Naramata meeting takes aim at racism

Incident of racist graffiti last summer prompts conversation for community

Out of disgust for an incident of racist graffiti defacing the Village of Naramata last summer, residents gathered for a conversation on anti-racism last week.

The incident, which several young women were arrested for, took place last July where purple spray paint covered buildings, road signs and a resident’s vehicle with various degrading messages. It spurred the action of the South Okanagan Immigrant and Community Services Society to collaborate with the Centre at Naramata to hold the community discussion to understand how discrimination plays a role in everyone’s lives.

Jim Simpson, marketing director at the Centre at Naramata, said they also received an update on the restorative justice process that took place with the offenders.

He said they were informed there was conversations with two out of the three involved in the spray painting incident with the Centre and Naramata school principal. Simpson said the impact of the racist graffiti was understood by the offenders.

About 30 people attended the community discussion last week to learn about the services available for immigrants and the power of the restorative justice circle for providing an opportunity to learn, to heal and to transform relationships.

“It was a really good conversation about the role of race in society in general and how to create a safe and welcoming community and what it means to promote anti-racism in our workplaces and communities,” said Simpson.

Representatives of the Harambee Cultural Society joined the conversation, as they have held their annual summer camp at the Centre for the last decade. The vision of the Harambee is to provide a safe, secure environment to create lifelong connections for children of African heritage in transracial families.

The Centre, the Naramata community and Harambee are committed to building a strong relationship where all are welcome and to ensure  that a safe place exists for everyone, said Simpson. He added that engaging in conversation with someone you don’t know is the first step in removing barriers and increasing understanding.

“We are really happy with the discussion and grateful for those who engaged in the conversation. We encouraged people to continue these community conversations in the future on a variety of topics,” said Simpson.