A Letter To My Mother

To the ones who wiped snot and cleaned vomit. Who nursed the chicken pox, braided hair and punished a thousand colds. You are the ones who fearlessly fought for more, for better, for the best. You’re the ones who selflessly decided our dreams were more important than yours: our hopes more vital, our goals more essential.

mama waterloo

You are women who were once young girls gloriously adorned with youth and favour. You were courted majestically and men showered you with praise. You had hopes and expectations for the future, but you never quite knew how they would all turn out. You married, you bore children, you created and held families together.

When push came to shove, you gave for your family. You are the women who moved to barren lands, raised teenage girls and worked thankless customer service jobs to see your children thrive. You did it with dignity, honour and relentless dedication. You celebrated their joys and you cried when they cried. When the time came,  you moved on, knowing you’d done your best.

we three girls

You are a woman who has raised three women. You are the woman who made me who I am: a morsel of who you are. You are the woman to whom I owe it all.

Happy International Women’s Day, Mom!

x

niagara falls mom

 

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I Wish I Were White

token

I vividly recall having this thought for the first time at the age of seven. I had fallen in love with a popular white boy in my Grade 2 class. As the months progressed and my friends and I shared our crushes, it became apparent who everyone thought should marry whom.

Whitestone School prided itself on being a model for post-colonial Zimbabwe. Black, Indian, coloured and (mainly) white children all attended school together, united by their mutual respect and shared values of nondiscrimination. As we sat side by side in our favourite tunnel in the playground, we reflected on our chosen soulmates:

“Mandi and Nicholas

Chantal and Jonathan

Megan and Jack

Susan and…Nyasha”

“Nyasha?” I asked the ring leader. “I love Jonathan, not Nyasha. I want to marry Jonathan,” I announced defiantly. “Well you can’t because you’re black,” she said matter-of-factly. “You can marry Nyasha instead.” That was it.

It wasn’t as if I didn’t know I was black before then. However, the incident was the first time I became aware that this thing, this “blackness” could prevent me from being equally considered for opportunities. As the years went on, this disconnect manifested itself through fantasy and child’s play. My sister and I donned brightly coloured head scarves that we called our “hair” and fought over who got to play with the blonde, blue-eyed barbie. My parents responded calmly and began buying different kinds of dolls. When my dad returned from a work trip with one black and one brown barbie, my sister and I spent the night fighting over who got the lighter-skinned one. As the younger sibling, I won and named my “Indian” barbie Monique. Although she was not white, she was lighter than me, and I knew that meant she was better.

I started having dreams about the older version of myself. She was smart, successful, tall and…white. Back up a second, what child dreams about growing up to be white? Perhaps one who had been obsessed with Michael Jackson and thought people could magically grow up to be a different race. One day, puzzled by this repetitive dream in which I took centre stage at the MTV Music Awards, my long brunette hair flowing down my back, a twinkle in my (blue) eyes and a firmly gripped microphone ready to serenade the audience, I asked my mother if I could be like Michael Jackson. She laughed enthusiastically and said luckily, I would be black forever.

token 2

I’ll give you $10 if you can spot me in this photo

Somewhere along the line I moved to Toronto: a hub of multiculturalism. A city as diverse as sugar is sweet. I became much more comfortable in my blackness and began to believe it was more than okay.  I noticed in Canada an excessive politeness where the topic of race was concerned (read: “I don’t see race, I just see people” and other pathetic arguments). I saw a willful ignorance about race politics and a need to make comparisons to its failing neighbour, the US. Meanwhile, similar injustices are happening on our very own Canadian soil.

When the grand jury delivered its verdict in Ferguson, many in my social circle expressed their dissatisfaction with the decision not to indict Darren Wilson for killing Mike Brown. Many ask us not to focus on race, but rather class when examining issues like the militarization of the police. Whatever the case, it reified the sentiment that many of us have been fighting not to internalize all our lives: black isn’t good, therefore black lives don’t matter. 

Earlier, I read a powerful piece on Medium about white supremacy and the privileges afforded to white people. While I am not an advocate of “white guilt”, I believe white people being involved in meaningful racial dialogue is crucial. I have many friends and acquaintances who do not engage on these issues, not because they don’t have opinions, but for fear of being branded racist at the extreme or horribly misinformed at the very least. To that, I say we welcome and need your participation. If you are worried about how to begin, try THIS APPROACH before choosing not to share your views.

Most days I love being black. I love my dark skin and my newly natural hair. I am proud of the short, afro-haired, black woman I have become. When society shows us we are not worthy and the system meant to protect fails us miserably, it can be hard to believe in our worth. In times like these, I call on a personal favourite and I rise

Terrorism is un-Canadian

A little over a week ago, a senseless act of violence was committed at Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Corporal Nathan Cirillo was killed by a shooter who then proceeded to enter the parliament building. The man, identified as Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, continued to open fire, injuring others. His rampage came to an end when he was shot and killed by Kevin Vickers, the sergeant-at-arms of the House of Commons:

**MAY BE UPSETTING TO SOME VIEWERS**

While much has been said on the attack, I would like to speak specifically to two key points: 1) the meaninglessness of the words “terrorism” and “terrorist” 2) the assumption that violence is “un-Canadian.”

1) What is terrorism?

Who is a terrorist? Websters’ defines terrorism as “the use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal.” But these days the term continues to be used loosely to describe almost any act of violence where the perpetrator’s motives are not readily understood, as well as in situations where they are. Leader of the Official Opposition, Tom Mulcair has said he does not consider the act a terrorist attack.  While the shooter may or may not have had political motives and he may or may not have been struggling with mental illness, I think we can all agree that it doesn’t diminish the horror of what happened that day. That being said, the word “terrorist” holds meaning only for those who wield it to further their own political agendas. This man committed horrific criminal acts and is therefore a criminal in the eyes of the law.

2) How is violence “un-Canadian?”

In the aftermath of the attacks in Ottawa, many people took to social media to voice their concern over what happened. While this outpouring was heartfelt and showed why Canada is a truly remarkable country to live in, it also revealed a gap in our personal narrative. The inherent idea that violence and attacks of this nature are not Canadian and Canada is an innocent bystander on the global scale is simply untrue. For example, this poignant article details Canada’s involvement in recent wars. To put it plainly, this kind of violence is not native to any country. Saying what occurred in Ottawa is “un-Canadian” demeans the suffering and tragedies taking place in other parts of the world i.e. Syria, Nigeria and Israel. In these countries, violence is also un-Syrian, or un-Nigerian. No country condones such attacks and to assume otherwise is ludicrous and insulting to those who suffer from them.