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Home Indian Diaspora How Sushma Datt fought racism in Vancouver

How Sushma Datt fought racism in Vancouver

Vancouver: She was good enough for the BBC, but couldn’t get a job in mainstream broadcasting after immigrating to Vancouver in 1972.

For Shushma Datt, racism and discrimination seemed the likely reasons, and she got a job in ethnic media.

“I couldn’t get a job in my own field, so I had to get into the Asian broadcast industry,” she said.

Born in Kenya, Datt got a degree in Dehli before moving to London and joining the BBC.

Today she runs the radio station she founded — AM 1200 Spice Radio in Burnaby — and produces shows for Shaw and OMNI.

A year ago, she and colleagues came up with the idea for the inaugural Raise Your Hand Against Racism movement, which also caught on overseas after it received some publicity.

“Last year was such a huge success,” Datt said. “We had people send photos from England, Australia, we were interviewed by media in India and Pakistan.

“It was very exciting.”

The idea sprang from the ancient Hindu spring festival Holi, a celebration of colors and of sharing love.

Datt thought: “Let’s do something exciting for Holi, let’s start a campaign with stuff that Holi signifies.”

This year’s racism-awareness campaign culminates on March 19 with events at which the public is invited to dip their hands in water-soluble paint and add their palm prints or any other bit of finger painting to a giant mural in seven Lower Mainland communities (North Vancouver, Delta and Richmond have come on board to join the four centers — Vancouver, Surrey, White Rock and Burnaby — that took part last year).

“Holi signifies that everybody is equal, that we’re all the same under a myriad of colors,” she said.

As far as Datt knows she’s the first woman and first Indo-Canadian to be granted a radio broadcast license by the CRTC, and the first in Canada to broadcast in Hindi and Punjabi.

Things might be better today for established immigrants like herself, Datt said, but she feels newcomers still face the same obstacles she did.

“We want to raise this to the next level, someone coming up and saying, ‘Here’s a solution, here is how we can eliminate racism,’” she said.

“We can always hope.”

(The article was first published in The Vancouver Sun)

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