A GoFundMe campaign to build a learning centre for BIPOC and 2SLGBTQ community raises thousands

·3 min read

A GoFundMe campaign to build a safe retreat space for the BIPOC and 2SLGBTQ community on the South Shore has raised over $6,000 in four days. The goal is $20,000.

As of Feb. 4, the crowdfunding campaign Help Us Fund A Safe BIPOC & 2SLGBTQ Retreat Space, had raised $6,675 --- four days after Shekara Grant and Giovanni Johnson set up the post on behalf of Jessika Hepburn, a long-time community advocate in Mahone Bay.

“The idea was to create a space where we could come and fill up on each other and have a community that has security, then go back to the work that we're doing in our communities,” said Hepburn.

The idea started when Hepburn and her co-workers were searching for a place to host a retreat specifically for Black, Indigenous and people of colour after the horrific noose-incident at Hutt Lake, Chester.

“I was looking to rent a space that we could host a retreat specifically for Black, Indigenous and people of colour, who were so exhausted, and just needed a safe place to be together, and I couldn't find a single rental in our area,” she said.

Hepburn reached out to a number of owners on the South Shore and expressed her concerns for the safety of the large group of Black people she was planning to bring in.

“It's actually it's very scary to book a property in the country and to go there with no knowledge that you're going to be safe. If the neighbours see you at the beach, they're not going to call the police.”

“We figured this would be the perfect opportunity to try out crowdfunding and just let the community be able to support this,” said Grant.

Change is Brewing Collective shared the GoFundMe campaign on Instagram, which immediately drew attention from the community. Antoni Porowski, a Polish-Canadian food and wine expert from the Netflix series, Queer Eye, donated and shared on his Instagram story.

Her inquiry was met with brushoffs.

“I wrote with an inquiry that was responded with a lot of I don't know why it would possibly be a problem and I don't think we need to make any changes or we have no availability for you,” said Hepburn.

The lack of understanding among the property owners prompted Jessika Hepburn to take action.

Without government funding or community investment at the time, Hepburn sold her own house and purchased a beautiful property in Birchtown that includes about three hectares of forest, waterfront, and trails.

Grant then created a fundraiser but the campaign wasn’t receiving a lot of attention until Shekera Grant, a member of the Change is Brewing Collective, got involved.

“We were shocked. We have a group chat and all of us were obsessively checking (the GoFundMe page). We couldn't believe how quickly the community was showing up for us,” said Grant.

The centre will host retreats and learning opportunities such as historical research, workshops, events, classes, annual member gatherings and camping led by and for BIPOC communities and 2SLGBTQ+ community.

Lu Xu, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle Herald