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Library hosting 'really important' forum on Black culture, racism

Forum will focus on 'understanding Black experiences, insights into anti-Black racism, and how that appears in the community,' says local Making Change official
Making Change
From left are Stephanie Gourlie, Alicia Samuel, Wendy Vincent, and Claudine Cousins, during a 2020 Voices of Black Women in Business Event.

The Orillia Public Library is hosting an event in conjunction with the Making Change organization called ‘If Nothing Changes, Nothing Changes.’ It takes place virtually on Zoom next Wednesday evening, May 19, at 7 p.m.

The presentation and subsequent question-and-answer session will be led by Making Change board member and Orillia resident Alasoba ‘Lala’ Kelsy-Braide, and presenter Amber Beckett.

“We will be sharing our introduction to understanding Black experiences, insights into anti-Black racism, and how that appears in the community,” said Michèle Newton, co-founder, and president of Making Change.

“We will be giving a bit of background on our organization, and what we are hoping to get people to start discussing and starting conversations around.”

Making Change is a not-for-profit organization that was founded in 2019 by a group of Black women. Since then, they have been focused on providing education to people in Simcoe County.

“We work where the need is, and we’ve always been focused and based out of Simcoe County,” Newton said.

“This is an immediate area where we want to see people learn about Black communities, Black culture, and issues around anti-Black racism. We think it’s a good fit.”

Newton says the ‘If Nothing Changes, Nothing Changes’ event is an opportunity to provide education and insight into some of the concerns around anti-Black racism in the local community.  

“We are inviting people to build awareness, reflect, and look at what they can do to make a change in their lives, community, and the world, to build more inclusiveness,” she said.

Newton believes those who attend the virtual event will take away an understanding of obstacles that Black people face daily.

“There are systems that we are all a part of existing in which we didn’t create, but once you know about them and how they oppress people who are Black, Indigenous, and people of colour, then we learn that we all have a responsibility to make change going forward,” she said.

The Orillia Public Library’s multicultural liaison, Melissa Robertson, says partnering with Making Change is a great way to help Orillia become a more inclusive place to live.

“We attended a Black History Month presentation that Making Change put on and we thought it was a really great start to bring this activism to Orillia in order to celebrate our Black community,” Robertson said.

“These sorts of events are happening all over Simcoe County, and we thought it was really important to bring it here to Orillia.”

Robertson says the timing of the partnership with Making Change has never been more perfect.

“We have been looking at what we can do here in Orillia since last year when we wrote an anti-Black racism statement. We’ve also been Indigenizing our catalog and taking part in other initiatives to create a more diverse community and workplace,” she explained.

“Our plan moving forward is to be more inclusive and more welcoming for the entire community.”

Robertson encourages everyone in the Orillia community to attend next Wednesday’s free event.

“It’s actually a really fun event and a way for people to learn more about the Black community here in Orillia. It helps teach people how to become an ally, and also to ask questions,” she said.

To register for the event, click here.

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Tyler Evans

About the Author: Tyler Evans

Tyler Evans got his start in the news business when he was just 15-years-old and now serves as a video producer and reporter with OrilliaMatters
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