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Advocates Alberta: Nursing student starts non-profit organization to tackle racism and bias

By Duhaa Rahamatullah, March 19 2021—

“Experience is not what happens to you; it is what you do with what happens to you.” Nursing student Dorsa Zamanpour has taken novelist and critic Aldous Huxley’s famous words to heart with her non-profit organization, Advocates Alberta, which seeks to address institutional and community-level roots that contribute to biases against the vulnerable Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) population. Zamanpour has been involved in social activism a significant portion of her life — not just because of her own experiences, but with the understanding that others’ experiences are exponentially worse. Essentially, Advocates Alberta aims to initiate community and institution level initiatives, including the reallocation of funds to the community, lobbying for policies and organizing community initiatives. 

In an interview with the Gauntlet, Zamanpour recalls one of the most important racially adverse experiences from her time as an adolescent in high school.

“The school was primarily Caucasian — I was one of the two people of colour in the school,” Zamanpour conveys the discrimination she faced at her former high school. She said “the headmaster of the school would control my social media activity, telling me what I could and could not post.” Zamanpour shares that the headmaster would enact punishments for this, including prohibiting her participation at her senior prom. 

Further, Zamanpour felt the impact of the discrimination in the subtle statements made towards her. “I had friends of colour from other schools who would wait for me outside to pick me up. The school told me to meet them around the block to avoid commotion on the school front.” However, Zamanpour frequently observed Caucasian students visiting the school, with no repercussions from the school administration. As a result of long-term heavy discrimination, Zamanpour’s family “considered legal action and spoke to a lawyer, however [her] parents did not want to put [her] through the traumatization of being in a legal battle for years.” In retrospect, this was among the biggest moments of Zamanpour’s life in motivating her to begin her life-long fight for racial equality. 

Advocates Alberta focusses on two different levels of tackling racism and bias — institution and community. At the institutional level, the organization hopes to reallocate funds into the community, contribute to the recreation of the education curriculum to include accurate representation of history and offer anti-bias racism training to schools, organizations and workplaces. Zamanpour shares her hopes to utilize a circle sharing method in her seminars, in which “a maximum of 10-15 people will come together to speak about their personal experiences regarding racism and bias, and deconstruct both implicit and explicit biases.” Further, Zamanpour believes sharing personal experiences and discussing the repercussions of racism in our community will combat the belief that it is “human nature to not really care about something unless you’re experiencing it, or someone you love is experiencing it.” Essentially, education is key, and that is the primary focus for Advocates Alberta. 

On the other hand, at the community level, the organization invested time into celebrating one Black individual per day for Black History Month this past February. Additionally, they hope to carry the tradition forward in celebrating and raising awareness of BIPOC artists and writers. Moreover, Zamanpour shares her hopes of creating a book and film club that will be focussed on the talents offered by the BIPOC community. 

Zamanpour says that this is “not just to make people feel good, but to increase representation in the community.” In essence, she believes “increasing awareness and representation is really important, and celebration and conversation are how we get there.” 

Zamanpour leaves readers with the urge to “understand that your first thought is not your fault, but the way you act on it is.” With thorough strategies and solutions for approaching reconciliation and creating a safe surrounding environment is key to progressing. 

Zamanpour concludes the interview by praising her team at Advocates Alberta. “My team is amazing. I am the founder of Advocates Alberta, however, without them nothing we are doing or will do in the future would be possible.” 

Advocates Alberta is currently seeking volunteers, reach out to them via email at advocatesalberta@gmail.com and follow them on Instagram @advocatesalberta for resources and educational information. 

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