March 2000 - S.T.O.P. - Students and Teachers Opposing Prejudice.The Story of STOP
The story of STOP begins in 1987, in the town of Red Deer, Alberta, Canada...
During the mid to late eighties, Red Deer and other surrounding communities were making national headlines for a string of activities by area hate groups. Alberta is known as the most blatantly prejudiced province in Canada and the highest concentration of intolerance probably lies in central Alberta (where Red Deer is the main city, population 64,000), thanks in part to all of the lovable rednecks that populate our area.
Anyway, the main headline that made Red Deer appear so evil to the rest of Canada was the trial of a local school teacher (named Jim Keegstra) who had been trying to brainwash his students into thinking that the holocaust did not exist. This case was a popular topic of discussion and one day in his English class, first year teacher Mr. Darren Lund wrote a poem on the subject of intolerance, prejudice and hatred. His students got very enthusiastic and were very angry that a few high profile fascists were getting all of the attention, and began to discuss forming a group to combat prejudice. Mr. Lund, perhaps believing that his students were "just talking", gleefully agreed to lead their crusade against hatred and thus became the staff advisor to this group. They dubbed the group STOP, standing for Students and Teachers Opposing Prejudice.
During the time since that fateful day, STOP has actively participated locally, provincially and nationally to promote acceptance towards all people, no matter their race, religion, gender, appearance, age or sexual orientation. Although we oppose all acts of hatred and prejudice, we are educational and non-confrontational (physically anyway). That being said, we will rigourously defend our beliefs if questioned and we will challenge all racism, sexism, homophobia and other discrimination we encounter.
Our ongoing include a Holocaust Education Symposium (that we have been coordinating since 1994), setting up displays in schools, supporting a foster child, performing elementary school drama productions, supporting community groups and charities, speaking at other schools, booking guest speakers and inviting classes to enjoy their presentations, holding weekly meetings and organizing a province-wide poster and poetry contest.
We also try to put on at least one or two anti-racist concerts each year. We donate all profits to organizations such as the Ogoni network (protesting Shell's exploitation of the people and land in the Niger Delta). We usually draw 150 or so people to each show, where we hand out our literature and have guest speakers as well as the best in local music.
The gig that we held last October was featured in a full-length local television production that also profiled our other projects that we were working on at that time.
In December we also held our first annual "Take Back the Night" event, with a video and march protesting violence against women (see below).
Another exciting event that recently happened was the forming of a new STOP chapter at George Brown College in Toronto.
Although STOP is now widely known and established in the community, it still has tonnes of work to do. There still remain to be scores of red necks, bigots, and violent people out there to recieve the focus of our attention. And as the attitude of the area changes and evolves over time, so does STOP. After a popular youth in Red Deer was violently attacked and put into a coma, a new energy was put into combating violence and intolerance in our community, not just concerning racism and sexism, but prejudice in the area of style, dress and individuality as well. One of the key figures of STOP is its flexibility; it takes on a wide range of projects, based on what is most important to the community and to the members of the group.
In the future we would like to form more clubs in other schools. We would like to network, enabling all members to take a stronger, unified stance against all the forms of hatred that plague our world.