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TALKING BACK: How whitestream media f*cks up when talking about Black Lives Matter

Featuring BLM-Vancouver co-founder Cicely-Belle Blain

by The Built Environment

Photo by Ohi Akpengbe (IG: @mr_qwaye) from BLMV's Visibility & Solidarity event at the Vancouver Art Gallery on April 17, 2016.
Photo by Ohi Akpengbe (IG: @mr_qwaye) from BLMV's Visibility & Solidarity event at the Vancouver Art Gallery on April 17, 2016.


“I think when things like Black Lives Matter are written about in mainstream media, the point is usually completely missed.”
- Cicely-Belle Blain

In early June, Marsha sat down with Cicely-Belle Blain, one of the co-founders of Black Lives Matter - Vancouver (BLMV) to speak about mainstream* and independent media coverage of BLMV's founding. Cicely-Belle discusses how the narratives that mainstream media creates about Black Lives Matter -- for instance, columns by the Globe & Mail's Marcus Gee -- are informed by a racist climate of white supremacy that requires black communities and black activism to be constructed as dangerous and disruptive. Cicely-Belle talks back against the co-optation of black experiences by white media-makers/writers and shares the specific strategies that she and the BLMV team have used in resistance, from delving into historical research, to sharing Instagram memes, to building visible community presence through photography/video, to learning from the institutional experiences of academics of colour at the University of British Columbia.

*Upon on listening to this track, a friend of the podcast suggested a linguistic change, saying: "'Mainstream media' usually just means white media -- as in, media written BY white people, FOR white people. Rather than try to make 'mainstream' sound neutral, call it the 'whitestream media.'"

The core organizing team of BLMV is Cicely-Belle Blain, Mwango Moragia, Imaan Himid, Bezawit Girma, Blessing Falayi, Holly Bishu, and Sefanit Habtom, with assistance of a team of 15-20 volunteers.

Articles & media mentioned on this week’s episode:

1. Black Lives Matter - Vancouver on Facebook:…ncouver/?fref=ts

2. Find BLMV’s on-going fundraising campaign:

3. “Muhammad Ali and Black Lives Matter” by BLM - Toronto co-founder Janaya Khan:…10092743621.html

4. This week’s piece to critique was “Black Lives Matter debate in Toronto descends into a no-win trap” by Marcus Gee. We have included it here as a Google Doc, so as not to add to the Globe & Mail's click-bait count:…_6wtgLLegqlM/edit

5. Cameron Bailey’s commentary on Gee’s article can be read on the Black Experience Project’s FB page:…%22%3A%22R%22%7D

6. Do Not Resist, the film discussed by Cicely-Belle, continues to screen across North America:

7. “Necropolitics” by Achille Mbembe (PDF link):

8. Photo-based coverage of BLM-Vancouver’s first event, Visibility & Solidarity at the Vancouver Art Gallery by Lenée Son:…s-solidarity-toronto

9. Tania Willard's work in the graphic history collection, "Drawn to Change," which Marsha cites in the introduction to this episode, can be bought/explored at:

10. To learn more about the displacement of black communities in Strathcona, check out "Imagining black vancouver: Experiments in reclaiming city space" by Naomi Moyer in Briarpatch Magazine from 2014:

***Correction: Marsha incorrectly cites that the first article to cover #BLMTOTentCity was by the CBC; however, it was the Toronto Star (March 21 2016) and the headline reads: “Police, demonstrators clash at Andrew Loku protest, while victim’s uncle calls for video.”

Follow the Built Environment on Twitter & Instagram @thebuiltenviro.


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The Built Environment is a semi-regular podcast about the intersections between violence against people and land in Canada. Hosted and produced by Marsha McLeod & Brenna Owen, the Built Environment can also be found on Twitter and Instagram @thebuiltenviro.

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