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Be the change

Collected voices remember Raymond Taavel


Raymond Taavel.
  • Raymond Taavel.

Early on the morning of April 17, 2012, Raymond Taavel and a friend were leaving Menz Bar on Gottingen Street when Taavel's friend was suddenly attacked and thrown against the building. Raymond intervened, at which point he was thrown to the sidewalk and beaten to death. He was 49.

That evening, a thousand people congregated for a candlelight vigil, shutting down Gottingen Street for blocks. A rainbow flag the size of a house was unfurled and people began to speak to the crowd.

Standing on the very spot where Raymond lost his life, every speaker remembered Raymond as a man of love, togetherness and forgiveness. An activist without anger who espoused the Gandhian ethic Be the change you want to see. In keeping with Raymond's commitment to contemplative Christianity, not one person expressed vengeance.

Since that time, many tributes have been offered. Here is a sampling of just a few. Most are from the memorial on May 6 at St. Matthew's Church.

Raymond coaxed people, cajoled people, urged people---probably most of you here---into taking an interest in our communities and making things better, shining light on the beautiful parts of life and shining light on the ugly parts too. If you knew Raymond, he encouraged you to think and discuss and write and act and make the world a better place.

--Daniel McKay, Wayves Magazine

I was standing on the front steps of Raymond's place picking up the large Pride flag for a Youth Project event. What I thought was going to be a momentary exchange of pleasantries became something else, something characteristic of Raymond. With his hands holding one side of the neatly folded Pride flag and mine on the other, I was not going anywhere until I learned a full history of that flag. What it meant to Halifax. How it came to Halifax. How it was created, and how to keep it safe. This is the same Pride flag that was spread across Gottingen Street two weeks ago. Please share in Raymond's vision: Build stronger communities, safer places and bring people together. Be an active participant in what you believe in.

---Patrick Daigle, the Youth Project

Raymond treated everyone like an ally. He treated them as someone who would work in community to make change. He did so with me many times over the last five years, and in every email he gave me hell for something. He was frustrated with our political system, so he told me about proportional representation, about Fair Vote Nova Scotia. He challenged me to connect with people from different political parties. He challenged me to make every vote count. In every email, Raymond challenged the system, challenged our complacency, challenged me to do the right thing even when it was uncomfortable.

We're here today, with all our communities: the queer community, the queer ally community, the activist community, the north end community, the spiritual community, the political community. We're strong, and we're beautiful and this is what Raymond saw in us. He invested in us, because of this. And now, as we honour his memory, we'll take the next step. We'll continue to strengthen our community, we'll continue to invest in our community and we will be informed and we will be compassionate and we will rise to that challenge.

---Megan Leslie, Member of Parliament, Halifax

We owe it to Ray to seek answers and define ways to protect ourselves, not through revenge but in the same manner that Ray would have, by understanding, by building bridges, by reaching out and by educating.

---Premier Darrell Dexter

Raymond Taavel was my north, my south, my east and my west for a decade of my life. Like any couple who choose to live their lives together, sometimes things were not always what we expected. But we chose to love, rather than run in the face of difficulty and challenges, and love one another we did, even through the darkest of times. This has been a very dark time for me and I choose to see Raymond's light.

Raymond was a man of passion and conviction. Like us all, he felt feelings of anger, frustration, ridicule and abandonment. But instead of reflecting those negatives back into society, Raymond had an ability to turn those feelings around---into positive energy---and make them a call to action to better our situations.

I choose to see and follow his light by calling upon us all to continue to ask questions. To push for answers, to shed light on which of our societal failures led to my losing my best friend and our community losing a committed, loving and compassionate social rights activist. So ask yourself this question: What would Raymond be doing if this horror had happened to one of us that night? Now...Go shine that light with passion, conviction, tenacity and love. Do it for Raymond as he would have done it for you.

Goodbye our Raymond.

Go be with God.

We've got this.

---Darren Lewis


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