“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.
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.
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.”
“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.
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.
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.