Image


David Wilson%


by David Wilson

Outrage is the new normal

Promotional Image


ObserverDocs: Stolen Mother

by Observer Staff

The daughter and adoptive mother of one of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women share their story

Promotional Image


October 2017

Fall from grace

by Justin Dallaire

Don Hume was a United Church minister nearing retirement. Then he tried crack cocaine.


September 2017


by Jane Dawson

Restless longing is at the core of the human condition, urging us onward through life. What happens when it veers off course?


July 2017

From far and wide

by Various Writers

Meet 11 immigrants who are putting down new roots


October 2017

A tale of two cancers

by Catherine Gordon

One year after the writer discovered she had breast cancer, her sister in California received the same diagnosis. They both recovered, but their experiences were worlds apart.


June 2017

Resisting genocide

by Sally Armstrong

In August 2014, ISIS attacked Iraq’s Yazidis, slaughtering thousands and forcing women and girls into sexual slavery. Today, the survivors are fighting for their ancient way of life.


April 2017

Dear Grandkids

by Various Writers

Six acclaimed Canadian authors write letters from the heart

Promotional Image