Nanaimo citizens have the opportunity to embrace inclusiveness and diversity

NANAIMO - Spray painted graffiti on sidewalks doesn't reflect the attitudes of Nanaimo.

Positivity outshined negativity in Nanaimo earlier this month.

The city’s rainbow crosswalks were spray painted with graffiti earlier with Biblical references to Romans and Leviticus. Despite the negative act, Rick Meyers, Nanaimo Pride Society president, responded to the act with positivity and talked to the News Bulletin about how the society is looking at the incident with a positive spin and how it was bringing the community closer together.

He was right. Negativity just spawns more negativity. And hate spawns more hate.

I had the privilege to interview Meyers for an article about Nanaimo’s first Pride Parade, which was held June 12.

Community members came out in droves to show their support for diversity during the inaugural Pride event. I’m hoping it’s even bigger next year.

Prior to the event, sitting across the table interviewing Meyers I couldn’t help but share in his enthusiasm for the upcoming Nanaimo Pride Parade and the coloured crosswalks.

The crosswalks are a daily symbol people can see to know that Nanaimo has changed into a more diverse, inclusive and tolerant community.

His excitement about the rainbow crosswalks inspired my idea for the picture. We decided to meet on a Saturday and use sidewalk chalk to draw a rainbow crosswalk in front of Nanaimo City Hall for the photo.

That crosswalk has long since been washed away by Nanaimo rains, but it made me feel that the city was changing. I had hope. I felt like Nanaimo was a more welcoming community than others I’ve lived in.

Meyers shared his experiences with me. Growing up in Nanaimo when he was younger, as an openly gay man, he would have been beaten up in the streets. He described the city as a “very homophobic place,” but said in recent years the community had changed. Now it was a more tolerant community.

Let’s prove Meyer right. Let’s prove that it is a small minority that would spray graffiti on something community members worked so hard on. Let’s prove that we accept everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation, religion, gender identity or race.

Let’s show the community, the province and the country that Nanaimo is diverse and accepting.

It could start with something as simple as saying ‘hello’ to people on the street and offering a welcoming smile.

Learning more about people’s cultures and heritage is also another way to break down barriers. Nanaimo is a lucky community because it has several cultural events where people can gather and learn from each other.

With B.C. Culture Days approaching, people in Nanaimo have another chance to share and promote positivity.

The Mid-Island Métis Nation and Nanaimo Women’s Centre are hosting the Nanaimo Peace Flag Project in Maffeo Sutton Park on Oct. 1 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The project invites people to celebrate Métis culture and help create one of 4,000 peace flags that focus on how people feel about the community. During the event people can also listen to some storytelling in a teepee set up on the grounds and participate in arts and crafts activities.

Come out and create a flag all Nanaimoites can be proud to hang above the city.

arts@nanaimobulletin.com