Niagara Folk Arts Multicultural Centre Condemns Vandalism of Harriet Tubman Statue

“This racist act of vandalism can strongly impact the mental health of many BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and other people of colour) people in our community.”

A Statement on the Desecration of the Harriet Tubman Statue  from the Niagara Folk Arts Multicultural Centre

Posted October 15th, 2021 on Niagara At Large

The bust of Harriet Tubman was pulled of its pedestal at the Salem, Chapel British Methodist Episcopal Church this past Thanksgiving weekend. The bust may be damaged beyond repair.

The Niagara Folk Arts Multicultural Centre is extremely disheartened by the act of vandalism that took place this weekend at the St. Catharines BME Church. The damage happened at about 9 p.m. Sunday when a man intentionally pushed the statue of Harriet Tubman off of it’s pedestal.

Not only is Harriet Tubman an important figure of St. Catharines heritage, but her legacy an important part of Canadian heritage and Black history. Harriet Tubman escaped slavery from Maryland in 1849 and helped others in their journey to freedom. Eleven of the freedom seekers were brought to St. Catharines in 1851 and joined what is now the BME church.

We strongly condemn this act of vandalism as the Harriet Tubman statue served as a way for people to commemorate and learn more about Black history in Niagara. The damage of the statue is a significant blow to the BME Church and to all those who have worked extremely hard and have been dedicated to celebrating Black History in St. Catharines.

Based on the October 14th statement from Global News & Niagara Regional Police,  the concrete chest of Harriet Tubman to be “intentionally damaged” originating from a person with no fixed address and the NRPS claims there was no reason that it appeared to be a hate related incident.

The Salem Chapel British Methodist Episcopal Church in St. Catharines, one of the most historic churches of its kind in Canada.

We ask that the police continue their full investigation. We sympathize with the social determinants of health and situational circumstances of the person arrested, yet this incident leaves members of the BIPOC community (instances of similar nature where acts of hate are difficult to deem to fit the threshold of a hate crime) no way to deal with the triggers of the compounded impact of racism on the rise. 

This has been partially due to past political leadership south of our border unleash and incite hatred and even current extreme political parties in our own Canadian soil promote stereotypes and falsehoods about race, gender & sexual identity, ethnicity, or creed that gives every day persons like this to pursue acts like the desecration of the statue and escalate these to even a greater degree.

Where is it going to end and how many triggers like this will it take before all work together to eradicate racism and all forms of isms in this country? Who will speak up for us and our centre when they come for us next? Will you stand with us? 

Where does the BIPOC community go to deal with the impact of “seemingly racist acts” like this and compounded mental health issues that we deal with as the cumulative effect of micro and macro aggressions can all lead to a never ending cycle.

We have to solve this problem as an all systems having a hands on deck approach and by looking at it as a wicked problem that requires equally wicked complex multifaceted solutions that deal with systems approaches and policing our way out of this is no single solution, a strong message needs to be sent to anyone who considers doing acts.

As an organization we have been actively involved in supporting numerous recommendations, including reallocating first responder resources towards prioritizing anti-racism strategies and the implementation of specific strategies of the Coalition of Inclusive Municipalities of which Niagara is a signatory of and the comprehensive recommendations offered in the 2018 Excellence and Innovation in promoting positive race relations by CRRF advice to such complex issues and until and unless we work together as a system to address these issues we won’t move forward.

This racist act of vandalism can strongly impact the mental health of many BIPOC people in our community. We ask all leaders to please check in with their staff to ensure that they are feeling okay. Members of the BIPOC community, please also take a mental health day off, if needed. 

To all BIPOC people in our community and at our centre, if you need someone to talk to, please contact us for mental health supports at https://www.folk-arts.ca/programs/mental-health and access our chat line or call us at 905-685-6589 ext. 243.

Emily Kovacs, Executive Director, Niagara Folk Arts Multicultural Centre

The Niagara Folk Arts Multicultural Centre continues to support the BME Church, and we will continue to celebrate and promote the diverse history of St.Catharines.

Although the church has not yet created a specific link for the monument, many community members have offered their support and donated to the overall restoration of the building. Instructions to donate can be found here: http://salemchapelbmechurch.ca/restoration-info.html

Emily Kovacs, Executive Director, Niagara Folk Arts Multicultural Centre

To read two other recent pieces posted on Niagara At Large on this disgusting incident, click on the following links –

https://niagaraatlarge.com/2021/10/15/suspect-in-smashing-of-harriet-tubman-bust-in-niagara-has-been-arrested-and-charged/ .

https://niagaraatlarge.com/2021/10/14/what-is-the-issue-with-civil-rights-icon-harriet-tubman-in-st-catharines/ .

NIAGARA AT LARGE Encourages You To Join The Conversation By Sharing Your Views On This Post In The Space Following The Bernie Sanders Quote Below.

“A Politician Thinks Of The Next Election. A Leader Thinks Of The Next Generation.” – Bernie Sanders

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