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United against hate

Halifax United 2017 aims to “bring people together in the face of the current political climate.”


Masuma Khan will be speaking at the event next weekend. - MEGHAN TANSEY WHITTON
  • Masuma Khan will be speaking at the event next weekend.

Halifax United 2017
Saturday November 18, 12-5pm
Halifax Forum Bingo Hall,
2901 Windsor Street

Comment sections and social media have made Halifax feel like a cesspool of hatred as of late. Outrage over a Halifax Pop Explosion show and a Facebook post from months ago are a couple of the causes of conflict, spurring accusations of discrimination from all sides. The ugly threats against women of colour are particularly disturbing.

A multicultural event taking place next weekend aims to counter the division with unity. The event is appropriately called Halifax United 2017, and features performers and speakers such as Dalhousie Student Union member Masuma Khan.

"I think bringing people together, being united—what we need from that is solidarity, at the end of the day," says Khan, who is still dealing with the fallout of a formal complaint over a Facebook post she made during the summer. The complaint was dropped, but not before national media coverage and a storm of anger descended on Khan.

"I don't think it ever really tames down. I think that's just what happens when you're a very visible racialized person who's speaking out," she says.

Paul Vienneau, a photographer and musician known around the city for his accessibility advocacy, came up with the idea for Halifax United due to the racially-charged conflicts happening locally.

The initial catalyst was the Proud Boys' takeover of an Indigenous ceremony at the Cornwallis statue on Canada Day. Other incidents piled up—the daughter of Vienneau's friend was called the n-word on Facebook, for example. Vienneau also saw the effects of the threats against Khan.

"This isn't like some white saviour bullshit," says Vienneau. "I've been treated very well by everybody of every description through my life, and I feel like I owe it to good people everywhere to try to facilitate something where people get to have a voice."

Aside from Khan, speakers at Halifax United will include El Jones, Rebecca Thomas and Andre Fenton. Soul singer Dutch Robinson will also be performing.

"When we're united, there's more of us than the people who seem to be against us," says Vienneau.

Khan talked about minimum wage during a women's rally held this past Monday, which she says is the first time she's spoken publicly in the last few months. She isn't yet sure what she'll be speaking about at Halifax United, but "you can be sure that it's gonna be around social justice," she says.

"Educating folks on the kind of allyship that requires action, I think, is what can come from these sort of talks," says Khan. "That's what it means to be united. We have to recognize inequities throughout this society if we want to be united and if we want to have an equitable Halifax."

Khan takes issue with the idea that pointing out racism and privilege is the same as "dividing us."

"We're already divided," she says. "We have to acknowledge that the lived experiences of people are very different and I think that's the only way we're going to approach unity."

Admission to Halifax United is free, but food bank donations and monetary donations (charity TBD) will be accepted. Vienneau emphasizes that the event is family-friendly, alcohol-free and everyone is welcome.

"If conservatives show up, they're also invited because they are our neighbours. And we're only divided when we feel like can't come together and have a discussion," he says.

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