Aspiring young Raglan actor Ryan Dingle’s more used to quoting Shakespeare but last week the lines were all his own as he spoke out in Hamilton about racial prejudice.
The Raglan Area School student didn’t place in the annual race unity speech awards run by the Baha’i community but his heartfelt message still made quite an impact, with the judges commending him for his independence of thought and the strength of his belief.
The four invited judges on the night also noted the encouragement Ryan gave to his peers as they spoke, says local Baha’i Kathy Gilbert who went along to support Raglan’s first entrant in the speech competition’s 19-year history.
Organised by the Baha’i community with sponsorship from the New Zealand Police, the Human Rights Commission and the Hedi Moani Charitable Trust, the competition is a forum for year 11 to 13 students to share their thoughts on how to improve race relations in Aotearoa.
This year’s theme – ‘Speaking for justice, working for unity’ – was particularly relevant in the aftermath of the Christchurch mosques massacre.
As one national organiser said: “We knew that racial and religious prejudice can lead to hate and tragic violence, and that the work of promoting unity is serious and vital. But never before has it seemed so urgent.”
Ryan, who is the area school’s deputy head boy, took part off his own bat. He felt he needed his voice heard “because that’s what I can do,” a reference to his thespian talents.
The 18 year old’s about to take one of the lead roles, Tereus, in “The Love of the Nightingale’, a modern adaptation of a Greek myth that will be the school’s midyear production.
He’s also performed recently in the regional Shakespeare Festival at St Peter’s School in Cambridge, where he and other Waikato students gave ‘new takes’ on the works of the Bard.
The essence of Ryan’s message last week was that we shouldn’t judge people just because they’re different to us.
“I want to see some change in the world … (to) change the way people treat each other,” he told his audience at what were the regional heats of the national competition.
Ryan’s pleased to have had his say – “it’s what I care about” – but came away feeling he hadn’t been sufficiently “informed” and didn’t have the guidelines he needed to do the competition justice.
Kathy was impressed all the same and says Ryan “stood out in his uniqueness”.