Category Archives: Inside the Migrant’s Mind – Poetry and Love

A Glass of Green Tea – A Poetic Narrative

A glass of green tea is a beautiful thing.

Greatly unappreciated – subsumed by the old, mashed up, fermented teas sold in these overly bright-coloured commercial shops that line my city;

A city that often makes one lose their identities;

I miss the young shoots standing upward in thrice filtered water;

Elegantly dancing as if in a well-rehearsed synchronized swimming routine;

Tender, slightly bitter – the memories of those lost days;

I can’t remember the year, but the tea was of that same age;

Hand-picked by a distant relative, shared in limited supply in carefully curated tin cans;

Gifted to me as a I returned back as a stranger to the town that carried my ancestral name;

The warmth of the glass, the hot steam fogging my glasses, liquid burning the roof of my mouth;

I remembered being surrounded by those who were supposedly my family;

Those I only met that day, previously unseen and foreign to my existence;

What brings two people together or a group from across oceans?;

To this table of dishes even more plentiful than the seats surrounding it;

The taste of stinky tofu fried, with simultaneous stench and savour;

Pickled vegetables from the months of painful potted preparation;

The meat fry, a tradition, for this time of year now the basis of a dish stewed and steamed;

The fish a staple, a bottle of local brand beer accompanying the lighter fluid, rice wine;

All around me kids, babies, a community, our town, my family;

Communal tables, low stools, barely inches up off the ground;

Fireworks the distance sounds, stray dogs, and motorbikes

Not colour but contour, roads surrounded by dikes.

I am not from here but part of me from a past was;

Now the product of fading five-second memories;

…..

Fast forward years later, what seems like a lifetime ago;

I had to go to work today, unlike Green Day – I was not on a holiday;

I see a lot of people who remind me of the cousins I feasted with;

Perhaps everybody is going for some sort of a feast tonight or at least have a bite of something that reminds them of who they are;

But they aren’t sharing their planned menus nor extending their invites. This seems like just a regular rainy day;

We all left our separate ways, barely even greeting each other in our own mother tongue;

I am at a table of four but today there’s only three;

Today I sit with a tea bag, lacking flavour. I ran out of the good stuff – it’s back to the bulk;

The tap water started out an unearthly nuclear green. But it has now been watered down by cup three;

I would be drinking a beer if anybody cared to ganbei;

I’m wondering why my culture has been watered down over time.

I’m wondering why I don’t have anyone to talk about this with;

I dream of that tea, that flavour, that depth;

Whether in another world I would be surrounded by elders;

By a heated coal fire, sharing stories of days past and ambitions for tomorrow;

Today I barely keep up with news present;

They fill our minds with our supposed backward practices;

They tell us we’re infectious and that we don’t belong in nice homes;

We walk zombie-like through these white corridors at work;

Pompous posturing in this supposed post-everything world;

For breakfast I had bland coffee and a bag of candy;

I can’t pretend this shit is all good and dandy;

When it’s through other people’s misdoings, that they shelf me and brand me;

Turned from fresh leaves into ground sand, into ground up orange pekoe;

An unnatural colour tainted like when vanilla hits your chai;

Perhaps I will return one day to the tea fields;

So I can pick the shoots myself and dance once again;

 

 

Race was Yesterday’s Problem (An Immigration-Themed Poem)

Screenshot from FreeDictionary

Race was yesterday’s problem

We’ve apologized to you people

Made promises we (somewhat) still try to keep

How many thousands more dollars do you need?

They are your grandma’s pains of yesterday

Why today do they run so deep?

We’re a Charter-abiding nation

We’re multicultural not racist

To demonstrate we’re impartial at decisions;

Look at the way we do our overseas missions

We focus on geography, on fraud, on intention

Race or ethnicity is nowhere in mention

Our locally-engaged staff can apply what they know (because, they know)

Our processing times – they ebb and they flow

We need to vet certain applicants more

Historically, there are issues with certain communities

We’re not directly saying that whiteness is immunity (at least we can’t write this down)

But how do we not know these kids are not yours (without a DNA test)?

How do we know this bank account isn’t hiding that your poor (tell me where your parents invest)?

How do we know you aren’t just here to give birth?

How do we we know you aren’t hiding your net worth?

These networks you people have – always cheating the system;

That’s why we need AI – ‘impartial (white male)’ algorithms;

We’re an institution of transparency – like a light filtering prism

You bring your stories and we turn them into study of ‘-isms’

If you are palatable, we keep you out of our prisons;

If you are exceptional, we might milk you for your wisdom;

For most of you, frankly, you are better off hidden

Live your life on ‘our’ land – just consider yourself winning

We’ll take care of politics, of decisions, of direction

We’ll find you once every four years when we’re having elections

And what is this you tell me about the ‘intersections’

Is that at the mailing address you are always hiding your taxes?

Stop blaming racism, playing that card

Overanalyzing Blackness, Othello’s role in the Bard

Just assimilate to the way we do things, go pick up a hockey stick.

Tell us what your watching on Netflix?

Sh*t – like your food smell on the bus.

Why are you putting up such fuss?

About your racialized self (even Google knows it ain’t a word)

Race was yesterday’s problem

But it’s todays for everyone else

 

Slow Down My Friend (A Poem)

Slow down my friend

I see that mind moving at a million miles an hour

The chip on the shoulder – the connection to the strained brain

Navigating both sun and rain, dark clouds lead to gaps in weather

Whether you are stuttering and faltering, apologizing for forgetting

But really you are apologizing  for the fact that you cannot begin to share all that is weighing you down

You are an imperfect person in this world demanding your perfection

You viscerally look weak in their eyes so you try and mentally exude strength – you are a rock not shards of broken glass

But it’s strength you never had, that was constantly extracted from you like a precious resource

You are an ocean losing it’s own water, a dream losing it’s own subconscious, a mission losing its own commander

Slow down, none of that matters

For yesterday you saw your mom smile for the first time in years

You were there when your daughter cried her first tears

You sat with a good friend that the whole world ignored

You ate food that they used to say was meant for the poor

You took one step further through a supposedly locked door

Slow down, to realize you’ve come so far

It doesn’t matter that back in the day they said you were sub-par

That year after year they ignored the light of your star

That you always took the middle back seat of the car

That you struggled to even pass or be even with the bar

You’ve sped through so much of your life or had those moments sped up for you

Growing up without your father

A sister who doesn’t speak to you

No sense of what love is in your life any more

A home that is empty every day of the week

Words trapped in the throat that you are so anxious to speak

You can’t liberate yourself when you are busy trying to keep up

Slow down my sister and brother, sip slowly from this cup.

No, Harry and Meghan I won’t take your case pro bono – but here’s a proposition and some background

I think I found a semi-decent plan for Harry and Meghan to immigrate to Canada:

I’ll even throw up some links:

  • Self-Employed: https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/immigrate-canada/self-employed.html
  • Discretionary Citizenship: https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/corporate/publications-manuals/operational-bulletins-manuals/canadian-citizenship/overview/granting.html#discretionary
  • C14: https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/corporate/publications-manuals/operational-bulletins-manuals/temporary-residents/foreign-workers/exemption-codes/canadian-interests-significant-benefit-television-film-production-workers-r205-exemption-code-c14.html
  • Express Entry PNP: https://www.welcomebc.ca/Immigrate-to-B-C/BC-PNP-Express-Entry-B-C
  • Significant Benefits C10 (for your charity work): https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/corporate/publications-manuals/operational-bulletins-manuals/temporary-residents/foreign-workers/exemption-codes/canadian-interests-significant-benefit-general-guidelines-r205-c10.html

But, IRCC says no citizenship grant for now.

Probably because the Queen has not called yet or the local MP (inside joke – lawyers/some applicants may understand)

That being said, let’s talk about Access to Justice for a minute, and perhaps tie in the Rule of Law.

Here’s a proposition, brother Harry and sister Meghan:

You provide some significant donations to an organization such as the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre:

Or Atira, RISE, UNYA, or a related non-profit of your choice….. please bring me proof of receipt

and I’ll take that as payment in lieu of a consultation.

Following the consultation I will quote a set fee (and perhaps hourly, if you prefer).

But not Pro-Bono. Pro-Bono is a real thing. A real challenge. Something as lawyers we cannot even agree on (as whether to make it a requirement or not). For some it means dedicating their lives. For others its a Firm PR stunt. It’s contentious, but ultimately it’s a lifeline for those who need it and a career sacrifice for those who work in the difficult spaces. A jump, I have not been able to fully make but one day hope to do so. It is a struggle many lawyers face to serve community and support their families.

One I will do one Vancouver becomes a little more affordable.

On the note of pro-bono, we have a ton of great immigration pro-bono/legal aid services in the city. We hope you can help promote:

– Access Pro-Bono (http://accessprobono.ca/)

-LSS (https://lss.bc.ca/lawyers/lssOnline)

– MOSAIC (https://www.mosaicbc.org/)

– ISS of BC (https://issbc.org/)

– UBC LSLAP (https://www.lslap.bc.ca/)


Just to name a few…

But you make to much to qualify (and rightfully so).

Vancouver is rapidly gentrifying – as is the divide between the rich and poor. As you step across the City and make your appearances, do tread lightly. Tourism is great (and another lifeline) but there are those in the cities who have yet to see a vacation in their life and may never.

We’re a raw city/Province filled with hope, love, and we welcome you but frankly speaking (and excuse my French) we got some other **** to deal with right now (see e.g. https://globalnews.ca/news/6402245/metro-vancouver-cold-homeless/, https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/warming-tent-oppenheimer-park-snow-1.5425509, https://www.cbc.ca/news/indigenous/rcmp-morice-road-checkpoint-wetsuweten-1.5427015).

We’re also a city and country struggling with equity for women of colour (see e.g. https://www.queensjournal.ca/story/2019-02-28/editorials/women-of-colour-need-their-own-feminist-narratives/).

That still struggles with our colonialist past influencing the present future of our girls and women (https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/indigenous-girl-grandfather-handcuffed-bank-1.5419519)

We also have an immigration system that is actively barricading our doors again to Black-African applicants. Where we have replaced their climate unsuitability with a view that their cultures are. Unsurprisingly women are painted as vulnerable/broken, and men as cheats – no voice to their resilience, no eye to their opportunity.

[side note: I spent an evening dealing with a matter where an overseas visa officer made a wild allegation that someone with a similar sounding last name – think John vs. Johnson in English meant that he fathered undisclosed black babies that were actually another mans]

So maybe there are some commonalities….

[Another side note, I ironically work in a building called the “Dominion Building” which was once the tallest building in the British Empire but now is probably better known for it’s elegant bathrooms/kitchens and frequent stair-master inducing fire alarms. In all honesty, there’s good orgs working here…. but I would hold the 1s and 2s for later.]

[Also final note, I think Meghan Markle is an wonderful actress and I openly admit to having had her influence my earlier career decision to become a Suit, which I thankfully gave up. I’ll write up that short story some other time.]

The B-eautiful Struggle – A Poem about B-Words

We spend so much time focusing on the now and the how that we forget to look

Back

The ways we were taught, the ways we created this perception that our success and happiness depending only our abilities to be the

Best

Those B’s were never good enough. Yet those A’s came rarely. Just as rarely did they tell us that this society was not that promised meritocracy and that evaluation never was independent of our faces and names on the papers they graded – always judging our souls through these problematic processes. So many things I wish I knew

Before

Speaking of before – had I known before too late that our histories were the way they were. That we were never meant to succeed in this colony and that we had a presence they needed in order to

Build

A country on the premise of a supremacy and our eventual demise or productivity. They wanted us in Chinatowns not their towns. They wanted us as second-class and damn well did it for almost a century until we pushed back. That our ghettos were just that but now they say we’re building too many houses on these other

Blocks

Everytime I rise up with this jumpshot I’ve been working on I feel this 7-footer in front of me.  When I learn that step back, they tell me to step back, and that they now call it a travel. Got me leaning on one foot as if I’m Harden. Every time we fall, I feel the heart harden. Yet the other’s tell us we’re still good because we’re not

Black

We see you and feel you but are those emotions nearly enough? We still clutch our wallet with one hand and give you that hopeful dabs with the other –  hoping you see us too but shaking off the unconscious nature of what too many a-cultural teachings engrained in us so wrongly. From moms and pops telling me it was the music of criminals to white teachers looking disapprovingly at my baggy hoody. Their eyes told their stories and there were no black faces to ask the question of who “Matters.” We were all pretty much

Biased

Now that’s a tricky word. Because bias doesn’t exist in reality they say. It only exists unconsciously. Therefore it cannot be contained. Therefore it’s just human nature that we can attempt to minimize but will be maintained. Plus, more importantly, you need to stop playing that race card or investigating these coloured things because you are just creating your own

Barriers

You knew I would eventually get there wouldn’t you. That I wasn’t done just talking about cues and hues. That Intersectionality teaches us there’s different experiences of one’s abuse.  That chip on the shoulder that acts like a fuse. We feel like these walls are unscalable. Yet, we hold it in because we don’t want our struggle to be anybody else’s

Burden

We want to stop burdening those around us we got it. We were initially the Whiteman’s Burden now we serve as each others. We see another person in our community stepping up and in order to make ourselves feel better we dissect them into pieces in ways we would never dare to do to the masters and their institutions. In real life we scared, but we use our screen doors, computer screens, and cellphone screens as our defense to splatter some words to sound intellectual, to mask fear perpetual. But, it means little when they tell us to be more….

Brave

They say we can self-help our way out of it. We listen to those same relaxation tapes that tell us to pay attention to the

Breath

But what happens when that breath starts becoming hyperventilated, short, a struggle to even continue. We walk between these streets finding that our steps no longer are one ahead of another because we held down with all this weight to find

Balance

Imagine a balance beam of our culture on one end and your expectations on another. We don’t have time to put on the yoga pants, stand on the edge of our toes and “feel that stretch.” We’re stretched in our pockets, in our problems, and in our possibilities. We isolated in our own worlds, now tell me….

Brother

Where are all the brother’s at that care? Or those men that said they would be our mentors once we made it. Did they disappear once their going got good or the going got tough. Where’s all that so-called good stuff that others tell from their own mentors and generations of lessons learned. Are they hoarding them now like we’re about to steal their belongings. It’s like they took away our glasses and contacts, and left us here

Blindly

Therefore we follow their lead not our own hearts which continues to bleed.  But truthfully the pages were

Blank

to

Begin

with.

Broken

as I may be I still put together these shattered thoughts on this page. They can’t take away this pin and paper, they can’t love the girl but continue to rape her, they can’t love the song and dance, but ignore the sadness and despair. You see, we are different in our opinions and positions but see that we’re

Bonded

To what you just read and realizing you can’t go back as I did it when I first saw and learned about your

Beautiful

struggle.

 

My Colonial Name is ‘Will’ – Here’s the Story of My Other Name ‘Wei’

“It’s Not What They Call You, It’s What You Answer To” –  ascribed to comedian W.C. Fields (but I received this teaching through an April Ryan talk, March 2019, Harlem)

The Story of My Many Name Changes

I have been through a few name changes in my life.

I was born Wei Tao. Later in elementary school at my insistence (the product of trying to fit in/bullying, and apparently too many “hi wei/highway” jokes) I asked my parents to legally change it to Wei William Tao. Sometime in late high school/early university, I replaced William (which I found too British and formal) with Will – the short, cooler, ‘One Tree Hill’ version of myself.

Recently ‘names’ and ‘naming’ have come up a lot in my practice and in my life.

The past two weeks I have been working on a file where an individual from overseas is seeking to change their name with immigration due to a change of practice from their home country.

I have had another very close friend have challenges changing their maiden name.

I also have found myself looking at political campaign signs over the past elections wondering why certain individuals emphasize their first name over their last, or how someone could have an anglicized Chinese name. I wonder about white people individuals adopting Chinese names with so much meaning and power, without acknowledging their erasure of our own names and languages.

For example, the history of how Chinese surnames were anglicized is rift with discrimination and hate, yet today people from ethnic communities might see the whitening of surnames as a privilege. The assigning of biblical names was also a huge part of the residential school genocide (see here for an excellent article from 2016 by Maija Kappler on indigenous name reclamation).

Finally, just last week a group of community organizers and I had a discussion where we talked about our names. Again, it was almost an after thought. We were all about to head out, just doing last minute small talk about various race equity topics when an individual I admire and consider a mentor and leader stated “one thing we haven’t talked about are the names we ascribe ourselves.”

My Chinese Name – “Wei”

I was recently at a workshop/retreat where I was prepared to introduce my name as “Will.” The first person to introduce her name, a Chinese Canadian woman, introduced not only her English name but also her Chinese name and talked about the meaning of that name in relation to an ancestral relative. Had it known been for her braveness in bringing her birth name into the space, I would not have as well. I didn’t do a great job in describing why that name is so important to me. I wish to do so here.

I have a beautiful Chinese name. Wei (维) is the first part of Wei Duo Li Ya (维多利亚) which means the Vic in Victoria. I was born in Victoria – my name means the land where I came into this world. Will (other than the cheesy saying ‘where there’s a will there’s a way’) has literally no meaning to me. My birth name has a meaning subscribed to the struggle my parents went through as early migrants, facing overt racism, struggling up Mount Tolmie to support the family. Even through all this hardship and struggle they wanted me to adopt the physical space/place in which it was happening.

By abandoning my name “Wei” have I abandoned those stories and erased them from my being and my family’s collective memory?

Out of every one in my family I was the only one to primarily stick with his adopted white name. For me, there was always this fear and concern that if my name was seen as Wei Tao there would be assumptions of me being an immigrant, a newcomer, and someone without language skills.

The last time I heard “Wei Tao” was a few years ago at a university alumni event. The name tag had Wei Tao and I distinctly remember scribbling Will over top of it in Sharpie Pen. I had apparently won a raffle in which they called out “Wei Tao” and it took me twenty seconds to realize that it was actually me. Needless to say they almost pulled a new name out of the hat before I stood up to claim my prize.

My Legal Name vs. My Given Name – and the Legal Profession

As a lawyer, there are many moments that make you pause and think. Generally this is a good thing when you are in this profession. For me, this occ every time when I am writing or signing my name on documents. Right now, the rule I apply is when i am required to put my legal name (i.e. swearing affidavits, or submitting Access to Information Forms, I put my name “Wei William Tao”) or everything else I will use “Will Tao.”

I actually love the names of my immigration clients from different places around the world. I particularly love the “Singh,” “Kaur,” and biblical ceremony involved in Punjabi-Sikh names, the way certain Euro-Russian families will add an a or not to surnames of their parents, of Iranian and Sri Lankan names of multiple syllables, and of Latinx names where they pay hommage to both sides of the family. I also love learning about Indigenous names – particularly when the story behind the name and the clans on different sides of the family are introduced. I am proud of the Tao (cc: my post here about my ancestral home town) but why am I so reticent to adopt the “Wei.” I am in a profession where marketability, presentation, professionalism, and competency is everything. Why is Will Tao more competent and presentable than Wei Tao .  

Also, as a legal advocate – how do I fight for community – to ask for more non-white names of spaces, to ask for colonial names to be removed (a process known as “un-naming”), if I cannot do it myself, to my own name.

“We Cannot Pronounce Your Name”

My spouse is known to most as “Olivia.” She had previously chosen another English name but was told to change it.

For a period of time she reverted back to her Chinese name Xiaoqin when she was in English classes, adopting the short form “Qin” for hopeful ease. A Korean-Canadian instructor told my spouse, to change her name. She said “people could not pronounce it” and drew a metaphoric “You know how Japanese were called Japs” to try and convince her [Trust me, I was in disbelief as well. This is a true story].

This was not the first time this had happened. She had first chosen her original English name in China when the English instructors asked everyone to choose a white name creating many “Michael‘s” and “Mary‘s.”

Not too long ago, her Human Resources (HR) recruitment class, the HR instructor out of the blue asked “I have been wondering why are there students with two names – a Chinese name and an English name beside it.” Perhaps this comment was coming from the perspective of some one with privilege of having two white names. Again, one of the many microaggressions that students (particularly migrant newcomer students) face in their early education in Canada and in the job market. These are the types of implicit biases (one’s I have probably adopted myself on the other side reviewing resumes) which continue to hold down people of colour at staggering impacts. See article here from CBC in 2018 talking about this.

Also – on a related note – what should we do about the mispronunciation of our names? While it is a meaningful gesture to have our names reviewed with us before introduced, it is even more meaningful when we have a person of colour who speaks the language share it or even space to discuss it’s origins rather than to just have us cringe at it’s mispronunciation or give a “nice try” forced Starbucks-pick up line smile.

Asking Our Spouses to Take On Our Names

The history of Chinese women with respect to maintaining their surnames is a fascinating one. I won’t repeat it but direct you to this New York times article here. 

The usual practice is to have children take on the surname of the father, carrying on the practice of patriarchy.

Recently, someone I really admire in the community told me he went against cultural norms and had his son take on his female spouse’s surname. This is beautiful and I only hope more individuals can do things like this, particularly where the histories of naming is so patriarchal.

We also need to give space to women who choose to adopt their spouses white surnames. Too often in our communities, we are ostracizing women for doing this while not recognizing we are doing the same thing with our own first names but more importantly in the way we act in our workplaces and to other white dominant culture spaces.

Would I Be Brave Enough to Change My Name?

One mentor during the community organizer meeting talked about when he messaged his professional network and changed his name back to his Indigenous name from his adopted name. He mentioned it was quite a change.

What is stopping me from the similar liberation?

I look at the name Wei and I should feel love and a sense of place and grounding but I see foreignness and the judgments of those who see,  hear, and try to repeat it. The last time I heard. Just earlier this year, I published my Chinese name in a piece I wrote for a legal publication. It felt liberating but truthfully part of me thought that if I put that name it would be less “Google-able” and separate from my legal work.

Over the next few years I will be having this internal discussion with myself. Feel free when you meet or see me to try and call me “Wei.” Maybe even the dread, “High Wei.” Perhaps you can even honour some of our cultural traditions, and call me Tao Wei (which my mom does) with the surname first. I invite you to see how I react, hopefully with more familiarity will come more acceptance and more courage than I have historically show.

My Future Kids’ Names

I am not sure if any other young couples (with no children but plans to have them) have this activity where you “brainstorm” your future children’s name.  Sometimes it will be a random experience or place we visit and we will decide that this sounds like a good name. I likely, and maybe unfortunately, will still have my future child adopt an English name. One thing for sure is it will be unique and have meaning.

However, we have decided importantly that our child will have a Chinese name. I am not sure yet how to give it meaning: Do we name our child after an ancestor? Take certain characters from different relatives? Take two characters from a chengyu (Chinese idiom) to give it additional meanings? Unfortunately, my own knowledge of the Chinese language also fell victim to my early assimilation efforts as the second-generation product of first generation migrants. I will have to lean on my spouse more, but perhaps we all should.

Perhaps we should start learning these names and ask consent for the sharing of more stories about our names. Perhaps, ending on where the mentor started, we should have a longer conversation about this.

“When we lose our names, we lose the words given to us to define ourselves” – Me

A Few Poems From My Time at CUP

Last week I attended a week long retreat/workshop from Inner Activist called “Conscious Use of Power.” We spent the week on Gabriola Island’s “The Haven,” where I largely disconnected from my work and civilization.

Wile I promised I would do a longer blog piece for them (which I am still thinking through), I wanted to memorialize a few poems I wrote that week. I did not do as much poetry writing as I wanted to, but I hope the ones I did will speak to some of the attendees and perhaps encourage those who have not attended to go next year.

From the First Day:

A Different Me

Breathe
Air. Ocean.
The seagulls are resilient
We merely intrude.
Between gawks I look out at the rapidly flowing water.
I am a different me here.

 

From the First Night

Ginger Tea

The Ginger Tea is c orrect.
My throat is burning.

 

From the Second Morning

Morning After Migraine

Woke up in a cold sweat
Pain – a lifelong ailment
Still – I feel human again
So human in this pain
Maybe I need a reset.

 

From the Second Day

Powerless

POWER/LESS

People/Lost
Owned/Excluded
White/Stressed
Energy/Storms
Reality

 

From the Third Day

The Wasp

This lunch I followed a wasp. Or actually the wasp followed me.
While I am physically bigger than the wasp,
The wasp and their ability to sting held power over me.
Rather than observe, I turned away to afraid to even touch it.
It laid to feast on my food and salad.
Perhaps part of me was sweet, no I forgot this is not a bee.
Wasps continue to sting while bees lose their stinger and die – so to speak.
Coming back to the spot now where I last saw the wasp, they are no long here.
As much as I now want to observe it, it remembers that I rejected it two times.
I feared the power it held and did not engage.

From the Fourth Day

What is My Community?

Colonial work?
Model minority work?
What is my work?
What is my community?

From the Fourth Evening (Second Last Night)

Lying down on this cool September evening;
I look up – where I have not spent enough time;
I see stars – in the sky and surrounding me with their human presence;
I hear the wave and feel the energy – I forgot I had these senses
I feel the breeze of the ocean – carrying a message to me on the shores of these Indigenous lands;
I look at my beloved swings behind me
I think
…. through every word spoken
…..every dream shared
……every flaw identified
…….every tear dropped
………every dance done
………..I learned
………….I grew
I reflect back on these days
And realize that without every single one of you
…. every glance, every smile, every hug, every  ‘no, not now’, every piece of wisdom shared;
Each of you have left an indelible mark on this still searching soul;
I will carry you away in the same way the thoughts of you carried me here and through;
You are my stars, my waves, my swings, my dance, my hope;
You have renewed in me a faith in humanity;
In gratitude I hope that this cup will be shared as a source o f renewal, a resource we can turn to in love, with compassion.
Thank you for being here with me and for me.

 

I didn’t get a chance to write on the last night due to our celebration. I really miss CUP. I miss the conversation, the people, and the ability to daydream.

I’ll go resource myself in a minute.

Let Me Tell This a Different Way…….. Their Eyes (A Response to Op-Ed/Increasing Hate)

Their eyes.  Seen through a lot of things – more vividly when closed.

From villages where they would eat through garbage on the streets.

To now – being asked to go out by their wealthier friend to eat, but trying to find excuses. Running out.

The reality is what’s left of the fast food they served, is now dinner today. Plus whatever was on sale at Superstore – you know those ones with the special stickers.

They were sitting on the bus, eating traditional breaky at the back.

By the way people were looking at them, this would be the 60’s, they’d be black.

They would eat on a table if they had one in their room.

Man starting to look at them like they an animal from a zoo.

As they ate each bite, you can tell his anger grew.

Clutching a book by Peterson in one hand, the other reading the Op-Eds as if they were news. Holding these ancient views as if they it was shone light on an unwanted Son.

Under his white gaze, it was as if Slumdog Millionaire had come back on first run.

They goes into class late, cause the bus was running slow.

Like they usually do, they sit sit at back, trying to lay low.

Instructor talks about that ‘assimilation’ is what newcomers need to know.

Makes an offhand remark – you ain’t come here to play in snow.

They think: “Hell if it was snowing, they wouldn’t have proper shoes to wear.”

The last time at the store, they checked, nobody seem to care.

Looked at them as if they should have went next door to Payless shoes

It’s true, they barely had enough to pay their tuition dues.

Even at the temple, barefoot, they all looked as if they knew.

They were here with no mother, father, no ties – nothing to lose?

But they were slowly losing their mind, paying that cultural fine, struggling with differences across space and time, realizing this immigrant life is a grind.

Agent back there said in a ‘few years’ they’d be fine.

Turns out both him and their homestay were together on the lie.

Yet they still put on a brave smile, serving up them subs.

Have these blazed guys gaze them like they been sent to give them rubs.

They had an MBA and three years working in IT.

Nobody in the world seems to care who they might be.

Yet, they spend their weekends giving back through service and their volunteer.

They spend their nights talking to mom and dad who be in fear.

During the days they struggle thinking about a potential career.

They closes their door, regrets being a poor, thinks about that man who called them a coloured whore.

As they were trying to buy a snack, they got asked if they worked at the store.

Asked by a customer if they could help, a kid spilled, please sweep the floor.

They start thinking about that childhood – even through trash they at least had friends.

Whats the use of all this hustle – if no means also know no ends.

“Don’t worry – learn some English, in a minute you will blend.”

“Just learn to order a proper Canadiana next time you at Blenz.”

“Go back home to your country.” comes a booming voice from a Blue Benz.

They had accidentally jaywalked in their thoughts of things to mend.

Ties, Lies, Tries, Trial, Tribulations, Loser, Lost. Triggered. Time and Time Again. Determined. Do it. Don’t. Disintegrate. Dream. Dream. Dream.

The alarm clock rings. They are late for school again. Hopefully today is going to be different.

 

21 Day Anthology – Day 5 – Storytelling Training Session

I did training today with a group of Chinese-Canadian leaders for a workshop on storytelling.

There are some really good things – which I don’t want to spoil for those eventually attend the workshop, but I will share the story that I came up with. Perhaps you could draw the key concepts we were asked to include from my actual piece. Ps. the last paragraph doesn’t reflect reality.

On a side note, I am very excited to get to go to Calgary this Friday for The Action, Chinese Canadians Together Foundation Summit in Calgary.

Without further ado, here’s my short piece. I know I’m one day behind, so hopefully this is a good excuse.

I was born to an immigrant father who has 60 dollars in his pocket. Both himself and my mother were doctor’s in China. They had to restart their education from scratch in Canada. They lived in basements, cooked food for their landlords in exchange for rent. They had to endure prejudice from colleagues at work and financial struggle. I was born in Victoria, immune to the struggle around me.

 

As a 2nd-generation Canadian, I reaped the benefits of the economic success they had built for our family but blamed them for the cultural tensions they created within the household and the relationships I failed to establish with others – mostly white colleagues and white teachers.

 

I moved away from the Chinese culture viewing it as a crutch, a weakness, to be shed along with my integration into white society. In my childhood, going to ethnic enclaves such as a Chinatown began as a weekly obligation, a necessary requirement to be avoided. Sure, I enjoyed the barbeque buns but my father often harassed us back in the car to go home as soon as possible – the streets were apparently ‘not safe.’ As soon as I had another place to go – nicer, brighter, cleaner supermarkets in Richmond (similar to the way Toronto has Richmond Hill). I left. I pursued whiteness as a solution.

 

I was never told the stories of our struggles, the violence, to obtain equality that begun on these streets, the constant harassing of our businesses by bylaw enforcement officials, the exclusion of our women, the taking way of our basic rights to vote. I became a lawyer fighting for justice without knowing the story of our own community’s injustice. I owe it Dr. Henry Yu, at UBC, for teaching me and asking me to rethink my own story but also the role of Chinese-Canadians in building Canada.

 

I learned railroad wasn’t built us just buy us by hired help that we were here and built it for our own subjugation. This story gave me meaning.

 

I know many individuals feel the same as me. We’ve spent time in Chinatown but forgotten our roots to this space, and the roots to our identities. To me reclaiming Chinatown is reclaiming our history and showing Canadians there is more that unites us and divides us. It is a story of humility, of resilience, crossing ethnic communities. It is of grandparents, of kindness and generosity, of vendors feeding us and sacrifice on the street corners. Yet, I still see the same tensions that affected the relationship between me and my parent’s generation today.

 

Now, we need to ensure that Chinatown does not become a forgotten asterix, a planning. try but fail – or even that we failed. We need to support actions that allow us to apply for UNESCO Designation. We need to encourage efforts to support local businesses to ensure they are not subsumed by unhealthy gentrification. I urge you to come out to our next meeting as a guest to the Chinatown Legacy working group in a week next week and to support our event. We will provide our food to fill your stomachs from our local bakery, we just kindly ask that you make a small donation of $20. This donation will go a long way to supporting our initiatives and supporting our efforts to write a comprehensive report to council on the need for further funding for our next steps.

21 Day Anthology – Day 4 – Decolonize (one day behind)

I’m one day behind. No excuses. Weekend ball drop. Paul George not playing up on Dame.

Decolonize

I want to decolonize.

I am trapped in colonial work.

It is like I forgot the colour of my own skin.

What is the content of my character?

Am I too content with these spoils at my door.

Why does it burn one out more to help the poor.

But why do I even refer to them as poor.

Their richer in culture than you and me.

They organize, and put feets on the streets.

They speak up and when they drum you best believe your heart is touched your head starts throbbing. You naturally start bobbing.

But don’t forget that very beat was once banned.

And I just pass on laws to clients they can barely understand.

Because sometimes, it wasn’t made to understand rather to reprimand.

We need to decolonize man and there’s a reason I said it.

Instead of caring what they be saying about my work on Reddit.

End it.