Feb. 24, 2022

Valerie Williams: Black History, Diversity and Inclusion

Valerie Williams: Black History, Diversity and Inclusion

It has been said that a continued engagement with history is vital because it helps give context for the present. Black History Manitoba (@bhmwinnipeg #BlackHistoryManitoba) and Black History Month (#BlackHistoryMonth) is an opportunity to celebrate Black History going beyond stories of racism and slavery to spotlight Black achievement. On this episode, Ms. Valerie Williams, the Director of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at the Rady Faculty of Health Science talks about what it was like to grow up with a father who changed the history and racial landscape of Canada. Valerie’s father was Lee Williams. Lee Williams, an African-Canadian was a tireless champion of human rights. He was the Founder of the Order of the Sleeping Car Porters, the first Black Railway Union in North America.

Valerie recalls that her father was dead-fast in his belief that all human beings are equal and that the colour of our skin has no bearing on opportunity. With his numerous years experiencing racial and systemic racism Lee Williams knew that it’s not right that humans are treated so poorly.To recognize the incredible human rights work that Lee Williams did, he was featured in the National Film Board documentary, The Road Taken (1996). Lee Williams also received an honourary Doctorate of Laws from York University.Valerie Williams passionately continues the struggle that her father fought for. Valerie is keenly aware that people with privilege today don’t want, or aren’t willing to give up their privilege. She believes that if they give up their privilege, that they are in effect giving something away to someone else. And once they give something away they will question what it is they are left with.

On this episode, listeners will get a sense of Black History and what the future for Black people looks like in our country.

See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.


It has been said that a continued engagement with history is vital because it helps give context for the present. Black History Manitoba (@bhmwinnipeg #BlackHistoryManitoba) and Black History Month (#BlackHistoryMonth) is an opportunity to celebrate Black History going beyond stories of racism and slavery to spotlight Black achievement. On this episode, Ms. Valerie Williams, the Director of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at the Rady Faculty of Health Science talks about what it was like to grow up with a father who changed the history and racial landscape of Canada. Valerie’s father was Lee Williams. Lee Williams, an African-Canadian was a tireless champion of human rights. He was the Founder of the Order of the Sleeping Car Porters, the first Black Railway Union in North America.

Valerie recalls that her father was dead-fast in his belief that all human beings are equal and that the colour of our skin has no bearing on opportunity. With his numerous years experiencing racial and systemic racism Lee Williams knew that it’s not right that humans are treated so poorly.To recognize the incredible human rights work that Lee Williams did, he was featured in the National Film Board documentary, The Road Taken (1996). Lee Williams also received an honourary Doctorate of Laws from York University.Valerie Williams passionately continues the struggle that her father fought for. Valerie is keenly aware that people with privilege today don’t want, or aren’t willing to give up their privilege. She believes that if they give up their privilege, that they are in effect giving something away to someone else. And once they give something away they will question what it is they are left with.

On this episode, listeners will get a sense of Black History and what the future for Black people looks like in our country.

See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Transcript

This podcast was recorded on the ancestral lands on Treaty One territory, the traditional territory of the Anishnawbe, Cree, Oji Cree, Dakota, and the Dene peoples, and on the homeland of the Métis nation.

This is Humans, On Rights. A podcast advocating for the education of human rights.

Here's your host Stuart Murray.

It has been said that a continued engagement with history is vital as it helps give context for the present.

Black history month is an opportunity to understand black history's going beyond stories of racism and slavery to spotlight black achievement and I think today's guest is perfect for that.

Valerie Williams is the daughter of Lee Williams.

And we're going to hear a lot more about Lee Williams, the founder of the Order of the Sleeping Car Porters and Valerie Williams is going to talk about today and the future because she's the director of equity diversity inclusion at the Rady Faculty of Health Science.

Valerie, Welcome to Humans On Rights.

Thank you so much for inviting me to have this conversation with you Stuart.

So Valerie just put it a little bit into context.

We know who your father was.

But let's talk about how you find yourself now as the Director of Equity diversity inclusion at the Rady Faculty of Health Science.

How did you get there?

How did Valerie Williams become that person?

Oh, I would say it probably because I'm standing on the shoulders of giants.

I think it has very little to do with me.

I'm absolutely thrilled to be in this role.

It's a privilege to work at the University of Manitoba.

I have an opportunity to work with some amazing colleagues, strong allies to indigenous peoples and racialized peoples in black communities and I learned so much every day.

So I don't know if I did anything or if it was just a series of circumstances that have led me here.

So your family, I think if I understand correctly, the Valerie came from texas to Saskatchewan.

My father, his family migrated to North Battleford in around 1910 from tabor Oklahoma and Canada had promised Lance homesteading lands to people and that's how him and his family arrived.

My mother, interestingly enough, my mother's family came from Oklahoma as well, but they went to Edmonton Alberta, two small black farming community called Amber Valley and my mother and father met in Winnipeg, wow.

And we talked a little bit about, we're having quite a winter here in Winnipeg.

I'm not sure when they would have, when they would have arrived here, but they both arrived here and they got to know each other got married.

When would that have been Valerie?

Just put that in context.

Okay, so I'm looking, I'm gonna say Mid 40s, 1940s they got married.

So in the 40s and that's there in Winnipeg.

Now you've got a very famous, well known, well documented dad called lee.

But you always have a mother, tell me about what your what was your mother's name.

Alice Alice Mae Brown Williams and she was awesome.

She was certainly, they were very much in love.

My father certainly depended on her.

She really did.

She had you know that The traditional role of mother and wife in the 50s and 60s, she did go back to work when I went to school.

She was an amazing woman, very strong woman, She was biracial.

She was born in Amber Valley in 1924 to a white mother and a black father.

So she suffered a fair amount of discrimination, not only from the white community but from the black community as well.

That's uh you know, interesting.

And so Valerie, your mother Alice your father lee, tell me about you have brothers, sisters.

Yes, I have an older sister, Sharon, she lives in las Vegas Nevada and I have a brother Leonard, he lives in Winnipeg Manitoba.

He's a few years older than me and we're very, very close family was a priority in the Williams household.

My father had 12 brothers and sisters and I can remember when we were young, they were all sleeping car porters at one time and we would travel for two from Winnipeg to Vancouver to visit and stay with family and they would come back and stay with us very important.

So we have been lucky enough to carry on that tradition and Valerie, just exploring your background for a moment.

Where did you go to school and tell us a little bit about your education again, just landing you in this obviously very very important role at the Radio faculty of Health Science.

I grew up in West Golden in it was in the 50s and my father was not allowed to buy a house in river heights so he purchased a home in West Aldonin.

I grew up in a largely Ukrainian and Jewish neighborhood.

I was the only black kid in the school.

I don't know if I really it certainly didn't bother me at the time.

I had lots of friends.

I was very popular.

There were some incidents of name calling from people that I did not hang around with.

I went to garden city high school and I went to the University of Manitoba is a mature student.

I received my chartered professional human resources I'm gonna say early two thousands and I worked in human resources for a number of years in equity, diversity and inclusion.

And unfortunately my good friend Jackie, she was the director of equity diversity inclusion at rady has decided to move to B.

C.

So I applied for this role and I think I know Jackie, I think we spent a bit of time on the human rights committee of council together now.

Isn't she?

A wonderful woman.

Yeah.

No, for sure.

Yeah.

Are lost.

Bc's gained but she's staying in Canada.

So all good.

Yeah there's that.

So you know Valerie obviously when we've chatted offline a little bit.

I really would love to get the experience that you saw you know, people have talked a lot about your father lee Williams, how he was a founder of the Order of Sleeping car porters.

But you know, there's so much history in a short time period and that struggle and I'd love you to share memories, thoughts, some of the things that you you took away from that, that you learned from that my context of it Valerie is that I had a chance to read.

They call me George by cecil foster.

Of course, your dad has mentioned very much in there, but in your words, Valerie tell us a little bit about what it was like living in the world of lee Williams.

Mm it was awesome.

He was oh, he was very busy.

I can remember when I was very young he worked two jobs, he worked as a sleeping car porter for CNR and he also worked with my uncle's a stuck going houses at the time.

They were stuck going and he did get his job at the CNR I believe it was in 1930.

And at one time sleeping car porters were the elite in the black community, but under that veneer, they faced a great deal of discrimination on the railroad, not only by CNR the collective agreement, but it was also in there contract and their contract that they were bound to and he saw an opportunity to improve the conditions for the porters and it took many years and two Prime ministers.

But finally, he accomplished it.

It began in 1955.

He took a resolution to a union convention stating that job discrimination be removed from the collective agreement of the Canadian brotherhood of railway employees.

Nothing changed.

That was in 1955.

And he did happen to meet john Diefenbaker.

He was an mp at that time on the railroad.

And when mr Diefenbaker became prime minister, my father wrote to him asking for help.

Diefenbaker sent him a copy of Canis Fair Employment practices Act and some instructions on how to proceed.

He charged the railways with the discrimination under the act.

And again, time stood still 10 years later, Williams wrote to then Prime Minister Lester Pearson saying he expected the law to be enforced within days Pearson informed the railroads that if they did not change their practice of discrimination, the government would change it for him.

And he became one of the very first sleeping car conductors.

Black sleeping car conductors, and was later promoted to supervisor.

In 2002, he received an honorary doctor of laws degree from York University and he has received many awards and many recognitions.

Yeah, no, for sure Valerie.

I appreciate that.

I just think that if you're able to, you know, share the history, you know, I mean, how it came about.

It was, you know, the end, of course.

Finally, something was done.

But the notion that if you were a sleeping car porter that you would have no opportunity, zero opportunity for advancement.

And yet it had nothing to do with ability or education or anything.

It was, it was simply a systemic discrimination.

Systemic.

Exactly.

Yeah.

I mean, so to watch your father achieve something with that, you know, kind of every day that he was getting up to go to work knowing that that was in front of them.

Did you ever get a sense of what that was like from a family?

Because you see her close family from a from a family perspective, he's a very strong man, determined and focused.

I don't know if you've had a chance to see the road taken.

Not yet.

But it's on my bucket list.

And I want to talk a little bit about that because that is about him.

Yeah.

And he is featured in that and he's eloquent And I'm not sure what grade he went to in school, but it certainly was in grade 12 and he was certainly a gifted speaker.

He was just, you know, strong, strong will, strong mind.

And would he have, I mean, every time he encountered something that would be clearly systemic racism.

And then of course, you know, that action existed back then.

I don't know that that word existed back then.

I don't know if that word existed back then either.

But I do want to be clear, systemic racism is alive and well and in all of our organizations and institutions at that time, it might have been more overt and easier to identify.

I think we're still struggling with the same issues.

They're just not as easy to identify.

We have normalized them.

So let's talk about that in terms of how your father and I think it's fascinating that he had a chance to meet a future prime minister being john Diefenbaker through my involvement at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

When I was aware that it was Diefenbaker that brought in the original Bill of Rights.

And it's fascinating Valerie because that document when you look back today had a tremendous number of flaws, but at that time and I think that's what is important to look at at that time.

What it meant for Canada for multiculturalism, for issues that your father was facing was an important document for Canada to start to build on that obviously brought in our constitution of rights And thank God we're always evolving towards Jews towards a more inclusive community.

I'm not suggesting we are even close, but we have certainly advanced since the 1950s and Valerie.

Did you ever get a chance to ride the rails with your father a lot.

I was serious when we were young.

That's what we did on vacation.

We went to visit family in Toronto and Vancouver in Edmonton and Calgary we rode the rails, but at that time Valerie just to put it into context in terms of time.

Was your father still engaged as a sleeping car porter at that time?

I think he became a sleeping car conductor when I was a teenager.

So when I was very young, yes, he was a porter.

So, and there's just, I want to make sure that I'm using the right terminology also Valerie because to be a sleeping car conductor would be an advancement if I'm not understanding this right from an advancement from a sleeping car porter.

So in other words, once he brought in and once he challenged and once he got the order of the sleeping car porters, he was able to get advancement within the railway.

He was one of the first black man to be promoted to a sleeping car conductor.

Yes.

What was that like in the Williams household when that became reality.

I can remember jubilant, you know, everyone was thrilled.

He had a lot of friends, of course, Saul and family.

Uncles all sleeping car porters, there was celebration.

He'd worked extremely hard while he was working full time as a porter.

So he'd be out days on the road every week and then come home and have to work on this.

So he was, he was busy.

I can remember having to go to Ottawa and I remember, you know, my mother was really the one who kind of held us together during that time.

She was the one who kept us kept the kids and the home and I think that struck me so interesting and I'm not sure if interesting is the right word Valerie maybe to me some of these things that are always educational when you when you look back historically and you realize that there was the brotherhood of railway workers who you would think would endorse and support what was happening to the sleeping car porters, but quite the opposite.

They did not want to look for any of these black Canadians to have an opportunity to advance at that time.

It's a stunning revelation.

Not really when you think about it Stewart, I think people with privilege today don't want aren't willing to give up their privilege.

They see if they give up their privileges or giving something away to someone else and what are they left with.

So I I see that very clearly what I did find interesting.

There are a lot of black men that were afraid of my father going through with this complaint because they're afraid of losing their jobs, losing what they already had.

So he received resistance not only from white people, he received resistance from black people.

And again, to kind of put that in context Valerie, I guess knowing that if there was an opportunity to hopefully to try to remove discrimination or racial discrimination, systemic racism by including the sleeping car porters in a more broad arrangement or more broad agreement with the railway workers.

The concern was that that would not necessarily provide for advancement of the sleeping car porters who were mostly black.

It would allow white people to sort of take over sleeping car porter opportunities.

And I think there are somewhat sleeping car porters now.

I'm not sure.

I haven't been on a train for a long, long time, but I'm sure there are, you know, white sleeping car porters, but at the time the majority was black and I think the fear was they're going to take our jobs.

So not much has changed really.

I see that today people are still concerned about giving or sharing their privilege or using their privilege for good.

So he was facing a battle on many fronts, not only from whites but from blacks as well who are afraid they're going to get fired, which I can understand if you kind of went into the memory bank Valerie just to think about, you know, some highlights.

If somebody were to ask you just to recall some of the things that you remember the fight that your father went through and and maybe some of the words that you were hearing or some of the things that were happening at that time that has probably, I think grounded you to fast forward to today and say the year might be different than it is today.

But the language and the challenges are not necessarily different.

I can't remember my father saying it's not right and that's stuck with me.

It wasn't right and I won't use some of the language he did, he was strong.

He wasn't afraid of a fight on his job.

When he did face discrimination.

He wanted to protect his security, his job security.

He was very conscientious about providing for his family.

But outside of his job, if he was, you know, attacked racially or addressed with discrimination, he would certainly meet that challenge.

He would not shy away from a fight.

So I can remember that he was steadfast in his belief that all human beings are equal and that the color of our skin has no bearing on opportunities.

So I grew up knowing that it was wrong to discriminate when your father lee was so embroiled in this.

And again, this is obviously well in advance of social media Valerie.

But the notion that you were the daughter of did that have any impact on you as you were going through your education or your life extremely proud of my father and he did not have the privileges that I have had in my life and look what he has done.

I could never reach.

You know, the achievements he did and I'm just so proud of and thankful for him and my mother well and I think we have to just take a moment also to come back to your mother whose name is Alice, when your father gets the recognition he deserves.

And obviously it's it is extremely well deserved.

But knowing that there was somebody at home, making sure that, you know, your home was strong, safe, a place that you know, the Children like you and the rest of your your family could grow.

What was your mother like?

She was a lot more strict than my father.

My father was a soft one.

She was pretty uh rigid.

You know, we did things in order.

You know, she would do our hair.

My sister and my hair every saturday night before church, which included a huge process.

We'd have to sit still for she was amazing.

Very, very, I don't know how to people came together, both so strong and who had faced so many barriers in their lives.

And would she have to, you know, in the community at all Valerie, Would your mother Alice have to deal with some of the backlash that might have become from both the black and the white community.

About what your father was trying to do?

Oh, absolutely.

Even though she was strong, she was not as outspoken as my father, I did get that from him.

I will stand up and I will speak the truth.

My mother was a more soft approach, a gentle approach.

So certainly some of the women of the black men, their wives.

I'm sure that we're afraid my father, my father going through with this complaint.

I'm sure she was stigmatized and probably made to feel quite uncomfortable.

Yeah.

And is it fair question Valerie to ask that your mother Alice might have had her friends or her circle of friends would also be women of color whose husbands or partners or boyfriends whatever.

Maybe Sleeping car porters.

Oh absolutely.

Oh yeah.

It was a community At one time in Winnipeg.

We knew every black person in Winnipeg.

It was a community.

The church was built near the railroad station CNR and CPR.

So all of her friends were black women at that time.

Of course she gained different friends and neighbors and all of their husbands that I can remember.

I'm not going to say 100% but certainly a high majority, 90% of the husbands of the men in our community were sleeping car porters or worked on the railroads.

Right.

Yeah.

I think I read a passage to just sort of show I think how as they say is racialized and the discrimination that the when they tried to renew the contracts and the sleeping car porters were wanting to be a part of that contract with the I guess they were called the brotherhood of, I don't know railway workers.

So they were outside the sleeping car porters but they all they were all involved in in the railway and I'm thinking about brakeman engineers, conductors et cetera.

The point that I was amazed to hear is that the porters were not part of it because they worked on the railroad but they weren't operating the railroad.

So they discriminated again and found another way using language to discriminate against them.

Of course, of course they did.

They were going to do everything they could the collective agreement and the CNR did not want the sleeping car porters, the mainly black men to have opportunities for advancement.

And of course they were going to use language that would, you know, benefit them in any way they can.

And we see that today.

Yeah, yeah.

And I and I want to talk about today and I just don't want to just a couple of quick more things about your father, when you look at how language can be so derivative, you know, in terms of where these conversations go and everybody knows that it's wrong.

But those that are entitled and those that are in the power position won't make those changes.

I think it just speaks volumes again, Valerie to your father who was steadfast in his understanding and and his viewpoint that, you know, we are all equal and he was going to fight for that and he was successful.

And as you say, that fight still continues.

It still continues.

And we have to look at who writes these policies, who benefits from these policies and who is excluded from these policies.

So that is where we're gonna be able to identify the barriers in our systems today and our structures and our organizations and you know, so the last comment to make on on your father, we're gonna talk a little bit about you and the pilgrim baptist church.

I just found it interesting Valerie how the sleeping car porters were just, you know, treated so poorly and so discriminated against.

And you think about the organization, the railroad, the CN, the CPR that ran it, they were ultimately the face of the railroad.

That's who people interacted with.

I mean, it wasn't the conductors or it wasn't the engineers of the brakeman.

It was the sleeping car porters.

And they had a very hard job.

It was like manual labor, you know, and they were, they suffered immense.

You know, racial slurs.

I wouldn't even say microaggression, racial discrimination, you know, and they had to endure it or they could not tell white people exactly what they thought they would have been fired.

So they were treated as subhuman.

I can remember my father telling me they tried to feed us food, they wouldn't give two dogs.

You know, I remember that he did not like his job, but he he did his job.

He was supporting his family and at the time it was a good income.

Yeah.

He also used his job to change the face of Canada.

Yeah, he did.

So Valerie.

You know, one of the things you mentioned, we were having a conversation about the fact that, you know, the community and the church were so integrated and so close and that I just think it's the pilgrim baptist church I think is the one that you've Got pilgrim baptist churches is still on 41 maple ST 41 Maple.

So tell me about your family's involvement in the pilgrim baptist church.

My father was a deacon of the church.

I can't remember the timeframe I'm thinking though it was after he became a sleeping car conductor, I'm just trying to think of the years, pilgrim baptist church was founded in 1920 for is still in the same location, of course he was instrumental in the rebuilding of the church.

So now it's a better, I can remember the original church, wow, it's small, you know, it was like a little wood shack and that was a hub for the black community at one time.

You know, there were chicken dinners that were a big thing in the community.

A lot of ways people came to that, I often kind of wonder about that, you know, black people frying up chicken, but anyway, I might have issues with it today, but that was the way we raised money and good money at that time.

There were afternoon teas for the ladies.

My mother was always always in church, if I was ever looking for my mother as I got older, I knew where to find her, she was always part of a woman's auxiliary group.

So they were both very, very involved and that's for their friends and a lot of our family are still, yeah, they had they had a very active social life.

I did revolve around the church and their friendships and family and today it's mainly family I would say Valerie.

Is there a way that it becomes the pilgrim baptist church is it?

I mean do you recall how it got named?

You know, I believe it started with a pastor Hill and then they renamed the church.

I can't remember his name but he was an american and he started pilgrim baptist church and it was named Hills Memorial baptist church.

And then later on they changed it To Pilgrim Baptist Church in 1928.

And really it's an interesting thing because although you worship there, it's a community center, I mean it really is a community center at that time, right?

A place to gather at that time.

Yes, that was, that would be fair to say yes.

And I would say most black people in Winnipeg have been through the doors of pilgrim baptist church at one time or another.

Whether or not they stayed they didn't stay.

It is in the hood, it's right at Maple and at Higgins and Main and you know black families also at one time lived in that Sutherland area because it was close to the railways, their husbands went to work and people started moving to the suburbs.

So most people started moving out and unfortunately the congregation, the numbers have dwindled.

Yeah, I mean I think you know Valerie it's you think you have to say that in a lot of churches for a lot of reasons that were maybe not going to get into today, but You've seen that, right.

But the fact that it's still very much alive well and operating in 2022 speaks volumes about the foundation.

I know, doesn't it just, and I know that you and your husband are very active in the pilgrim baptist church.

Very active.

And how have you been able to work through the whole covid period?

We meet on zoom.

So we have been meeting prayer meetings or Tuesday night at seven o'clock on zoom and sunday mornings on zoom as well at 11 a.m.

For there was a time I think when we thought Covid might be subsiding that we did go back into the church, but it became clear that the, you know, there was so the numbers were so high, I think with all Macron surfaced that we decided to meet on zoom again, we're slowly hopefully coming out of that.

So at some juncture, you're going to be able to get back into having your, your regular church service.

It's nice to get together in the sanctuary of fellowship and see people, you know, people we haven't, I haven't seen in person, I've seen them on the screen.

It's very different relationships building is hard to do on zoom.

It is absolutely, you're you're absolutely right about that.

So you're still active in the church and I should know when I apologize, your husband's name is Bill Thompson.

Bill Thompson.

So and he also is very active I know in the pilgrim baptist church.

He is, yes, he loves pilgrim baptist church.

Yes.

Does he have a specific role there Valerie in terms of No, no, and I don't have a role either.

Yeah, I don't have a role.

I'm a member.

That's enough of a rule being a member, right, that's important.

And we are celebrating black history month, pilgrim baptist church is celebrating black history month in a big way.

We have been fortunate for the last three years to get a grant through Canadian heritage and so we just had a rap gospel concert last saturday night on zoom, which I think the young people really enjoyed.

We're gonna have a trivia game around black olympians this sunday for the Children and we're going to have a discussion, we're gonna celebrate our leaders of black leaders in our community, not that they're, you know, on the news or not that they're in, you know, high profile positions, they're just our community leaders, we're gonna celebrate one another.

Excellent.

Yeah, no, I mean it's great.

You talk about the history and I think I started this podcast out by saying it's vital because it helps to put context for the present and when you start to, as you say, talk about celebrating the black leaders of today, you know, of different ages, those that are younger that are up and coming those that are still with us.

You know, it's an amazing thing and you're still very, I mean obviously with Covid but the church is still very active in terms of celebrating, I mean Black History month but doesn't matter every month, every week, every day.

We, I celebrate Black History every day and our Black history month event unfortunately will have to be on zoom as well this year.

This year.

Yeah, we're all living it.

So the notion that that when we have this conversation next year, I suspect it's going to be in person and I look forward to that.

So do I hospital rap concert in the church.

That will be fun.

Yeah, no, no for sure Valerie.

So you know when we talk about black history month, what does black history month mean to you?

Just the time to recognize and remember the suffering and the struggles of my ancestors and that is the reason why I'm able to sit here and talk to you today, Stuart I guess one of the things always that I guess it's a challenge Valerie on so many levels is that as you say, and I'm delighted the way you say that you celebrate Black history every day every day and celebrate look at our leaders of black leaders today, awesome.

We have come a long, long way.

We may not be where we want to be, but we have come a long, long way and I think a lot of that.

I personally believe my personal belief that is divine intervention.

I'm proud of my people.

I'm proud that we stand up against adversity.

I'm proud of how we came through the horrific legacy that was given to us.

And do you think Valerie to put it in perspective, all the things that we've talked about, all the things that that you've experienced, you know before, your father was involved with the railway, all these issues around discrimination and systemic racism, it seems that there's a sense that maybe the George Floyd incident that murder it caused people to I don't want to use the word wake up because I don't want this to be about a word, I want it to be about more of an education and understanding, a desire to make the world a better place.

And that seemed to be something that started black lives matter.

Black lives for justice.

And that's not the first time that those words necessarily have been spoken and have had the kind of attention that they deserve.

A lot of times people say black lives matter.

And it became people started saying, yeah, but what about other lives?

I mean they lost the understanding of what was trying to be said there and I'd love to get your take on that.

I don't think we lost the understanding of Black lives Matter.

I think certain groups wanted to repress Black lives Matter and came out and say all lives matter.

That is just racist rhetoric.

So unfortunately it took a black man being lynched in the streets for the country to wake up and I don't mind using the word wake up because I think a lot of people were living in, you know, denial or it's not that bad.

I think that was clear what was happening to black lives in America, not only in the United States, but in Canada.

We have lots of incidents of police shootings of black people.

So I think it was, you know, certainly an opportunity to keep that awareness alive.

We can't let that message die.

Nothing has changed, Nothing, nothing much has changed.

We have a long way to go.

We have to address the racism and all of our institutions, In our governments and our healthcare, our justice system, child family services, you know, our child and found 90% of the Children in care today are indigenous Children.

Do we think we really elevated much since the Indian residential schools in the 60s scoop.

I stand in solidarity with indigenous peoples, you know, it's just not right.

And let's talk a little bit about your role now, Valerie at the Ready Faculty of Health Sciences, the Director of Equity, Diversity and inclusion.

It's an important title.

It sounds like something that you're obviously extremely passionate about What do you hope from your perspective Valerie to sort of shape that conversation to move it from where it was yesterday, to where it could be this time next year when perhaps you and I have a chance to speak in person at the pilgrim baptist church.

What would you say that you would see from a year ago when we had this conversation to where we are today?

I think more people at the University of Manitoba are involved or interested and committed to equity, diversity and inclusion.

I started the University of Manitoba about nine years ago and I'm not sure what prompted the change, but equity diversity and inclusion is a priority at the university as well as anti racism.

I care deeply about the members of all of our campuses, our community.

I'm committed to the work and changes really slow in equity diversity, inclusion.

But I see such a commitment and awareness and I learned so much from my colleagues and change is going to happen for indigenous peoples, black peoples racialized persons.

The two S.

L G B T Q I A Plus community and persons with disabilities were also looking at anti Embolism strategy.

So all of those groups fall under my portfolio, I need to be very clear, I am black and I'm proud, but I'm also as concerned is about those other groups that have suffered significant discrimination as I am black peoples and it's really about having a way to find voices to be heard and to be respected and to be listened to that.

Perhaps haven't had that opportunity in the past And no one is free until we're all free.

Right, Valerie.

Just we talked a little bit about the challenge.

You know, I'm going to sort of try and draw the pilgrim baptist church experience of zoom into what you're doing now at the Radio Faculty of Health Sciences on Zoom.

I assume.

How is that?

I mean, because you can accomplish things on zoom for sure.

No question about it, but the opportunity to be in person, the opportunity to have a face to face conversation that might allow somebody to have a moment of clarity that something comes and that allows somebody to maybe give somebody an embracement a hug to say, you know, we're together, you know, we're on this together with that we understand what we're trying to achieve here.

How are you dealing with that kind of emotional challenge on a zoom call?

That's a great question.

And I have to admit, particularly for the program of equity diversity inclusion.

I need to build relationships with people and building relationships is hard on zoom.

I've been fortunate enough, I've been at the university for almost 10 years.

So I know a lot of my colleagues, I know a lot of my partners and the relationship has already been established.

So that didn't change too much from zoom but facilitating a session around dismantling racism is very difficult.

I can't read body language.

I don't know if someone is being triggered and they're very difficult conversations to have and zoom I think even complicates that.

So I'll be looking forward when I'm in person.

I can sit down with people and build understanding.

It's all about building understanding and empathy for people different than ourselves.

Yeah, that's a great answer and I and I appreciate it very, very much valeri Williams.

I knew that when I talk to you about the opportunity to have a conversation with you that it was going to be interesting.

I'll just say a bit pointed because that's who you are and I think that that is tremendous and we've spent a bit of time on a zoom call here, your commitment, your passion, your desire to stand up for what is right is on zoom versus in person Valerie very, very, very evident and I think that the University of Manitoba is fortunate to have you and you clearly will make a change and I I look forward to the opportunity when I can meet with you in person because I have learned something from you in this conversation and I know one thing is for certain that when I see you in person, I will learn again from you and I will learn from you as well Stewart, this has been delightful.

You know I had heard of you before, but I was so pleased to get to know you a little bit and do let's get together when we can.

Let's have another conversation in person.

Yeah, I know, I look forward to it.

So valeri Williams.

Thank you for your time.

Thank you for your energy.

Thank you for being patient and teaching and being open and giving those people that will listen to this episode of humans on writes a chance to reflect on how we can all pull together to make this a better world.

Thank you for the opportunity You take care of Valerie.

Humans on Rights is recorded and hosted by Stuart, Murray social media marketing by the creative team at full current in Winnipeg.

Thanks also to Trixie may bite you in music by Doug Edmund for more.

Go to human rights hub dot C A.

Produced and distributed by the sound off media company.

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