Heather Gordon Murphy and Aubrey Burke string together the grid that will be used to hang the “shoes” participants will bring to (or create at) this years’ Walk Away From Racism.

Walking away from racism – towards something else

This year marks the 20th anniversary of an important tradition here in Campbell River.

Walk Away from Racism 2016 will take place March 19, and event organizer, Heather Gordon Murphy, says things will be working a bit differently this year.

The Immigrant Welcome Centre, who has been putting on the event for the past 20 years in partnership with the City of Campbell River and other community groups, asked Gordon Murphy to be a part of this year’s free, family event, and she was more than happy to jump on board.

“I’ve lived here for 50-something years, my family lives here, my kids all live here, my granddaughters live here, my parents still live here … this community is huge for me, and community in general is huge for me. I think, in what’s becoming an ever more challenging world, that’s what’s going to be our salvation.”

And community, she says, requires inclusion.

“For me, inclusivity is about gathering people together, and that’s who I am and what I represent. A big part of what I’ve done as a teacher, and as a performer, and as part of the various groups that I’ve been a part of over the years, is creating something where people feel comfortable about gathering together, no matter who they are, or where they come from, or what their background is.

“The bottom line is that we’re all people.”

Jim Brennan, executive director of the Immigrant Welcome Centre, says he’s also happy the event will be a, “look forward,” rather than dwelling on the past – though acknowledgement of the past is important, as well.

“The walk is about drawing attention to our past – it’s about acknowledging some of the things that are in our history, which have created our present, but will also move us forward into the future – and hopefully by doing so, you change attitudes, which then hopefully changes behaviours.”

The event next weekend is, more than anything else, about connection. It’s about inclusion.

So at this year’s walk, another way to help people feel more included will be that those attending will not only be walking to show their support for the cause, but also taking part in creating the Walking Together Tapestry.

Gordon Murphy is asking people to create a representation of footwear, and bring it with them to the event.

“It could be a shoe that you decorate. It could be a shoe that you knit. It could be a shoe that belonged to you as a child. It could be a shoe made out of a loaf of bread,” she laughs.

For those who don’t make one in advance, there will be stations set up where they can actually create one at the event itself. The shoes will then be hung on a large fabric grid with the help of artists John Bailey and Aubrey Burke.

The shoes and fabric grid will then become a temporary art installation at the event itself, which Gordon Murphy hopes will then be installed at different locations around town in the future.

The keynote speaker for the event is Sliammon Elder and author Elsie Paul of Powell River, Mayor Andy Adams will read a city proclamation, local band Inclusion will play a selection of songs – “as they have done for as far back as anyone can remember,” Gordon Murphy says – and there will be various interactive cultural booths, participatory art projects and entertainment throughout the Community Centre.

Brennan says it’s important for the event to have that kind of support from many levels of government, First Nations and community organizations.

“It has to be a systemic change for it to be a sustainable long-term change, and that’s how it will happen – by bringing that many levels of people together who will say, ‘This matters.’”

The event runs from 10:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., with the walk itself beginning at noon.

“We’re hoping that people come out and meet some friends they haven’t met yet. It’s a fun, great event,” Brennan says.

For more information, contact Gordon Murphy by email at heather@coremoves.ca or the Immigrant Welcome Centre at 250-830-0171.