Gurpreet Singh: Prime minister and premier send birthday greetings to seasoned broadcaster and antiracism champion

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      The CEO of Burnaby-based Spice Radio turns 75 this Sunday (January 24).  

      Shushma Datt, a pioneer in the Canadian broadcasting industry, has faced many barriers and challenges because of her gender and ethnicity. In 2015, she launched an annual campaign against racism in 2015, which has attracted widespread support since then.

      Being a towering figure in the South Asian community, she has already received greetings from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and B.C. premier John Horgan. That's in addition to congratulatory notes from the City of Burnaby, where she lives, and from the neighbouring City of New Westminster.  

      New Westminster councillor Chuck Puchmayr, who is known for taking stands on human rights and social justice, made a special announcement about her birthday and her work as an antiracism campaigner during the council meeting last Monday (January 18) night.  

      Horgan called her directly on Friday to congratulate her, whereas Trudeau sent her his greetings through email. 

      Datt started the Raise Your Hands Against Racism campaign in 2015 on the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birth.

      The campaign encourages participants to colour their hands and leave a palm print on a white sheet of paper alongside a message against bigotry. She aimed to link the campaign which has already entered its seventh year, with Holi. It's an Indian festival of colours that bring people of different faiths and backgrounds together.  

      This initiative has been recognized by the prime minister’s office, the B.C. government, and several municipalities across the province. Horgan has also participated in it, has have other prominent elected officials, such as the first turbaned Sikh defence minister, Harjit Singh Sajjan, and Puchmayr.  

      Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan has dropped by Spice Radio to show his support for the station's antiracism campaign.
      Gurpreet Singh

      In addition, grassroots antiracism activists such as Harsha Walia, Sunera Thobani, Imtiaz Popat, and many others have joined the campaign at different times.

      For her part, Datt granted an award to Thobani as part of the campaign to send a message against growing Islamophobia under Donald Trump. It came as a result of Thobani speaking out against discrimination against Muslims in the post-9/11 environment and receiving threats. 

      UBC professor of Asian studies Sunera Thobani received an award from Shushma Datt for her courage in opposing anti-Muslim sentiments after 9/11.

      The campaign provides an opportunity for Spice Radio broadcasters to speak out against racism and engage with people fighting against this menace. It has become even more relevant due to the noticeable spike in hate crimes against people of Asian origin in Vancouver since the outbreak of COVID-19.   

      At 75, Datt is still not giving up and continues to lead the campaign with unwavering determination as the task to flatten the curve of rising hatred remains unfinished. 

      Another winner of a Spice Radio antiracism award is Harsha Walia, now the executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.
      Shushma Datt