It started with a party.
Mission’s Ken Herar was aiming to attend a party last year until he was told no Indo-Canadians could attend because “they cause too much trouble.”
The lifelong local community member was equally incensed and saddened, and set out to do something to change people’s attitudes towards others.
The second annual Cycling4Diversity (May 22-25) starts next Tuesday morning in Mission at Griner Park, and includes 40 stops at schools and community gathering places in nine cities, culminating in the final stop at the B.C. Legislature where the provincial government has announced Cycling for Diversity Week.
There are seven core riders who will do the entire journey, and a handful of others will join the ride in their respective cities and only do a leg.
Building bridges of dialogue, one city at a time, is this year’s theme, said Herar and Sarina Derksen-Di Martino, executive coordinator.
Talking to your neighbours or community members who are from a different ethnicity is the core of the ride’s message.
“We need to create more inter-cultural activities and make more friends,” said Herar.
Derksen-Di Martino was involved last year in organizing ride support and awareness, and came formally onboard after discussions with Herar.
She is passionate about the ride because of the increasing isolation she sees the region that follow racial lines. The more people who move to the district have naturally started to form links with others of a similar background.
“It’s a safety net, and we understand that. But we encourage people to break that [segregation] and approach others,” she said. “We’re not asking people to change their cultures, but just to get out and interact.”
“In 20 years we won’t be talking about diversity, but how to combat racism,” said Herar. Key to the attitude change is creating events with the youth, especially in sports. As well, getting seniors from all cultures to mingle would make a difference.
“I think any language barriers could be overcome,” said Herar. “Mission is a role model community. It’s small, and there’s lots of things to get involved in.”
The May 22 Mission kick off event at Griner Park on Cherry Avenue. A ceremonial tree re-planting, to replace the one planted last year that was vandalized, starts at 8 a.m.