“Healing can only occur when victims feel a sense of safety where they no longer have to be hyper-alert or hyper-vigilant of impending danger or risks”
Today marks one week since the devastating targeted mass shooting in Buffalo, New York on May 14, 2022. It also marks one week of emotional unrest for me. Since December 2021, I have driven through Buffalo at least 6 times. We have stopped over to get snacks, to buy gas, for my kids to use a washroom, or simply to shop as many Canadians do. We have no close family in Ontario, Canada, so we welcome the borders being open so that we can give our kids the bonding moment they lack at home. On our most recent visit to the United States, New York to be exact, we discovered the Tops supermarket, on our quest to purchase raspberry cranberry juice which my kids enjoyed on their visit with their cousins.
I toss in my bed at nights thinking about how safe we felt each time on our road trips, yet how easily we could have been victims of the heinous execution undertaken in Buffalo. Most disturbing and the most horrifying detail of the brazen attack is the fact that Black shoppers were targeted. This act, like many others, adds to the myriad of fears we have to navigate daily in our lives due to the pigmentation of our skins.
It is unfortunate that skin hue continues to be a divisor in the face of hate crime and extremism. Only 2 years ago in April 2020, Canada witnessed it deadliest mass shooting in Nova Scotia. I recall my eyes being glued to the television screen as the news report retold the unthinkable. I stood in horror and was grief stricken for our Canadian family in Portapique which saw 22 of her own fall victim in the killer's deadly wake. The fact is that grief, pain and trauma has no colour, but the Black community continues to reel from the minimization and dismissal of our suffering.
My sincerest appreciation to each of you who reached out to offer support and my heart breaks for you who battled through this week and shared that vulnerability with me. This is a time when we must draw on all the resources necessary and available to maintain our sanity and wellbeing. In the face of these acts of terror, we must remain undaunted; disturbed, yes but resolute in our mission for equity, equality and absolute freedom.
In such a time as this when leaders remain silent on such issues that affect us as Blacks, there is a need for real representational leadership in our communities. It is with this in mind that I have decided to re-emerge from the woodworks and back into my work of advocacy and activism. It is hard to be comforted by the work I have done while acts like these continue. While this incident was in the U.S., we in Canada have no bragging rights. We have seen mosques targeted for shootings here in Ontario, an entire Muslim family targeted and mowed down on an evening walk in their neighbourhood leaving the single survivor (a child) without his family, Black men continuing to be victims of racial profiling daily, a 12 year old child was just the victim of racism in Montreal. All these are daunting reminders of how much work is still left to be done in creating an egalitarian society.
I will continue my private practice, Altoya The Therapist, as your therapist and those who need support services, but will be playing a dual role in whatever way I discern my need is required. Consequently, I have offered myself as a candidate for public school board trustee within the municipality that I reside- Newmarket. This is one of the first steps in standing up and being counted; adding to the voices that represent and champion the cause of inclusion and diversity so that every child, including our children in the BIPOC community feel safe and belonged.
Thank you for your continued support and my prayers remain with you as it does with the grieving families and communities in Buffalo. Be safe.