Date: 2012-06-18 11:30:57
Category: all categories
Metatags: Canada, Komagata Maru, Punjabi, Racism, Sikh, South Asian, Tamil, Youth
As a CASSA volunteer, assisting the Brown Canada project team at the 6th Annual YRDSB South Asian Leadership Conference at the Milliken Mills High School was a very rewarding experience. The event, held at the Markham school on May 26th started at 8.30 am and comprised of four different workshops in rotation which aimed at inculcating a sense of self-respect and leadership skills amongst the seventh and eighth graders attending the conference. The students were addressed by Neethan Shan of CASSA and representatives from the York Regional police amongst others.
The Brown Canada Project, which seeks to educate Canadians about South Asian heritage and history has as its starting point the events surrounding the Komagata Maru episode of 1914. It was fitting then that facilitator Hindurika started off the workshop with a quick ice-breaker (which had students picking on a particular superpower- teleporting and mind-reading seemed to be the most popular!) and then showed students a brief documentary (produced by the Brown Canada) about this historical episode. The ensuing discussion, which focused on the importance of personal and collective histories, set the mood for the next activity which had students creating mind maps. The first was according to a set of options in particular categories, while the other was according to the students themselves and their own sense of creativity.
The results were self-evident as the participants figured out what restrictions did to self-identity in general, and students were well into the “ I Am’ journey with the next activity, which was a group project. Participants were divided into four groups, and given questions relating to the overall identity of South Asians in Canada. It was gratifying to see these young Canadians questioning the whole idea of self-identity, and engaging in discussions about the role of media in creating a general stereotype.
The students also commented on the expectations of their parents, or the career roles which fed into the stereotypes. The presentations were insightful, and the workshop ended with the students writing down the reasons why their histories mattered to them. As Hindurika remarked after seeing their creative output “It was great to see students making the connection of their histories defining their identities. I believe the success of the workshop (and the leadership conference) was that it provided a space for students to critically think about and discuss topics that they otherwise would not have the opportunity to do in their schools.”
The workshop may be over, but one hopes that not only would CASSA and the Brown Canada have assisted in developing leadership skills of these young Canadians, but also instilled in them a strong sense of identity and confidence that is vital towards fostering harmony in our multicultural society.