More than 1,000 Grade 6 to 12 students in the Vancouver School District gathered virtually for day one of the second annual Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Youth Forum on April 15. The forum runs over two days in total – one in April and another in May.
The theme of the first day was intersectionality with a focus on anti-racism. The session included welcoming remarks from Christie Lee Charles, a member of the Musqueam Nation, rapper, and the City of Vancouver’s first Indigenous poet laureate. Jesse Lipscombe, a Black Canadian actor, motivational speaker, producer, writer, singer, and founder of the #MakeitAwkward anti-discrimination campaign spoke to students about disrupting current responses to racism, sexism, intolerance, and hate. Students also heard from DJ O Show, an Afro-Canadian and First Nations hip hop and R&B DJ, inspirational speaker, and elected member of the Squamish Nation Chief and Council. DJ O Show embraces her cultural backgrounds, creates outstanding art, and spreads awareness about diversity and inclusion.
Students organized and hosted the forum. Quincy Johnson, Grade 11 student at Vancouver Technical Secondary took part and shares her reflections:
“The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Youth Forum gave me the opportunity to be a part of such an amazing and diverse organizing team of students from across the Vancouver School District. Having the space to discuss race and intersectionality was something I hardly ever got to do as a younger student because issues of systemic racism are rarely addressed or spoken about in school. I feel like being given the chance to learn, relate and ask questions about race or diversity, equity, and inclusion-related subjects alike makes a huge difference in this conversation amongst students. I was truly impressed by questions students were asking Jesse Lipscombe and DJ O Show, such as ‘what do you do when you see your friend being racist?’ or ‘how do you support someone who is a victim of a racist attack?’ I feel like the questions being asked showed interest and engagement in the topic, which was really inspiring. Being a mixed-race person myself, I was very moved by DJ O Show sharing her experience of being mixed race and how difficult it can be to feel accepted. When Jesse spoke about his experiences with racism, like being asked ‘where are you really from?’, it really resonated with me because I have been asked that question by strangers my entire life. When given the chance to listen to someone speak and share similar life experiences to yours, it can make students of colour feel supported and heard.”
Revisit vsb.bc.ca to learn about day two of the forum, scheduled for May 5. The theme is intersectionality with a focus on mental health.