Racism not just ‘in the south,’ but here as well

Pascale Diverlus works to highlight marginalized voices

On Nov. 25, 2014, while most people were safely warm at home in the freezing temperatures, thousands gathered across the street from the U.S. Consulate in downtown Toronto to hold a vigil. It was the day after a grand jury in Missouri decided not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the deadly shooting of Michael Brown, who was only 18 years old.

Pascale Diverlus, a passionate social activist and prominent member of Toronto’s black community, was among those who braved the cold that November night.

Diverlus knew she had to do something to show solidarity. She and 30 of her friends came together at Ryerson University on the night Wilson walked to figure out how they could shed more light on this issue. Diverlus and her friends decided to host a demonstration, the first organized by Black Lives Matter Toronto.

“We all met up, we had our healing process, and we knew what we had to do,” said Diverlus as she passionately relived the experience. “We promoted it, and within a day about 3,000 people came out. This was a late November, and I remember seeing people who were freezing, literally shivering, but they were not leaving.”

“We cried together, we shouted together, we sang together, and it reminded me that we have a community here that is also impacted by racism. It doesn’t only happen in the south, but it is here and present as well,” said Diverlus.

Following in the footsteps of her father, who was a political figure in Haiti, Diverlus is actively pursuing the path taken by those looking to kick down doors for justice and equality for people of every race, gender and color.

She was born in Port Au Prince, Haiti, where she lived for five years, and then moved to Florida for seven years before she came to Canada at the age of 12. The support of her four siblings, mother and father, help Diverlus stay grounded while she engages topics that most of her peers would rather ignore.

“This passion I have for these topics is definitely something that has always run through me,” said Diverlus. “Haitian history is filled with people standing up against oppression, and that is what I mean when I say it runs through me. My ancestors never just idly stood by and watched injustice carry on.”

Diverlus is currently in her fourth year as a journalism student at Ryerson University. Diverlus first got involved in school by doing feminist organizing through the Centre for Women and Trans People at Ryerson. Since then she has been pivotal in creating a social urgency to issues that are affecting women, people of colour and the Trans community.

“I want to do a little bit of everything with journalism,” said Diverlus. “Ideally, I want to continue to do social justice work, and highlighting the voices that are often being left out.”

Diverlus is speaking at St. James in the Career Centre on Feb. 18 at 9 a.m. as part of the Journey to Hope Panel discussion.

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Racism not just ‘in the south,’ but here as well