KITCHENER — Organizers of a peaceful rally in solidarity with Black Lives Matter in downtown Kitchener earlier this month have raised thousands of dollars for local grassroots initiatives.
They initially launched a fundraiser to help cover costs associated with the June 3 event but managed to collect $17,000 after expenses were paid. The money will support programming for Black and Indigenous youth and children in the community.
“It feels good,” said Fitsum Areguy, a member of the local African, Caribbean and Black Network. “The things the money is going toward are really important to us.”
About $15,000 will be held by the Country Hills Recreation Association and will be used for programs across the city, Areguy said.
“They’ll hold the funds while we figure out how to best disperse the resources into key areas in the region, specifically areas with a high presence of police surveillance and police programs,” Areguy said.
That includes the communities of Kingsdale, Mill Courtland, Chandler and Centreville Chicopee. These are areas where the police community outreach program known as COPS operates, “and we want to offer resources that are police-free,” Areguy said.
The remaining $2,000 will be donated to the Pins and Needles Fabric Company, an Indigenous not-for-profit arts initiative.
Artistic director Terre Chartrand is “thrilled” to be receiving some of the money, which will help pay youth and Indigenous artists as part of a collaboration with Textile Magazine.
“We’re all lifted when Black lives and voices are lifted,” Chartrand said. The project starts Tuesday and will wrap up mid-July.
“It’s really important we work in solidarity with our Indigenous community,” added Areguy.
Despite the success in raising funds, Areguy said it’s important to keep it in perspective and they shouldn’t have to rely on crowdfunding campaigns to fund police-free programs in Waterloo Region.
The African, Caribbean and Black Network has called on the region to reduce the $180-million local police budget by a minimum of $29 million and invest that money into community-based health initiatives for impoverished and racialized groups.
“Action without meaningful consultation is empty and can be harmful, so we’ll push for more meaningful community engagement,” Areguy said. “We’re hoping these conversations can continue at the municipal level and within the not-for-profit sector as well.”