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Anti-racism caravan winds its way through Dartmouth

by Sima Sahar Zerehi (photos)Robert Devet

Garnetta Cromwell's car was spray-painted with a racial slur after she filed a human rights complaint against Leon's.  Photo Robert Devet
A convoy of cars wound through Dartmouth and circled the Leon's Furniture Store in support of an employee who had to quite her job because of racism in her workplace. Photo: Sima Sahar Zerehi
Getting the cars ready.  Photo: Sima Sahar Zerehi
Two separate racism-related Human Rights complaints have been filed against Leon's in Dartmouth in the last year. Photo: Sima Sahar Zerehi
Organizers of the anti-racism caravan wanted to bring attention to systemic racism in Nova Scotia.  Photo Robert Devet
Demonstrators celebrate after the event.  Photo Robert Devet.

Activists express solidarity with former Leon's employee, highlight systemic racism in Nova Scotia

Nine cars carrying anti-racism posters, with horns blaring and lights flashing, slowly wound their way through Dartnouth this Saturday afternoon. Their final destination was the Leon's furniture store in Burnside.

The anti-racism caravan was triggered by news reports earlier in October that a racist slur was spray-painted on the car of Garnetta Cromwell, who is a Black Nova Scotian.

Cromwell had earlier filed a complaint with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission because she felt racist attitudes that were condoned by management left her no choice but to quit her job at the Leon's store.

At the time of the spray painting incident,Tracey Williams, CEO of the Human Rights Comission told the CBC that in her mind there was no doubt that Cromwell was targeted because of the publicity surrounding the human rights case.

A separate complaint against Leon's was filed by another black employee. In that case we heard that an effigy of a black person strung by the neck was displayed for all to see. That event caused Leon's to fire two of its employees.

The anti-racism event was organized by Solidarity Halifax and Ujamaa, a group that wants to empower the African Nova Scotian community

The Dartmouth caravan was about more than the blatantly racist acts that continue to make Nova Scotia headlines on a regular basis, said Mary Burnet, who is a member of Solidarity Halifax.

"People will point to racist graffiti like this or the cross that was burned on the lawn of the Windor couple a few years ago and say that racism is only individual hateful acts between people," said Burnet.

"But they don't acount for the systemic racism that structures people's everyday realities. You do see racism all the time. You see it in comments in the news media about the First Nations protesters in Elsipogtog, and you will probably see it on all the media that cover this event."

In a press release the organizers argue that governments have not done enough to counteract the damage of centuries of imposed segregation and that employers such as Leon's should take full responsibility for acts of discrimination that happen in the workplace.

The groups also believe that white Nova Scotians, being beneficiaries of the occurrence of systemic racism, have a duty to confront racism.

Cromwell, who took part in the rally, told reporters that she was heartened by the show of support.

"This is a great thing that is happening today," Cromwell said.  

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