Posted on December 24, 2019

Decade in Review: Black Lives Matter Changes the Face of Black Liberation

Sandra Hudson, Now Toronto, December 21, 2019

The last decade was a time defined by burgeoning activist movements across the globe. Among the most impactful and inspiring is the latest iteration of the centuries-old Black liberation movement, in which Toronto became a significant confluence for organizing and whose influence spread far beyond the city limits.

The 2010s was a time of courageous, fierce and unapologetic activism from communities of Black people tired of waiting for what had been promised for decades. And while I was involved in what was among the most visible movements – as a co-founder of Black Lives Matter–Toronto – activists and advocates were working in spaces seen and unseen across the city.

We organized against police brutality and carding until the city of Toronto and the province of Ontario could no longer ignore us. We intervened in anti-Black racism experienced in schools from primary school to post-secondary education. We supported the arts in our communities. We built educational opportunities for children and adults that would teach us what had been taken away from us in the formal education system. We brought attention to the detention of Black asylum seekers and supported families reeling from the violence of anti-Black racism.

The Black liberation movement of the 2010s was visibly organized and led through the brilliance and scholarship of Black queer and trans people to whom countless organizers in movements everywhere owe the deepest debt.

When Pride named Black Lives Matter–Toronto as the honoured group in 2016, we refused to be used by an organization that simply wanted to benefit from proximity to our cause. We demanded that which would genuinely honour us: a commitment to structural change within Pride that focused on stripping away the anti-Blackness our communities had experienced from Pride for years. That action, built by Black activist and queer and trans groups beyond just BLM-TO, sparked a shift in how Pride organizations engaged with Black and marginalized communities across the globe.

Most importantly, we changed the way mass culture discusses and engages with Blackness. At the beginning of the 2010s, anti-Black racism was an idea most people in power refused to acknowledge. Now, the world cannot claim ignorance in any discussion of anti-Black racism.

We reinvigorated what was possible not only for us as Black people, but for anyone who was willing to listen and learn from our work.

As we look toward the 2020s, we need to build a city (and a country) that refuses to take anti-Black racism lightly, and that refuses to accept politicians who don Blackface and disappear the Black community along Eglinton West in favour of a gentrified condominium corridor.

We want to live in a place that builds permanent Black spaces; a place where Black people who contributed greatly to Toronto and so much of its culture and its sounds are not pushed to the margins. This is the work that we all have ahead of us if we believe in justice for Black people.