The winners of the 8th Annual Creative Minds Youth Contest in Durham Region were recognized during an award ceremony at Robert McLauhglin Gallery, Oshawa on May 1, 2019. The ceremony was attended by around eighty people, including the mayor of Oshawa, family members, friends of the contestants, locals, activists, prominent leaders of Durham region, and a group of community educators from public schools.

Creative Minds Youth Contest is a collaborative venture between the Toronto-based Intercultural Dialogue Institute IDI and local school boards in the cities and regions where the contest is conducted. The Contest is supported by a number of local organizations who act as its sponsors. The contest is open to high school students in three categories: art, essay and short video.

Delivering a keynote speech, Ahmet Tamirci, a board member, spoke about the IDI’s activities in Canada. He said that the institute aims to promote tolerance and respect among young people and prevent them from fanaticism and extremism. To this end, IDI regularly organize events that are educational and fun for young Canadians, Tamirci added. “We believe, our young people are important not only because they are our future, but also they are our today as well. This ceremony would not happen if they were not here today. This contest is a success because these creative minds are with us right now,” Tamirci stated.

The contest aims to motivate students, regardless of their ethnic and cultural backgrounds, to reflect on a wide range of topic including, but no limited to, cultural diversity, respect, peaceful coexistence, social justice and responsible citizenship. It attempt to provide students with a unique opportunity to express their ideas on a particular topic through creating art pieces, essays and short videos. It is expected to make a positive impact in preparing youth to be empathetic and responsible citizens of their communities and the globe.

Dan Carter, a Canadian politician and the mayor of Oshawa, Ontario, pointed to importance of the promotion of tolerance, peace and dialogue among young generations during his keynote speech.

“Our city has become very diverse in the past decade. I would like to welcome you all and I have only one thing to say to those who participated in this fantastic contest: wow!”

Shazlin Rahman, an author and the Inspirit Foundation’s stakeholder engagement specialist, also gave a speech at the awards ceremony which, she said, was simply a “great idea.”

“I moved to Canada about 11 years ago with my parents and two brothers from Malaysia. A year later, I started university. I studied journalism because I love writing. This whole thing was hard for me because of two reasons: First, I was wearing a hijab back then and I was the only hijabi on the campus. I knew that everyone knew that I was Muslim and thus thought that I was oppressed and voiceless. Without realizing it, I bought into these stereotypes and I altered my behaviour in response to them. As a result, I became super self-conscious. My outfits were on point all the time because I didn’t ever want to be seen as sloppy and have that sloppiness related to my hijab. Whatever my classmates were doing, I had to do them one better. Just to prove that I wasn’t oppressed or backward or voiceless. I was responding to these stereotypes by setting unrealistically high standards for myself. And I almost burned out. I had to drop some of my courses because I could not carry all of my course load and maintain my grades and do my volunteer work and keep my two jobs. It was too much.

In my final year of university, I discovered the world of hijabi vloggers. And that’s when I realized that there was another way I can deal with these negative stereotypes. These vlogger women were visibly Muslim and they shared videos of themselves doing different things on Youtube. Most of them talked about fashion, make up but many of them also talk about family issues, politics and social issues. I was struck by them that I decided to pursue an MA on them. These women were speaking confidently about who they were, how they dress, how they speak, how they practice their faith in different ways. And they were unapologetically sharing their unique identities with a global audience. That’s when I realized that I can put these stereotypes in a box and chose to do with them whatever I like. I could spend all my energy trying to challenge them. Or I could just leave them in the box, set them aside, and focus on learning about who I was as an individual and sharing that with the world.

In conclusion, I learned that we can do a few things with serotypes about ourselves. We can buy into them and stay in the box they create and try to break out.

We can address them head-on by challenging, dismantling and proving them as false.

We can ignore them completely. Focus on learning about who you truly are, your uniqueness and sharing that with the world.”

 

What follows is the list of this year’s award recipients.