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Think Big, Look Back, Start Small: YWCA Halifax Wins the Michele Landsberg Community Award

A woman looks at a black and white photo exhibit of black men and women.

The Michele Landsberg Community Award is a $5,000 award named after renowned Canadian journalist Michele Landsberg. It recognizes organizations doing exceptional work in encouraging girls and young women to raise awareness of issues related to equality through media.  

As the Youth Programs Coordinator for YWCA Halifax, I consider myself very fortunate to spend my time surrounded by passionate, intelligent, and socially-conscious youth. The individuals in our Youth Advisory Council are so full of great ideas and thoughtful projects that when the application came for the Michele Landsberg Award, I knew it would be a perfect fit.

This fall, the Youth Advisory Council (or as we call it, the YAC), began a new project entitled Think Big, Look Back, Start Small. This project, funded by Canadian Heritage, was designed to encourage civic engagement in youth and young women through events such as guest speakers, excursions to museums and historic sites, and webinars.

When the YAC started thinking about heritage and what that term means to them, we began having conversations about people throughout our history who have been silenced.  Some names that came to mind included Mary Two-Axe Earley, an outspoken Indigenous activist who challenged discrimination against First Nations women; Justice Bertha Wilson, who was the first woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada, and the Syrian Hadhad family, who founded a successful chocolate business upon arrival in Canada.

While many Canadians are familiar with the popular Heritage Minutes, we saw a need for more diverse history education. And so the YAC hatched the idea of creating “Alternative Heritage Minutes” that celebrate and elevate the voices of individuals and groups that have been left out of our fairly one-sided, Eurocentric view of Canadian history.

Within the next year, these amazing youth from Halifax will write, direct, and produce their own Heritage Minutes that reflect untold stories from our national history. As the Youth Coordinator, I was really impressed by how this idea was completely youth-led and youth-developed, and didn’t have the influence of us adults! The project truly reflects what the youth care about and the stories they want to tell.

To win an award bearing Michele Landsberg’s name is an amazing honor. I know both myself and the YAC members are incredibly humbled by this acknowledgment of our Heritage Minutes project. Michele is an incredible woman with a multitude of accolades and accomplishments to her name. Her tireless work as a feminist activist, her esteemed career in journalism and writing, and her general passion for the advancement of women’s issues are all traits that fundamentally align with the values of the YWCA.

Looking forward, I am excited to see where the youth go with their Heritage Minutes project, and which individuals they choose to represent within their videos. I am certain that knowing they have the support of the Canadian Women’s Foundation and Michele Landsberg will be central to their success in this endeavor and we look forward to sharing the finished videos with everyone!

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