A splash of colour to unite a community

Shushma Datt of Spice Radio supporting #HandsAgainstRacism.

Shushma Datt of Spice Radio supporting #HandsAgainstRacism.

The traditional Hindu festival of colours, Holi, is well known for its iconic imagery: participants celebrate the coming of spring by cheerfully dousing one another with brightly coloured water and powder. However, many may be unaware of the festival’s deeper significance – the event fosters a message of brotherhood and unity for all participants, and brings together people from different religious communities in many parts of South Asia. 

On March 7, several locations across the Lower Mainland will host events inspired by the Holi Festival.

Motivated by this message of unity across racial boundaries, Spice Radio – Vancouver’s South Asian radio station – has launched “Raise Your Hands Against Racism,” a new campaign that aims to raise awareness for anti-racism across Vancouver and the Lower Mainland.

“[Many] people who listen to our station are immigrants, and at one point or another we’ve all faced racism, whether it’s because of our colour, or our religion, or whatever,” says Shushma Datt, company president of Spice Radio.

“We want to create awareness, and have people understand that racism still exists in our society and seriously impacts people’s lives.”

A new campaign to end racism

The Holi Festival will host a series of events including one in which people will be invited to dip their hands in coloured paint and imprint them on a banner in a show of unity and solidarity.

“[During Holi], people throw colored water on everyone, regardless of race, religion, their orientation. We thought that that would be a very good festival to start [the campaign] here in Vancouver and Greater Vancouver,” says Datt.

The banners will then be carried in a Vancouver-based Community March Against Racism on March 21, coinciding with the United Nations’ International Day for the Eradication of Racism.

“Raise Your Hands Against Racism” has also initiated an on-going social media campaign. Participants can show their support for the initiative by taking a “selfie” of themselves with one arm raised, and posting it to Twitter, Instagram or Facebook with the hashtag #HandsAgainstRacism.

Community partnerships

In order to carry out such a large-scale campaign, Spice Radio has partnered with several community organizations, including the Province newspaper and M.O.S.A.I.C., a B.C.-based non-profit that provides support to immigrants settling in Canada.

Ninu Kang, a spokesperson with M.O.S.A.I.C., says that their organization was eager to get involved with speaking up against racism in B.C.

“We deal with over 7,000 clients per month who are immigrants, refugees and newcomers to Canada, who may be dealing with issues of racism and discrimination,” she says.

“We don’t verbalize it, but everybody feels that yes there is racism. We wanted to involve everyone; eradicating racism and discrimination in our world is important for all of us.”

Although the initiative is still in its first year, Datt sees a future for “Raise Your Hands Against Racism,” and hopes that it may become an annual campaign.

“I want to see this as an annual event, make it into an annual celebration of differences,” she says. “I think difference brings a lot of spice into life.”

To learn more about the campaign and how to get involved, www.spiceradio1200am.com/holi/.