Naramata festival marred by racist graffiti

Police recommending charges against four females in connection with damage caused during Harambee Summer Festival

Residents in Naramata and a group of 300 visitors were saddened and disgusted to find the village painted by racist graffiti last week.

“Sometime overnight on July 8, someone took a can of purple spray paint and covered the side of a building at the Naramata Centre, several road signs and even an innocent victim’s own private vehicle with various very degrading messages and racial words,” said Cpl. Martin Trudeau.

RCMP followed up on a lead, which Trudeau said led to the name of an adult female suspect from out of town who had been visiting friends in Naramata that weekend. The female suspect also had outstanding warrants for her arrest. Trudeau said the woman was located and arrested. The investigation also led to the identification of three other female suspects — local teenagers living in or around Naramata. RCMP said their investigation is continuing and charges for mischief under $5,000 will be recommending against all four suspects.

The incident was a tough blow to a group of families at the Harambee Summer Festival that have gathered each summer in Naramata for the past 10 years. The festival was created to provide intensive support to families raising children of African heritage.

“We are especially saddened to realize that it is likely our recent presence at the (Naramata) centre that brought this act of racism and vandalism upon them,” said Pam Paterson, president of the Harambee Cultural Society.

The society said the incident has not left them with a negative light of Naramata and they plan on returning next year.

“These recent acts of a few young people are not representative of our general experience in the community of Naramata, but they are representative of what many children of colour face on a daily basis. It is our position that racism in all forms, including overt acts of vandalism such as what occurred in Naramata, are vile and reprehensible to most in Canadian society today,” said Paterson.

Visitors to the Harambee Summer Festival came from the U.S., Ontario, Alberta and B.C. and put on performances of music and dance at the Naramata Community market during their stay.

“We look forward to returning to Naramata and celebrating the unity of people and families. We will not ever allow hate to win,” said Paterson.