March 8, 2022

UPlift Black condemns attack on Shelly Skinner at International Women’s Day Event.

Uplift Black calls for increased protection at virtual events
Shelly Skinner, president and founder of UPlift Black was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack while speaking at an online International Women’s Day event for the Barrie and District Labour Council on March 7, 2022.

At an event intended to uplift and celebrate women, Shelly, an invited guest speaker and influential community changemaker, leader, and equity advocate was victimized with racist and homophobic slurs and imagery when the presentation screen was hacked/controlled by a person/people in attendance. Drawings of male genitalia, a swastika, and an image of a burning Pride flag, along with music utilizing the “n-word”, were all shared moments into Shelly’s address, and her name was spoken repeatedly.

This was a targeted attack meant to silence and defame a powerful Black woman in our community. No other speaker was interrupted and victimized. It is sad evidence of the rampant white supremacy, sexism, and heterosexism still so prevalent today.

Shelly was invited to share her experiences and knowledge, to inform and inspire those in attendance. Instead, she was harassed and had to leave the online space for her own protection. As we all know, the fight for equity is far from over. For this incident to occur in relation to a day designed to draw attention to progress is a compelling reminder that we must continue to raise our voices and fight back against oppression and abuse.

Just as an organization would prepare for security at an in-person event, the same care and preparatory work must be part of planning for an online event to ensure the safety of speakers and participants. We call on all event organizers to use this incident as a reminder to review their protocols.

Suggested actions for online events

  • Ensure there is an organized and thoughtful registration for the event, obtaining contact information and affiliation of participants before they are able to attend.
  • Create a Code of Conduct that all attendees must review and agree to before attendance.
  • Have a specified event entry period and then close the room.
  • Check your registration list against active participants if possible. Ask people to use the name they used for registration to quickly compare.
  • Ask someone to be responsible for security who is ready to mute, kick out, close the session.
  • Record the event if able so there is evidence if needed.
  • Take responsibility and action if something does occur. Support the victim. File a police report. Follow-up. Continuously review and revise protocols for safety.

About UPlift Black

UPlift Black is a Black-led not for profit based in Simcoe County, Ontario working to UPlift the wellbeing of Black people locally and educate nationally about anti-Black racism and gender-based discrimination in Canada. Our ultimate goal is true equity through a conscious and UPlifted community.

Media contact: UPlift Black’s Advocacy and Accountability Council