We spoke to Nicholas for the Courier podcast. Listen above or read the story below.
Q. At what point did you decide to make a statement with your shop window?
‘I felt very raw emotions about what was going on that I was trying to process. I was talking with my family, friends and boyfriend and decided we had an opportunity to make a statement that is cathartic, but that also shows any person walking by that we support what's happening – and gives them tools to actually do something.
So, I probably drafted it a few times, but [the statement] started with, “We are tired” and it goes through how we're waiting for this change to happen. We're tired of waiting for change. We're tired of being told, “This was a bad person who deserved to die for X, Y and Z reasons.” We're tired of making excuses. We're tired of educating. We're tired of making people comfortable when so often we're not afforded that luxury. Police brutality is a part of it, but there are micro-aggressions that happen to every black person you know on a daily basis that we choose not to discuss because it makes white people uncomfortable that society does this.
Then it said, “We can't breathe.” We can't go for a jog. We can't sit in our living room. We can't watch birds in a public park. And we can't do anything that people take for granted on a daily basis. We feel that our lives are constantly under threat and that our freedom is constantly tested in so many ways and so many times that you lose count. You just have to keep moving to survive. So that's the main crux of the statement. This is one incident that's part of a larger conversation that we never feel safe and we never get answers for these incidents and we never get justice or see action.’
Q. What role do you think small business owners have in combating institutional racism? Does a shop owner have a soapbox or influence that's more powerful than a politician or even the federal government?
‘I don't know if I would say that we have a bigger influence – I think it's just that we have a genuine, authentic connection to these people. So many people that come into my shop, I'm watching their children grow up. I know what they bought last time they were there. We're talking about the gentrification of our neighbourhood. We're talking about movies. My shop is not a place where you come in and purchase something and leave. We almost always have a conversation. And I think that there's already that trust there that if I'm talking about something, it's important to me and something meaningful. It’s not just so I can check off a box that I supported this cause today; it's something I'm very passionate about. I know how many people walk by our shop window. It’s on a thoroughfare that people use everyday. And even if they stopped and didn't agree [with the message in the window], they read it. And that was important to me, to have the message very loud and proud.’