NEW GLASGOW – A world without fear – a world where no one has to be afraid of being judged for their sexual orientation, for their gender, for their race, for their disability or their age.
This is what Scott Jones and the Don’t BE Afraid campaign hopes to achieve.
© AMANDA JESS - THE NEWS
Scott Jones was greeted with a crowd of family and friends following the Don’t BE Afraid event on Saturday afternoon.
At the very least, Summer Street Industries on Saturday was a place where nobody had to be afraid.
“I think we did what we set out to do, which was to get people talking about homophobia,” Scott Jones said about how the event went.
The fundraising and interactive event was packed with at least 150 people, looking to further the conversation about fear and homophobia.
To do that, the campaign crew asked audience members to reflect on messages passed out before the event regarding heteronormativity and situations that heterosexual individuals may take for granted.
“People of my gender do not try to convince me to change my sexual orientation,” read one of the cards.
Following a skit depicting a gay couple and their child getting ostracized, people had a chance to discuss the reality of the situation, the passivity that can exist surrounding homophobia and ignorance.
People were also asked to talk about their fears.
“Because we’re all here in an non-judgmental place, we’re going to work through the fear together,” Sherise Jones, Scott’s sister, said.
She divulged a fear of her own.
“I feared my best friend in the whole world was going to die,” she said about the attack against Scott in October in downtown New Glasgow.
The fear that many people felt following Scott’s stabbing inspired the campaign. It started with a button, a symbol of hope that simply said ‘don’t be afraid.’
From there, Charlotte Marchesseault started a photo project in Montreal with posters of the message and spiraled from there.
Scott isn’t sure where the campaign will go next, but they are looking to hold another event in Halifax in May.
He said the event went beyond his expectations, but he wasn’t surprised to see that the community was so supportive because that’s how the response has been over the past few months.
“When you have that light around you, you can get through anything. I really believe that,” he said during his speech.
Scott said all of a community is responsible when someone is attacked for their sexuality or any other aspect that makes a minority.
The language people use contributes to certain groups of people being labeled as “less than” normal and makes them more vulnerable to bullies, he said.
“To feel bigger, who will they target?”
Three gay Iranian men who have taken refuge in Canada through the Rainbow Refugee Association of Nova Scotia spoke about their fear of persecution in their native country.
They were referred to only by first name, as they don’t want to be identified by anyone still in Iran.
“I love my mother and father so much, but I was afraid they wouldn’t love me,” Pedram said about his fear of coming out as gay.
Fortunately, his family was accepting, but that doesn’t change the way the country views homosexuality – an illegal act that can be punished by death.
“My government doesn’t accept me.”
Although he loved his community, he decided he needed his freedom, and moved to Canada.
RRANS acts as an advocate for LGBTQ refugees and raises funds to help individuals migrate to Nova Scotia.
On Twitter: @NGNewsAmanda