Gurpreet Singh: Spice Radio honours designer Jennifer Sherif and teacher Annie Ohana for their antiracism work

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      Indigenous designer Jennifer Sherif is one of the two recipients of the annual Hands Against Racism campaign awards.    

      Started by Burnaby-based Spice Radio on the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. in 2015, the initiative has entered its eighth year.     

      As part of this campaign, the radio station honours individuals who have done antiracism work. The annual event is often organized close to Holi, an Indian festival of colours that binds together people of different ethnic backgrounds.      

      This year, Sherif is being given an award for making special pins in memory of the victims of Indian residential schools. With the recent findings of the unmarked graves of Indigenous children at these former sites of IRS, this issue has come into the limelight internationally.   

      Sherif’s pins represent the orange shirt, an idea of Phyllis Webstad, who went to an Indian residential school as an Indigenous child. Following the discoveries of unmarked graves, people in Canada began sporting orange shirts in large numbers to show their solidarity with First Nations.  

      Notably, South Asians organized vigils in memory of the children of residential schools. Malkiat Singh Hoonjan of the Legendary Sikh Riders’ club and his associates rode on their motorcycles to Kamloops where 215 unmarked graves were found last year. There, they prayed for the departed souls. The group was presented with special vests by Jackie Andrew, an Indigenous woman.

      Hoonjan participated in Spice Radio’s campaign by sending in a picture of himself with a hand up in the air.

      Malkiat Singh Hoonjan and other members of the Legendary Sikh Riders rode on motorcycles to Kamloops to honour those who were buried in unmarked graves.

      An indigenous educator, Sherif was also instrumental behind an online petition asking for a statutory holiday on National Aboriginal Day. It has received more than 36,000 signatures.   

      In a virtual event to be held at noon on Saturday (March 19), a day after Holi, Sherif will receive the award from Spice Radio CEO Shushma Datt. (Those who want to watch the entire program can go to the radio station’s Facebook page.) 

      Datt separately wore the pin and thanked Sherif’s Tsalagi Nation on social media.   

      Sherry Duggal, a prominent performing artist, will read a poem dedicated to the children of Indian residential schools on the occasion.   

      Educator Annie Ohana (seen with Shushma Datt) has been at the forefront of antiracism campaigns in Surrey for many years.

      The second recipient is Annie Ohana, a renowned antiracism educator and social justice activist.

      Ohana has been a part of many grassroots movements and is a strong defender of human rights. She has been a tireless ally of Indigenous communities, immigrants, refugees, and other marginalized groups.   

      Datt’s interviews with the two recipients will be major highlights of the annual event.

      Dr. Nazia Niazi, a Muslim feminist, will attend the Spice Radio event.

      It will be attended by the parliamentary secretary for antiracism initiatives, Rachna Singh (wife of the writer), climate-justice activist and a staunch supporter of Indigenous land defenders Donna Clark, hijab-wearing Muslim feminist Dr. Nazia Niazi, and students associated with Ohana’s Mustang Justice movement.   

      Gurpreet Singh is a contributor to the Georgia Straight and cofounder of Radical Desi, an online magazine that covers alternate politics. He has recently wrote a book, Notes on Nineteen Eighty Four, which looks into growing polarization in the world's so-called largest democracy.