Nearly 500 students gathered together to participate in the Students Taking Action Against Racism day at the Fort Forum.
There were students from Vanderhoof, Fort St. James, Fraser Lake, and surrounding First Nations communities.
While some students might have been there despite themselves, and some tried to play it somewhat cool, by the end of the day, the youth at the Fort Forum on May 9 all seemed to shine a little brighter.
The event was opened up with a few words from Chief Fred Sam and Mayor Rob MacDougall, both acknowledging the importance of addressing racism in the community.
There were performances by the incredible Delhi 2 Dublin, whose unique blend of Bhangra/Celtic/Techno/Rap is infectious no matter which side of the musical spectrum you usually find yourself on.
The group played their first set to a slightly unsure crowd at first, with only some of the youth really admitting they were having fun.
In between sets, Sanjay, the lead vocalist for the group spoke to the group’s multi-ethnic makeup as role models. He said after growing up in the culturally diverse Richmond, B.C., it doesn’t really occur to him to pay attention to their ethnicities.
“I don’t really see us as anything different.”
He said he was lucky enough not to experience a lot of overt racism growing up in the Lower Mainland.
He said the youth who organized the event showed they can do anything, including building a better world with more acceptance.
Then there was keynote speaker Waneek Horn-Miller, whose inspiring story of going from near-death during the Oka crisis in Quebec to captain of the Canadian Olympic Water Polo Team was an incredible tale of moving past hardship to greatness.
She referenced some great figures in history, including Bill Mills who won a gold medal in the Olympic 10,000 m race, and who still remains the only U.S. athlete to have done so (Mills was a Sioux).
“I thank you because you’re making our country better for my daughter,” said Horn-Miller after her talk, in recognition of the young organizers of the big day.
Then, after lunch was served, Delhi 2 Dublin came back on for another set, and this time, the youth were warmed up and the band managed to win most of them over, with the majority of the crowd up against the stage dancing and cheering.
Troy Payne, the final keynote speaker for the event, then told a tear-jerking and also inspirational story about moving past a youth filled with abuse and anger to become a person who now helps to inspire others to overcome these issues.
Finally, the day ended with the entire group moving out onto the field behind the high school to stand together as a massive star, which was then photographed from a helicopter overhead, with the added bonus of a short-lived snowstorm blowing in at the same time.
The students persevered despite the weather, however, and it was by all accounts a great day for the youth of the area to feel like “stars.”
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