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Organizer of powerful 'Juneteenth' march plans new rally in Vancouver

Nova Stevens plans to hold a massive march in Vancouver to celebrate the emancipation of the last enslaved people in Canada.
nova-Vancouver_BLM March _Vancouer Is Awesome_Ryan Walter Wagner-110
Nova Stevens in the Jack Poole Plaza. Photo: Ryan Walter Wagner for Vancouver Is Awesome

She co-organized a march that approximately 6,000 people attended in Vancouver this June, but it won't be her last time doing so. 

Model, actress, and spokesperson Nova Stevens says 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 tells 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."

June 19, 1865 - Juneteenth - is the day that marks the emancipation of the last remaining enslaved African Americans in the Confederacy. However, slavery was abolished in Canada on Aug. 1, 1834. As such, Stevens hopes to arrange another march on Aug. 1 in Vancouver to celebrate the emancipation of the last enslaved people in Canada, as well as to celebrate the achievements of people of colour. 

"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."

While only a couple of weeks have passed since the Juneteenth march, Stevens says she's hopeful that people will not treat the Black Lives Matter movement like a trend. 

"We can't lose the momentum. It is a racial pandemic. We have to treat this with the same severity that we treat COVID-19."

nova2Vancouver_BLM March _Vancouer Is Awesome_Ryan Walter Wagner-111Photo: Ryan Walter Wagner for Vancouver Is Awesome

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. 

"There are so many umbrellas of slavery - it's not just physical labour, it's systemic," notes Stevens. "We are the generation of change. I believe that."

"Hate is not innate, it's taught. So if your children are inciting hate, if your children are treating others in a way that makes them feel less then, then that falls on you as a parent because you taught them that. 

"No one is born to hate."

Thousands of protestors 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.





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