Documentary on historic protest against anti-Black racism now available online

The acclaimed documentary It Takes A Riot: Race, Rebellion, Reform is now freely available to stream online.

Simon Black, Assistant Professor in the Department of Labour Studies, co-wrote and co-produced the film in 2017 with co-writer/director Howard Grandison and co-producer Idil Abdillahi.

“While we have been screening the film in educational and community settings for the past three years, we want this history to be more widely known,” says Black. “Before Black Lives Matter Toronto, there was the Black Action Defense Committee, and we want the names of legendary activists like Dudley Laws and Sherona Hall to be commonplace in the telling of Canadian history.”

Abdillahi, an Assistant Professor of Social Work at Ryerson University, says the goal of releasing the film now is “to remind people the concerns experienced by Black people in Canada from its inception as a nation state have not changed.”

The documentary tells the story of the Yonge Street Uprising on May 4, 1992, a rally organized by the Black Action Defence Committee in protest of both the Rodney King verdict in Los Angeles and the shooting death of a young Black man, Raymond Lawrence, by Toronto police.

“What is made clear in the film is that while time has shifted, the realities of anti-Black racism have not,” Abdillahi says.

The documentary was first released on the 25th anniversary of the uprising at a time when the Black Lives Matter movement was gaining momentum in North America.

Black says now in 2020, as Black Lives Matter protests continue around the world in the wake of the death of George Floyd, viewers will be all too familiar with attempts to focus on property damage rather than human lives, and efforts to criminalize protests by Black people decrying police brutality and systemic racism rather than acknowledge the urgent need for change.

“We hope the film informs conversations about anti-Black racism in Canada and inspires a younger generation of anti-racism activists,” says Black, who views the film as “public sociology.”

“We are working with director Howard Grandison on an updated, extended and final cut of the film,” he adds. “We hope to continue to use the film to do public education about anti-Black racism and the rich history of Black activism and resistance here in Canada.” 

It Takes A Riot: Race, Rebellion, Reform, which was funded by The Akua Benjamin Legacy Project at Ryerson University and the Social Justice Research Institute at Brock, is available to view on Vimeo here.

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