B.C. family targeted in racist attack commissions mural promoting diversity and inclusion

·2 min read
The new mural in Summerland features faces representing the diverse backgrounds of people living in the community. (Submitted by Dylan Ranney - image credit)
The new mural in Summerland features faces representing the diverse backgrounds of people living in the community. (Submitted by Dylan Ranney - image credit)

A Summerland, B.C., family has taken a traumatic experience and turned it into something beautiful the whole community can enjoy.

A 30-metre wide, six-metre tall mural promoting diversity and inclusion was commissioned by the Lekhi family following a racist attack on their home last summer.

In July 2020 racist and vulgar graffiti was sprayed on the outside of the home in which they have lived for about 35 years. Windows were smashed, too.

Similar graffiti was discovered in the bandshell at Summerland's Memorial Park.

"It was obviously very disheartening and sad," Shivali Lekhi told CBC's Daybreak South host Chris Walker.

"It's still something that I think our family is trying to process."

Brady Strachan / CBC
Brady Strachan / CBC

The community acted swiftly to helped with repairs and cleanup and to offer support to the family. It meant the world to them, Lekhi said.

"There were so many individuals that came up our driveway to tell us, hey, this isn't a representation of what Summerland is, you are loved, you are wanted in this community," Lekhi said.

Several neighbours offered monetary support for the family, so the Lekhis set up an online fundraising campaign to put toward the installation of a mural for the community — one that would serve as a symbol of unity and reflect the diversity and positive nature of Summerland.

Through the campaign and other offline donations, they raised $20,000.

The Lekhis partnered with the local school district, arts council and immigration society to sort out details, and they put out a call for artists in June 2021. Dylan and Liz Ranney, a husband-and-wife duo from Kelowna, B.C., were selected to design and paint the piece.

The mural, painted in bold colours on the outside of Summerland Middle School, features seven portraits that represent an array of ethnicity and gender.

"It's a huge honour," Dylan Ranny said. "We feel just incredibly humbled to have been chosen and to get to work with the Lekhis."

Submitted by Dylan Ranney
Submitted by Dylan Ranney

Over the time they've been working on the mural, Ranney said people in the community have come to check things out and express their gratitude for the piece.

"I think it really has deeply affected the community here," Ranney said.

"It's such a tight community, and what I've learned and observed is that the Lekhis are a huge part of that community, are a very prominent family in the community and very loved by everyone."

The completed mural is scheduled to be unveiled Sunday, Sept. 5.

The Lekhis hope that anyone who sees the mural sees themselves represented.

"Every time our family drives by ... it's to know that it doesn't matter what happened, this is something beautiful that came out of it," Lekhi said.

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