Friday, October 29, 2010
Monday, October 25, 2010
I find it perfectly fitting to include the six top contest finishers as part of this Diwali feature. Don’t forget to come out and celebrate Diwali tomorrow at Mission’s Clarke Theatre from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Personally, it’s been an educational two-month journey promoting this worthy writing contest.
One thing became obviously clear after listening to and meeting so many great people in Abbotsford and Mission: There is much work to be done to build an inclusive, diverse community. The “culture divide” here is unfortunately growing and a strong response is needed.
When I started this event four years ago, I wanted to create a broader community discussion with the public. This region is one of the most diverse in the country and many challenges still exist.
Main contest goal is to empower people and give opportunities for writers to engage in a creative, dynamic discussion.
Too often talented minds don’t get an opportunity to be discovered. One of the simplest ways that I discovered (as a veteran columnist of 15 years) to create an inclusive society is to constantly write about it. The message itself creates awareness.
The six-member judging panel led by Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce director Rick Rake was asked to look for creativity and fresh ideas.
This diverse group of community-minded individuals spent hours carefully evaluating the entries.
“I was happy to support Ken in this endeavor because I was there when it all started four years ago. I believe in encouraging and building harmony amongst the cultures and faith groups in Abbotsford and Mission. The judging panel knew the issues and were adept at pinpointing contestants with the best ideas from this amazing collection of essays,” said Rake.
This year’s question was: How do we create an opportunity for different cultures to work together towards a harmonized, inclusive, multicultural community?
We received some 100 entries in our youth and adult categories. Many of the writers touched on similar themes like: multicultural festivals, saying “hello” and sharing foods as some of the common solutions for bridging our cultural gaps.
Hailey Connor, a Grade 9 student at Mouat Secondary finished on top of our youth category. In her essay, she wrote about the need for different cultures to interact with each other.
“We need to continue our efforts at increasing people’s awareness and understanding of cultures other than their own,” she wrote.
I totally agree, Hailey. Congratulations.
Hailey’s mother told me her daughter looked daily in her email box to see if she had won. That really touched me. Hailey’s mom also shared that her daughter is an avid reader of newspapers.
The two honorable mentions in this category were: Andy Lee from Yale Secondary and Nimret Dosanjh from Dasmesh Punjabi School. Congratulations Andy and Nimret. You can view their essays on the Times website.
In our adult category, Wendy Lindquist-Pronick finished first.
Wendy was one of the people who last year suggested we should open an adult section for this contest.
When I contacted her to tell her she had won, she simply couldn’t believe it. We both chuckled.
She wrote about breaking language barriers and having monthly potlucks. Bravo! Wendy.
The two honorable mentions for this category were: Sharon Nijjar of Abbotsford and Rita Dyer of Mission. Way to go, Sharon and Rita. To view these two beautifully written essays, go to the Times website.
I would like to praise Times Publisher Fred Armstrong and editor Darren McDonald for allowing me to engage in this important and educational writing contest. I believe we are a better community because of it.
Friday, October 22, 2010
Almost time to announce the winners
The judges have met and spoken. We will announce the recipients of the Times Building an Inclusive, Diverse Community essay contest very soon, likely with our Diwali special on Nov. 2.
I am super excited to introduce the winners of the adult and youth categories. There will be one winner and two honourable mentions for each category.
The winners will get his/her essay published in our diversity supplement and the two honourable mentions will have their essays published on the Times website.
All three selected winners for each category will have their faces published also.
Well, what can I say, it's been a fun and exciting two months promoting this event. I have met so many inspiring folks in our communities, who believe in the message we've been promoting.
Diversity will not work effectively if we're building isolated communities. In order to see the realization of our multicultural societies become a reality, there has to be an equal partnership and a genuine acceptance of our unique differences. This contest has not only become a local event, but is also getting international attention. I have received at least a dozen responses from writers in different countries.
Unfortunately, I advised them this was only for Abbotsford/Mission residents. I hope we don't have an international crisis on our hands. I may be hearing from Ottawa shortly. But, it's nice to see our message being heard far and wide and putting Canada on the map.
In the past eight weeks, I have visited local schools and had an opportunity to speak at the University of the Fraser Valley to the Sociology 101 class.
I faced many interesting questions. A university student stated during my presentation, "you are promoting two different goals: diversity and inclusiveness. That is simply, not achievable. We should all be the same."
I said, "I understand your concerns, but diversity exists everywhere around the globe and right here in this classroom.
"By keeping your religious beliefs and cultures this only makes our community stronger. It would be extremely dangerous if we took that all away. As an example, we don't have to look very far into Canadian history and see the destructive decisions made by past governments toward the First Nations communities, removing them from their homes."
The heart of this contest is to give people of all ages an opportunity to share in a positive discussion and discover ways to make our community more inclusive.
Going through the many essays the future looks bright. If you don't mind, I have to make some phone calls and notify the winners. Thank you.
n Ken Herar is a columnist with the Abbotsford-Mission Times. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Saturday, October 16, 2010
Let's see what they say
The Abbotsford/Mission Times essay contest, entitled Building an Inclusive, Diverse Community, officially closed last week.
After going through the submitted entries, I am surprised at the volume we received for the adults (over age 16) section.
I am looking forward to submitting these thoughts to our five esteemed judges. Winners will be appearing on these pages later this month.
A guy stopped me the other day after seeing a photograph of me in the Times recently, speaking to students from Dashmesh Punjabi School about our contest. He asked me why would I promote multiculturalism in an all-East Indian school?
Good point, I thought, and replied: "The main reason that brought me to this fine school was not only to promote multiculturalism and this contest, but to share in a discussion with some bright minds on finding ways the South Asian community could be more inclusive with mainstream society."
I told the class that the "culture divide" in Abbotsford is growing quickly and we all have a responsibility to be part of the larger community when we leave through these school doors each day. I shared examples of how to make it happen, like inviting kids from outside our own ethnicity to their homes for events like birthday parties. Festivals and parades or even writing contests for that matter are fantastic ways of interacting and getting people to mingle.
Lastly, I told them they have a special role and part of the equation in creating an inclusive, diverse society. I concluded with this thought: "We all have it within us. We just have to discover it."
Since we're on the topic of integration, another person shared some unfortunate news. She said her family went back to Montreal for a few weeks in the summer and found the city to be very integrated and friendly. Much more than here, she noted.
"People are very separate from each other in the West," she said, adding that her daughter came home crying one day because at school South Asian kids wouldn't play with her. For as much as I don't like to admit it. I know these examples are real. Honestly, it hurts every time I hear this. The general public does not openly discuss this because they don't want to be perceived as racist. But, they're certainly talking behind closed doors.
As someone shared with me a few years ago: "Ken, when I come to Abbotsford, I can feel racism."
This is the exact reason why I took my message to the South Asian community.
I am not trying to pick on South Asians, but there needs to be more of a community effort and not just from the same few.
I have said it before and I will say it again: South Asians can be equally racist just as any other group. South Asian leaders need to rise up and address these concerns.
We must remember the concept of diversity wasn't strictly created to cater to South Asians. Is it time we change how we practice diversity or is it too late?
Let's see what Times essay contest winners have to say.
- Ken Herar is a columnist for the Abbotsford-Mission Times. Contact him at: email@example.com.