Elevating Black Voices in Politics Requires More Than Representation Alone

Angela Robertson

Black community should not settle for mere representation in politics

By Lincoln DePradine

Black people cannot return to the period before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, where many were in homeless shelters and faced other challenges relating to anti-Black racism, according to Angela Robertson, executive director of Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre.

Jamaican-born Robertson, who was one of the speakers at a recent Black Health and Wellness Fair’’, said there should be positive changes in the post-COVID recovery in Toronto and Canada.

“If you don’t know, you should know that within the sheltering system, Black folks – those who self-identify as Black – make up over 30 percent of the folks in Toronto’s homeless sheltering system,’’ she said.

“What change should look like, is that it cannot mean that we believe that a return to homeless shelters is the answer to COVID’s response to homeless.’’

The fair was organized by the Black Scientists’ Task Force (BSTF), in what it called, “an effort to strengthen members of the Black community’s health’’.

“COVID-19 was a source of huge losses for Black communities. We saw lost lives and diminished health, loss of jobs, lost opportunities, lost relationships, and lost time,” said Dr David Burt, BSTF’s co-chair.

Free health check-ups, a COVID-19 vaccine clinic and presentations by Black professionals formed part of the event.

Robertson, commenting following remarks from Toronto Mayor John Tory, said she was “besides’’ herself that he spoke about his commitment to helping, at a time when he was seeking an increase of $48 million for the police.

Black people have been on the “adverse receiving end of policing in our community’’, said Robertson.

“Investment in policing is not the answer that Black folks need in a post-COVID recovery,’’ she said. “We must push for, and support, community-led crisis response teams to take policing out of mental health crisis response.’’

Robertson said that not returning to a “pre-COVID normal’’ also requires paying attention to other issues like the high incarceration rate of Black people, and having greater access to primary and specialist healthcare.

“In COVID, we saw billions spent,’’ said Robertson. “What COVID has taught us is that there are more than enough resources to go around. But, it’s just that there isn’t the political will to distribute and enable communities to get access to those resources to sustain our lives.’’

Robertson, a 2017 recipient of an honourary Doctor of Laws degree fromYork University, also warned against settling “for mere representation in politics and positions’’.

“Representation for us needs to be twinned with a politics that is about our betterment and our improvement. So, therefore, I ask you, in recovery, to be cautious when positions are being handed out,’’ she said.

“We need to also hold ourselves accountable when we assume positions, because you need to benefit us when you occupy these roles.’’

LRI Reporter