KELOWNA, BC—Aiming to combat a “disturbing” rise in visible hate against the 2SLGBTQIA+ community in Kelowna and beyond, a local advocacy organization is spearheading a colourful initiative.
The Kelowna Billboard Project is a positive messaging campaign aimed at the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, via a series of billboards with art and uplifting messages.
While the project is a positive one, its motivation isn’t, says Wilbur Turner, chairperson of Advocacy Canada, the Kelowna-based organization spearheading the initiative.
“Just this year in Kelowna, numerous protests have been held outside of queer events, an anti-2SLGBTQIA+ billboard was put up, and hate-filled comments on any local news story involving the queer community number in the thousands. It’s disturbing,” said Turner.
“Many in our community struggle to be accepted for who they are. This increase in hate makes that struggle so much worse. That’s why we’re creating this campaign. To show those struggling they’re far from alone.”
For the billboard project, a focus group of diverse members from the local 2SLGBTQIA+ community is working to develop a theme and messaging. This will then be passed on to local Indigenous queer artist, Sarah Jones who has been commissioned to create the design for the billboards.
“I want to take part in this project to give back to the Syilx territory & community that has been my home for all of my 24 years. It burdens my heart to see hate existing in the Okanagan,” says artist Sarah Jones. She adds, “I feel it is my duty to use my art to provide healing and hope to anyone who drives by and sees it.”
“This is a full-community effort,” said Turner, adding that banding together is needed now more than ever.
“Drag spaces are under protest. Visible community leaders are being targeted online. There are efforts to roll back inclusion in our schools, and attacks on essential gender-affirming healthcare have become far too common,” said Turner.
The most recent statistics support what Turner has witnessed. The most recent statistics from Statistics Canada report a 64% year-over-year increase in police-reported hate crimes against the 2SLGBTQIA+ community.
In fundraising for the project, Advocacy Canada is giving businesses, organizations, and individuals an opportunity to help sponsor the campaign. A GoFundMe campaign has been set up for donations and interested sponsors may reach out to Advocacy Canada for a sponsorship package.
Turner says he hopes to get the billboards up in Kelowna and Lake Country during June, which is Pride Month.
More information on the billboard project can be found here.
About the Artist
@honeycubpokes is owned by Sarah Jones, an Ojibwe and Indigiqueer artist. born and raised in Syilx Territory, away from her Nation of Shoal Lake 40, Sarah created honeycub to soothe her soul. In her work, she is striving to reconnect with her lost culture and hopes to use her art as a tool to further explore Indigenous practices and methodologies. Using practices such as digital art, as well as traditional and mixed media art like watercolour, gouache, lino printing, and even tattooing, Sarah is working to create a successful brand that shares her vision, her ideas, her culture, and her passions with the rest of the world. Chi Miigwech