A Burnaby broadcaster's annual campaign against racism got a major boost this year with the B.C. government’s proclamation of March 21 as “Raise Your Hands Against Racism Day”.
The campaign was launched by the Spice Radio CEO Shushma Datt in January 2015 on Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. The campaign aims to link Holi—a Hindu festival of colours—with the fight against racism.
As both Holi and the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination are celebrated in spring, Spice Radio encourages its listeners to dip their hands in colour and leave their hand prints on paper with a statement against racism and bigotry.
Even otherwise, Holi symbolizes unity in diversity. This year was the first time that Holi fell on the same date as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on March 21.
Not only did the B.C. government proclaim March 21 as “Raise Your Hands Against Racism Day”, Premier John Horgan himself went to the studios of Spice Radio in January to kick-start this year’s campaign.
Few days later, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sent his special greetings to Spice Radio, congratulating it for starting this important initiative. Before becoming prime minister, he supported this campaign by getting himself pictured with his hand raised in air.
On Thursday (March 21), Spice Radio also received the B.C. Multiculturalism and Anti-Racism Award in the Business category in recognition of its campaign. Horgan flew to downtown Vancouver to present this year’s awards. Datt was there in person to receive the award on behalf of her team.
Spice Radio is now getting ready to celebrate its annual community event at Surrey City Hall and the Surrey Central Library on Saturday (March 23) from noon to 4 pm. It’s an open event where everyone is welcome.
Even as the world is still trying to recover from the shock of Christchurch mosque shootings by a white supremacist that left 50 people dead, tomorrow’s event will begin with a moment of silence for the dead.
There will also be a team of performers to entertain those in attendance, and free refreshments will be served as participants will be requested to colour their hands and leave behind hand prints on sheets of paper.
Significantly, March 23 also happens to be the martyrdom day of three Indian revolutionaries: Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, and Rajguru, who were executed for waging war against the British Empire in 1931.
The three men belonged to a radical group that believed in an armed struggle against the British occupation of India and wanted to establish a socialist republic, based on an ideology of equality and fairness.
Also, it was on March 23, 1988 that a radical Punjabi poet, Paash, was assassinated by Sikh separatists. Paash also believed in an egalitarian society.
Tomorrow’s event would be a fitting tribute to these individuals.
Cecilia Point, Niki Sharma to be honoured
Like in past years, Spice Radio will be presenting awards to individuals who've stood against racism.
This weekend, two prominent women—Indigenous activist Cecilia Point and former Vancouver Park Board chair Niki Sharma, who's of Indian ancestry—will be receiving Spice Radio awards for speaking out against racism.
Point has been active in a campaign for justice for missing and murdered Indigenous women and has been vocal against repression of Indigenous peoples and racism against other minority groups.
She was also instrumental in organizing a commemorative event to mark the 100th anniversary of the Komagata Maru episode at Musqueam. The Japanese vessel carrying more than 300 South Asian passengers was expelled from Vancouver's harbour in 1914 under a discriminatory anti-immigration law for which Trudeau has issued a formal apology.
Sharma is also vocal against social injustice and has consistently stood for the rights of minorities and oppressed groups. She also faced racial hostility while running for public office in Vancouver.
The very first annual Spice Radio award was given to Baltej Singh Dhillon, the first turbaned Sikh officer to join the RCMP.
He faced a racist backlash after enlisting in the national police force.
The following year's award went to Sunera Thobani who teaches at University of British Columbia and who came under racist attack in the media for questioning U.S. aggression following 9/11. She was honoured by Spice Radio for speaking out against Islamophobia.
This was followed by awards to antiracism activist Alan Dutton and Georgia Straight editor Charlie Smith.