Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
May 14, 2001
Local group forms to combat racism
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON — A group of concerned Edmontonians is uniting to battle racism. Called Active Culture Against Racism, the organization is proposing to involve the public in the elimination of racism in their communities.
The six-member group, made up of people working in the areas of immigration, refugees, human rights, social work, women, education and the media, began in light of the upcoming United Nations' Conference Against Racial Discrimination in Durban, South Africa, Aug. 25-Sept. 7.
"The whole world is mobilizing to prepare for that (conference). It just seemed like a good place to rally around," said group coordinator Christine Baghdady, an Edmonton political scientist who volunteers with Catholic Social Services' refugee sponsorship program.
Non-governmental groups from around the world will make presentations at the Durban conference and Active Culture Against Racism is planning to be one of them.
"We requested to make a presentation on the work that each of us do in our respective fields," Baghdady said. "We feel that our diversity is in fact our strength."
Baghdady says the Durban conference will update group members on anti-racism work. "It'll add to our own training in terms of what's going on and will help us link with others who are in the field."
The group plans to report back on the Durban conference to the Edmonton community but the conference is just the starting point of a battle that Baghdady says will take a long time to win.
"What we are doing is linking with as many groups as we can possibly link with. We are open to anybody who wants to team up with us. We would be more than happy to look at what we can do."
So far the group, which works under the umbrella of Changing Together: A Centre for Immigrant Women, has the support of 24 mainstream organizations as diverse as Catholic Social Services, Development and Peace and the Edmonton Art Gallery.
Soon the group will make a presentation at an Alberta Teachers' Association symposium and to the Canadian Council for Refugees. It has also been talking with the Gandhi Foundation about a possible conference.
"Basically we are trying to encourage public discussion on racism, we are trying to encourage community building," Baghdady said. "If we can link people together, that's wonderful.
Racism comes in all shapes and forms. "When the media does racial profiling," that's racism, said Baghdady. And it does it often, especially when it refers to "Asian gangs."
When the media identifies people by their ethnic origin, entire communities are pegged, argues Baghdady. "The assumption is that everybody that is from Asia is part of a gang.
"I think that's a challenge for all of us to address in terms of how people are portrayed in the media and the communities are portrayed in the media."
Ending racism is a slow process, said Baghdady. It can only be achieved by "working day in and day out, by creating community, by creating awareness, by engaging the public in the conversation, by making them be part of the solution, part of the conversation."
The group's action plan includes acting as a resource for others in the community who want to fight against racism, monitoring racism and discrimination in the community, making presentations to the public, the media, school and community groups, having an essay writing contest in schools on the challenge of breaking down barriers to racism and rewarding those who show leadership in the elimination of racism.
The group is raising funds to attend the Durban conference. Those who want to donate can contact Christine Baghdady or Sonia Bitar at 421-0175.
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