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Halifax-area youth fight discrimination through art

‘We want to have a conversation that doesn’t traumatize or trigger youth,’ organizer says

4 min read
caption Youth performing onstage during Saturday's event.
Kate Woods

Dozens of young people learned how to use art to battle racism and discrimination during an event at the Halifax Central Library over the weekend.

Saturday marked the first Stronger Together: A Youth Centred Day of Action event, which was created to give voices to youth experiencing racial discrimination by allowing them to fight back in a safe space using different forms of art, like poetry and acting.

The event’s coordinator, Zahra Dhubow, said youth for this project were considered community leaders and were handpicked by four local settlement organizations: Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS), the YMCA Centre for Immigrant Programs, African Diaspora Association of the Maritimes, and Immigration Francophone Nouvelle-Écosse.

Sarah Nyazung was one of the young people selected to participate in the project. The 17-year-old moved to Canada from Uganda three years ago, and said she wanted to make her voice heard after seeing how poorly some people are treated based on their race.

She’s been poet from a young age and uses spoken word to articulate to the public the struggles of having a Ugandan accent while living in Nova Scotia. She was one of three poets performing their work at the event on Saturday.

An excerpt from her poem, Loud and Proud, said: “Some things are just hard to say, and it’s not because I can’t speak English. Clearly I can. But every time I articulate for white Canadian ears, I lose a portion of my ancestral will.”

caption Sarah Nyazung, 17, performing her poem ‘Loud and Proud’ at Saturday’s event.
Kate Woods

The event also featured skits about people experiencing racism. After they were performed, audience members were invited to talk about what could have been done differently.

One skit was about a man on a bus who had no one stand up for him after receiving racist comments. Audience members said someone should have come to his defense.

The skit hit home for Thierry Tchawa, who attended the Stronger Together event after a friend told him about it.

He said he’s also experienced discrimination while taking public transit.

“I was in the bus sitting with one white girl, but when I sat next to her she changed her place and was looking at me like a strange person. I felt so bad,” Tchawa recalled.

“But when I came to this meeting, I feel like people are working on it, they are strong people that are fighting against discrimination.”

The event also featured a choreographed dance number by members of the Stronger Together youth group.

caption Members of the Stronger Together youth group perform a choreographed dance number during Saturday’s event.
Kate Woods

Dhubow said letting youth express through art how they feel when faced with discrimination is very important to her.

“Basically, art-based programming is a mechanism to essentially have a conversation without necessarily delving in too deeply, because we want to have a conversation that doesn’t traumatize or trigger youth,” said Dhubow. “And the best way to do that is through art.”

The Stronger Together youth group has been working since September to host the event. Organizer said other similar events will follow.

According to Statistics Canada, the number of hate crimes in Halifax jumped from three reported cases in 2016 to 17 reported cases in 2018. 

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About the author

Kate Woods

Kate Woods is a journalism student living in Halifax, originally from Coldbrook, a small village in the valley. She loves books and hearing people...

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