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GlobalFest Human Rights Forum in Calgary tackles racism and discrimination

Calgary civil rights activist Taylor McNallie.
Calgary civil rights activist Taylor McNallie. Courtesy: Taylor McNallie

It’s a safe open space to have some uncomfortable conversations.

The GlobalFest Human Rights Forum is a platform for sharing experiences, knowledge and practical solutions necessary to address issues of racism and discrimination.

This year’s GlobalFest Human Rights Forum was originally scheduled to take place in Calgary’s Central Library but will now be online for five days this week.

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The annual event’s theme this year is “Breaking the Cycle 2.0.” The year 2020 motivated the largest civil rights movement in living memory and it’s why Calgarian Taylor McNallie stepped more into the spotlight to trigger change.

“If you don’t understand what white privilege is or why we say Black lives matter, it’s not because you don’t understand — it’s because you don’t want to,” McNallie said.

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McNallie started Rural Alberta Against Racism. She’s relaunching the organization as Inclusive Canada. It’s a grassroots initiative stemming from her own experience growing up in a small southern Alberta village.

“I’m a Black woman living in Alberta and want change. It’s very backwards,” she said.

“It feels like ‘little America’ sometimes. I can’t count the [number] of Confederate flags or Trump T-shirts I’ve seen while I’m touring in Alberta.

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“When worldwide unrest happened with George Floyd, it was an opportunity to run with what was happening. It’s the largest civil rights movement in history, and we need to keep this momentum going because now is our chance to do this.”

Taylor McNallie.
Taylor McNallie. Courtesy: Taylor McNallie

She’s not one to shy away from using her voice and is even OK with making a little noise because McNallie said she’s amplifying her message for a purpose.

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“I feel like we are past the point of how to become an ally. You’re in it now or you’re not,” she said.

“It’s a hard place to be because as a Black woman, I’ve had 30 years to experience this, and for a lot of people, this is happening in the last six months. History is flooding on top of them, and people are scared about what to do. I feel for non-Black and non-Indigenous people right now but it’s time to catch up.”

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She said the work she’s doing comes with a lot of risks.

“It’s dangerous. We get death threats. Every day, people want to find out where I live, I have to put cameras on the house and I have had rape threats,” McNallie said.

“It’s really escalating.”

But she said it doesn’t sway her from stepping into the spotlight and doing what it takes to have thoughtful discussions around racism.

“The thing about Black Lives Matter, it cracks open every single thing that is wrong with society and our system,” McNallie said. “This is going to take hundreds of years. I won’t see the end of this, my daughter won’t see the end of this, but there’s hope.”

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