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‘Racism is here’: Haligonians share what it’s like growing up Black in N.S.

2 young men share what it’s like growing up black in Halifax
WATCH: The world has watched as anti-racism rallies in the United States have grown in the last several days, following the death of a black man in police custody. But as Ashley Field reports racism exists everywhere.

The world has watched as anti-racism rallies in the United States and Canada have grown in the last several days, following the death of a Black man in police custody in Minneapolis.

The reality is that racism is everywhere, including here at home, according to two young men who have experienced it firsthand.

Kolade Kolawole-Boboye moved to Halifax from Nigeria when he was six-years-old. Early on, he remembers his parents pulling him aside, explaining his new reality in Canada.

Kolade Kolowole-Boboye says he experienced racism growing up Black in Halifax.
Kolade Kolowole-Boboye says he experienced racism growing up Black in Halifax. Kalode Kolowole-Boboye/Supplied

“I know you’re 10-years-old right now and I know you want to have fun outside and play with everyone you want to play with, but because you’re Black or because you’re a minority, someone’s not going to like you,” he recollects.

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READ MORE: Thousands participate in anti-racism rally in Halifax

The now 20-year-old says it’s a message that has unfortunately rung true throughout his life, and he started to really notice racism as a teenager.

“We get told we can’t come in because the party’s too full, there’s too many people, my parents are going to be mad, and then 10 people come in and enter the house. It’s like, ‘Oh, OK, so that’s how it is.’ So that definitely really sucked for sure,” says Kolawole-Boboye.

“That happened a lot in high school and it just came to a point where we just stopped bothered going. Why are we going if we’re just going to be racially profiled?”

He went on to say that “it makes you more insecure. It makes you not want to take opportunities, to do certain things, because you already know they’re not going to pick me because I’m Black.”

Kolade Kolowole-Boboye says he experienced racism growing up Black in Halifax.
Kolade Kolowole-Boboye says he experienced racism growing up Black in Halifax. Kalode Kolowole-Boboye/Supplied

At 18-years-old, once Kolawole-Boboye got his drivers’ license, he says he got a “reality check” when Halifax police pulled him and his friend Makye Clayton over for no reason.

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“That definitely stunned me as a young Black boy. Like, wow, just because I’m driving down the street to get food I’m being targeted,” he says.

“It just showed me that because of the colour of my skin people are automatically going to assume I’m this or this.”

Clayton, 18, says that experience, and seeing deaths at the hands of officers in the U.S., has made him fearful of police.

READ MORE: Thousands participate in anti-racism rally in Halifax

“It’s scary. I don’t know what could happen. I don’t know what’s going on in their head when they’re looking at me, and they don’t know what’s going on in my head. I could be scared on my life, but they could just be like, ‘He looks like he’s about to do something.’ They could do whatever they want, so that just scared me a lot,” says Clayton.

He grew up in Uniacke Square and says the constant racial profiling throughout his life has weighed on him. It was following an incident at 12-years-old that he says he really started to recognize racism for what it was.

“I was walking down the street with four of my friends and people would just cross the street, or a person would hold a white lady would hold her purse if we’re walking past — us just walking past, just being normal.”

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READ MORE: ‘Justice for Regis’: Hundreds turn out in Halifax for solidarity march against racism

He also remembers the first time he applied for a job. When he didn’t get a call back, he decided to re-apply using his friend’s address to see what would happen.

“I got a call back, and I was just like, ‘Wow, so people really don’t pick you up from where you live. So they just based me off living in Uniacke Square. They didn’t know who I was or anything like that,” says Clayton.

“Racism is here. It’s maybe not as big, but it does happen every day here.”

Clayton says all the support online through initiatives like Black Out Tuesday and seeing thousands at Monday night’s anti-racism demonstration in downtown Halifax is “empowering.”

READ MORE: Ongoing violence against Black people sparks conversation in Halifax

“The more that want to be a part of the movement and actually want to create change, it will actually, hopefully create change,” he says.

Kolawole-Boboye is also encouraged by the recent Black Lives Matter movement, and he hopes that education and understanding will lead to change.

“I wake up, go to bed,  Black. I wake up, go to bed, I’m being profiled. I wake up, go to bed, I’m being oppressed. You know what I’m saying? If you’re not waking up, going to bed, and experiencing it all the time, you’re not going to understand why it’s happening. That’s why it’s called privilege,” he says.

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“The first thing to do is definitely acknowledge it exists and definitely educate yourself.”