About 200 people turned out for a Black Lives Matter picnic in Chester, N.S., on Sunday afternoon at the same beach where an interracial family say they were threatened with a noose earlier this month.
Greg Dean and Cyndi Rafuse were swimming with their kids and relatives at Hutt Lake on Aug. 15 when they say two white teens drove up and dangled a noose at them.
Dean and his nine-year-old son were the only people of colour at the beach at the time.
Peter Fisk and Lauryn Guest, two young people on Nova Scotia's South Shore, wanted to organize Sunday's event to support the family and other people of colour who live in the area.
"I've heard white people talk about how there isn't a beautiful community of Black and Indigenous people here, but there is and we need to support them," Guest said. "It's important to gather like this so that we know we're not alone."
Fisk said they're "very happy" with the large turnout and the diversity of those attending. "It's just a really nice thing to see that we can all come together as a community," he said.
He said he hopes it sends the message that hatred will not be accepted in their communities, and they'll always find a way to turn it into something positive.
Rebecca Fisk, Peter Fisk's mother, said she's "incredibly proud" of her son for taking the initiative to plan the picnic.
She said she thinks the lack of diversity in rural areas makes people uncomfortable when they're introduced to anything "new or different."
"But we do have to deal with it, it's not talked about ... it's ignored in schools for the most part, it's 'boys will be boys,' it's not right," she said.
Jane Earle came to the picnic from Upper Tantallon just a few exits away. She said she comes from a biracial family and wanted to show her support for Dean and Rafuse.
"I don't think that the majority of us realize the trauma that happens when a child is faced with that kind of thing, and it doesn't go away quickly. It lasts for a long time," she said.
Tyler Seward and his fiancée, Breea Bishop, work in the area and recently bought a house in Bridgewater. He said it's a "very predominantly white" community and it's not uncommon to hear "gross" comments in shops, restaurants and at work.
"Eyes need to be open and hearts need to be open to understand that there's no room for this bigotry and racism to go on any longer," he said.
Dean said he wasn't too sure how he felt when he first pulled up to the beach, considering his experience the last time he was there, but he was reassured when he saw how many people were there to show their support.
"I can't help but be happy that people are standing up and saying that they don't want this to happen in their neighbourhood," he said.
As a Black man growing up in Nova Scotia, Dean said he's experienced overt racism many times before, but what happened with the noose "takes the cake."
Dean said he often sees people commenting on social media they don't think racism is an issue in their communities.
"But this is happening. This is 2020 and it's still happening," he said. "And the stuff that's happening is not acceptable."
Fisk and Guest said they hope to plan more events like this and develop programs for youth in their communities.
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.
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