Breanna Walter isn’t quite sure what Nelson Mandela did, or who Henry (Gizmo) Williams is, but that didn’t stop the 15-year-old and 1,000 of her peers from taking in GETfest at the Shaw Conference Centre on Thursday.
GETfest is an annual convention, held to coincide with black history month, which brings students from all over the city together to learn about embracing Canada’s diversity. This year the festival fell on the 20th anniversary of Mandela’s release.
“I don’t know much at all about Nelson Mandela but I think this will help me learn,” said Walter, a Grade 10 student at Vimy Ridge?Academy. “I really liked that Henry guy’s speech a lot too — it really inspired me.”
That’s the kind of reaction Sharlene Thomas, founder and artistic director of the youth convention, was hoping to hear.
“What we’re doing is finding a social initiative that will bring all youths together regardless of their colour, creed, race, ethnicity or religion,” Thomas said. “It embraces all youth and teaches them social responsibility.”
GETfest used to stand for Getting Edmonton Together but now that it’s growing, Thomas has changed the acronym to Getting Everyone Together.
After leaving the convention, students were encouraged to perform random acts of kindness for 27 days, representing the 27 years Mandela spent behind bars.