Every year, the International Day for Elimination of Racial Discrimination is marked on March 21 as a reminder of the injustices BIPOC communities continue to face in the world.
In an effort to create awareness, several local organizations joined hands to organize One Love Fest, a day when community members come together to learn about racial discrimination as well as resources available for them.
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Instead of organizing a rally or march to mark the day, the Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows Katzie Local Immigration Partnership thought of a better idea: an evening festival.
“In 2020, we received anti-racism funding for community protocol work and we’ve been working with the community,” said Carolina Echeverri, coordinator of the organization. “We had the opportunity to discuss and thought of doing a rally, but we thought it would be a bit much so decided to organize this event.”
First of a Kind
Although it’s the first event of its kind, it’s certainly not the last as Echeverri shared that it would take place annually.
As people come together at Memorial Peace Park to enjoy craft activities with kids, live music, an interactive performance and Jamaican patties, the hope is that they will also learn about the injustices racialized communities experience.
As someone who has experienced racism, Yves Chinnapen, president of Ridge Meadows Multicultural Society, said that it’s more than just an event.
“I have experienced racism at my workplace and in personal spaces because racism is universal,” Chinnapen said. “We are trying to create awareness [through such events] and Maple Ridge is not free from racism as recently, there were Swastikas painted on walls and bikes.”
Other than the two organizations, BC Spokes Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows, Fraser River Indigenous Society and Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows Anti-Racism Community Group worked together to make this event happen.
Although the event was packed with fun activities for community members, Echeverri was not worried that people might take this as any other family day out.
“It’s the beginning of a long journey and it’s not going to be just one day for people to stop being racist. This is an opportunity for people to learn and become aware. It’s like planting a seed.”
Last year, the Local Immigration Partnership held a Truth and Reconciliation meeting and planned an event for Sept. 30 with Indigenous partners. Five-hundred people attended.
Recalling that gave her hope that once again, people will show up to learn.
“Sometimes, we underestimate the power of people.”
As a person of colour herself, she has vowed to never stop doing anti-racism work and continue to organize many such events for the Ridge Meadows community.
“I will do everything in my power to continue doing events like this to create awareness. We have an action plan and a community protocol underworks which we will be able to share later this year,” she said.