Sunday, July 05, 2015

Walking the Path of PRIDE

Pride Crosswalk
Photo by Gillian Cornwall, c. July 2015

Hurt breeds fear. Fear breeds anger. Anger breeds hate; however, love, unconditional love given with a good heart, without any expectation of return, that love exists and cannot be taken.

If you had the chance to read my post, titled: The Life Compassionate from Sunday, May 31, then you may remember the lessons in remaining compassionate in the face of disappointment or hurt. I believe that these lessons come up for us at times when we either need them for ourselves or we need to teach them to someone else ...sometimes both.

I spoke at an event this week. Some of you are already aware of it but, for the rest of you, it was the official opening of a PRIDE crosswalk at my workplace. It may not sound like much, but it took 11 months of collaboration and work to achieve the installation of this iconic symbol of PRIDE. Most people in attendance believed this celebration of accomplishments to be a good thing and some did not. Some people were hurt and angry because there is still more to do and they felt the crosswalk misrepresented where we are on that path of equity and inclusion. All voices were heard and the crosswalk was opened. For me, it was a celebration of what has been accomplished and it shows a willingness to participate in changes to come.

I have worked at this place for 20 years and participated, as an individual and multiple committee member to affect change, to make my community more equitable and diverse through advocacy. Notice that I say making, for the work is not done - likely the work will never be finished. There have been an enormous number of people who are change-makers participating in the process, some as individuals who stand up to be seen and participate in change by being themselves, despite knowing the risk of what should be a right for all, and those that have worked actively to bring about policy change ...and those who do both. Some have been at it for much longer than I. I am grateful to every one of them for their bravery and commitment. This crosswalk is a way to acknowledge the proud past and the work of these people and it is an acknowledgement that there is always more work ahead.

Past. Present. Future. Work done. Work being done. Work to be done. I am grateful to be a part of the process, despite the hate, anger and fear I have encountered, and can still encounter along the way. Celebrations of the work done are necessary and drive us forward, particularly for those of us who have dedicated our lives to make it better for those who follow.

Here is my speech from the official opening of the crosswalk, minus the section where I offered my thanks to some folks - I did not have a chance to ask to use their names here. Like every single person walking the face of the earth, people want to know: "Do you see me? Do you hear me? Does what I say means anything to you" ~Oprah Winfrey I hope my words will mean something to you:

"I speak, with gratitude for the strength, bravery and knowledge of the elders and all of the people of this land. I recognize I am not of this place and that I am standing, speaking my truth, on the traditional lands of the Lekwungen-speaking peoples. Thank you.

Rainbows are a reflection of sunlight through raindrops. When white light enters a raindrop, the different wavelength colours bend at slightly different angles.(1) So we each find our path when a light is held up for us in dark or difficult times. We are enabled to walk our unique paths, following our hearts and minds on our voyages of personal discovery. 

The PRIDE crosswalk is complete. The lines are painted and they stretch from one side to the other, representing this path we walk. They represent the original PRIDE flag, designed by Gilbert Baker in San Francisco in 1978. The pink (stripe) hearkens back to the pink triangles forced upon homosexuals, rapists and paedophiles, by Nazis, when they were sent to concentration camps during World War Two, but was added by Baker to represent sexuality. Please take time to investigate the history of this iconic symbol of PRIDE. 

The weight of oppression may grow heavy at times, but lay your burden down here for it was never your fear, nor your shame, to carry. Story by story, you will be heard and acknowledged and we will heal together. 

On this, our path of PRIDE, I see opportunity for acknowledgement, recognition and healing so we can go forward together, in wellness, with good hearts. This path represents our journey as a community. We are many beautiful, different threads and, woven together, we can make a strong cloth.

Take time to listen to our change-makers; do not see them as troublemakers if their stories discomfort you. Be brave. Ask questions.

Listening may be one of the greatest acts of healing you will ever perform. Each time you cross here, remember those who have worked for equity, diversity and inclusion and that our work continues until everyone is walking this as a path of love rather than a path of fear. 

In closing, I ask you for 3 things:
  • Remember
  • Be present
  • Aspire
Our best bet has always been to start, stay and finish with kindness.

Thank you."

I wish everyone around the world a Happy Pride. For those still struggling for your basic freedoms and rights, I do see you; I hear you and what you say means something to me. We will keep working, for we do not truly have freedom until we are all free. With love and a kind heart, I wish you each peace and safety on your path and may we continue to hold lanterns up for one another in our times of darkness. Look for moments of peace and joy and embed them in your very cellular structure and in your soul to keep you going through times of drought - the rains will come again and so will the sunshine and, with them, rainbows. 

-Gillian Cornwall, c. July 5, 2015

Victoria Pride Pin - "We Are Family"
Photo by Gillian Cornwall, c. July 2014

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