“From 2001 to 2004, I experienced a slow progression of vision loss … I was on a bunch of medications and I went through a progression of anger, denial, grief and loss. It was four years where I went through that whole process and I needed that. In 2006, The Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) got involved with me and they showed me the assisted technology for people with vision loss and that’s how I got started. When finally I started to come out of it, that’s when I decided to work towards something. I was only thirty-one at the time so I thought I should go back to school. A guy I knew at CNIB suggested that I go into social work and that’s where it all started. I started listening to books on tape and started to learn braille, then everything got rolling. That’s when I got involved with United Way public speaking and I really got on to the idea of helping people and telling my story. People would shake my hand and tell me I am inspirational so that helped build my confidence and from there, I flourished.”
“I believe this is where I’m supposed to be now, as a social worker helping people. It’s busy, but I enjoy it — it’s what drives me. it’s really fulfilling. I’m a completely different person than I was — like night and day. It’s so contrasting because I was a rig hand before. I feel now that I can have a conversation with anyone. Everything has lead me up to this point.”
The sounds of people chanting “black lives matter” echoed Friday evening through an area near City Hall as people gathered downtown to mourn the high-profile deaths this week of two black men in the United States.
An Edmonton-affiliate of Black Lives Matter organized the rally to protest the killings of Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota. Both men were shot by police officers. Graphic videos captured in both instances caused an outcry and protests across North America.
“We know segments of our society are disproportionately marginalized by institutional structures,” said Nav Kaur, a rally organizer.
More than 400 people on Facebook indicated they would attend the rally, which featured spoken word poetry, art, speeches and a vigil.
The crowd chanted “black lives matter” and “brown lives matter” before Edmonton-Centre NDP MLA David Shepherd took to a stage adorned with photos of the two men killed by police in the U.S. to talk about his experience growing up as a black man in Edmonton.
“I could have easily been in their position,” Shepherd said of Sterling and Castile. “I could have died the way they died.”
Although the situation in Canada is not “exactly a parallel” to the U.S., there are still issues with carding and accountability with regards to the police, said Kaur, adding that marginalized communities do face police brutality in Canada.