After the municipality installed two Black Lives Matter murals in Halifax and Dartmouth, a queer Afro-Nova Scotian woman says the mayor is “spitting” in her face.
Aaliyah Paris says since June she’s been organizing a project to install Black Lives Matter murals around the city.
“One that I fundraised for, I did interviews for, I gathered a team of artists and community members for, and now the white mayor is swooping in and just making it happen,” she says in a video she uploaded to social media. “And as far as I know, the only other Black people at that table discussing this were cis Black men.”
Paris also says that the project was put on hold because organizers and participants were facing legal consequences for having no protection or sign off from Mayor Mike Savage.
“I spent months of my own time doing all of this work being incredibly stressed, to the point where I ended up in the hospital, and now this is happening,” she says.
But Savage says he had never had any contact with Paris and he just found out about her and the project the day she uploaded the video. He also says he’s not responsible for creating the murals the municipality installed on Sept. 26 and 27.
“This was something that staff have done, the CAO working with Diversity and Inclusion and Transportation and Public Works,” Savage tells NEWS 95.7. “Which I support. I think it’s a good idea, and I think a lot of people support the idea of demonstrating our support for Black Lives Matter and anti-Black racism. It certainly wasn’t meant in any way to take away from the efforts of anyone else, and I think those efforts can continue.”
Savage says that staff have reached out to Paris and have set up a meeting with her to “kind of go through what options there may be now.”
Still, Paris says that as a queer Afro-Nova Scotian youth, there is no excuse why she couldn’t have been at the front of the discussion and instead had to learn about it through Facebook.
According to an article from the Chronicle Herald in June, Paris says she contacted the mayor and Halifax Regional Municipality councillors to get approval for the project.
She had also created a GoFundMe campaign that passed its goal of $1,500 and has since reached over $2,000.
Paris says she was inspired by street paintings in larger cities like Toronto, where protestors painted "Defund the Police" in bright pink in front of the city's police headquarters, and Washington, D.C., where its mayor, Muriel Bowser, commissioned a yellow Black Lives Matter painting on the street leading up to the White House.
“I wanted the mural to be a community-based thing with BIPOC community members helping out, not city workers doing the street installation — It’s more than that,” she says. “And it’s not just Black Lives Matter, it’s All Black Lives Matter and without that distinction, you defeat the purpose.”