Anti-racism symposium helps students learn how to be active witnesses

Category: District

This article originally appeared in the Delta Optimist on February 22, 2023

More than 50 students at Sands and North Delta Secondary Schools attended the first Anti-Racism Symposium held after school on February 6 and 7. The symposium was organized by the school’s Anti-Racism Committee, an offshoot of the school’s Delta Youth Advisory Council (DYAC). It’s focus was on helping students better understand racism and teaching them how to be an active witness in support of people that are being discriminated against or bullied.

Guest speaker Angela Ma Brown, Anti-Racist Educator, led students through a learning journey to unpick some of the key elements of racism and shared techniques for how students can respond when they witness any form of discrimination. As part of the session, students were given Active Witnessing cue card responses, encouraged to put them into their own words and given the opportunity to practice how to speak up safely and intervene in ways that will be most effective.

“We have students from many diverse backgrounds at Sands. We want everyone to feel safe and accepted,” said Angelina Whitney, Grade 11 student and leader of Sand’s Anti-Racism Committee. “We organized the symposium with a focus on racism and active witnessing because we felt that we need to talk about racism, why it shouldn’t be happening and how we can deal with it when we see it or experience it. Active witnessing is something that should be available to people of all ages. Learning how to support people who are experiencing discrimination and bullying can change people’s lives.”

“Young people are emboldened to learn about the interlocking systems of oppression and to act against injustices,” said Angela Ma Brown. “Active witnessing cultivates a self-empowering identity and the courage and confidence to safely intervene and de-escalate discriminatory situations to prevent further harm. In this session, the students at Sands and North Delta Secondary Schools demonstrated their courage and ‘response-ability’ or readiness to shift from a silent bystander to an empowered Active Witness. The energy in the room was palpable and the students left with the commitment to individually and collectively break the code of silence in their school communities and to create a more just society.”

At the conclusion of the Symposium, Angelina said: “We know that lots of racism comes from people being misinformed. We hope the symposium has helped students learn more about racism and will encourage them to think before they speak and support others who are experiencing discrimination. We are striving to make Sands an inclusive, safe environment for everyone, regardless of their background or identity. Ultimately, we want our school to be a decent place for decent people. It is up to every one of us to make this happen. The Anti-Racism Symposium is one step on our learning journey. Hopefully, it has helped better equip students at our school and North Delta Secondary to respond to discrimination and bullying.”

The Antiracism Committee at Sands, an offshoot of the school’s Delta Youth Advisory Council, is led by Angelina (Grade 11) and includes Dieulane (Grade 10), Isitha (Grade 12), Diljot (Grade 12), Mahek (Grade 12) and Danielle (Grade 12), and is supported by Vice Principal Joanna Macintosh.