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Gay From Away: Why a Black lesbian from the U.S. south chose P.E.I. as home

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This is a First Person column by Evelyn Bradley, a diversity and inclusion consultant based in Charlottetown, P.E.I. For more information about CBC’s First Person stories, please see the FAQ.

I moved to P.E.I. in March 2020 with my wife. Yes, I’m a Black lesbian from the southern U.S. states who has chosen to make a life in Canada’s smallest province.

One thing about being a Come From Away (or a CFA) is that I am becoming increasingly cognizant of frequently asked questions. One of my favourites is: “Why P.E.I.?” After someone asks me why I’ve chosen to live here, they then ask questions about my family lineage. My vacation history. Even my sanity. 

When folks find out that I chose to come here to start a diversity and inclusion business (I offer workshop development, training, and facilitation services for organizations and individuals), the questions quickly become invasive and often laced with racially insensitive undertones. Stemming from a place of genuine curiosity and often kindness (not malice), they try to understand how and why — of all of the places in the world — P.E.I. is my chosen home for my work and my family.

‘Do you know how racist it is here?’

As a self-proclaimed GFA (Gay from Away), my wife and I continually say that there is accountability here.

P.E.I. is the only place I have lived where I can see, in real-time, the tangible result of information I gave in a session being implemented into the community within the same week. I run into participants of sessions in the Superstore or at Receiver Coffee, and folks tell me how they’re still mulling over a session, considering new things about themselves and others, and they want to follow up. They want to talk more. There is a desire to learn and grow. There is a genuine interest to grow here that I am not used to in the U.S.

In all of the sessions I have done in other areas of North America, the people in P.E.I. stands out as the most open to strengthening their community. Whether a CFA or a multi-generational Islander, there is a pride in the people of this place. There is an importance to preserving the community we share. 

‘Do you know how backwards it can be?’

Somehow this comment always surprises me. Not because I don’t believe them, but because of my experience as an Islander-by-choice. If the pandemic has taught me anything, it’s the importance of community. In our first few months on the Island, I was met with nothing but kindness and community. 

I revel in the opportunity to continue to have conversations about diversity here on the Island because I know that, in time, the changes we all want to see in bettering this community will come to fruition, writes Evelyn Bradley. Even if it’s one stupid question at a time. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

As a Black lesbian from the southern U.S., I have experienced my fair share of discrimination. I find that P.E.I. is not unique in having its own diversity, equity and inclusion challenges; but what makes it unique is the overall willingness to acknowledge the fact that issues are present. And there is a genuine desire to do better. 

‘You think it’s pretty now … just wait, you’ll fall out of love with it’

It is unrealistic for me to think I’ll be able to magically change some of the ideals and oppression that folks hold simply by being here.

Rather, in the work I do, I hope to bring about incremental change through educational opportunities and by continuing conversations that have been happening here for an extended period of time.

The work I am doing isn’t new and, frankly, I’m not the only one here doing it. But when asked, “Why P.E.I.?” the fact is that our province has the potential and the capacity for change in a way that is exponential. I revel in the opportunity to continue to have conversations about diversity here on the Island because I know that, in time, the changes we all want to see in bettering this community will come to fruition. One stupid question at a time.


For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

(CBC)

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