About a dozen people took to the podium at the annual Hate to Hope diversity walk and rally in Edmonton on Saturday night, as they work to end hatred by celebrating diversity, social justice and inclusivity.
“With the surge in hate threatening immigrants, women, LGBTQ people, First Nations, homeless and other marginalized groups, participation in our community rally for diversity and social justice has never been more important,” read a post on the event’s Facebook page.
The annual event took place at the Alberta Legislature this year, with about 200 people in attendance.
Chevi Rabbitt started the march in 2012, after she was attacked on the University of Alberta campus.
“I was assaulted for being different, for wearing makeup, being — at the time — an effeminate gay man,” Rabbitt told Global News earlier this month.
What started as a gathering and walk has grown over the years to now offer support to local charities.
“Initially, it was an awareness campaign; just something to create some awareness on social issues, social justice issues,” Rabbitt said. “I realized I needed to step it up and do something more, I can help more. So I started choosing charities.
“Hopefully by next year, it’ll be a non-profit and I’ll be creating my own programs and services.”
In previous years, Rabbitt has partnered with the Pride Centre of Edmonton and the Trans Equality Society of Alberta (TESA). This year, the walk will raise funds for The Mustard Seed, which provides services and support to those experiencing poverty and homelessness in Alberta.
“A lot of the people who were coming to Hate to Hope suffered from some kind of poverty issue,” Rabbitt said.
A text-to-donate line was set up to raise money for The Mustard Seed’s Mosaic Centre, to provide shelter and programs for some of the city’s most vulnerable. People who wish to donate $10 to The Mustard Seed can also do so by texting HOPE to 30333 by Aug. 31.
“They feel lots of discrimination. They feel like they’re on the outside, they don’t feel like they’re included,” explained The Mustard Seed’s managing director, Dean Kurpjuweit.
“A lot of times hate is just what is assumed about them. That they’re people who have nothing to offer, when really they’re people who’ve got talents, they’ve got gifts, they’ve got skills, they’ve got incredible stories.”
Dave Martyshuk, also with The Mustard Seed, said social housing is a huge issue in Edmonton.
“We’ve got a shortage of housing, we’ve got a shortage of supports for a lot of tenants. A lot of our tenants come with mental health addictions issues and they’re lacking life skills and experience,” he said, adding the rally is an excellent forum to raise awareness.
Watch below: A preview of the annual Hate to Hope rally, being held Saturday night in Edmonton.
Although Hate to Hope wasn’t planned as a response to intolerance in the United States, supporters said it came at a critical time.
“I think when there’s a rise in hate crimes and hate speech in the States, it definitely floods over the border,” explained Kayla Penner.
Joseph Loko agreed and said Hate to Hope is a perfect response to the intolerance that was highlighted in Charlottesville.
“It’s an outrage that we’ve come so far in humanity but there’s still so many people that fall victim to hate crimes and discrimination, despite being in a world that has a charter of rights and freedoms.”
Rabbitt was hopeful the event made its point loud and clear.
“More than ever, people need to come down and show that Alberta doesn’t tolerate hate and that Edmonton doesn’t tolerate hate, because we want to set an example for future generations.”
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