Regina students spread anti-racism message with poetry

A group of students in Regina are performing their poetry for an anti-racism message on Tuesday at Sheldon-Williams Collegiate.

'I have two nationalities on paper. Does that make me a spy or traitor?' says Regina student

Teacher Kyla Wendell McIntyre directs her students from Sheldon-Williams Collegiate. They are writing and performing poetry with an anti-racism message. (Tory Gillis/CBC)

"We all are the one."

That's the first and final line of a spoken-word performance created by a group of students at Sheldon-Williams Collegiate in Regina. They're part of Kyla Wendell McIntyre's mindful creative writing class, and they collaborated to perform a message of anti-racism for their school Tuesday. 

She said the kids always impress her, and it's not a surprise for her when they share stories with impact.
Abdul Ikweiri reads his part of the group poem, 'We All Are the One'. (Tory Gillis/CBC)

"Every day they humble me," said Wendell McIntyre, adding that her pupils have a variety of literacy and English levels.

"You have everybody here from students who are very, very proficient, and some who are at the beginning levels of proficiency. And even though they're at the beginning levels of proficiency, they still can write an amazing poem."

The students worked together to create one group poem and a few individual poems to perform at the school's International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination event Tuesday. Local spoken word artist Cat Abenstein helped them hone their performance skills ahead of the show.

We don't let anything divide us because at the end of the day, we're all human, we're all people,we'reclassmates and we're friends.- Abdul Ikweiri, Grade 12 student

Grade 12 student Abdul Ikweiri said the class includes a variety of perspectives but that doesn't stop them from creating together.

"We're trying to show everyone that we're united even though the differences that we all have and there are a lot of differences in this class: 10 different nationalities, a lot of different religions, yet we all have a good time in the class," Ikweiri said.

"We don't let anything divide us because at the end of the day, we're all human, we're all people, we're classmates and we're friends."

In the group poem, he tells the audience that their differences are really quite small, and they should be finding ways to connect with one another, rather than finding reasons to separate. 

They're hoping their audience can come away with that message, and maybe learn a little about the students along the way. 

'I am a refugee; I am worthy of respect; I am human'

Nour Albaradan read a poem about her own experiences with racism. She described hurtful words hurled her way because her family was leaving Syria in search of a place with safe shelter and schools.

"I felt scared," she said. "Syrian people said bad words to those who have left the homeland ... 'Don't come back here. You are a coward. You are not facing the war.'"
Nour Albaradan describes her journey as a refugee originally from Syria and says, 'I am a refugee, I am worthy of respect, I am human'. (Tory Gillis/CBC)

Next she described arriving in Jordan and finding it difficult for people to find jobs or study. 

"In Jordan, people said, 'You are stealing our jobs, our houses, our opportunities ... We hate you,'" she said.

She added that moving to Canada as a refugee last year hasn't always been easy, and she's found herself unsure at times, but she's learning about other people's cultures. 

"This makes me strong and free, and this makes me here," she said. "I want to leave a message to any person who thinks badly about refugees: I am a refugee; I am worthy of respect; I am human."

Sharing their own stories

Her classmate Teklemariams Yeabiyo described another story about living as a refugee. He is originally from Eritrea, then faced hatred in Ethiopia before arriving in Canada. He asked his audience about differences such as skin colour and finished with the question, "Does this matter?" 

Habiba Boru and Jannet Mbabazi collaborated on a story called African Girl about their roots. Abdul Ikweiri shares his experience of being a Libyan-Canadian in The African North American Man.

"I am a man. I'm not just any man. I am a Muslim man. I am from a country that is on Trump's Muslim ban," he said. "I have two nationalities on paper. Does that make me a spy or traitor?"
Teklemariams Yeabiyo takes the podium for his account of life as a refugee. (Tory Gillis/CBC)

Their teacher said the kids have felt empowered by sharing their own experiences with a wider audience. 


Tory Gillis


Tory Gillis began work as a journalist with CBC Saskatchewan in 2012. You can hear her deliver the afternoon news on weekdays on CBC Radio One in Saskatchewan. She has also worked as a reporter, and as an associate producer on CBC Saskatchewan's radio shows, The Morning Edition, Bluesky and The Afternoon Edition.

With files from CBC Radio's Morning Edition