The Williams Lake Pride Society held the city’s rainbow crosswalks official opening ceremony Saturday.
Pushed back due to smoke from the wildfires several times, the event brought together society members, the LGBTQ+ community and supporters from the wider community to celebrate this important step forward. Consisting of a prayer blessing the crosswalk led by Shuswap elder Mary Thomas and a ribbon cutting ceremony, the event was blessed by a clear sunny day and minimal traffic through the crosswalk.
The society will be celebrating its one year anniversary this November and its founder, Willa Julius, came up from her nursing practice in Penticton to attend the crosswalks opening.
Julius had been attending school in Kamloops and had noticed various LGBTQ+ groups within it, yet there were none in Williams Lake
“So I thought to myself ‘why not?’ I learned how to run communities like Pride Committees in Kamloops and I just started the group (here) as a Facebook page,” Julius said. “I never imagined it would become so supported here.”
The overall response has remained positive, according to Julius, and said they have received tremendous support from the LGBTQ+ and the wider community.
“We’ve come a long way, the crosswalk means, to me, that Williams Lake is an inclusive accepting community and that a lot of people want to see a positive change towards the support of the LGBTQ+ community. It really makes me quite happy,” Julius said.
To her, the crosswalk demonstrates, even to people just passing briefly through the community, that lakecity is accepting of all people and that people within it can express their gender identities or sexual preferences freely. She would love to see an actual parade or day of celebration within the city in the future.
“I’m so proud of all the work the committee has done, I couldn’t have done this without them or the support of the community, they contributed so much to this crosswalk and this project. It just warms my heart to see all the support we’ve had,” Julius concluded.
Coun. Scott Nelson was on hand to represent the city and thanked the society for their contributions to their community. According to him, they’ve helped push the city forward in the right direction socially and congratulated them for installing the crosswalk.
Chastity-Blu Wright, a local human services student at TRU, has assumed the presidency of the Williams Lake Pride Society since summer and joined shortly after Julius founded it. Wright had been told prior to moving to the city to hide who she was but said she feels that everyone has the right to be themselves and be true to who they are.
“It’s been quite the journey. We have an amazing team right now, we have made plans and now we have Pride in the Puddle coming, a Gayla is coming, we’re doing a presentation in the school this weekend on the 19th,” Wright said.
“We have quite a few things planned and hope that we continue to grow.”