Over the past several months, members involved in the BIPOC 2050 Project have hosted gatherings for BIPOC members from across the province. These gatherings were intended to:
- listen to BIPOC teachers in a space that does not require convincing or rationalizing.
- create platforms and places where BIPOC teachers’ voices were foregrounded.
- invite critical perspectives about social justice discourses and practices within the BCTF.
These meeting spaces were not to obligate teachers to speak about trauma, to offer proof that racism exists, or to burden them with the responsibility of “doing” anti-racism work. Rather, the aim of the 2050 sessions was to create an affinity space to gather and be in each others’ company in a welcoming union space.
Teachers were invited to share their stories through poetry, artwork, and artifacts. Teachers brought artifacts to these meeting spaces that revealed something about their identity, experience, and/or contributions as a BIPOC teacher in BC. They shared their stories with one another in community and listened in solidarity.
Drawing inspiration from George Ella Lyon’s poem, “Where I’m From,” and the I Am From Project, participants were invited to write a poem speaking to the question “Where are you from?” Using a template, participants wrote a counter poem celebrating their histories, communities, memories, and identities.
The framing of this poem is powerful and important. So often, the question “Where are you from?” signals othering, as though you don’t truly belong here and now. The response poems follow the prompt “Where I am from.” In this way, the speaker makes a statement as the subject of the poem, rather than the object of a question.
While sharing poems, artwork, and artifacts were welcome at these events, they were not a requirement. Being together in community to celebrate joy, power, victory, and solidarity was the aspirational hope of these gatherings.
Some teachers provided their informed consent to publicly share their poetry; those poems are included on the pages that follow.
I am from black culture
From Ajono drinking population
I am from cattle keepers
and rural home background
I am from the drummers’ clan
Music as a means
I am from the spear and shield
from Irarak people
who address most issues through story and song.
I am from Manila, Winnipeg, and Vancouver
from beautiful morena skin and butterfly-sleeved dresses
I am from a home filled with dogs, birds, my pet duck and pig
I am from mangoes and sampaguitas
whose sweet smells filled the neighbourhood and my belly
I am from “tabos” and “outside showers”
cleansing and comforting our bodies and souls
from my lola and lolo, feeding me fried chicken and pancit every Tuesday
and from “mano po” food pushers
unyielding hospitality, sometimes aggressive
From faith in the good of the world
I am from throwing large handas
Big parties full of food, joy, more food, and karaoke
Sweet spaghetti and Jollibee
from Debut, our own version of quinceañera
from Todos los Santos, our day to honour and listen to our ancestors
sugared buttered pan de sal, eaten every day after school for merienda.
“It felt special. It felt scary. It felt important. It felt sacred. It felt new. It felt needed.”
I am from hummingbird and wildrose
I am from steel drums and fresh baked bread
from safe teddy bear friends
I am from a place of quiet solitude and inspiration
And brothers who walked with me on my path
I am a lady slipper
who defiantly grows, even in the snow
I am from round roti lesson and never-ending piano practice
From the McNeils and Andrew clans, from the lost at sea
ancestors from the Ganga dynasty
and from roots set deep in time
and intruding on land that is not mine
and never was
from patiently examining what it means to be a good ancestor
I am from goddess Ganga and golden canola fields
shimmering under bright blue skies
from aloo and chana and turkey dinners
from enslaved peoples with lost histories
and from Mongroo Ram & Harrilal & Geria Ganga
from soccer games and tea parties
I am from the moments of existing in the middle
never fully fitting here, never fully fitting there…
My existence is resistance
I am from steel drums
endless sugarcane fields and canola fields
shimmering under bright blue skies
I am patiently examining what it means to be a good ancestor
I am from banana growing community
from drinking milk and eating matooke
I am from Rwemiyonga, the land of plenty
and surrounded by loving neighbours
I am from avocado tree
Which stands strong
I am from rearing cows bare-footed
from Muruga and Bahindi
who love to run and talk
and dance and sing
I am from chant and worship
while mingling millet
A skill passed on
by Bizimu my legendary grandmother
I am from moments of joy, laughter, and fun.
“The takeaway from this experience is that our mere existence is important and space is important. Participants needed a space to be amongst each other safely, rather than focusing on providing products for people to consume.”
I am from an old wooden broken piano
from glasses and coin wallet
I am from the quietest place during the day
small two bedroom apartment
huge pine tree in the front yard
guardian protecting my family home
I am from sticker book, the only thing I brought with me from my country
with my ABC booklet in my other hand
from hard working and calm
from letting go of emotions
Going to Christian church, Sunday and at-home services
from kimchi and samgyupsal
from ancestors fighting in war to protect our country
riding a bike to show their granddaughter
polly pocket doll
I am from the moments of keeping my Tamagotchi alive.
I am from mom’s sewing machine
from Dutch cheese and Ikea couches
I am from cozy, made for two,
Opa and Oma right upstairs
I am from blackberry bushes
whose rough fingers scratched my knees
I am from PS2s and Walmart jeans
from Agnes and Dirk, Carol and George
from “Do you want coffee?”
I am from a wild head of curls and a wilder heart,
from winding canals and the deep Southern heat
I am from storybooks and jammies on Christmas eve
from pannenkoeken and sweet potato pie,
I am from the moments cuddled in my mama’s arms
held tight and knowing I am loved.
I am Hanrick Maharaj Kumar, but you can call me Rick
I am from the 20lbs rice sack that sat in the corner of the kitchen
From the piece of oblong jade my mother bought during a Saturday adventure to
I am from the peeling and breaking stucco surrounding the warmth of home
and the uneven steps that lead to the backdoor
I am from the pair of pear trees in the background
Fruit, freshly sweet, nectar on my lips
I am from mango flavoured penny candies
and the mortar and pestle we used to grind spice
And from working ‘til my fingers stung
taking on the world’s inconveniences.
“There has never been a space like this.”