And the sign said: “Hate Has No Home Here.”
The simple message is at the heart of a new public awareness campaign aimed at combatting divisiveness and inequality in Chatham-Kent.
The brainchild of Rick Gardiner and Christy Obalek of Planet Print in Chatham, the colourful sign features five flags held by five hands in five different skin tones.
Included in the bright sign is the orange Every Child Matters flag, representing Canadian children who perished in residential schools; the yellow Black Lives Matter flag; a blue flag representing the rights of the disabled; another multi-hued flag showcasing the rights of the LGBTQ community; and a white one highlighting religious freedoms.
Considering the troubles wrought by COVID-19, the couple thought the time was right for the message.
“It’s been a really tough 18 months for everybody dealing with the pandemic,” Gardiner said in a recent interview. “We’re hearing about hateful things and it’s awful.
“People need to put their cameras away and stop shaming people.”
Obalek, who designed the vibrant sign, said she’s personally aware of folks who don’t feel safe going into some local businesses.
Displaying the placard is a way to boost diversity and inclusion.
“Some people feel nervous, threatened and marginalized,” Obalek noted. “This is a priority really…we have a lot of ideas but this one was important.”
The two hope local businesses will join in.
“If businesses put this in their windows, they can show their support for equality,” Gardiner added.
The first customer to buy a sign was a young Indigenous man, Gardiner noted, adding the fellow told him he needed one.
When Gardiner asked the man if he thought there is hate in Chatham-Kent, he replied, “Oh yeah.”
Obalek points out that Caucasian people born with “white privilege” may not be aware of the impacts of racism and prejudice locally.
“We (as white people) are very fortunate,” she said.
The Chatham-Kent grassroots No Home for Hate campaign is patterned after similar awareness efforts in other parts of Ontario. Gardiner and Obalek got the idea when they visited Fergus recently and saw signs depicting the equality message.
Gardiner said the idea has been well received locally with many business owners and residents reaching out to purchase a sign for only $10.
“We knew we were on to something,” he said, but notes it’s a break-even venture with the fee just covering the printing cost.
The United Way of Chatham-Kent may be partnering with Planet Print to distribute the signs throughout the municipality, however details have yet to be finalized.