Last evening, Shannon Thomas Ryan, Executive Director of the Ontario AIDS Network (OAN) a province-wide coalition of community based AIDS Service Organizations of which The AIDS Network is a member, has released a Statement of Solidarity with Black Lives Matter that The AIDS Network has fully endorsed. The statement reads:
Ontario’s HIV sector stands in solidarity with Black Lives Matter to resist anti-Black racism and anti-Black violence
“Over the past week, we’ve witnessed unprecedented violence against Black communities in North America – much of it the hands of police and the state. The latest incidents of state-sanctioned violence against Black people, including Regis Korchinski-Paquet, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade and countless others, remind us that to be Black in North America is to live with enduring and historic anti-Black racism that perpetuates violence, and systemic, economic, health and social inequities. In recognition of these realities, the Ontario AIDS Network and its members stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter movements in Ontario, across Canada, and around the world. This is a critical moment for Ontario’s HIV sector to stand in solidarity with Black communities and speak out against anti-Black racism. It is vital that our network commit publicly to challenging white supremacy and to raising our collective voice against pervasive violence and systemic discrimination against Black people. Our organizations and movement are built on foundational social justice principles that endure in our work to this day. Many of these same principles lay at the foundation of the Black Lives Matter movement. Our histories of collective HIV activism and the 51st anniversary of the Stonewall riots are prescient reminders of our deep roots of social action and resistance and of what change can come when we act together.
As we continue to use our collective tools and voices to dismantle HIV stigma and to challenge the status quo, we must begin to speak out louder on behalf of and with Black communities and organizations like Black Lives Matter. We must collectively acknowledge high and persistent HIV rates in Ontario’s African, Caribbean and Black communities and the ways that anti-Black racism and persistent health inequities contribute to this reality. Our collective voices must also rise in resistance to anti-Indigenous racism, anti-Trans inclusion, and countless other forms of oppression in our community. While the state has indeed perpetrated violence against Black communities, we must acknowledge the role of our organizations in perpetuating this violence. As community-based organizations, we must examine the ways in which our own silence makes us complicit and commit to better identifying and addressing occurrences of antiBlack racism within our sector and organizations. The Ontario AIDS Network and its membership stand with those fighting for the fair and equitable treatment of Black communities at home and abroad. We the undersigned:
Black Lives Matter! On behalf of the Board and staff of the Ontario AIDS Network,
Shannon Thomas Ryan Executive Director
Ky’okusinga Kirunga – Director of the African and Caribbean Council on HIV/AIDS in Ontario (ACCHO) when endorsing this message added a statement on behalf of ACCHO saying
“We, along with the communities we exist to serve across Ontario, continue to watch in horror and grief at the events taking place south of our border over the last few days. And we are reminded that this deadly collision of race, power and rights is not restricted to south of our border: anti-Black racism is alive in Canada as well. Our work responding to HIV in Ontario’s African, Caribbean and Black communities has us walking at the edge of the margins of our society on a daily basis. We see what racism and violence do to communities, to generations, and we denounce it vehemently. Enough is enough!
We stand in solidarity with all those who are speaking out and are acting with hope and dignity. We are tired of praying that victims rest in power; we demand that all people of colour in our province and in our country live in power; it is overdue.”