Manitoba

Neepawa responds to racist graffiti with town's largest-ever potluck

After racist graffiti turned up earlier this month in Neepawa, Man., residents in the small town are coming together to fight hate with a big potluck dinner.

Street Party 2017 to celebrate town's diversity, says organizer

The welcome sign in Neepawa, Man., was painted with a racial slur, blurred by CBC News, over the Canada Day long weekend. (Submitted by RCMP)

After racist graffiti turned up earlier this month in Neepawa, Man., residents in the small town are coming together to fight hate with a big potluck dinner.

"We're really excited. I don't think Neepawa has ever gotten together for a cause like this before," said organizer Amanda Naughton-Gale on Monday.

The community event comes after a setback for the town that left Naughton-Gale shocked and dismayed.

Over the Canada Day long weekend, a racial slur directed at people of Asian descent was spray-painted on the Neepawa town sign as well as a public building in a park.

Amanda Naughton-Gale is the organizer behind Neepawa's Street Party 2017, a giant community potluck intended to showcase the town's diversity. (Facebook/Amanda Naughton-Gale)

In the later attack, the slur — which often targets people of Filipino, Korean or Vietnamese descent — was used next to the words "go home."

The idea for a giant potluck has been in the works for a while, said Naughton-Gale, but it was the graffiti that finally set plans in motion.

"I couldn't believe that someone would do that," she said. "This is not us."

All residents in the town are invited to bring their best dish to share Saturday evening to encourage neighbours to get to know one another.

Naughton-Gale hopes as many as 500 people show up for the event. Neepawa is home to around 4,600 people.

Participants are invited to make signs and bring flags to celebrate their heritage but also their appreciation for neighbours.

"We just need to make this happen," she said. "Neepawa is an inclusive, diverse community and we all come together as one."

Street Party 2017 starts Saturday at 5 p.m. at the Neepawa Court House where people will march together in a community parade down to the ArtsForward building where the potluck dinner will be served.

The town's population jumped by nearly 27 per cent between 2011 and 2016, according to census data released in February. An Asian grocery store and a number of other businesses geared towards the Filipino community have opened in recent years. 

with files from Danelle Cloutier

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