Pride is showing up in crosswalks around downtown Battle Creek and members of the LGBTQ community are rejoicing.
On Monday, city contractors painted a rainbow pattern of colors on crosswalks at the intersection of Capital Avenue Northeast and Van Buren Street East. Rainbows are a symbol of the LGBTQ pride and social movements.
The painting of the crosswalks coincides with the city’s Pride festival and parade which takes place July 18-21 in the downtown area. The month of June has been officially designated as Pride Month, but leadership with Battle Creek Pride say they have chosen to hold their celebration July, so they can participate in Pride events in cities that celebrate in June.
“Those communities can’t come visit us if we hold our event in June,” says Deana Spencer, President of Battle Creek Pride. “This our way of supporting other communities when they have their celebrations.”
The idea for the Pride-inspired crosswalks came from Charlie Fulbright, Vice President of BC Pride, who happened to see rainbow-colored crosswalks in downtown Kalamazoo last year.
“I thought, why can’t Battle Creek do this,” Fulbright says. “This is a huge thing for the LGBTQ community. It shows that Battle Creek cares about all its citizens.
He brought the idea back to BC Pride board members who voiced their approval. He then met with city officials who researched what would need to be done on their end to make it happen because they’d never had a request like this before.
“They got back with us and said we would need to fill out permits,” Fulbright says. “Because the painting of the crosswalks is considered artwork there were specific grants through the Battle Creek Community Foundation that we could apply for. We did all of the steps and the research and went from there and that’s how this became a thing.”
A $3,000 grant from the BCCF covered the cost of the paint and labor.
“It’s a piece of artwork. It’s a small thing, but in the long run, it’s baby steps that make big things happen,” Fulbright says.
Spencer says the Pride-themed crosswalks symbolize the city’s welcoming and inclusive attitude.
“This says that Battle Creek is a welcoming city as far as the city itself and its policies, ordinances and government structure,” Spencer says. “It’s a safe and welcoming place to be. The city is making continuous efforts to remove the stigmas of the past.
“We all matter, we’re all cared about and we all bring something to your table.”
While this is the overriding sentiment of many community residents, the painted crosswalks have garnered some protestors who have expressed their opposition through their words and painted signs.
Spencer said this is among the challenges that continue to be faced by members of the city’s LGBTQ community. She says there is still a fair amount of criticism from people inside and outside of Battle Creek which has caused concerns about safety and the potential for vandalism.
“A lot of the comments have been derogatory,” she says. “If a crosswalk gets you that upset, you need to take a look at yourself. It’s beautiful and it’s artwork. There’s a lot of time and effort that went into it.”
In addition to a visual symbol of the inclusiveness and diversity that exists in Battle Creek, the crosswalks also are an important economic development tool, Spencer says.
“People will come visit and move here and work and worship here if they see that we value diversity, equality, and inclusiveness,” she says. “They will know that they can come to Battle Creek and be who they are and be celebrated and appreciated for who they are.”