Ashcroft’s rainbow crosswalk has a new lease on life, thanks to a group of volunteers who took to the street and braved the heat on Aug. 16 in order to repaint it.
The rainbow crosswalk was installed on Railway Avenue at 4th Street in July 2018, but the company that painted it put the stripes the wrong way and used the wrong colours. The Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) group at Desert Sands Community School had expressed an interest in repainting it after it started to fade, but the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the project.
Enter Kai Quesnel, who founded the Ashcroft/Cache Creek Pride group and Facebook page at the end of June this year. She says the group was formed in part to help support the SOGI group at Desert Sands, who had been requesting things for a while.
“I thought it would be nice to have some adults in town to support them and back them up, and spread some education,” she says. “I attended an event in Orlando, Florida and was inspired by the way everyone worked together.
“I looked at the community, which needs tourism. By creating these events we’ll bring people in, give them a place to visit and things to attend, and bring out some community pride.”
She says they wanted to paint the crosswalk using the inclusive flag, and try to time it before school was out this summer, but it didn’t pan out. However, she liaised with SOGI and with the village and public works, and on Aug. 16 a number of volunteers from across the community gathered to repaint the crosswalk, this time using the right colours and extending the lines from one side of the road to the other.
“I wanted to show SOGI we’re here to support them,” says Quesnel. “It was their want and their idea, so we assisted with the push and volunteers and effort to get it done. This one is nice and bright. It represents inclusiveness, represents everybody.”
One of the members of the Pride group committee is Const. Richard Wright of the Ashcroft RCMP. The detachment has just started the Safe Place program, which allows local businesses and spaces to display a sticker showing they are a safe place for everyone.
“From what I gather, the program states that everyone is welcome and safe here,” says Quesnel. “It’s like a neighbourhood watch. People know they can come to a place and people will help them. That makes a big difference for the LGBTQIA community, because there’s lots of misunderstanding about who and what we are. It gives our youth and community members a place where they can be safe, where everyone is equal and welcome. Some places can be dangerous for our youth.”
Quesnel knows that not everyone is sympathetic.
“Everyone has a right to their opinions and beliefs. We’re very open on accepting people for who they are and what they believe. We can agree to disagree, but we need to be kind. It’s about our youth and them feeling safe and comfortable. Our community has been fighting for acceptance for a long time.
“I think a lot of people, with the first rainbow crosswalk, just thought ‘Oh cool, we got some colour.’ Since SOGI and the Pride committee stepped into the public light and started educating we’ve had some comments and some push-back, and I don’t think they understand what we went through.
“Some people are angry because it doesn’t fit in their belief system, and I understand that, but it won’t deter us. Our youth need to be safe and feel comfortable and heard, so we’ll keep spreading the love and standing up for our kids.”
Quesnel says that since posting about the crosswalk on her social media platforms she’s had thousands of views and a “ton” of comments from people who want to come and see Ashcroft, or see if they can do a crosswalk in their community.
“Some little towns don’t have the same progress as bigger places, so for Ashcroft and Lillooet to have these crosswalks is huge. It builds community and inspires people, and people driving through who are members will feel this is home, this is safe.
“Other people’s choices are not about you,” she adds. “It’s about letting them be and celebrating them. We’re about love and life and support. If God created something so beautiful to show in our sky when we have rain and sun, good and bad, why would we not want to bring that down to share with our community?”
While most people who saw the volunteers at work were supportive, and there was a lot more positive than negative, Quesnel says one person was visibly upset by what they were doing.
“I said to him we are all on the same mission, doing what we think is best to support youth so they’re not hurt. His religion is a way to protect children, and we are there to protect them as well. In the end we all have the same goal, so don’t use your beliefs or choices to invalidate or hurt others. If people choose differently to you, they’re not worse than you or not valid.
“As long as you’re happy, healthy, and safe it’s no one’s business what you’re doing. We can all live for ourselves amongst each other.”