“We aren’t there yet,” says Cooke-Sumbu
© Thomas Becker - Amherst Daily News
Elizabeth Cooke-Sumbu, executive director of CANSA, said they provide employment services to thousands of people throughout the province.
AMHERST - On March 21, 1969, a group of individuals gathered to protest discriminatory and unjust laws in South Africa.
However, the peaceful protest was met with conflict.
Sixty-nine people were attacked when police began to open fire on the group.
The United Nations took exception to this and wanted to observe the human rights issue and remember the millions of people around the world who today are still victims of racism and discrimination.
Each year on March 21, worldwide, we observe the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
And each year the United Nations selects a theme for the day and brings attention to it. The theme this year was racism in sports. The UN highlighted the problems of racism in sports, which remains a disturbing occurrence in many places around the world, including Canada.
Brian Martin, board chair of CANSA – Cumberland African Nova Scotian Association - said racism is more in the forefront now when we talk about sports.
“Today there are more visible minorities in the athletic world playing on the world stage and receiving top dollars and still facing the same old same old. What has changed is that leagues at all levels are acting on both the internal and external discrimination actions including those of fans.”
In addition to a chosen theme, the community hosts activities to mark the day. CANSA, in partnership with the Municipality of Cumberland hosted a musical concert at the Springhill Community Center, last month.
Elizabeth Cooke-Sumbu, executive director for CANSA, said the day marks a very important and noble cause people need to be made aware of.
“Racial discrimination is a real issue. The day is to commemorate and to work with the communities to raise the awareness of discrimination and its negative consequences.”
CANSA is an employment service provider, serving citizens across the province. Historically they started out just serving the African Nova Scotia community but as the organization grew it evolved and now specialize in services to marginalized citizens.
The community with the help of the government is making positive strides but more could be done to combat discrimination, Cooke-Sumbu said.
“I think legislatively the governments over the years have really tried to enact laws that would correspond with our Canadian constitution to ensure equality. We still have systemic racism in institutions, which of course is very hard to detect. I think employers are really trying to diversify their workplace because with diversity comes inclusion and you’re able to remove some of those barriers.”
A lot of the discrimination issues today stem from a lack of education, empathy and not getting to know the people around you, she said.
“When people see other people and talk to them and know their lifestyle, they realize they’re just like them and it brings them together. It’s when you don’t have an opportunity, where you get the stereotype you see on TV.”
So what does the future hold?
The continuation of March 21 and its importance in our society, she said.
“Together we have a part to play in realizing the vision of justice, equality and freedom for all. And for the communities never to forget, we aren’t there yet.”