DESTA hosts Real Talk: When black death goes viral

DESTA discusses the influence of social media on African Americans

Dare Every Soul to Achieve (DESTA), a non-profit organization in the Montreal area, held a “Real Talk”—an open discussion, on Oct. 18 to discuss the social and psychological impacts of social media on the black community.

“Sometimes people say to me: ‘I don’t see colour, I see you for who you are,’” said Zeinab Kahera, a DESTA volunteer who led the open discussion. “When people say this to me, they are erasing who I am—I am a person of colour.”

The increase of images depicting violence and death of African Americans on social media has expanded exposure to content of this nature and it has transformed into an unfortunate norm, said Kahera.

The group discussed how they felt affected by the increase of social media exposure regarding black deaths and violent viral videos of police brutality against African Americans. Some participants talked about different strategies for coping with racism on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr.

“The first thing people do when they wake up, even before they have eaten breakfast, drank coffee or gotten out of bed, is check their phone and scroll through their Facebook timeline,” said a participant. “The pictures we see or the racist comments we read on social media therefore affect our whole entire day.”

The group also discussed how videos posted on social media of police brutality and shootings of African Americans—including Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile in Minnesota—have influenced their day-to-day lives and strengthened the reality of racism.

“Social media has desensitized and dehumanized so many of us from these brutal attacks on African Americans,” a participant said. “Social media has completely disconnected us with what is happening in the U.S.”

Other participants voiced how there is real racism in Montreal and how under-acknowledged it is.

“In Montreal, we learn from a young age that we have it a lot better than people south of the border. However the reality is, racism exists here as well,” said a member of the group.

“There have been an increasing amount of people who have been recorded to have symptoms similar to PTSD, as a direct response from these violent videos,” said Kahera. “We need to advocated for support and victimization for African Americans.”

DESTA organizes monthly Real Talks to provide a safe environment where members of the black community can freely discuss issues that impact their daily lives. The organization offers a variety of programs and services for marginalized youth such as an after-school program for students and tutoring services, according to their website.

The organization welcomes Concordia students to participate in the Real Talk discussions and other DESTA services.

DESTA’s mission is to help mentor Montreal youth and provide them the resources to strengthen their identity, promote a excellence in marginalize youth and empower young adults to succeed, according to their website.

DESTA has asked that members of the discussion remain anonymous due to the touchy nature of the subjects discussed. We have left their names out to maintain a safe environment where they can talk openly.

Student Life

DESTA gives hope to the forgotten youth

Off the streets and into the working class, DESTA, the Black Youth Network, is a government-funded group that helps young people reverse their downward spirals in the Little Burgundy neighbourhood of Montreal.

The founder, Frances Waithe, is a mother of eight and a foster mom. She started the charity in 2007 after realizing just how much there was a lack of citizen support for the black youth in Montreal. Helped by a group of community workers, Waithe and her team began wondering what they could do to help. Since then, DESTA has been an organization that succeeds in demarginalizing black 18 to 25-year-olds in our city.

Waithe has been a caregiver all her life, a trait she takes from her mother, who was also a foster mom. She sees the everyday need for an organization like DESTA, and she makes it a mission to help each person that walks through her office door.

“This is my community; these are my friends and my extended family,” she said, adding that a space like DESTA is a place that young people can walk into and call home.

The first of DESTA’s participants to obtain his high school diploma with the organization’s help was a young man named Dwayne Clark. Tattooed all the way up to his neck, he went from being on the streets to becoming a programmer for computer games at Montreal’s CDI College. “I know I’m in a different place in my life, and DESTA definitely helped out with it,” he said.

There are three main points that define how DESTA works: education, health and personal development.

“They don’t call MTL M-T-Hell for no reason. This age group is getting caught up in the streets or getting locked up, we don’t want that,” said Mustafa, a representative for the network. “What we do is help them go back to school, gain personal development, whatever crisis they have.”

The charity runs numerous resources. For education, among other things, DESTA operates an alternative school to help participants obtain their high school diploma with a one-on-one tutoring service. They also have on-site counselors to assist people with their housing, psychological or direct physical health problems. Also, the organization holds a series of activities to support the interests of participants and help them develop as active members of society. “These go from sexuality, to leadership skills, to T.V. writing and the list goes on,” said Waithe.

Concordia students have a history of working with DESTA as many volunteers and tutors are students.

Concordia students who wish to participate in one of DESTA’s events can attend its Health Awareness Day on May 30, where kiosks and workshops will be held on various subjects ranging from boot camp and yoga classes to HIV and drug information sessions. This will be held in the charity’s offices on 1950 St-Antoine W. St. The very popular annual gala, which is the group’s biggest event of the year, will take place June 4.


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