“No justice, no peace,” “Enough,” “Racism is the worst virus,” and “Am I next?” are messages displayed on a Museum London wall.

Londoners can see 117 signs used during the Black Lives Matter London demonstration at a Museum London exhibition. All of the signs featured came from the June 6 rally in Victoria Park.

A Black Lives Matter sign with a drawing of George Floyd on it.
The death of George Floyd sparked outrage and anti-racism protests, including one in London, Ontario. Photo by Vanessa Costa

London’s rally saw around 10,000 attendees and was one of the many held around the world after George Floyd’s death on May 25. Floyd died after a police officer kneeled on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds as three other officers watched.

Fanshawe College student Olivia Musico and Black Lives Matter London organizers Ghaida Hamdun and Keira Roberts curated the exhibition. After the event, 500 signs were collected.

The Black Lives Matter exhibition also comes after Museum London re-opened to the public on August 13, the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

LondonFuse learned more about the exhibition the week before Museum London officially reopened. The interview also focused on ways to continue working towards ending racism and becoming more inclusive.

From collecting to curating: Selecting the signs

Musico and her friends made signs before attending a rally. Feeling inspired, she told her friends that she wanted to bring the signs to an exhibition and that she was determined to make it happen.

She messaged Museum London on Instagram that she would like to see a couple of the signs displayed. Musico then got in touch with Amber Lloydlangston, the curator of regional history. Lloydlangston also planned to get a sign or two at the rally.

A variety of Black Lives Matters signs at Museum London in London, Ontario. Messages include "#SayHerName" Justice for Breonna Taylor with a drawing o Breonna Taylor, "Protect Black Lives, defund the cops" with piggy banks, "Black Lives Matter," "Anti-Black Racism is a Public Health Emergency" and "If you aren't angry, you aren't listening."
To narrow down the selection, the curators considered a variety of designs and messages. Photo by Emily Stewart

Both Musico and Lloydlangston told the organizers about the plan. Londoners left their signs at the park after a call-out to do so at the end of the event.

The curators selected signs in Musico’s basement. Lloydlangston told Musico, Roberts, and Hamdun to ensure a variety of colours, messages, and designs without censorship were featured. Two signs displayed include an “I still can’t believe I’m protesting for this shit in 2020″ sign and a “Defund the police” sign with a drawing of a pig in a police uniform.

“We want to be a place where people can have challenging conversations, where we can be a safe space to confront and consider opinions that are maybe not their own and to think about different perspectives,” Lloydlangston said.

The deaths of Floyd, Ahmaud Arbrey, Breonna Taylor, and several more Black people at the hands of police sparked outrage and discussions of race-based violence and death in the United States, but systemic racism also happens in Canada.  Several Black Canadians killed by police, including Regis Korchinski-Paquet, Greg Ritchie, and D’andre Campbell, were listed on a sign that said “Canada is not innocent.”

A sign that says "Canada is Not Innocent." The sign is in Museum London in London, Ontario.Names on there include O’Brian Christopher-Reid, Duane Christian, Pierre Coriolan, Bony Jean-Pierre, Olando Brown, Josephine Pelletier, Abirahman Abdi, Alain Magloire, Marc Ekamba-Boekwa, Jermaine Craby, Ian Pryce, Greg Ritchie, Kwasi Skene-Peters, Rene Gallant, Andrew Loku Sean Thompson Marchuar Madut Nicholas Gibbs, Randy Cochrane, D’andre Campbell, Abduraham Ibrahim Hassam, Eishia Hudson, Jason Collins, Nicholas Gibbs, Chad Williams, and Regis Korchinski-Paquet, along with how they died.
A sign indicating that the Black Canadians listed here were killed by police, too. Photo by Vanessa Costa

“There are always things happening in the world that are very disturbing and very troubling, but we don’t want people to forget what happened to George Floyd,” Lloydlangston said. “We want people to remember what happened to George, but also what happens in Canada”.

She will save at least five signs for future curators after the exhibition comes to a close.

Continuing the conversation

The Black Lives Matter London exhibition is just one way Museum London is working towards ending discrimination and promoting inclusivity, moving forward, something that they’ve been working towards for years.

“It comes down to sharing authority,” Lloydlangston said.

A sign that says "It is not enough to be 'non-racist' we must be actively anti-racist." at Museum London in London, ON.
Being actively anti-racist includes continuing to have difficult conversations, sharing authority, and educating yourself about racism. Photo by Vanessa Costa.

The museum seeks stories of racialized Canadians, urban Indigenous Londoners, those with disabilities, and the LGBTQ+ community.

The Difficult Terrain exhibition is another example of sharing authority. People shared their thoughts and feelings after looking at tough-to-look-at objects and thinking about their own experiences where they experienced discrimination for their race, gender, and/or sexuality.

An exhibition about hair, which Lloydlangston curated with art curator Cassandra Getty, featured Black hair care products.

In addition to co-curating the exhibition, Musico is educating herself and continuing the conversation on social media and in-person.

“It’s not something that should just be a trend. It should be ongoing. I continue to have conversations with loved ones, family members that might be difficult,” she said. “If there’s a situation that I don’t feel is right, then I’m not going to bite my tongue.”

The Black Lives Matter London Exhibition runs until December 13.

What to expect when visiting Museum London

Museum London’s exhibitor hours run from 10 to 11 a.m. for seniors and 12 to 5 p.m. for the general public.

Two signs from the Black Lives Matter exhibition in London, Ontario. One says "Could have been my brother" and another says "Racism is a pandemic too."
Along with COVID-19, racism is also a pandemic. Photo by Vanessa Costa

Guidelines include keeping two meters apart from others, staying home if you’re sick, and mandatory masking, with the exception of those under 12-years-old. Free disposable masks are available for those who don’t bring their own.

Arrows on the ground point out physical distancing. Food and drink are not available for purchase. Only one person or family unit can use the staircase or the elevator at a time.

For more information on COVID-19 safety protocol and guidelines, visit museumlondon.ca.

Feature photo by Emily Stewart. 

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