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Humber Arm South makes inclusiveness a priority

Samantha Jesso
Samantha Jesso - Contributed

Samantha Jesso is a firm believer that everyone should be treated equally, and a sign that now sits atop a stage area in Benoit’s Cove shows that others agree.

Jesso, 21, is from the Humber Arm South community and said she’s seen a lot of support for the Pride community while attending St. Thomas University in New Brunswick.

But when she came home she didn’t see much around, except for the crosswalks in nearby Corner Brook.

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Her return came not long after the controversy over the painting of a Pride crosswalk in Springdale. The town council there turned down a request for a rainbow painted crosswalk.

“I knew that it shouldn’t come as a surprise because not everybody is for it,” said Jesso, who is a supporter of the LGBTQ community.

“But I think from seeing that, I was ashamed. I was just disgusted with it because I think everyone deserves acceptance.”

She said whether or not a person is going to go to a Pride parade, or wear rainbow clothing or do something directly, others should at least have the decency to acknowledge and accept it.

Jesso has a friend in New Hampshire who had heard about the story in Springdale and that showed her just how far-reaching it had been.

“And I think that’s when I felt most bad about it.”

She spoke with her dad, Darrell Jesso, who happens to be the deputy mayor of Humber Arm South, about why their community did not have anything in it to show support, and he encouraged her to bring it to the whole council.

She attended a meeting in July and was quite happy when council agreed something needed to be done. The only question was what.  

Coun. Erica Humber-Shears wasn’t at the meeting, but had known about Jesso’s idea and was in support of it.

Knowing her community is an inclusive one is important to Humber-Shears. She grew up in Humber Arm South and it’s where she and her wife have lived for the last 17 years.

In all those years, they have only felt 100 per cent included, said Humber-Shears.

“Thankfully, we live in a great town and we have never had any backlash. We’ve always been widely accepted.”

Humber-Shears and Coun. Gerry Phillips were later tasked with coming up with what would be done, and they kept Jesso involved in the process.

The town council in Humber Arm South recently erected the sign above them on the BayFest stage in Benoit's Cove to show that it is an inclusive community. The seven-member council paid for the sign out of their own pockets. Pictured are, from left, council members Bill Duffy, Gerry Phillips, Mayor Glen Savard, Erica Humber-Shears, Paul Pike and Bernard White. Missing from photo is deputy mayor Darrell Jesso.
The town council in Humber Arm South recently erected the sign above them on the BayFest stage in Benoit's Cove to show that it is an inclusive community. The seven-member council paid for the sign out of their own pockets. Pictured are, from left, council members Bill Duffy, Gerry Phillips, Mayor Glen Savard, Erica Humber-Shears, Paul Pike and Bernard White. Missing from photo is deputy mayor Darrell Jesso.

Jesso suggested doing something at the field in Benoit’s Cove where the Humber Arm South BayFest is held. Ideas included painting something on the concrete or a sign.

It was decided that if they painted the concrete it wouldn’t be visible during next weekend’s BayFest, so they decided to go with a sign, which has been place on the roof of the stage.

The sign was made by Dennis Blackwood Signs and was paid for by the seven members of council. No money from the town was used.

It is portable, so after BayFest it may be moved to the town hall or somewhere where it will be more visible.

Humber-Shears said the town is not finished with its “inclusion project,” as it has intentions to be all inclusive and will paint the symbols for autism, ALS and mental health awareness, to name a few, around the field.

“So that it shows inclusion for all, not just the gay community.”

For now, seeing the sign with the words “Unity in Community” with people figures holding hands and the Pride colours and the transgender flag has Jesso feeling good.

“It’s awesome. It makes a statement.”

And best of all, she’ll no longer feel embarrassed by things like the Springdale controversy.

“At least then I could say, ‘Yeah, this happened in Newfoundland, but not in my town.’”

Updated to add a photo

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