"if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen
the side of the oppressor." - Desmond Tutu.

Prime Minister Trudeau and Dr. Bonnie Henry join Hands Against Racism campaign Featured

The seventh annual event against racism started by Spice Radio was held online this year on Saturday, March 27 due to COVID 19 restrictions. 

Launched in 2015 by the Burnaby-based radio station, on the birth anniversary of the towering civil rights movement leader the late Martin Luther King Jr,. this year’s campaign culminated with the participation of Justin Trudeau and the Chief Medical Officer of British Columbia.    

In their powerful video messages, both Trudeau and Henry underlined the need to fight back against growing racism, especially the one directed against people of Asian origin in the wake of the pandemic that broke out in China and eventually spread across the globe.   

Most speakers, including recipients of the annual Hands Against Racism awards, were unanimous in their criticism of anti-Asian racism.  

In fact, one of the two recipients of this year’s awards is Tammy Hu, a young Chinese woman, who spearheaded a campaign against controversial media headlines describing COVID 19 as “China virus” that fuelled hatred against people of Asian descent.  

The announcement came close to the killings of six Asian women in Atlanta, US.    

While introducing this year’s recipients of Spice Radio’s awards, the BC Parliamentary Secretary for anti-racism initiatives, Rachna Singh, recognized the challenge in Greater Vancouver which has seen a huge spike in anti-Asian racism. 

The second recipient is Kamika Williams, a former member of Anti-Racism Coalition. She had started a campaign to recognize the birth anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr. as Black Shirt Day to raise awareness about Black history in schools.  

The campaign, flagged off by Spice Radio CEO Shushma Datt, coincides with Holi, the Indian festival of colours and the international day for the elimination of racial discrimination.   

Participants are encouraged to dip their hands in colour and leave a palm print on a white sheet of paper alongside a message against racism and intolerance.  

Both Hu and Williams had 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 had to face hostility for questioning US foreign policies following the 9/11 terror attacks. Her award was given to challenge growing Islamophobia under Donald Trump.  

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

In 2019, indigenous activist Cecilia Point and South Asian activist Niki Sharma, who is now a member of the BC Legislature, were presented the awards for breaking many barriers and facing racism and sexism. Point has been in the forefront of the annual marches in memory of the missing and murdered indigenous women, whereas Sharma, who has been present in many rallies in support of refugees, had to face blatant racism while running for office in the city of Vancouver.   

In 2020, a police officer-turned activist, Kal Dosanjh, and author and social justice activist Harsha Walia were honoured. Dosanjh is running a group called Kidsplay Foundation that educates youngsters to stay away from racism, while Walia is a die-hard grassroots level activist who has published two books.  

Most of these recipients joined the Saturday event, along with other well-known anti-racism activists, such as Annie Ohana, Suresh Kurl and Dr. Arun Garg.  

Among those who joined this year’s campaign that began in January were Kiran Sidhu, a South Asian teacher who was assaulted by the wife of a white police officer in Delta, Surrey City Councillor Jack Hundial, who brought a motion asking for the recognition of indigenous lands, the first turbaned Sikh MLA in the BC legislature Aman Singh, Black activist Kombii Nanjalah, prison justice and anti-poverty activist Minakshi Mannoe, Surrey City Councillor Brenda Locke, who brought a motion against Quebec’s law that discriminates against religious symbols, Yasmin Ullah, a hijab-wearing Muslim woman who has been raising a voice against Islamophobia, Dupinder Kaur Saran, a Sikh activist, who has been raising her voice against repression of minorities in India and elsewhere, and Global TV anchor Neetu Garcha, besides Bhupinder Singh Hundal, the news director and station manager of the same channel. Both Garcha and Hundal have broken the glass ceiling. 

Anita Lal, an exceptional activist who has stood up for the rights and dignity of the so called untouchables within the caste ridden South Asian community, besides other marginalised groups, joined the campaign and left a handprint with a tribute to Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, a revered Indian scholar and the architect of the Indian constitution.  

Former Spice Radio host and cultural activist Safeeya Pirani opened and closed the  event.   

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