gasps, resolute, pontificated
chagrine, distrust, unclean
of generations and scorn
washing, cleansing, resetting
fresh, resplendent, loved
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I will be attending an award ceremony on Friday with the Multicultural Association of Wood Buffalo and their partner, Fort McMurray Victim Services, for students who participated in the Tackle Racism Inter-School competition. Through poetry, essay and visual art, they were asked to describe their personal responses to witnessing racism. I was honoured to be one of judges.
As a Fort McMurray/Wood Buffalo ambassador I always celebrate the cultural diversity of our community. I love the fact that my children get to go to school with students from many different backgrounds, cultures, and countries.
How culturally diverse are we? Someone shared with me an experiment they did, where they drove down Franklin Avenue from Keyano College to MacDonald Island and counted the number of people they saw walking. They saw over 50 individuals enjoying the beautiful day, and didn't see a single caucasian person until they reached the corner by A & W. That is the new Fort McMurray.
My "comfort" grocery store, is the downtown Safeway. It's closest to our house, I know where everything is, and the people - though I might not know them specifically - are very familiar. But, once in awhile I need something that Safeway doesn't carry and I go to Superstore. The cultural diversity and beauty of the people shopping there is off the charts. That is the new Fort McMurray, too.
In reading through the poems and essays, it was clear that we still have issues in regards to racism. I'd be a fool to think that everything is rosy and that people of all creeds and colours are living in "perfect harmony", to quote the famous song from that 1970's Coke commercial. I read about stereotypes, assumptions and persecutions that still happen, of students who are bullied and berated strictly because of the colour of their skin or their cultural background. I read of prejudice that happens in everyday places and circumstances that I naively thought was the stuff of a different time.
I'm grateful for the honesty and bravery of these student who expressed their understanding and observations of racism through words and art. They provided a lens, a vantage point that was very valuable for me as a community builder and communicator. I am in their debt.
We will gather together on Friday, March 21st for the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination at the MacDonald Island Community Art Gallery. Winners of the competition will have the opportunity to share their work and accept our thanks in person. Please join us at 6:30 pm for some amazing insights and awesome creativity.