Ever since its inception in 2001, the Race Unity Speech Awards witnessed history, with two winners sharing first place in 2022. The award was established after the passing of Hedi Moani, an Auckland Bahá’í, to honour his work in maintaining race relations in the country. As a result, every year, the New Zealand Bahá’í community organises the award and conference ceremony to promote positive race relations.
The Race Unity Speech Awards 2022 announced two winners in a historic decision - Joe Howells of Kerikeri High School and Sheryl Chand of Solway College in Masterton. Since 2008, the New Zealand Police have been the primary sponsors of this award. This year, Chief judge NZ Police Deputy Commissioner Wally Haumaha admitted that it was impossible to choose only one winner.
Sheryl Chand's speech focused on dismantling systematic racism and abolishing academic streaming in schools. According to Chand, academic streaming increases racial segregation and makes it challenging for students to accept racial differences. Furthermore, it diminishes the possibility of students from different social groups interacting with each other.
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Meanwhile, Joe Howells’ speech focused on how New Zealanders must unite to eradicate racism. He spoke of how people must work together to respect all cultures, embrace diversity and learn from each other.
The theme of this year’s speech was “The fingers of one hand”. Just like a bird cannot fly with one wing or humans cannot use their hands without a thumb; similarly, racism cripples society and halts progress. To embrace humanity in its true essence, everyone must work together to dismantle racism.