Students paint P.A.’s first rainbow crosswalk for Pride month

Carlton students paint a crosswalk in the Pride colours on June 5, 2018. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

Drivers and pedestrians frequenting the area between Carlton Comprehensive High School and Carlton Court Plaza will notice a colourful difference this month.

Students from the school’s Queers and Allies (Q&A) group received the go-ahead earlier this year to paint the crosswalk in Pride colours.

The school provided the materials and the labour. The city just helped with traffic control.

The project was inspired by last year’s visual promotion of Pride Month, where the pride and trans colours were displayed on doors as people entered the school.

They were put up to recognize that it is an important month, and that diversity and inclusivity exists within the school and the community, said Adrienne Schenk, a Carlton teacher and the club’s supervisor.

“We had a positive response. My principal suggested we go bigger next year,” Schenk said.

“She suggested we paint the crosswalk. We ended up getting permission to do so, and here we are today.”

The proposal came up at a May 28 council meeting. It received a lot of support, but Mayor Greg Dionne voiced concerns about safety issues, such as crosswalk visibility. Ultimately, the motion passed.

Already. Schenk said, the project has generated a lot of interest.

“It’s super important and it’s super informative,” she said.

“It was creating great conversation as we were out there this morning. Kids were asking what it was for, and not just asking me but asking their peers as well, so some of our students were able to explain to their peers what’s going on. We have a lot of schools coming to track from elementary schools walking by and wondering what’s going on. So to see us literally putting a mark, a positive mark on our community, I think was really cool. The kids are feeling pretty pumped about it.”

One of the students involved in the project is Ailah Carpenter, She joined the Q&A club last year, when it formed, and remains a member this year. She was happy city council accepted their proposal to paint the Pride flag in the crosswalk.

“I was more than pleased. There have been bad experiences off and on throughout the city,” Carpenter said.

“I know (Mayor Dionne) didn’t agree with us completely, but at least we got to do this for the sake of everyone else who believes it matters, because it’s harmless and it means something.”

The crosswalk that was painted does have an overhead light indicating it is a crosswalk. The students also painted the red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violent rainbow colours between the crosswalk’s existing white bars, so as to not diminish the crosswalk’s visibility.

Students and teachers on site said the response to the project has been positive so far, a good sign, as a similar project in Saskatoon was vandalized last year.

The crosswalk project is only one event planned by the group this year. They will be marching in Saturday’s pride parade, and have other events planned throughout the month.

But this week, the focus is on the crosswalk. Staff and students agreed the project sends a strong message to students at Carlton.

“I believe that bringing visibility whether or not you are out is not only inclusive, it’s a reminder that there re people out there who think the same, who feel the same about just wanting to be yourself,” Carpenter said.

Schenk was proud of the students.

“To show our kids, some are allies, some identify as a member of the queer community, to see them out there saying ‘hey, this is us, take it or leave it, love us or not, we’re ok with it, we’re comfortable in our own skin,’ is huge,” she said.

“I hope that message is sent to our students who, for whatever reason, aren’t at a place yet where they feel safe enough or comfortable enough to do so, that they still see that we accept them and love them for who they are.”