Gurpreet Singh: Activist behind Black Shirt Day and anti-Asian racism campaigner honoured

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      Tammy Hu and Kamika Williams will receive awards from Burnaby-based Spice Radio as part of its Hands Against Racism campaign.

      Started by Spice Radio CEO Shushma Datt in January 2015, the campaign has entered its seventh year and coincides with Holi, the Indian festival of colours, and the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which is being celebrated today (March 21).

      As part of the campaign, participants are encouraged to dip their hands in colours of paint and leave a palm print on a white sheet of paper alongside a message against racism and intolerance.

      The virtual event scheduled for March 27 will see Hu and Williams being presented with the awards for their tireless work against bigotry.

      Hu spearheaded a fight against offensive news headlines that described COVID-19 as a "China virus".

      Since the novel coronavirus broke out in China, hate crimes against people of Asian heritage have sharply increased in Metro Vancouver.

      Hu believes that irresponsible news reporting has contributed to such madness.

      Spice Radio wanted to send a strong message to those involved in anti-Asian racism by honouring Hu. The announcement came after six Asian women were murdered in the state of Georgia.

      A suspect has been arrested following series of shootings targeting three spas in and around Atlanta.

      Williams, chair of the Anti-Racism Coalition of Vancouver, is being honoured for her efforts behind Black Shirt Day campaign. The day is to honour a giant leader of the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, Jr.

      King, who laid down his life fighting for the rights of African Americans, was born on January 15, 1929. Williams started a petition asking for January 15 to be declared as Black Shirt Day in schools to raise awareness among youths about systemic racism against Black people.

      Both Hu and Williams participated in Hands Against Racism this year. They have now joined the list of trailblazers and strong voices for change who have been honoured by Spice Radio in the past.

      The very first recipient of the Hands Against Racism award was Baltej Singh Dhillon. He was the first turbaned Sikh RCMP officer who had to face a racist backlash from both within and outside the force.

      The second annual award went to Sunera Thobani, a Muslim academic who faced hostility for questioning U.S. foreign policies following the 9/11 terror attacks. This was done to challenge growing Islamophobia under Donald Trump.

      The following year in 2018, Georgia Straight editor Charlie Smith and antiracism educator Alan Dutton were honoured for standing up for minorities and to amplify the stories of white allies in an ongoing struggle against intolerance. Dutton has been receiving serious threats from white supremacists.

      In 2019, an indigenous activist, Cecilia Point, and South Asian activist Niki Sharma, now a member of the B.C. legislature, were presented with awards for breaking sexist and racist barriers.

      Point has been in the forefront of annual marches in memory of missing and murdered indigenous women, whereas Sharma has spoken out on behalf of racialized people who've encountered a blatantly racist electoral system while running for office in the City of Vancouver.

      In 2020, police officer-turned activist Kal Dosanjh and an author and a social justice activist, Harsha Walia, were honoured. Dosanjh is heading Kidsplay Foundation, which educates youths to avoid racism and gang life; Walia is a die-hard grassroots level activist who has written two books and coauthored a third.