It was a day filled with poetry, song, dance, and cheers all in celebration of diversity.
The fifth annual Let Me Be Me Rally was held in the gymnasium at North Colchester High School on June 9, after rain cancelled the students’ march along Main Street to the Creamery Square.
But the rain didn’t dampen their spirits, as the walls were adorned with posters, and many elementary school students bring in their artwork.
Wes Mullins, who founded the rally while a teacher in the village, was on hand with some students he teaches in Truro. Among them were First Nations drummers, a jingle dress dancer, fancy shawl dancer, and grass dancer. Two Grade 8 students did a contemporary jazz dance as well.
Mullins told those gathered, which included many from the public, it’s important to understand the reasoning behind the rally.
“It brings attention to important issues that exist and transform,” he said. “Racism is hurtful to many people. Stereotypes about different races and cultures aren’t always true.”
He said some stereotypes can be found to be true if someone searches hard enough.
“In some ways, it started with the truth but has been overgeneralized to include a whole group of people.”
Stereotypes, he said, can be hurtful to a young person, especially if that person is trying to navigate the world to feel included, important, cared about, or loved.
“Stereotypes can change who a person believes they can be by telling someone who or what they are to be.”
One of the first people the group heard from was student Daniel Smith, who relayed a message he heard at a youth conference he attended last year.
“It really struck with me, and I’d like to share it with you. I bet you’ll like what I use for my example,” he said.
The conference topic was affirmation.
“If you don’t know what affirming is, it means not only to accept, but to welcome.”
To get youth interested in the presentation, Daniel used what the original presenter used – Skittles.
For his scenarios, red represented a male, and green a female.
“You open up a nice bag of Skittles, you reach in and you grab two Skittles – a red and a green. Now, are you going to throw that green or throw that red away just because it’s with a different colour?”
Those in the crowd, especially the younger ones, answered with a resounding ‘no.’
“If you see a man and woman together in public, are you going to shun them just because they’re different genders, right? No.”
So, instead of picking out a green Skittle, Daniel used two red ones in the example.
“Are you going to throw one away just because it’s the same colour? It’s not going to taste any different. It’s twice the flavour, that’s actually pretty awesome.
“So you see two men in public together, is that going to be any different? No, it’s cool. They’re the same, they’re just as good.”
Next, instead of a green or red Skittle, yellow was pulled.
“You’re not just going to throw it away,” he said.
This time, yellow represented someone of a different race or gender.
“You’re still going to eat that skittle. It might be a little different than what you’re used to. You’re going to accept and welcome that.”
And finally, instead of a regularly shaped Skittle, the next one is a bit misshapen. It still tastes like the other Skittles, so does one throw it away?
“You see someone in public with maybe a disability of some sort. They’re still just as cool right? Yes.
The difference between a Skittle and a human, is that humans have feelings. A Skittle is not going to care whether you eat it or not, but I guarantee you can make a change in a human’s life. If someone you know is being mistreated, I encourage you guys to make that change.”