My name is Travone Clayton, born and raised in Uniacke Square, Halifax.
On Monday February 4, I was in Ottawa to attend the last day of the National Black Canadian Summit at the Parliament Building—the most powerful building in Canada. We were given the chance to go share our thoughts and ideas with ministers on ways to stop hatred and racism towards us Blacks. We were all excited because that’s something we’ve been wanting to do and the Parliament Building is the place where it needed to be heard. It was my first time ever inside the Parliament Building so I was glowing and ready to surprise them with my opinions. In the afternoon, there was a group of youth told to go upstairs to the cafeteria on the fourth floor to wait until their session with the minster was ready. While the group was waiting in the cafeteria, Parliament members and staff were hesitant to go to the cafeteria because of the calm group of blacks that were sitting there. Someone took a picture of the group and sent it to security saying “this group of blacks is being too loud and noisy.”
We understood the rules of the Parliament Building and knew that it was a busy place, so why would we cause a bunch of noise? We came there being very respectful; not too many Black youth get the chance to step in Parliament like we did, so why would we look to ruin it for ourselves? Myself and Kate Macdonald—an activist also from Nova Scotia—had just started an interview with CPAC when a security guard approached a Black adult about what was reported to the security downstairs. I was minding my own business until I heard the security guard say “I’m not trying to sound racist or anything but you’re going to have to do something about the dark-skinned group on the fourth floor.” After I heard that, I forgot about my interview with CPAC and approached the security guard. I didn’t approach the man with threats or any aggressiveness. I just calmly said: “What did you just say? Can you repeat that?” And when I asked that question, he didn’t want to repeat it because he knew we heard what he said. Many of us who heard the comment were deeply offended to hear this language, especially on Parliament Hill, a place they say is for all of Canada. After that, I just wanted to leave the Parliament Building, I didn’t want to stay in a place that doesn’t support my race nor my culture. But as I was leaving, I noticed the security guard who said the racist comments downstairs in the main lobby with a hat on. It showed me that he was trying to cover up and not be noticed by anyone who witnessed his comments. Throughout that whole day, I couldn’t get that incident off my mind. I had to do something about it, so I shared my experience on Facebook and Twitter. I needed everyone to know about this and see that racism everywhere, including the Parliament Building.
Since that day, I’ve been connected with Blacks throughout all of Canada coming up with solutions to make sure that our voices are heard, because it is time for change, not just for myself, but for all Blacks—especially the upcoming generations because those are the ones who will be carrying the torch next. We want them to have a smooth career. No more being judged by skin colour, no more being judged because of where we come from, no more judging a book by its cover! Do your research and actually understand us. We just want our respect and to be treated with equality. Thank you.