Sylvan Lake sisters Herliné and Olivia Taylor are hoping to effect change in their community by organizing a peaceful walk through downtown.
The young sisters say the march or peaceful protest is to bring awareness to members of the community, and to help start a conversation about racism.
Olivia, a grade 10 students at Ecole HJ Cody High School, says the hope is to have the community come together an stand against racism.
“Racism is more than black and white… I have a friend who is Muslim and has experienced racism,” Olivia said. “This march is a peaceful walk standing against racism in our community.”
Herliné, a nursing student, says it feels like people have forgotten what it means to be an inclusive and diverse community.
Her hope for the march, which goes from the Municipal Government Building down the lakeshore and back, is to have people in Sylvan Lake think about their actions and words towards other people.
“I want to challenge Sylvan Lake as a whole to stand against racism,” Herliné said.
The two say Sylvan Lake, while predominately a Caucasian community has many different ethnicities and cultures living and visiting here.
“I want to see Sylvan Lake become a community that openly accepts diversity,” said Herliné. “We’d like to see Sylvan Lake take a stand against racism as a whole.
The sisters say everyone can do better when it comes to racism, whether that is standing up against it or thinking about whether or not something you say could hurt another.
Olivia says she has encountered racism in her life in small ways. Her peers may say a joke or comment on something like another’s hair or the way they dress.
“I don’t think they always known or think it is racist what they are saying, and I’ve learned not to say anything so people don’t think I’m [easily upset]. That is something I can be better about, standing up and asking people to stop,” said Olivia.
Part of the planning for the peaceful march was to get the Town on board, which included emails and calls with Mayor Sean McIntyre.
The Town itself cannot hold an anti racism rally, but the Mayor was very supportive of Herliné and Olivia’s plan, they said.
Next they called the local RCMP depot for their support.
“I want everyone to know this is not an anti-police or a police brutality protest. The RCMP are there to help and protect us, and the officers here in Sylvan Lake have done a very good job of that,” said Herliné.
Sylvan Lake RCMP members will be present at the march to help keep the peace, in the unlikely event things get out of hand.
The event, held on June 26, will start at 4 p.m. with a few words from the sisters and a prayer. Following that there will be a short walk, estimated at 20 minutes, before dispersing.
“We hope everyone can come, but we understand if you wish to stay home because of COVID and everything… If you are planning to stay away for another reason, I just wish for you to ask yourself why, and to have an open mind,” Herliné said.
“God created us all equal, and we all bleed red, everything else is just superficial,” Olivia said.