bossymarmalade: a maple leaf frozen in the rideau canal (all tucked away down there)
The first thing that confused me when we moved to Vancouver, after six years of childhood in a country brown and black before anything else, was the absence of black people. There were brown people -- they weren't like me, and lots of the time didn't consider me a real Indian -- but they were there, at least.

I've been here for twenty years now.

Three years ago I learned for the first time about Hogan's Alley, the black community in Vancouver. Chicken houses run by women as their husbands worked as porters on the Canadian Pacific Railway, the city's only black church, the lesbian presence unacknowledged by the white hipster queer girls I talk to in class every week.

Hogan's Alley, destroyed in order to make way for the Georgia Viaduct (the Georgia what? A project that never happened) and with its erasure the disappearance of black people from my city. Before I came here or was even born, but the absence is still disorienting.

Three hours ago I learned for the first time about Priceville, a black community in Ontario. There were black people there since the 1800s, cultivating land and building houses that they were never allowed to legally own; it didn't take long for white residents to drive them all out of the town. And then in the 1930s Bill Reid, a white farmer, ploughed over the black cemetery and planted potatoes there.

His stepdaughter blandly recalls that they were good potatoes. An old man talks about using a piece of a tombstone found near "the darkie schoolhouse" as a home plate for baseball games. More tombstones, they think, are in Bill Reid's basement, used as flagstones on the dirt floor and poured over with concrete since then.

The corner of the Reid field that's since been rededicated and fenced off isn't even the whole cemetery. The rest of the bodies aren't there. They and their tombstones are under the road.

They are under the road.

I drove home on the long dark UBC road (unceded Musqueam territory, all of it) and all I could think about was the erasure of black communities in Canada, and our silence about it. The people out East who narrow their eyes at dark West Indians and the people here in the West who snarl at newly-arrived Somalians. I don't only mean white people.

We don't know anything about our own damn history.

- speakers for the dead: NFB documentary on Priceville -
..the remyth project..
bossymarmalade: a man in moko jumbie mud (moko jumbies are my entourage)
There are pirates in the Caribbean.

But the stories we tell aren't about foppish Englishmen and emaciated blonde girls; those might be the ones we're taught in school as we sit on hard benches, or in the movie theatre with grease-spotted brown paper bags, but they're not the ones my mother told me under the mosquito net.

The evil ones she warned me about were the demons who lived inside tiny hard jumbie beads, waiting for their moment of emancipation. They were the beautiful women in long Spanish dresses waiting by the side of the road, waiting with their cloven goat hooves that men noticed a moment too late. My Caribbean ghosts didn't only come out in the moonlight and the right CGI. They haunted the tall grass, undead children with backwards-turned feet calling hoop, hoop to lure you in and so you mustn't follow, mustn't even answer.

The stories my tantie told came from her Catholic mouth full of our Hindu imagery, as she related the battles she fought with the brigand spirits who haunted (her house I remember so well, high up in the rural countryside and full of lattices and hidden things and endless wind through the teak leaves), spirits who sounded like rakshasas and left marks on her smooth brown abdomen that looked as though they'd hammered nails into her. My tantie gone now, her house half-dropped from mudslides, jumbies and pirate spirits free to make their mischief and continue their plunder.

There *were* pirates, and they were the sort in boats. They're not the ones who stayed even if they are the ones who took and keep taking. They're not the ones mothers whisper to their children about at bedtime, just loud enough to carry over the sibilant sugar cane. Our pirates don't have movies; no movie could contain them.

..the remyth project..


bossymarmalade: blue eye with lashes of red flower petals (Default)
miss maggie

April 2015

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