Vancouver resident Nova Stevens leverages Miss Universe pageant to promote solutions to racial injustice

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      A co-organizer of Vancouver's first "Juneteenth" demonstration and celebration will represent Canada at the Miss Universe pageant.

      Nova Stevens, a 26-year-old actor and model, will compete in the international event early next year after being crowned Miss Universe Canada 2020 on October 25. 

      She's been a leader in Vancouver's Black Lives Matter movement. And upon her victory, she held her fist in the air as a symbol of Black power.

      "I am a Canadian and a Black woman," Stevens said in her inspirational introductory remarks at the pageant. "As I stand before you, I want you to see me as a Black woman. Yes, I want you to see colour. Because seeing colour does not mean you're a racist; instead, it allows you to see the struggles experienced by people of colour.

      "You've heard the news. You've read the stories. Innocent black lives have been lost to police brutality and hate crimes. We want you to see us. We want you to hear us. We want you to feel us.

      "I asked that you diversify your surroundings because when you do that, it creates a better understanding. Know that hate is taught. Therefore, we can unlearn it. So let's do that. Let's get back to our truest essence, which is love. Love."

      Stevens was born in Kenya to South Sudanese refugees who later moved to Ethiopia. She was sent to Canada at the age of six to live with relatives.

      In addition to modelling and acting, Stevens is a spokesperson for a nonprofit group, Keep6ix, which helps youths wrongly accused of crimes.