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To close out 2020, we're bringing you 20 stories from an extraordinary year. Doctors. Teachers. Entrepreneurs. Activists. These are the stories of ordinary Albertans who were changed by circumstances beyond their control—and what they did to make their worlds, and ours, a little better.
The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement may have been the biggest movement in U.S. history, with protests cropping up all over the world—including all 10 provinces and three territories of Canada.
Taylor McNallie is a familiar face in the BLM movement here in Calgary.
Born in Saskatoon and raised in Cremona, Alta., McNallie has been deeply involved in the movement for Black and Indigenous lives this year.
“When there was civil unrest worldwide, and people began having marches here in the big city, I figured why not bring these conversations into rural Alberta,” she said.
In June 2020, McNallie started a group called Rural Alberta Against Racism. In October the group was rebranded as Inclusive Canada in efforts to address the intersectionality of oppression across the country.
Many people came to realize that our system is not working for anyone, even if you are non-Black or non-Indigenous.
Although the group was always invited by community members or town councils, not everyone was happy to see McNallie and other advocates in their communities. This led to backlash in the form of death threats, hate mail and other forms of harassment.
Recently, McNallie was charged with assault with a weapon for her actions during a September anti-racism event in Red Deer when she had a run-in with counter-protestors.
In a statement, McNallie called the charges “a joke” and said she looked forward to taking it to court. The outcome is pending.
To put it bluntly, McNallie had, and still has, a lot going on. Yet, she didn't stop trying to engage the community.
“COVID-safe guidelines certainly made it tough to get people out,” McNallie said.
“Getting people out to protest has been a struggle for a very long time—years, in fact,” she described. “I'm still unsure how to get people to a place of understanding that gets them activated to take action.”
Because so many people were hunkered down at home, glued to social media, the mother and activist was able to use her social media presence to raise awareness and engage more people.
“I would say that the pandemic had people very engaged online,” she said.
The quicker we all come together and work together the quicker change happens.
“Many people came to realize that our system is not working for anyone, even if you are non-Black or non-Indigenous,” McNallie noted.
Having a powerful following is not new for the activist. McNallie, who owns Taylor Made Radio Entertainment Network, has spent years supporting Canadian artists and using her voice to advocate for them, which led to her gaining a strong following online.
But now she looks at this following a bit differently.
“I feel like all of those years of building this platform and a following, maybe it was so that I can actually use it for good—for causes and for change,” she said.
Her call to action for the year to come? “We still need support, we still need people to come out and protest.”
“The quicker we all come together and work together the quicker change happens.”
Déjà Leonard is a Calgary-based writer who covers business, social issues and the outdoors.