After heated back and forths on local social media, Brad Gallamore hosted the first Vermilion Unites For Equality rally in an attempt to combat racism on June 18.
Roughly 20 people gathered for a round table discussion at the pollinator gardens along 50th Avenue, hearing speakers share their experiences and discussing what could be done to make any potential improvements.
“By bringing negative situations to light, we can find the light and we can make Vermilion a better place by moving forward. I am not calling out people or the town as racist, but it will be nice to make people aware of what happens to others in our community and bring about change,” said Gallamore to the crowd, who denied a request for a formal interview.
Originally planned as a Black Lives Matter rally, it was expanded to discuss larger issues like race, religion, and sexual orientation as common ways of being ostracized or marginalized.
Members of the audience also had an opportunity to speak as a way of showing their support and to introduce additional viewpoints.
“It can be overwhelming to think about how you can get involved in making it a better world, but you can start by examining how you see yourself and others. Change starts within. It’s not something you have to tackle for the rest of the world,” said audience member, Greg Barr.
Although everyone did not express the same sentiments or approach, they were all respectful of one another.
“We have many nations represented in Vermilion,” said Kevin John, audience member and resident of the town.
“Racism is far more pervasive here than people want to acknowledge. It happens every day. The viewpoint of self-superiority has to stop. No one is disposable. The schools are doing a good job of educating but it is up to us to talk to our peers and our family who may still reflect criticism towards people of colour. Set boundaries and explore different ways of having those tough discussions. Examine the history you can share with them.”
Audience member, Philips Sudena Bangun, is originally from Indonesia where he has seen a lot of turmoil, but has been in Canada for the past 25 years and has found it one of the best places to be.
“It is very backward to think about colour. A human being cannot choose their colour. I’ve been shocked by seeing what is happening in the United States. It makes me wonder what is going to happen to me tomorrow (not so much here) as tomorrow. I recommend for anyone to speak out if they need to,” said Bangun.
They plan to continue hosting new speakers each Thursday evening next to the pollinator gardens (54 Street and 50 Avenue) beginning at 6:00pm.
Vermilion CAO George Rogers said the Town has no formal position on these issues.