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Black Lives Matter: What would Martin Luther King Jr Say?

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All over the world people are taking to the streets in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Millions of people in hundreds of cites are marching in support of the idea that all people are created equal and deserve equal treatment. I can’t help but wonder what Martin Luther King Jr would think about these current events. How close are we to his dream of children being judged by the content of their character rather than the colour of their skin? 

Today, MLK is hailed as a hero of civil rights. He has streets and schools named after him all over the US. Politicians of all backgrounds quote his work and hail him as a hero. But in the 1950s and 1960s, he was an enemy of the US Government. The FBI was actively spying on MLK, labelling him as an extremist. The director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover claimed that MLKs followers were communists and that MLK himself was the “most notorious liar in the country.” The lesson here is that those who speak out against injustice are seen as an enemy to those who are responsible for the injustice. 

This is a lesson that Colin Kaepernick learned first-hand. A star quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, he made headlines in 2016 by sitting during the national anthem to bring awareness to the issue of police brutality against minorities in America. This idea spread and that season saw many players taking a knee instead of standing for the national anthem. 

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of colour. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder” – Colin Kaepernick

Some people said he was disrespecting the flag by kneeling. Others said he was expressing his First Amendment rights to free speech. Like MLK, he was protesting against the injustice that he saw in society. There is no question that his actions were polarizing and shocking to many. There is also no question that his actions cost him his career. 

This year, another situation regarding ‘kneeling’ made the news. On May 25th, cellphone video showing police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Goerge Floyd’s neck circulated on social media. For nearly 9 minutes the office kept his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck, despite him saying he couldn’t breathe. George Floyd died with his hands handcuffed behind his back, his face on the street and a knee on his neck. 

This was the sort of event that Colin Kaepernick was kneeling about. This was why he was protesting. He wanted to bring attention to the fact that unjust treatment was a common occurrence in the lives of minority Americans; that the police have been harming the very civilians they had sworn to protect. 

A police force is a group of people empowered by a state to ensure the safety and health of that state’s citizens by enforcing the laws of the land. This is in contrast to a military force, whose purpose is to destroy the enemies of that same state. The uncomfortable truth is that, for decades, the police in the US have become more and more militarized. To the casual observer, a police officer in riot gear looks very similar to a combat soldier. Starting in the 1990s, police departments in the US have been buying equipment directly from the Department of Defence, blurring the lines between law enforcement and warfare. 

In 2019, the police forces in the US killed 1,004 civilians. 

This puts US law enforcement killings in the same rank as Syria, Nigeria, Pakistan, and South Africa.

When compared to G7 countries the numbers are truly appalling. In 2013, France had 14 deaths as a result of police action. In 2017, Canada had 36 deaths and Australia had 4. In England, the police only had 7 incidences where a firearm was discharged in all of 2016, resulting in 3 deaths. 

The US police force is no longer protecting the public, they are fighting against them.

This year has provided a mountain of evidence that this is true. There are hundreds of videos of police driving into protesters, pushing people over, firing tear gas into crowds and arresting without provocation. They are indiscriminately targeting anyone in their path including journalists. So far in 2020, 98 journalists have been attacked by police and 29 of them have been arrested. 

These are the statistics we expect from a war-torn nation, not a modern democracy. This is why Colin Kaepernick was kneeling. This is why he decided to speak up. He had heard stories from black neighbourhoods and poor communities where this was happening and he couldn’t stay silent. The police in the US were no longer protecting civilians, they were attacking them. 

For years, activists have been trying to bring this to the attention of the public. This was the message that MLK was trying to bring to white Americans. They have been pleading for people to understand that in many areas in the US, the police are treating neighbourhoods like warzones, not communities. They have been trying to get people to see what was really going on. But because it didn’t directly affect affluent white males, we didn’t listen. 

It took the death of George Floyd for the public to notice and the Black Lives Matter movement to gain widespread support. The protestors are picking up where MLK left off. Not only did Dr. King have a dream of equality, but he was a supporter of action and civil disobedience to achieve that equality. 

“We who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive.” – Martin Luther King Jr 

As paramilitary police forces are beating and attacking civilians in the streets, many are calling for the de-militarization and de-funding of police forces. 

But what would that look like? 

To be clear, this isn’t a call to dissolve the police, but rather to reallocate funds away from armoured cars and riot gear to community programs and schools. The model that activists point to is a white suburban neighbourhood. In these communities, there are clean playgrounds, after school activities, team sports, and busy community centers. Police work with social workers and health professionals to ensure citizens are taken care of and people’s needs are met. This leads to lower crime and removes the need for heavily armed patrols. 

Instead of treating poor neighbourhoods like combat zones and minorities as hostiles, how about treating them like people who are trying to make a living in their community. Start a dialogue and listen to what they need to improve their lives. Help develop programs and policies that will make real changes for them. Give them an opportunity to show you the content of their character. 

I think that will go a long way to making Dr. King’s dream come true. 

 

For more stories, visit Todayville Calgary.

 

Is Police Brutality a Racial Issue simply because the Media says so?

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Alberta

Bamboo supplies dwindling: Calgary Zoo hopeful pandas will be China-bound soon

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CALGARY — The Calgary Zoo says it’s hopeful two giant pandas will be able to return home soon to China, where bamboo supplies are abundant.

The zoo said in May that it would be sending the pair back early because the COVID-19 pandemic was making it difficult to source the plant that makes up 99 per cent of their diet.

But international permits to transport the pandas to China were also stymied by the pandemic, and the zoo raised concerns last month about the animals’ well-being.

The zoo says international permit approvals are now underway and it’s cautiously optimistic it will be able to confirm a flight to China for the pandas soon.

It says it has secured a supply of fresh bamboo from across North America in anticipation of its Canadian supply running out this month.

The zoo says the bamboo hunt has been all-consuming and expensive, but the zoo is committed to doing everything it needs to to ensure the pandas are healthy.

Er Shun and Da Mao arrived in Calgary in 2018, along with cubs Jia Panpan and Jia Yueyue, after spending five years at the Toronto Zoo. The cubs were returned to China in January and their parents were to remain in Calgary until 2023.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 25, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Preparing for the Return of the Calgary Winter at the Mustard Seed

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As Calgary prepares for the descent back into winter, the reliance on nonprofit organizations throughout the city is set to increase as the most vulnerable members of the community turn to support programs and shelters to weather the cold months. 

The Mustard Seed is a Christian-faith based organization that values transparency, accountability, respect, communication and holistic innovation. As one of Calgary’s oldest homeless relief organizations, The Mustard Seed has been operating in the city for nearly 40 years. 

By offering a range of products and services to compromised community members in Calgary and across western Canada, The Mustard Seed’s ultimate vision is to eliminate factors that contribute to homelessness and poverty. The organization pursues this goal every day by “providing basic needs (food, clothing and hygiene items), education, employment programs, health and wellness services, spiritual care, housing, and emergency shelter.” 

Founded in 1984 by Pat Nixon, who had experienced homelessness himself as a teenager, The Mustard Seed began as a small drop-in coffee shop. From there, it expanded into a downtown house, and then officially opened as a shelter on 11 Ave SE in 1992. Beginning with just 80 mats and a single location in ‘92, The Mustard Seed now operates five different locations across Calgary, and has the capacity to house 370 adults every night at their Foothills Shelter location. According to Dave Conrad, Community Engagement Manager for the Mustard Seed, the shelter serves close to 315,000 meals every year, and often hits overnight capacity in the winter months, averaging 328 individuals per night in 2019.

In addition to the Foothills Shelter, the Mustard Seed also operates the Downtown Support Centre, the Wellness Centre, the Neighbour Centre, and the Resource Sorting Centre. Across these 5 locations, The Mustard Seed is able to provide a series of advocacy, health and wellness, transportation, employment and spiritual care services to those who need them most. 

The Mustard Seed is also responsible for the 1010 Centre, Canada’s largest permanent supportive housing facility, which provides affordable, sustainable housing options in the city of Calgary. They have a total of 285 affordable housing units among four locations: 224 units in the 1010 Centre, 30 units in the Downtown Support Centre, and 31 units in two external housing units. 

Providing aid and relief, and fulfilling the most basic human needs as well as educational, employment and social needs for those who require it most is no small task. Issues such as homelessness and poverty pay no attention to a pandemic, and COVID-19 has had a major impact on operations at the Mustard Seed and organizations similar. 

In order to maintain compliance with COVID-19 health and safety mandates, the capacity of the Mustard Seed to house individuals has been reduced from 370 at one location to 238 between two locations, which will pose a unique challenge heading into winter. However, Conrad says they are committed to making it work, whatever it takes. “As the winter comes, we tend to see our numbers go up, which will create some unique challenges with the pandemic this year” he says, “but we will continue to work with the community and collaborate with other organizations to ensure that everyone who needs a bed, has a bed.” 

Despite the new and ongoing challenges of 2020, the support from the public during the pandemic has been extraordinary, says Conrad. ““We have all been incredibly humbled by the public response over the course of all this,” he says, “we are so encouraged by the outpouring of support from our community.”

Heading back into winter, some of the most pressing needs for The Mustard Seed currently include warm clothes and new underwear, and the organization is also encouraging people to explore available opportunities to return to volunteering. 

For more information about The Mustard Seed, visit https://theseed.ca

To find out how you can contribute and for a comprehensive list of items urgently needed by the Mustard Seed, check https://theseed.ca/urgent-items/

For more stories, visit Todayville Calgary.

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