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A massive 'Emancipation Day March' is set to take place in Downtown Vancouver

"People keep saying that all lives matter. Of course all lives matter! But all lives cannot matter until black lives matter."
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Photo: Ryan Walter Wagner

"We believe that one day we will be free, and we're going to be singing this song."

Thousands of protestors marched through Downtown Vancouver on June 19 in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and to celebrate "Juneteenth" - the day that marks the emancipation of the last remaining enslaved African Americans in the Confederacy.

Now, the organizers of the Juneteenth March - Vancouver-based Nova Stevens and Shamika Mitchell - will host the Emancipation Day March on Saturday, Aug 1. 

Aug. 1 marks Emancipation Day in Kanata (Kanata is an indigenous Canadian word meaning "village" or "settlement"). The Slavery Abolition Act 1833 ended slavery in the British Empire on August 1, 1834, and thus also in Canada. 

In June, organizer Stevens said that the Juneteenth march in Vancouver offered a powerful way to speak about racism in Canada, but that the conversation needs to continue. 

"I am not in your house. I don't know what conversations your parents or friends are having," Stevens told Vancouver Is Awesome in a phone call. "We need to continue talking about these issues and defend the people who are not in the room."

Stevens was sent to Canada alone at age six after her family fled the brutal civil war in South Sudan. Since then, she's been a youth mentor, travelled around the world, competed in Miss Universe Canada 2018, and acted in a few TV shows. And while she loves living in Canada, she says systemic racism is deeply rooted in the country. 

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"Canada's emancipation was in 1834 on August 1, and there is still racial division and inequality. For lack of a better word, it is really sad. I'm tired about talking about race," laments Stevens.

"People keep saying that all lives matter. Of course all lives matter! But all lives cannot matter until Black lives matter."

The Emancipation Day March will take begin at Jack Poole Plaza at 1 p.m., Saturday Aug. 1. The march route will begin from Jack Poole Plaza, heading south along Thurlow Street, west on Beach Avenue, and will complete at Sunset Beach Park.

Following the march, a stage will be set up at Sunset Beach Park where Black artists and speakers will be performing and addressing the crowd. Black-owned businesses will also be at the site to showcase local Black culture, soul food and more.

Those wishing to participate in the march are reminded to take COVID-19 precautions and to wear masks, socially distance, and monitor for possible symptoms in the two weeks after.

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Thousands of protestors previously marched through Downtown Vancouver in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and to celebrate "Juneteenth."

Demonstrators marched from Jack Poole Plaza down Thurlow Street, as onlookers watched from nearby rooftops and balconies. A number of people cheered from the sidelines, while others proudly displayed Black Lives Matters banners from their homes. 

When they reached their final destination, demonstrators gathered under a grey sky that threatened to rain, and, united by tragedy, they chanted about change, hope, and freedom. 

Here are some of the personal stories they told Vancouver Is Awesome.