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Youth in Action: Speaking up about racism, one personal story at a time

As part of a series to highlight youth activism, TODAY speaks to young people in Singapore who are not only passionate and vocal about social issues, but are driving positive change through their actions. In this instalment, Veena Tadikonda and Sharvesh Leatchmanan talk about how they seek to raise awareness about the experiences of minorities in Singapore.

Youth in Action: Speaking up about racism, one personal story at a time

Mr Sharvesh Leatchmanan and Ms Veena Tadikonda began Minority Voices in May this year to spark conversation about racism in Singapore.

As part of a series to highlight youth activism, TODAY speaks to young people in Singapore who are not only passionate and vocal about social issues, but are driving positive change through their actions. In this instalment, Veena Tadikonda and Sharvesh Leatchmanan talk about how they seek to raise awareness about the experiences of minorities in Singapore. 

  • After coming across a racist video on YouTube, Veena Tadikonda, 23, approached Sharvesh Leatchmanan, 22, to see what they could do to raise awareness and create positive change regarding racism
  • They started an Instagram page and website that feature first-person accounts of discrimination faced by minorities in Singapore
  • The idea is to get the wider community to relate to the issue when they realised that “there’s a human who has gone through this”

 

SINGAPORE — Earlier this year, 23-year-old Veena Tadikonda, came across a YouTube video titled “The Curry Song”, which she found offensive and racist.

Needing to talk to someone about it, she turned to Sharvesh Leatchmanan, 22. A mutual friend had introduced them to each other, knowing that both were passionate about social issues.

That conversation about one problematic YouTube video turned into an ongoing discussion about their lived experiences as ethnic minorities in Singapore and what they could do to raise awareness about discrimination.

Eventually, they decided to start an Instagram page and website called Minority Voices, where they would feature first-person accounts by other minorities in Singapore of racist encounters that they had faced while growing up and living here.

Today, the Instagram page Minority Voices has garnered over 10,500 followers since its conception in May. 

Anyone who has had an encounter with racism is invited to drop a direct message to the founders so their stories can be featured. Ms Tadikonda and Mr Leatchmanan said they make an effort to post every story that is sent to them. 

"We also ask for photos because we want to see the person who's behind the story. When you attach faces to stories, I think people can relate to it better because you realise there's a human who has gone through this," Mr Leatchmanan said.

When they first started the Instagram account, the pair had to actively reach out to people and seek story submissions.

But as more people began sharing the account's posts and their page became more well-known, people began approaching them instead and the duo soon began receiving about four story submissions every week. They now have over 50 stories lined up, waiting to be posted.

Mr Leatchmanan said the experience so far has been heartening, especially as the idea behind the account was to create a community for minorities.

"I endured so much racism throughout my teenage years, but I had so few Indian friends. I couldn't talk to my non-brown friends about it because they had never heard of these issues … through Minority Voices we have created some sort of community, which feels really good," he said. 

The pair also hope that the account will spark conversations, which will hopefully lead to people being more empathetic in their treatment towards people of different ethnicities.

They are also hoping to keep the momentum going by eventually forming a non-profit organisation. 

"If it gets to a point where we are too busy with the constant day-to-day running of Minority Voices, we want to bring other people on board who are just as passionate about the course and run it as a non-profit," Ms Tadikonda said. 

Once Minority Voices is registered as a non-profit organisation, Ms Tadikonda said they would then take in donations, which they plan to spend on doing charity work.

As the platform continues to grow, the duo said that they want to feature a wider array of stories, such as encounters with sexism and discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community. 

Mr Leatchmanan added that it is important for young people to speak up about such issues so that discrimination is not perpetuated by future generations. 

“We are hoping for a country where equality is not a dream, we want it to be a reality.”

To create change, he added, young people do not necessarily have to start an organisation or a platform. 

“I think the most important thing a person can do is to talk about racism and speak up about racism or discrimination amongst their own social circle,” he said.

“It could be their family members, their extended family members, their friends, their teachers. I think if we are willing to have an open and honest conversation with the people in our lives I think that in itself can help create a ripple effect. If I can help influence one person then I'm sure one person will go on and influence at least another one person.”

Related topics

social issues minority racism Youth activism youth in action

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