"When I was kid growing up in Calgary, it was clear to me that I was perceived as an “other.” The funny thing was if I was experiencing racism or issues with people I interacted with, the typical response from my parents was “what did you do?” or “what did you say?” My parents were immigrants from Sudan. In Sudan black people are everywhere. Discrimination does exist but the western style racism doesn’t, so it’s been harder to comprehend. They lacked awareness and as immigrants, they were just trying to keep their heads down. The thing is as I got older, I didn’t want to keep my head down.
In the Sudanese community, like other newcomers, we get forgotten when it comes to policies and issues that affect us. We're usually not represented at the table or consulted. But newcomers are expected to quietly accept what’s going on, even when our interests are not being represented. For me, representation matters. I want my community to be represented and there to be allied voices that push for systemic change bringing about the recognition, work and healing needed.
This enables all Calgarians to prosper – including newcomers and people of colour. Voices of lived experience and representation are integral to the success of any poverty reduction strategy and any real and effective system change. In other words, "nothing about us without us." This is why I work at VCC. Our strategy acknowledges that racism is a root cause of poverty and we work on tipping the scale and moving that needle.
It's a slow process - it's generational work, but we all need to start somewhere."