‘Make it Awkward‘ is the social media campaign that began with an ugly racist incident in Edmonton, and it is going national now. The mayor of Alberta’s capital city, Don Iveson, shared the story during an interview on CBC TV last night.
It began on August 31st, when Jessie Lipscombe, a black actor, producer and former high-jump champion, was shooting a public service announcement touting the good life to be had in the city of Edmonton.
Ironically, as Lipscombe, 36, is walking down the city street, a passenger in a car at the corner begins to shout, “The niggers are coming, the niggers are coming.”
“What he did has given me and my city and the country an opportunity to talk about something that needs to be talked about,”
As the camera continues to record, Jessie Lipscombe picks up the pace and walks up to the car and bends down to talk with the man. When the driver realizes all this has been caught on video, he or she, as it’s difficult to make out the person, attempts to speed away.
“It’s a thing with me when people make somebody feel uncomfortable, I like to do the same in return,” Lipscombe said following the experience. “I’m not a violent man by any means and … words go a long way, so I thought I’d go over there and have a discussion with him about his decision to say what he said.”
In a later Facebook post Jesse Lispscombe thanked the still unidentified middle-aged white man.
“What he did has given me and my city and the country an opportunity to talk about something that needs to be talked about,” said Jesse Lipscombe
Lipscombe and his partner met with Iveson, and between the three of them, the phrase was coined and the campaign launched.
“I am so proud of the way he is turning his experience into a conversation started about the need to call out racism and bigotry towards anyone in our community,” Iveson wrote on his Facebook page. “Often it’s casual and awkward around the dinner table, fire pit, water cooler or locker room.
“Creating social change often starts and advances with awkward conversations, and that’s good. It’s necessary.”
Chinta Puxley, a reporter with the Canadian Press shared the story of an incident in Edmonton in early August; “another man said he was subjected to a racial slur while riding his bicycle in the city’s downtown. Bashir Mohamed said he accepted an apology from the driver and police decided not to charge the man with a hate crime.”