Shadeism By; Fatima Baig

Shadeism

By; Fatima Baig

Humber College hosted the screening of the documentary Shadeism by editor Nyani Thlyagarajah. Students had an opportunity to watch the film and have a question and answer session with Thlyagarajah. The documentary Shadeism features stories of discrimination between light-skinned and dark-skinned people in African American, South Asian, Aboriginal, etc. communities.

Thlyagarajah thinks anti-black racism is the root of shadeism. “Anti-black racism is really at the root of it,” Thlyagarajah said. She believes multiple colonizers such as the British, French and Portuguese throughout history have a part in shadeism. “It’s definitely multiple colonizers,” said Thlyagarajah. Early sign of colonialism and shadeism were in South Africa. “Some of the early bleaching crèmes ads were in south Africa, we see a lot of them are still available and we know the context and history of south Africa,” said Thlyagarajah.  She thinks shadeism still occurs in Canada as well. “This is something that we carry with us from other places, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it also exists here with indigenous communities,” said Thlyagarajah. She believes media is important to others’ understanding of shadeism. “Our media and what we are ingesting is crucial,” said Thlyagarajah. When it comes to children and younger people Thlyagarajah believes, along with being mindful of the media that they are exposed to, the conversation of shadeism has to be a team effort from the adults. “It has to be conscious, collective effort,” said Thlyagarajah. Thlyagarajah, while having the conversation on shadeism, took her niece to movies such as The Princess and The Frog. She also believes suggesting different movies and books that encourage children to have an internal dialogue can also help. “I think that is a conversation that allows her to have an internal dialogue without forcing the conversation on her.” Thlyagarajah didn’t feel like she experienced shadism, but while creating the film she came to the conclusion that she experienced shadism while getting her face waxed. “I remember the feeling that I used to have when I would get my face waxed and there would a noticeable difference in shade even as somebody who was lighter skinned and that hit me,” said Thlyagarajah. The film gave Thlyagarajah the opportunity to reflect on herself and her body. “This particular film had me constantly reflecting on my relationship to myself and my body,” said Thlyagarajah.  Thlyagarajah thinks the government, the media and other system structures have made it difficult to change in society. “I think the problem is that all of our systems and structures including the government, the media other structures are engulfed and devoted to divisive and oppressive politics” said Thlyagarajah.

 

The event was a collaboration between the Base (formally known as the Bridge), the Aboriginal Resource Centre and the Humber Gallery.  The Base is an organization the supports students who identify as African American or Caribbean by offering services such as tutoring. Offering workshops that helps students learn life and career skills. The base also offers self-care events.  “It is a collaboration with the Aboriginal resource centre, the Base as well as the Humber Gallery,” said Efe Chehore, the student advisor for the Base.  “It depicts the experience of colourism and different communities,” said Chehore. Jessica Reign, Base student support advisor, would like to create more events like the screening to expose others to the arts and different perspectives. “We want to do more events like this to expose the arts and different perspectives,” said Reign.

The film Shadism will come out online. Thlyagarajah is working on a film called Displace. “It’s a drama set in Toronto and it’s a queer love story about a Tamil woman and half-Mohawk, half-Iranian woman,” said Thlyagarajah. The film explores their recreation with their fathers and touches on the conversation of racialized immigrants. Thlyagarajah is also working on a television show calledVisible Majority. “It’s about first-generation millennials of colours,” said Thlyagarajah. That television show will also be filmed in Toronto.

Canadian experience from a Muslim Women’s point of view By: Fatima Baig

Canadian experience from a Muslim Women’s point of view

By: Fatima Baig

Zonaira Ishaq opens up about her experience as an Nigab wearing Muslim Women here in Canada and her fight to appeal a policy preventing Muslim Women from wearing the Nigab during their citizenship oath taking ceremony.

Ishaq is a wife and mother to five children, she came to Canada in 2008.  Ishaq started wearing the Nigab back when she was in Pakistan. Ishaaq said “it was a personal decision.” Her insperision was her English teacher and her sister.

Ishaq didn’t struggle with wearing her Nigab here in Canada until 2011.  When the former minister of immigration Jason Kenny created a policy that Muslim Women couldn’t wear the Nigab during their citizenship oath taking ceremony. Audrey Macklin professor of Law at University of Toronto believes the policy had two contradictory ideas that women wearing the Nigab were victims of gender oppression. Macklin said “if that was the case denying them citizenships would make them more vulnerable because non-citizens experience abuse, exploitations of varying sorts compared to citizens.” Another contradiction Macklin believes is that women are forced to wear the Nigab. She said “it was a kind of oppression compulsion, so the idea that they should rescued from oppression by denying them citizenship.”  When the policy was enforced Ishaaq was not a Canadian Citizen and was trying to find out how she could get her Citizenship. Ishaq said “I found out about the policy in 2011 and was trying to find out how I would face Citizenship.” Ishaq felt that she could receive accommodations since she has been accommodated in places like the airport. Ishaq said “people have accommodated me and said if you want to show your face privately we can do that. She was given the option that instead of fighting the policy she could have elected certain accommodations such as sitting in the back-row but would still need to remove her niqab. Ishaq wasn’t comfortable with accommodations that were provided so she consulted a lawyer at Waldman and Associates. Nassem Mithoowani an Associate Lawyer at Waldman and Associates felt the policy was unfair and targeted a particular group. She said “in this case they were targeting a particular population unfairly that’s when we felt we needed to step in.” ishaq went to Federal court to appeal the ban. Going into the Case Ishaq was concerned about the media involvement. She said “I didn’t want to be in the spotlight.” Ishaq ‘s lawyers on the other hand were concerned about the impact that case would have on the Muslim community. Mithoowani said “When you are representing a misunderstood or vulnerable community, there are always concerns that it could have negative impacts on that community.” Ishaq’s lawyers argued that the policy violated The Charter of Rights on the bases of freedom of religion, that the Minister didn’t go through the legislature to make the policy a law and tried to bypass that by making the Nigab ban a mandatory policy and finally that it was dissimilatory towards Muslim Women.

The courts ruled against the Nigab Ban on Sept 16, 2015 on the bases that, the Minister didn’t go through the legislature to make the policy a law and took her Citizenship oath in Oct 10, 2015. At that time Ishaq felt that she made she right decision to appeal the policy. She said “I felt that I was right going to court, because the policy was not on the right path.” Today Ishaq enjoys the benefits of being a Canadian Citizen.

Smiling through Down syndrome- by Fatima Baig

Iman Saeed is eight years old with a smile larger than life itself.

In a recent photo shoot to promote a charity gala event for children with disabilities, she chose to wear a sparkly black shirt and a blue cape with blue cuffs. It was the perfect ensemble for a Superhero background. It also perfectly reflected her remarkable achievements as a child born with Down syndrome.

Her mother, Abeer Zuberi, says she was scared and worried about her daughter’s future when she first learned of the diagnosis before Iman was born. Down syndrome is a congenital condition caused by an extra chromosome and is often characterized by developmental delays, some impairment in cognitive functioning, short stature, upward slanting eyes, a flattened nasal bridge, broad hands with short fingers and decreased muscle tone. “Initially it was shock, grief and fear,” she says. “I didn’t know what was happening – but then she was my daughter and I loved everything about her.”

Iman attends public school with the support of a teacher’s assistant for half of the day. “She is integrated into the regular classroom,” says Zuberi, who has always advocated for her daughter to learn alongside other children, as opposed to being placed in a class exclusively for those with special needs.

She smiles as she recalls Iman taking the school bus on the first day of school and enjoying it immensely. “I was literally in the car behind the school bus. She didn’t cry – but I was crying.”

Today, Iman says her favourite subject is gym. “I like to play with my friends,” she tells me.

‘A blessing’

The Zuberi’s live in Mississauga with Iman’s maternal grandparents. Her grandmother Farhana provides much of the childcare for Iman and her two younger siblings while Zuberi is at work or school. She currently studies behaviourial sciences at Humber College in Toronto and works at the Erinoakkids Treatment Centre as an instructor therapist for children living with autism.

Farhana, meanwhile, says it is a joy being able to witness her granddaughter’s day-to-day progression. “I enjoy taking care of Iman,” she says. “She is getting more and more independent every day.”

Zuberi also attributes her daughter’s success and confidence to her active participation in SMILE, a charity aimed at supporting children and youth with special needs in Muslim communities across Canada. The superhero photo shoot Iman posed for last month was hugely exciting for her, she says, especially because the shoot was used to promote a gala dinner where she was asked to present on stage with her sister Asiya.

“Today I look at Iman as a blessing,” she says. “I always say I have a daughter who is gifted with Down syndrome. And whenever I ask her: “Iman are you beautiful?” she confidently replies, “Yes!”

The book Fatima’s Journey

The book Fatima’s Journey details my journey as a two-time liver transplant recipient.

In the book I talk about how I came to spread awareness about organ donation; share my story through social media, media, and public speaking; and how I came to be a part of a community of transplant patients, donor families, and those with chronic illness who united together in diversity through struggles. You can find out more information about the book at http://www.fatimabaig.com . The book is available through amazon, barnes and nobles, chapters and indigo,