For the second year, Red Deer has a pair of vibrant rainbow crosswalks for pedestrians and motorists to enjoy downtown.
The unveiling on Thursday morning acts as a “silent kickoff” to Central Alberta Pride Week, which runs August 13 to 20.
Joel Graham with the Central Alberta Pride Society said the crosswalks link those in the LGBTQ+ community with allies and the rest of the community. The organization is also very proud to say they crowdfunded more than enough to pay for the labour without dipping into taxpayers’ pockets.
“We didn’t feel like we were building community by spending the money of those who didn't want to pay for this initiative, so we figured we'd do it ourselves this year,” he said.
Though that may quell some peoples’ concerns, Graham admits they’ll still have to keep an eye on the crosswalks as time goes on, with some people volunteering to stand guard to watch for and report vandalism.
Not only did the community come through for the labour, Graham goes on, but a local business stepped up to provide the actual paint. Brad Makarenko with Fargey’s Paints said he’s proud to help out some fellow human beings.
“There’s nothing wrong with looking after each other. The more we do that, the less violence there is, which is good for everybody,” he said. “It’s like supporting the SPCA or anything that’s a good cause -- these are community members of ours, and they deserve the respect.”
Tymmarah Sheculski, the City’s Diversity and Inclusion Human Resources Specialist, said while discrimination has gradually decreased in Red Deer, the need for rainbow crosswalks shows there’s still plenty of work to do.
“It’s truly about recognizing that these are people that cannot necessarily be their full selves at work, with their families and friends, in public. Do people feel safe walking the sidewalks in Red Deer holding hands if they’re in a same-sex relationship,” she asks.
“This is about showing solidarity with that population -- and the other thing that is a bit troublesome when I see these kinds of posts [on social media], is these are people who probably have privilege and aren’t necessarily aware of it. When I say privilege, I mean there’s something about them they don’t have to worry about.”
Graham went on to say while the local LGBTQ+ community does feel marginalized at times, the support they’ve received for the crosswalks helps in righting that.
“By doing the crowdfunding and having the community take initiative and ownership over this project, it really goes to show people do care,” he said. “We have a lot of supporters and the positive really outweighs the negative.”
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