While several politicians faced backlash for travelling in December, a Victoria councillor also received racist messages.
In January, Coun. Sharmarke Dubow came under fire for travelling to Somalia and Kenya, despite COVID-19 travel advisories urging Canadians to stay in their communities.
He said he went to East Africa to support his family during the pandemic.
“I know there are many Victorians and Islanders who haven’t seen their loved ones, many of whom are living with considerable hardships and are vulnerable to COVID-19,” he said. “So my desire to see my family was not unique.
“I understood why people were angry and upset and disappointed, which they had the right to be upset and angry. And I respect that.”
Alongside the anger coming into Dubow’s inbox, was racism.
“This is not new or unique to my experience. Many Black, Indigenous, people of colour, face these kinds of messages regularly,” he said.
“And this is a reminder that regardless of our individual experiences and achievements as Black people, anti-Black racism continues to create poor outcomes for Black communities across the country,” he added. “We need to work together to build communities that are stronger and healthier.”
Dubow, a politician and community advocate, has been trying to do just that for several years.
In 2018, the Somalia-born, former refugee became Victoria’s first Black councillor in more than 150 years, following in the footsteps of famous Victoria councillor Mifflin Gibbs, the first Black man elected in the province.
But 152 years after Gibbs made history, Dubow is still one of only a few Black municipal politicians in the country.
“People of African descent and Black communities are underrepresented in politics in all sectors,” he said. “And this really impacts how we see ourselves in the spaces we exist and move through.”
We shouldn’t shy away from speaking about race & fighting for racial justice, because focusing on race provides an opportunity to also address other ways in which groups of people are marginalized due to their income, gender, sexual orientation, ability & age. #BlackHistoryMonth https://t.co/rIQ3c4yHOX
— Sharmarke Dubow (@deardubow) February 13, 2021
At eight years old Dubow fled Somalia with his older sister. He lived in a refugee camp in Kenya and spent two decades moving from place to place, in search of a permanent home, until he immigrated to Canada in 2012.
His career focuses on marginalized communities – working at the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria and the Victoria Immigrant Refugee Services Centre as well as the Victoria Tenant Action Group.
“I come from a humbling beginning where I watched my mother stand against injustice,” he said. “She was outspoken and would also speak up for those who had less, but she also had a compassion for everyone she met. So when I ran for office, I did it for my community.
“I wanted to be part of pushing for more inclusivity.”
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– With files from Canadian Press.
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