Manitoba youth fight racism by sharing their messages online

A group of Manitoba young people have taken to social media to help fight racism — And they’re using both their voices and design skills to do it. 

Youth, aged 15 to 21, create video after 8 weeks taking anti-racism workshops and learning Photoshop

Jessalie Macam, 20, shared her message about racism in the video Stand up to Racism Together created by NEEDS Inc. (Submitted by NEEDS INC. )

A group of young people in Manitoba have taken to social media to help fight racism — and they're using both their voices and design skills to do it. 

"Learning about rights, human rights and discrimination, racism can prevent others being offended, or being hurt," said Jessalie Macam, 20. "We can educate ourselves again and again." 

Macam is one of six youth featured in a new video — Stand up to Racism Together —  posted online by Newcomers Employment and Education Development Services, or NEEDS Inc.

The group spent eight weeks taking anti-racism workshops and also learned how to use Photoshop to turn their own messages about racism into a poster. The youth, aged 15 to 21, then shared their stories and creations on camera. 

"Racism is a very terrifying experience and people are often unable to speak up about it," said Ebyan Warsame, a psycho-social educator at NEEDS. "This workshop provides youth that space and that outlet to let those feelings out and talk to other youth who have those similar experiences."

The official name of the project is deconstructing racism and racial injustice and enhancing mental wellness of newcomers, and Telus collaborated with NEEDS to get the project started. 

Ebyan Warsame is a psycho-social educator at NEEDS Inc. and is one of the organizers of a new project that's helping young people identify racism and cope with it. (Submitted by Ebyan Warsame)

Warsame said the workshops help teach young people how to identify racism, and develop strategies to cope with it when they experience it. 

"It's a space for them to learn and grow without fear of judgment," said Warsame. 

She said the topic of racism is becoming more prominent. Warsame believes the killing of George Floyd — who died last year after a police officer pressed his knee on the back of his neck for close to nine minutes — is one of the reasons why. 

"It shone a light on a reality, something that's been going on, you know, for a very long time," she said. "People are finally having difficult conversations and people are finally taking the step to acknowledge racism, that this is a reality." 

Six youth spent eight weeks taking anti-racism workshops and creating posters featuring their own message about racism. The young people shared their experience in a video called Stand up to Racism Together. (Submitted by NEEDS Inc. )

Macam first started taking part in activities and clubs at NEEDS after her family moved to Canada from the Philippines in 2017. She said staff there have also helped her find volunteer opportunities and employment. 

"The impact of that was very positive and empowering." 

The theme of the posters created for the project highlighted racism and employment. Macam wanted her message to focus on workplace safety, fair pay for employees and the right to health insurance. 

The Red River College student is currently in her first year of child and youth care studies.

She said what she learned over the eight weeks will help her and others. 

"By going on this workshop you also help… your family," she  said. "Teaching your family what's racism and discrimination."

Warsame said NEEDS will continue offering the program for youth into the spring. She hopes it helps the young people build confidence and that they're capable of creating change. 

"I think that the youth have a lot to be proud of," she said. "The time, the dedication, the effort that they put into this project, like everyone did such an incredible job. It's so hard to be vulnerable  and it's really hard to, you know, share those physical emotions and those feelings. And the youth were able to do that." 

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

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