Six-year-old Dani looks inquisitively into the eyes of her mother, searching for reassurance. It is not the first time Dani has asked her mother, Michelle Alexis, whether they may be harmed because of the colour of their skin. In fact, it is almost a regular occurrence. And lately, the threats are feeling more ominous, Michelle says.
A single parent of two daughters, Dani and 10-year-old Teyla, Michelle survived a difficult childhood – one filled with abuse and dysfunction and spent in and out of the foster care system.
The family are First Nations, members of the Alexis Nakota Sioux Tribe in Alberta, Canada.
In early February, Michelle says she and her girls were called “dirty” and were the target of other racial slurs by a white woman at a mall in Edmonton.
It inspired her to start the Peace of Change Movement, which seeks to bring together people of different races and cultures to celebrate who they are and to counter racism.
Michelle organised a traditional tribal round dance at the mall that brought out hundreds of participants last week.
But racial tensions have escalated in Canada since then.
“I turn on the TV, it’s [racism] there,” says Michelle from her apartment in Edmonton. “At my kids’ school, it’s there. When we get groceries it’s there. Online it’s there. My kids are afraid – I’m not going to lie.”