St. Stephen – A harmony of loud cheers and applause engulfed the David Alison Ganong Chocolate Park Monday afternoon.
The exuberance was in response to the news the estimated group of 150 + had been waiting for – St. Stephen would soon have its very first rainbow sidewalk.
In an emergency meeting Monday afternoon, St. Stephen Town Council voted 4-2 in favour of a request from Gay Straight Alliance students at St. Stephen Middle School for permission to paint a rainbow crosswalk on Marks Street near the school.
Councilors Marg Harding, Ken Parker, Ghislaine Wheaton, and David Hyslop voted in favour of the rainbow crosswalk, while Deputy Mayor Jason Carr and Coun. Phil Chisholm voted against.
The news was delivered to the crowd by Vern Faulkner, one of the organizers of the first-ever Pride Support walk.
The Pride walk, billed as a “polite, peaceful walk to demonstrate support for inclusion of LGBTQ people within the community” began in the parking lot of the former Price Chopper, where participants made their way down King Street to the Chocolate Park.
Those in attendance were dressed vibrantly – sporting the colours of the rainbow with face paint, flags, umbrellas, even suspenders, and also carried signs of love, support, and acceptance.
Prior to the walk, in the parking lot of the former Price Chopper, 11-year-old Jonas Bell, tongue squeezed between his lips, used a marker to colour a bright rainbow on a yellow piece of Bristol board.
Bell took a moment to look at his work, but decided it needed one final touch – in the space beside the rainbow.
Carefully, Bell completed his work with “Equality 4 All” in capital letters, while his mom, Tanya Hatt watched, with a hand over her heart.
“I hope [the Pride support walk] shows inclusivity and acceptance for all,” Hatt said as her son made the final touches to his poster. “And standing up for, advocating for, and supporting other people’s rights does not take away my own. One love.”
Hatt said she can still remember her son’s response when the controversy surrounding the rainbow crosswalk first began, late last week.
“I was rather shocked at the town’s response, especially the negativity that came with it, but I was very hopeful of my own son. Every child I’ve come in contact with actually can’t believe there’s the fuss about it, and [Bell’s] exact words were, ‘they’re actually grownups that are opposing kids doing a kind deed? That’s messed up mom’,” Hatt related. “That’s why we’re here.”
Cooper Barnard, a St. Stephen Middle School student, painted a canvas sign with rainbow colours and said it was important for him to attend St. Stephen’s first-ever Pride support walk.
“I wanted to come to support the rainbow crosswalk – it means people can have equal rights, and I support my mom.” Barnard added.
Following the walk, Rev. Lesley Hamilton of the Kirk McColl church, delivered a sermon to the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd about the importance of being a rainbow community.
“Rainbows is what we do. We wander the world looking for rainbows. Rainbows are signs of life for repressed peoples. When there is a rainbow about, my body relaxes.
“When there are rainbows about, I can breathe and rest. I know there are a few people around who get it,” Hamilton said.
“If I mess up and grab my spouse’s hand, or she says something hilarious and I jump up to kiss her cheek, will it be ok? And then I realize the sentence I just said was, ‘what if I mess up?’ And I have to school myself over and over again, I’m not messing up. Hate and ignorance is messing up.”
Hamilton spoke of an incident last summer – she and her spouse Joan were entering the Superstore to get groceries. Hamilton said a man, coming out of the main entrance, yelled ‘Sick! Sick! Sick!’
“With spit,” Hamilton added.
She said others heard and saw, but rushed away. Hamilton said she and her spouse attempted to recapture the task at hand – shopping, but could not.
“Whispers and stares follow us aisle to aisle through the Superstore,” Hamilton said, and urged the grocery store to “rainbow up.”
The Kirk McColl minister said she felt when there are rainbows in a community, “haters know there are a few people about, more likely than not, to step up instead of ducking their heads and hurrying away.”
“Any, all, a few, 100; any sentence attributed to Jesus Christ in the Bible will tell you that God doesn’t make no junk. And rainbows are how we find the people in our community who understand that. Rainbows are how we find the people in our community who understand that God doesn’t make no junk.”
Hamilton concluded her sermon by saying “Hate and ignorance and fear will be addressed in St. Stephen as it is being addressed all over the world.”
“We don’t get a free pass. And too, all over the world, through God’s covenantal promise with the people of Israel, the oppressed peoples of Israel, there will be rainbows, that’s it.”