The city of Toronto, Ont., is well known for hosting the famed Toronto International Film Festival. This diverse city can now add another film event to its cultural calendar, the Racial Justice Film Week hosted by Grace Christian Reformed Church. In the last week of September, Grace CRC opened its doors to host this initiative of the CRC’s Office of Race Relations.
As October 1 was designated All Nations Heritage Sunday, it was fitting that the week prior be dedicated to bringing awareness to racial justice issues. The Grace CRC planning team agreed that a film event would be a great way to draw in their community.
“I think film is very accessible, easy to take in, and it brings community together with the same starting point,” explained Emily Smit, member at Grace CRC and coordinator for the film week.
Pastor Bart Velthuizen worked with Smit and two other team members to organize the week, coordinate speakers, and promote the event at local community centers and through social media.
Consulting a list of selected films provided by Race Relations. the team decided on three films that addressed issues faced by different groups of people in their community: “The Skin We’re In,” “From C to C: Chinese Canadian Stories of Migration,” and “The Pass System.” The films were shown over three evenings with a guest speaker and discussion following each film.
“If we can start a conversation about the racial tensions that a lot of marginalized communities face, then we're making progress by being honest with each other and sharing our experiences. We're not being ‘color blind’—we’re having open and constructive conversations that acknowledge our differences, knowing that it can be uncomfortable,” said planning team member Raizel Harjo.
Through discussions led by guest speakers Nigel and Pierette Enniss, Curtis Carmichael, Leah Xing, and Kim Wheatley, attendees felt a strong call to action to continue educating themselves about issues of racial injustice, to question what they think they already know, and to work on changing the ways they think.
“As this was the first ever Racial Justice Film Week, I think it was a huge success,” said Harjo. “On the back end, the team worked really hard on organizing it all and reaching out to the amazing guest speakers we had.”
“We were really thankful that Bernadette Arthur [CRCNA Race Relations advocate in Canada] got this all started and for the support we received from Race Relations,” said Smit. Grace CRC hopes to make Racial Justice Film Week an annual event and are looking at offering monthly seminars to continue these important conversations.