International Day for the elimination of racial discrimination:
I attend “national (in)securities” event
March 21 is the International Day for the Elmination of Racial Discrimination. It was established in 1966, following a tragic event when young
students peacefully protesting against apartheid laws, adopted by the
South African government, were massacred.
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Fighting against racism is something of my life's work. My ancestors endured racism as Chinese pioneers to Canada. Gung Haggis Fat Choy adresses racism, somewhat tongue-in-cheek. But as well, throughout my life, I have worked on student newspapers, advocacy groups, and most recently the Chinese-Canadian head tax campaign.
national (in)securities is a “evening of cultural resistance with our community of courageous poets and word warriors performing staged readings of Kafka's 'The Trial,' readings of statements from detainees in the War on Terror, along with poetry readings and spoken word performances.” It was presented by No One is Illegal (Vancouver), at the Bonsor Recreation complex, in Burnaby on March 21, 2006.
Special performers gathered for the evening were: Lee Maracle, Cecily Nicholson, Azia Khaki, Carmen Rodriguez, Marge Lam, Angela Sterritt, Chin Banerjee, Nadine Chambers, Marcus Youssef, Filipino Canadian Youth Alliance, Fiona Jeffries, Charles Demers, Phinder Dulai, Tom Sandborn, Itrath Syed, Raul Gatica, Junie Desil and Hari Alluri.
It was an interesting evening, filled with stories of racial injustice and examples of Canada's racist history. As well, it was a tribute to the human spirit, that individuals have overcome many challenges and continue to fight for justice and equality.
I sat with my friend Sid Tan, who was videorecording the event for his ICTV community television show, “Salt Water City TV.” Sid has been a leading community activist on the Chinese Canadian head-tax issue, and is also the chairperson/president of ACCESS (Association of Chinese Canadians for Equality and Solidarity in Society).
MC Harash Waila did a great job weaving stories of human rights violations, and unfair detainments, inbetween the speakers. Special surprise presenter was author Lee Maracle, who read from one of her many books, and talked briefly about racism and being First Nations.
Marge Lam gave a spirited pep talk about continuing the fight against racism, as did Carmen Rodriquez. Aziz Khaki and his son, read a statement by a man detained by police in Canada, and not given any reason for the imprisonment.
Cecily Nicholson, Chin Banerjee and Fiona Jeffries read excerpts from Kafka's “The Trial”, a literary classic in which a man is detained and put on trial, without being told what the charges are, making it impossible for him to defend himself.
Marcus Yousssef read a hilarious excerpt from his play, “Ali and Ali and the Axes of Evil,” which is a satire on the War On Terror. Ellie O'Day had been encouraging me to see the play, because she loved the CBC Gung Haggis Fat Choy special, and she thought that Marcus and I have similar comedic takes on dealing with racism. Marcus and I had a short talk following his presentation, and maybe we will talk about a collaboration for Gung Haggis Fat Choy 2007.
Mildred, of the Filipino Youth Alliance, talked about the plight of Filipino domestic workers and nurses. She played a guitar and sang a song with Letty, about mothers, stating that the absence of Filipino mothers working long hours and away from their families has a devasting effect on Filipino youth and families. The song was very touching and reminded me of the song by Sting that he wrote about the mothers and widows who “dance” with their disappeared men, “When We Dance.”
Phinder Dulai, read some of his poems from his published work “Ragas From the Periphery” and “Basmati Brown.” Phinder's work was easily the most evocative and amazing. But then he is a poet. Upon arriving at the event, we greeted each other as we walked into the Bonsor Ballroom. Phinder laughed when I told him, “I'm only here for the food – I heard there was going to be lots of multicultural food.” Culture… it is many things to many people. And so is Multi-culturalism…. opportunities of inclusivity on one hand, but also a dividing systemic racist class system on another. And sometimes it all comes down to food, poetry and music.