This is the latest in my continuing series on how inept I am at continuing my series on the things I am up to in the community outside of the regular Council Meeting schedule. However, there was so much happening on Sunday, it is worth trying to post.
June 12 is Philippine Independence Day. In 2016 that means 118 years since the Emilio Aguinaldo declared the Philippines free of Spanish rule and for the first time unfurled the Flag of the Philippines. It would be another 48 years before the Treaty of Manila was signed, making the Philippines truly independent, but the June 12th anniversary is marked as the one where the Filipino people themselves declared their “inherent and inalienable right to freedom and independence”.
This day is celebrated in New Westminster in honour of our third largest (and fastest growing) ethnic group in the City. We were honoured to have a representative of the Consular General and other dignitaries from the Filipino community, and we raised the flag of the Philippines over Friendship Gardens, with all of the appropriate speeches from people of importance.
Some of us had to rush off from that event to Sapperton Day on East Columbia Street.
I made it just in time to take part in the annual tradition of the Red Tape race, where elected types and their proxies race tricycles for the honour, the glory, and a bag of kettle corn. You will have to read the sports pages to see who won… because it wouldn’t be classy for me to point it out. 😉
Important duties dispatched, I joined the crowds at Sapperton Day enjoying the sunny weather and great variety of events. I did all of those things a politician is meant to do:
…and even had my bike handling skills tested by the good people at Caps and HUB.
Then it was off to the New Westminster Lawn Bowling Club for the annual tradition of a Lawn Bowling Battle Royale between Team Mayor Cote and the New West Youth Ambassadors. It was a tightly fought competition where accuracy by far outweighed precision for both teams.
This was a day of fun and games here in New Westminster, but as the clouds parted and the sun shone on our events, very dark news was unfolding. As the details of the horrific attack in Orlando trickled out, bad news became worse and more troubling as the day went on. Early in the afternoon, a few organizers from New West Pride put the word out that an impromptu vigil would be held at the Rainbow Crosswalk on Columbia Street. Social media news spread quickly, and scores of people showed up.
The President of NWPride, the Mayor and MLA Judy Darcy spoke, and several other members of the community said a few words about their personal experience or feelings. Candles were lit, silence ensued, and people shared a moment of being with other people, supporting one another, as a community is meant to do. There is a lot that people much smarter and more profound than I have said about the violence in Orlando, and I was left struggling for words for the day.
To me, and I think many others in our community, Pride in New West has been a celebration of inclusivity and acceptance. I’ve met so many great, engaged, interesting people through the organization and have enjoyed so many events they have brought to or supported in our City. So it is easy for a vanilla straight, male, cis, person like me to forget that Pride is also about a struggle for acceptance, and that the struggle is not over, even here despite how “accepting” we think our community is.
It is banal to talk about gun violence in the States; it is a national sickness that I lament they will never have the courage to address. The dog-whistle racism of blaming this event (well, every negative news event for the last decade) on a poorly defined religious/cultural stereotype is equally trite. Unfortunately, those are also useful distractions for the media in an overhyped election year. However, at its core, this was an attack on gay men for no other reason than their being openly gay. Whether you are in Orlando or New Westminster, this attack is meant to make you feel less safe simply because of who you are. That is why it is important that we don’t just celebrate, but announce acceptance; sometimes through small acts like a rainbow crosswalk or lighting up the Anvil Centre with rainbow lights, because we need to demonstrate that there is a community here who believe in this struggle, and are ready to support that struggle, hoping we can make our world more just for our friends, and for ourselves.
So you want to do something local to help with the celebration, and the struggle?