Racialized Young Professionals Network
By Pat Forrest
When Lakehead University law student Ayoub Ansari would venture off campus into the community, he often found himself out of his comfort zone.
“It felt that I was living in two distinct worlds: a university campus that was diverse and overall quite welcoming within a community that, while also quite diverse, often made me feel judged or treated differently based on my ethnicity,” he says. “I quickly realized that if I was feeling uncomfortable interacting in the community, others who had moved here from other countries were likely experiencing the same feelings.”
Driven by the desire to better merge these two “distinct worlds,” Ansari and some colleagues formed the Racialized Young Professionals Network, a networking community for persons identifying as racialized and their allies. The network also works to showcase the positive impact that racialized individuals are making on the mainstream community as well as to engage, educate, and empower people to break down racial barriers and create equity within their communities. Their slogan is “Breaking Down Racial Barriers.”
Ansari acknowledges that the word “racialized” can be a charged term, one that can conjure up some strong emotions. “We wanted to call it what it is,” he says. “If you are faced with barriers and preconceived ideas based on what you look like, then you are racialized. For many of us, it’s our living reality.”
The network also welcomes anyone who feels they can bring something to the table as an ally. They offer keynote speakers and seminars related to social justice, anti-oppression training, and even unofficial translation services. One of the organization’s founders, Farhan Yousaf, was recently awarded the City of Thunder Bay’s annual respect. Award, which recognizes an individual, business, or organization that promotes attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours that recognize the importance of human dignity, and demonstrates leadership to foster respect for others.
The best may still be to come, says Farah Ahmed, advocacy coordinator for the network. “I feel like we are just getting started and there is so much more to do,” she says. “We want to keep reaching out, showcasing so many accomplished racialized people and empowering our community. Our message is, listen up and wake up.”
For more information on the Racialized Young Professionals Network, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow them on Facebook.