When Rose Wells saw lawn signs with messages of inclusivity popping up around her neighbourhood, she knew it was something she had to be a part of.
“As soon as I saw it, I wanted one,” said Wells, an East York resident.
For the last eight months, the colourful signs, like the one on Wells’ lawn, have been popping up throughout the community.
The signs, which read “United Against Hate” and “Everyone Belongs,” are the product of a grassroots organization known as the East Enders Against Racism (EEAR).
The community-based initiative emerged following the appearance of white supremacist posters in Stan Wadlow Park in November 2016.
The posters, which encouraged white community members to join the “alt-right” in an effort to curb immigration and multiculturalism in favour of promoting white supremacy and identity, sparked conversation over social media, leading to an anti-racism rally held in the park shortly thereafter.
As more community members joined in on the dialogue, the group emerged, and now has an online presence of just over 2,000 individuals. They regularly engage in discussions centred around understanding the impact of racism from the perspective and experiences of black, Indigenous and people of colour in the community.
Through Facebook, EEAR organizes and endorses local events centeed around anti-racism education and community-building and works to fight hate crimes and hate speech.
Additionally, the group has penned open letters to the city on associated matters, most notably regarding the impact of the School Resource Officer (SRO) program in TDSB schools. It also organized a book drive for local middle and high schools.
As for the signs themselves, the group’s organizers say they were inspired by those that appeared across the city welcoming refugees to Toronto.
Displayed on lawns and storefronts across East York, the signs have been translated into Arabic, Bengali, Cantonese, French, Urdu and Anishinaabemowin, recognizing the diverse makeup of the community, as well as honouring First Nations.
As for her decision to display the sign on her lawn, Wells’s thought process was simple.
“I want people to feel the same way,” she said.
Signs are available for purchase for $10 at Old’s Cool General Store at Lumsden and Westlake avenues. All proceeds go toward funding future EEAR events and initiatives.