One of four additional Black Lives Matter paper signs in weather-proof ziplock bags designed by a Comox Valley Grade 9 students to bring awareness to the issue. Photo submitted

‘We need more conversation’: Valley Black Lives Matter sign spurs backlash

Mom and daughter aim to bring awareness within the Comox Valley

At the end of summer, a Grade 9 Comox Valley student was motivated to take action by something she overheard the previous school year, and in block letters, wrote ‘Black Lives Matter’ in chalk on her driveway.

What followed, including harassment at home, was not expected, but not surprising due to a larger undercurrent of racism in the Valley, says Julie Gruban’s mother (name changed to protect the child’s privacy).

“(The incident) left me wondering why someone is so triggered by Black Lives Matter written in chalk. People think there’s a disconnect in Canada, and that it’s an American thing, but it happens in our community every single day.”

Last year when Gruban was in school, she heard a group of boys use a racial slur towards a fellow student who is Black. She addressed the group and followed up by telling her mother, who contacted the school.

Both she and her daughter felt more needed to be done.

“I took some chalk and wrote out Black Lives Matter. Then a man walked up to me and told me all lives matter,” explained Gruban, which was the first of many interactions that followed.

Undeterred, she added four additional BLM paper signs in weather-proof zip-lock bags attached to their fence.

“She is 14 years old; something sparked her and I stand behind her,” added Gruban’s mom, who admitted she contended with neighbours, who were eyeing her property to read the signs afterward.

Initially, one neighbour approached her and indicated she was taken aback from the chalk sign, but once she read some of the additional signs (“Black Lives Matter/Pro Black isn’t anti-white”; “We’re not trying to start a race war/We’re trying to end one”) she admitted her perspective changed.

“An overarching message that kept coming up was ‘This happens in the Comox Valley? I didn’t think that sort of thing happens here.’ ”

A few days later on a Sunday morning, Gruban and her mother awoke to the sounds of “really aggressive” banging on their front door.

Dressed in her pajamas, Gruban’s mother greeted a woman at her door who told her “that chalk writing is so offensive.”

She asked the woman to step away from her porch, inquired why she was offended and offered to have a respectful conversation when she was calmer.

“We have to be prepared for backlash,” she told her daughter.

A bit later, the woman returned.

“I called the police because she has now come into my personal space and tried to take away my safety.”

• • •

Following a second incident at school involving a racial slur towards a person of colour, Gruban’s mother, whose brother-in-law is Black, had enough. She said she didn’t like the way the school handled the first incident, and personally contacted the family of the student who was being targeted.

“I wanted them to know that my daughter and I have (their) back. They have a right to go to school, to feel safe and that just ‘taking it’ is not okay. The entire world is on fire and it doesn’t belong to us – we’re too afraid to accept our privilege, and we’re too afraid to put our own safety at risk. This is happening in our community every single day. My five-year-old nephew is looked upon as cute now, but he’s going to soon be perceived as a threat. I can’t be a bystander.”

She also received an apology from one of the students involved in the school incident and noted they had a good conversation about racism.

“What is a joke to one is an ongoing issue in someone else’s life,” she added.

Both Gruban and her mother agree more needs to be done within the education system and they could use their experiences as teachable moments.

“(This incident) forces people to look at their own story, and it’s pretty uncomfortable. It needs to be taught about. We see hearts all over the Comox Valley (in support of health care workers), but here is a chalk sign and people lose their marbles over a symbol that reminds people of injustice,” said Gruban’s mother.

“We need more conversation. It’s on all of our shoulders as a community.”

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here


One of four additional Black Lives Matter paper signs in weather-proof ziplock bags designed by a Comox Valley Grade 9 students to bring awareness to the issue. Photo submitted

Just Posted

Father Charles has devoted his life to protecting and preserving natural habitats and has inspired generations of volunteers to work together to protect and preserve forests and rivers. Photo submitted
Valley environmentalist and Catholic priest-hermit Father Charles Brandt passes away

He devoted his life to protecting and preserving natural habitats

Carolyn and Steve Touhey came across a pod of humpback whales while on their boat Sunday, Oct. 25. Photo supplied
VIDEO: Boaters encounter pod of humpbacks near Comox

A Comox Valley family had a meeting with a humpback whale family… Continue reading

Candice Woloshyn prepares her flower beds for the next season at her ‘Dirty Girl Flowers’ farm in Merville. Despite the pandemic, Woloshyn was able to sustain her homegrown business as community members opted for regular deliveries of fresh cut flowers. Photo by Binny Paul/ Campbell River Mirror.
Vancouver Island flower farmers were blooming as the pandemic wilted everything else

Floriculturists saw increased subscriptions as fresh flowers became a ‘sight for sore eyes’ during isolation

The Bernice Friesen novel, “Universal Disorder,” will be launched via Zoom on Nov. 14. Photo supplied.
Fat Oyster Reading Series hosting online launch of new novel by Comox Valley author

Fanny Bay’s Fat Oyster Reading Series is going digital, for the launch… Continue reading

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives for briefing on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020 (B.C. government)
B.C. records 217 more COVID-19 cases, mask use urged

Infection spike continues, 21 senior facilities affected

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Seven-year-old Aaliyah Rosa was found dead in an apartment in Langley in July. (Langley Advance Times files)
Child’s body cold, no pulse: Off-duty cop testifies in Langley mother’s murder trial

The seven-year-old girl’s mother faces a first-degree murder charge

A picture of John taken at Children’s Hospital Vancouver last week. Photo courtesy, Alicia Sewid.
RCMP investigating after young boy run over by SUV in Campbell River parking lot

The seven-year-old has multiple injuries including a broken pelvis and was admitted to Children’s Hospital in Vancouver

People march during a climate strike in Montreal, Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Judge rejects 15 youths’ climate change lawsuit against Canadian government

Justice Michael Manson has granted the government’s motion to strike the plaintiffs’ claim

Starting Saturday and continuing until April 3, the Comox Valley Farmers Market will operate at the Native Sons Hall and the parking lot between the hall and the Sid Williams Theatre. (File photo)
Comox Valley Farmers Market secures space

Starting Saturday, Oct. 31, the Comox Valley Farmers Market will expand its… Continue reading

A video message from Mrime Minister Justin Trudeau was streamed to attendees at the State of the Island Economic Summit on Tuesday morning. (Vancouver Island Economic Alliance image)
Prime minister greets Vancouver Island economic summit attendees

Vancouver Island Economic Alliance conference being held virtually this week

Most Read