WARNING: IN THE SOCIAL MEDIA POST BELOW THERE ARE VERY OFFENSIVE, RACIST TERMS.
The community of Bridgeland is rallying behind a long-time neighbourhood family victimized by racist graffiti on a building they own.
The Kullar family, who have been in the Bridgeland area for 40 years, were notified Monday night by a tenant that horrifying racist graffiti had been spray-painted on the east side of the Inglewood Art Supplies building they own.
The messages that Kullar posted to social media showed the phrase “Kill all Packies” and “F—k the Indians.”
Sunny Kullar, who spoke to LiveWire Calgary from Toronto on Tuesday afternoon, said he was angry, but not really surprised. He grew up in Calgary and left for Toronto just over a year ago.
“We’ve seen this stuff happen before. It’s usually just verbal; people say it to your face. It involves violence usually, but it’s rarely as explicit like this,” he said.
“This is just another reminder that we don’t belong in the community. We’re different. We’re outsiders. There’s something about us that folks hate.”
Kullar’s mom, Amrit, still operates their liquor store business in the area. His father, Bobby, died almost two years ago. Kullar said his mom is generally on her own here in Calgary, though they have a strong family network in the city.
“She didn’t sleep. She was rolling around all night, not sure what to think about it,” he said.
Kullar said his mom’s seen and heard most of it before, having spent the past 40 years in Calgary.
“It doesn’t scare her. She’s not overly afraid of these people. She’s a strong woman and she’ll find a way to get through this.”
Ali McMillan, a long-time Bridgeland community leader said the Kullar family has been an anchor in the area for years. They always participate in community events and help tackle issues like crime and safety in the area.
“They are fantastic small business owners in the community and they’re part of our community,” McMillan told LiveWire Calgary.
“I was also pissed off. You don’t want to see this happen to our friends and neighbours. This is completely unacceptable. This is not what Bridgeland is all about. Bridgeland has always been a very diverse community and we want to step up and say, ‘not in our backyard.’”
They’re hoping to start by having people craft hearts that can be posted on the alley wall where the graffiti was sprayed. They want Calgarians to post messages of support for the Kullar family.
“That’s exactly what we’re trying to do is just a show (that) one guy can come along and write this inappropriate, racist garbage on the side of their building and we’re not going to allow that to happen,” she said.
“There’s hundreds of people that feel the opposite, that support this family, that care for this family, that love having them as our friends and neighbours in our community.”
But, McMillan is hoping it doesn’t end there. They’ve already talked with organizers of the Beltline Urban Murals Project (BUMP) and Kullar about using that wall as a canvas for an anti-racist mural.
BUMP organizer Peter Oliver said they’ve already begun pricing out the wall and plan to partner with the group, provided funding can be secured.
“We think it’s a great opportunity to help build a stronger, more inclusive community,” Oliver said.
Kind gesture, but bigger conversation needed
Kullar said his family appreciated the heartfelt community gesture. He doesn’t want to paint all Calgarians with the same brush. Kullar knows there are good people in this city.
He does hope, however, that this spurs something more.
“I want to see people actually raise their voice and talk about this…,” Kullar said.
“This is stuff that’s harboured and embraced in the city. If it’s a reaction one time to it, and that’s how you deal with it, that’s great. But, then do more. Speak up. Don’t be quiet.”
McMillan hopes this is the launching point for more conversation and action. The mural is another step towards that.
“I think people are shocked that this is happening right in our community. And I don’t think it’s tolerated in any way,” she said.
“We’re going to pursue that, which hopefully will be a lasting, positive message opposite to what this has created.”
The Calgary police have confirmed they’re investigating the incident.