A picnic filled with rainbows
By Angela Long
July 7, 2016
The day after Canada Day’s heavy rains, Minden is awash with rainbows. More than 50 people congregate on the lawns of the Wild Swan B&B for the first ever Pride Picnic.
As soon as Kerry Manthenga found out about the event, she wanted to come. Her husband and son wave rainbow flags on the porch of Wild Swan, laughing.
“It’s time for this community to recognize everyone should be valued just as they are,” she says. “Love is love is love is love.”
Manthenga quotes Lin-Manuel Miranda’s acceptance speech at the June 12 Tony Awards, the same day of the shootings that killed 49 at a gay nightclub in Orlando.
Today, the picnickers on Wild Swan’s lawns choose to love, to accept, to embrace diversity. They wear hot pink cowboy hats, rainbow-checked shirts, peace-sign pendants. Elton John plays in the background. Children dance in the sun-dappled garden.
“It’s wonderful what’s been happening,” says Minden Hills Councillor Pam Sayne. “There’s so much support.” Sayne looks toward the Gull River. “But we have to watch our safeguards here – we’re not immune.”
Sayne and her friend, who fears being named because of a former gay bashing, want to remind the community that the struggle for gay rights has been long, and still isn’t over.
They remember a time in high school when the phone rang and someone said, “I’m going to kill you.”
They remember when it was OK to beat up gays – while walking on the University of Toronto campus, for example, or when emerging from a gay bar.
“People waited to beat you up,” says Sayne’s friend.
They remember being kicked out of cabs when with their partners, watching loved ones die during the AIDS crisis, and facing discrimination.
“We lost our family, our social network, the ability to earn a living,” says Sayne. “This is recent history.”
Education is key, says Sayne. It’s important we don’t forget that a rainbow is much more than a pretty decoration.
But if there’s a place where people can feel free to fly the rainbow flag, it’s Minden.
“This is a community that supports diversity,” Sayne says.
Her friend agrees, feeling safer in this small town than a city where a Prime Minister just led the 2016 Pride Parade.
“I could never have imagined a place where I could walk down the street and be myself,” he says.