This year, following the racial reckoning across North America in 2020, more attention than ever is being paid to Black History Month and the concept of being an ally to people of colour.
It’s that sentiment that’s pushing folks in a northern Durham community to step up and do want they can in the anti-racism fight.
That journey can begin as simply as opening a book.
Books have been a big part of Maggie Finlayson’s life.
“Stories really connect us, they help us to better understand the world better, they help us better understand other people’s stories,” said Finlayson.
That’s why she helped create the book club These Stories Matter with Megan Pickering last September.
The Uxbridge women understand they can’t fully know the lived experiences of racialized Canadians but they wanted to do something to take a stand in their community against racism.
“It definitely puts me in a position of allyship, and that’s my approach to it. I know that I don’t have the same understanding that somebody who experienced these things first-hand has,” said Finlayson.
Pickering said the book club was born out of the women’s desire to educate themselves.
“I didn’t know much about Black history and Indigenous culture and it was just something we really wanted to read about ourselves and educate ourselves and we thought other people might feel the same way.”
For Black History Month they’re reading The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett.
“The book is really just about identity, belonging, race,” said Finlayson.
Megan’s husband, Zed Pickering, is a local Black Lives Matter advocate and recently launched the Uxbridge Anti-Racism Coalition.
Zed hopes that what he, his wife and their friends are doing to promote anti-racism in their community doesn’t go unnoticed.
“It was scratching the surface when we began this but it’s been really nice to see people rallying together,” he said.
“For me, I want the next generation to look back and think that this was, not silly, but why did they have to come together in this way? Why did this still exist? So I’m excited for my daughter to scratch her head and say, ‘Dad, what were you a part of? What do you mean there was racism in our community?'”
Uxbridge town hall is also underlining the importance of this struggle.
“We’re all trying to do our best as a community for our community and for me it’s all about making sure that if you are a different nationality in the township of Uxbridge, you feel comfortable enough living here,” said Uxbridge Mayor Dave Barton.
Allison Hector-Alexander, the Durham College office of diversity, inclusion and transitions director, says progress has been made in the fight but there are still big strides to be taken.
“People talking more openly and honestly about racism, its impacts, the generational traumas that has left is a good thing because first we have to acknowledge there’s a problem, we have to acknowledge that this exists within our Canadian society,” said Hector-Alexander.
As for Finlayson and Megan Pickering, they’re hoping this small initiative will not only help the community learn and change perspectives but also influence larger changes on a bigger stage.