The raising of the Pride Flag signalled the beginning of Pride Week at Waterloo Collegiate Institute (WCI) on Monday, June 3, 2019. The 10°C weather didn’t cool the spirits of the Vikings who turned out en masse to witness the raising of the flag, don some rainbow facepaint or make a custom button.
The crowd gathered by the flag pole to hear from a Mairah, a student at WCI, before the flag was raised. “Thank you for coming out today to celebrate the Pride Flag raising and the kick-off to an amazing Pride Week here at WCI,” said Mairah. She helped to explain the history of the flag, its origins in the Stonewall uprising in 1960s New York City and how it has come to be an important symbol of change and the value of love.
The flag has been flown on Parliament Hill since 2016, Mairah pointed out, and for the past three years at all WRDSB facilities. “We are so proud to be part of a community that works to support inclusion and acceptance and appreciates the power of representation,” said Mairah. “We believe that love is love and everyone belongs.”
Brady Kennedy, a teacher at WCI and one of the staff members who helps to run the GSA Club, along with Leah Crowell and Victoria Marsh, explains the kickoff event and Pride Week is about making sure every student feels welcome at school. “Feeling included in high school is a big part of life,” said Kennedy.
This year’s event was bigger than ever before, offering up a number of ways for students at WCI to take part. “We decided that we wanted to go big this year,” said Kennedy. “I did not expect it to be this big.” Part of their work this year included the redesign of safe space posters, which were also printed in French and Arabic.
In addition to the outdoor festivities, there was a photo display inside, thanks to Emilie Kalinowski, Shannon McGonegal and their students. They created a collaborative project, with one student writing a reflection on what love means to them, with the photography students then creating images using their words as inspiration.
As the flag soared towards the sky, the crowd roared with applause. For Kennedy, this is exactly what she was hoping to see, with all students understanding the importance of feeling welcomed and celebrated. “I want them to see that Pride is all-inclusive,” said Kennedy. “It’s meant to commemorate and celebrate.”