A poignant Pandemic Postcard Project submission has led Lesley Wright and Graham Hughes of Literacy Alberni on a new path toward anti-racism education. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

A poignant Pandemic Postcard Project submission has led Lesley Wright and Graham Hughes of Literacy Alberni on a new path toward anti-racism education. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

‘I am not a virus’: How one postcard sparked a Vancouver Island pushback against racism

Literacy Alberni receives $50K in funding to create web-driven system for reporting racism

“I am not a virus.”

Five simple words, so full of emotion, drawn on a postcard and mailed to Literacy Alberni, have started an anti-racism movement.

The postcard was part of the Pandemic Postcard Project and was written by a Grade 9 student from Qualicum Beach. Of Asian descent, the student was feeling the heightened anti-Asian racism over the novel coronavirus pandemic.

READ MORE: Port Alberni pandemic postcard project asks people to share COVID-19 experiences

The message was profound, says Lesley Wright, director of projects and programs with Literacy Alberni Society. It caused staff and board members to look at the clientele they are serving—many of them immigrants whose lives are affected daily by racism in all sorts of forms.

They began looking at how they could bring the anti-racism message to a broader audience. They learned there was funding for that.

Vancouver Island NDP MLAs Josie Osborne and Adam Walker, say new Resilience BC recovery grant funding for Literacy Alberni will improve the Mid-Island’s ability to tackle and prevent racism heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Everyone should feel welcome and safe in our communities, which is what B.C.’s anti-racism network works to achieve,” said MLA Osborne. “The Literacy Alberni Society is there to teach us about the importance of compassion, understanding and love for one another.”

“Fighting racism requires a multi-faceted approach, and it includes ensuring diverse populations have access to education and literacy services,” said Walker. “This funding will allow Literacy Alberni Society to continue advancing anti-racist and equitable education programs for all people.”

The Literacy Alberni Society is one of the 36 Resilience BC network organizations to receive additional funding in light of the increase in incidents of racism and hate during the pandemic. This grant is part of the BC New Democrat government’s response to further increase resources to address racism and expand multiculturalism throughout B.C. as part of the economic recovery from COVID-19. Overall, 57 communities will benefit from this increase of $372,500.

The society is busy making connections between the Alberni Valley and Oceanside with the intent of creating a community protocol against racism: who do you call if something happens to you? What resources are available? What is racism?

Literacy Alberni will also use its funding to create a digital reporting portal where people can report incidences of racism or hate. “This portal isn’t for the big instances,” says Wright. “It is about those little incidents that are happening daily.”

The resilience grants mean Literacy Alberni will be funded as a regional hub for one year.

“What Literacy Alberni is able to do with this funding is do more than having a conversation,” Wright said. They are able to develop a framework people can count on, that gives accountability to the reporting system.

The conversation will not end there, she said. The society will have more to announce later this month.

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