Where did you find it?

 

THERE WAS HOPE TOO

 

Marhaba, dear ancestors, thank you for all you have given for me to be where I am today. My heart aches thinking of what you endured in order to survive and, in turn, ensuring the survival of generations after you. You lived through a deadly famine during World War I where swarms of locusts and drought devastated fields of vegetables and olive trees. Blockades worsened those tragic days. As decades passed, there were more wars, more deaths, more sorrow. But there was hope too, wasn’t there? There were wedding and birthday celebrations, dancing and drumming on terraces or under canopies of grapes. Despite the tragedies, you had faith. Where did this faith come from? How did you see optimism through the dark clouds of despair and horror? Where did you find the strength to carry on? To still love and dream?

 

 

TELL YOUR STORY 

 

Descendants, we must carry on. My ancestors taught me this. Hard work and a belief in yourself will help you on this journey of creativity. I encourage those following the writer’s path to push through the rejections, embrace the conflicting feelings of anguish and joy and find your voice. Don’t give up. Our voices are unique. Don’t compare yourself to others and, above all, don’t get discouraged if things aren’t happening yet. In time, more opportunities will arrive and you’ll be heard. Tell your story and carry on. The seeds of your dream were planted for a reason: to grow, to be harvested, to be felt, to be heard. Carry on, my fellow writers, fellow dreamers.

 

 

 

Sonia Saikaley is the author of the award-winning novella “The Lebanese Dishwasher” and poetry collections “Turkish Delight, Montreal Winter” and “A Samurai’s Pink House”. A graduate of the Humber School for Writers, she lives in her hometown of Ottawa, Canada near her large Lebanese family. In the past, she worked as an English teacher in Japan where she introduced belly dancing to her students. Her novel “The Allspice Bath” was recently published by Inanna Publications.

 

Currently…

Sonia is working on a novel set in Lebanon about a young woman trying to achieve her independence despite the cultural restraints placed on her. It is also a love story between this Lebanese woman and a Jewish man. The story takes place before and during the Lebanese Civil War of 1975.

Sonia is inspired by brave women who fight for what they believe in and who don’t give up. Her novel “The Allspice Bath” is about such a woman. Adele Azar is struggling to find her place between the old and new worlds. It’s not an easy task. From the start, Adele disappointed her parents because she wasn’t born a boy. She balances two cultures yet the question remains: can she find her freedom without losing part of herself in the process? Set in Ottawa, Toronto and Lebanon, “The Allspice Bath” is a reminder that dreams are possible in spite of hardships.

Follow Sonia on Twitter & FB

Photo credit: Sylvia Saikaley

Show Up.

Before me…

 

Where’s home? Where’s peace of mind?  Who will be there when I arrive?

How do you revisit a dream you lost in the midst of surviving a bad scene?

What’s the trick to living in harmony with those who have harmed me?

Why do so many women I know harbour so much self-hate?

For my soular-sister who wonders: When last did freedom say your name?

 

Beyond/After me…

In order to heal you must acknowledge what hurts. The words, gestures, and rhymes for these signs are perhaps foreign at first. But I think when you are finally able to call it out, then you can change its hold on you. There’s a bona fide beauty in moving, stepping out and splitting off from a hiding place. It is not unlike birth. Simply, you ask to be found when you search.

Trust that what is meant for you is relying on you to show up. Show up.

 

 

Britta B. is a spoken word poet and arts educator. Her works have been featured on TEDx, The Walrus Talks, CBC Radio’s Day 6, Ask Her: Talks presented by The Stephen Lewis Foundation, Toronto Star’s The Kit: Compact Magazine and the Art Gallery of Ontario. In 2017, Britta was an artist-in-residence for the spoken word program at Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. Britta is currently a member of the Toronto Arts Council Leaders Lab.

As an arts educator, Britta develops curriculum, facilitates artist-training seminars, poetry workshops and after-school programs in partnership with organizations like UNITY Charity, Leave Out Violence (Ontario) and various school boards across Ontario. Britta is a former youth mentor for The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery and junior artist mentor for the Art Gallery of York University.

When not performing or teaching, Britta emcees break-dance battles, hip-hop jams and community appreciation events.

Learn more about Britta here. 

Social Media: @missbrittab

Photo credit: Gilad Cohen 

I want to know

To those who came before—

 

I used to look for myself in timelines and dog-eared photos, tried to trace my body through maps that spanned the world. I want to know how you were all wildfires below monsoon clouds, flickering flames in tropical rains; how one single steady breath sparks the light in all of us.

 

To those who follow—

 

From where I stand, the path behind me unwinds and winds and winds more than my eyes can hold. The path forward is just as dimpled and trodden because we travel with others, because routes intersect to weave tapestries, because we traverse in pairs and navigate waterways with crews. I am sure in my journey there will be slips and falls, tumbles and tender missteps. Do with it what you will. Never feel as though you are obligated to take the same path. Hold your ancestors and heroes as accountable as you would your friends – after all, they’re one in the same.

 

 

Natasha Ramoutar is an Indo-Guyanese writer, academic, and storyteller from Scarborough, the eastern suburb of Toronto. She completed her Honours Bachelor of Arts in English & French at the University of Toronto Scarborough, and is currently pursuing a Master of Professional Communication at Ryerson University. Her professional and academic background is in literature, film, and communication. Both her critical and creative writing explore popular culture, diaspora, physical movement, and representation.

Follow her creative journey on instagram and twitter.

 

Natasha is currently…

working on her manuscript, tentatively titled Bittersweet, which explores cross-cultural and intergenerational communication, diaspora and transnational migration, and the concept of homeland. It examines her relationship to Guyana, India, and Canada with Scarborough omnipresent as a framing device, along with aspects of my identity as a woman, a person of colour, and a first generation Canadian.

She is grateful to have access to the work of so many impactful writers. Some of her current inspirations include: nayyirah waheed, Anne-Marie Turza, Tanya Talaga, Gaiutra Bahadur, and Dionne Brand. Most recently, She has also found a home within David Chariandy’s lyrical, precise novel Brother,  and forever moved by the work of these emerging writers: Adrian De Leon, Leanne Toshiko Simpson, Téa Mutonji, Oubah Osman, and Chelsea La Vecchia.

Photo credit: Matthew Narea

Did you celebrate?

Iethihsothó:kon, ancestors , nyàwenkowa, big thanks for all your sacrifices, resilience and enduring presence within the night sky, horizon, water, land, spirit guides, our songs, dances, languages, stories, foods, medicines, teachings and the unseen and unknown. I know you best during my dreaming; in my waking it is upon your shoulders I stand. Nyàwenkowa~

  1. Iethihsothó:kon, what was Pre-colonial Turtle Island really like? Describe for me, the abundance, contentment, and wonder.
  2. Iethihsothó:kon, why did you welcome the European Settlers? Why did some of y’all not follow the prophecies? Who sold us out, and why?
  3. Iethihsothó:kon, we are still here, doing our best to manifest your promise, your dreams, but shit is getting unbearable. Real talk…what is the way forward for our people? Most of us are done with the negotiating, reconciliating and debating. I’m done with this notion of White Ally-ship. What’s the end game here? The 8th Fire  Prophecy, is that gonna work out for us or not?
  4. Iethihsothó:kon, since receiving my spirit name,                                             Enml’ga’t Saqama’sgw (The Woman Who Walks Through The Light), I’ve been doing my best to manifest my purpose and follow my path, what three things would you advise me to do in this lifetime to keep my passion for my purpose burning bright, before I become an ancestor?
  5. Iethihsothó:kon, what are your thoughts on the evolution of Bannock?
  6. Iethihsothó:kon, what is the most sacred place on Turtle Island where reconnecting with you, my ancestors, would be a healing and spiritually enlightening experience?
  7. Iethihsothó:kon, can you please send actual Thunderbirds to vanquish all these Black Snake Corporate Capitalist Terrorists (Burn dem)
  8. Iethihsothó:kon, did you celebrate when the Bison started coming home?

 

To all my Onkwehonwe I want you to know that although you are the seeds of the next 7 generation you are more than your roots. If you’re reading this it means my resiliency manifested into legacy and that is the greatest contribution any Onkwehonwe can invest in during their lifetime. Speak Light. Speak Life. Speak words into existence. Keep our stories alive. Say our names. Live Onkwehonwe’ neha, remember our stories make us whole and we are connected to all things, and this way there can be no separation between us, even we are apart. We begin as story~live as story~and exist as stories in the after, because our stories never end, they always begin again.

 

Mahlikah Awe:ri Enml’ga’t Saqama’sgw The Woman Who Walks In The Light is an award winning drum talk-poetic rapologist, community warrior, Haudenosaunee Mohawk/Mi’kmaw, Wolf Clan, social change artist, based in Tkaronto, with First Nations ancestry from Kahnawá:ke Q.C. and Bear River, N.S. ; African Diasporic blood lines on Turtle Island dating back to the Atlantic Slave Trade and Black Loyalists in Canada since the 1700’s, as well as, Afro-Caribbean roots from the Bahamas and European roots from Ireland.

 

Mahlikah is currently…

 a facilitator for Louder Than A Bomb Toronto and will be opening the finals on May 12th at Daniels Spectrum. She is continuing to deliver workshops as part of the NAC 10 Learning Days with the AGO and Indigenous Education Centre for the remainder of the school term. She is participating in three recording projects at the moment, working with Red Slam on their second full length LP and a House EP; contributing poetry to Brick Books Publishing who has asked Indigenous Waves, Jenny Blackbird to curate stories and poems from Indigenous writers; and is featuring in the Fonna Seidu, sisterhoodmedia.net project, sharing her experiences with mentorship, creative entrepreneurial pursuits, overcoming obstacles and leadership success. She is currently booking performances and key notes for summer 2018 and arts education workshops for the 2018-2019 school year. To book Mahlikah, click here.

You can find her & Red Slam Collective on Bandcamp, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube & Twitter.

Photo Credit: Red Works and Nadya Kwandibens

I ask you…

Ancestors,

 

Thank you. I have immense gratitude that goes beyond words for all you have done. I ask you to please continue to guide our hopes, dreams, struggles, and coping so that we all can move toward the lives you envisioned for us.

With as much love as I can muster,

Sedina

 

 

Descendants,

 

Be emboldened to act, to dream, to play, to be courageous in who you are, without apology.

Always look to the past for lessons, while envisioning a better future.

 

 

 

Sedina Fiati is a performer, producer, creator and activist for stage and screen. She proudly identifies as black and femme and was born in Tkaronto to a Trinidadian mother and Ghanaian father. Her name means a gift from God in Ewe and she hopes to be that to the world. Sedina has a BFA in Music Theatre from the University of Windsor and has worked on a variety of projects ranging from cabaret, Shakespeare, devised work, multidisciplinary work and short films. Sedina is currently 2nd VP of Canadian Actors Equity Association council and Managing Producer at The Storefront Theatre.

 

Sedina is currently…

Creating, producing and acting in a web series called Last Dance. As the Managing Producer of The Storefront Theatre, working on After Wrestling upcoming at Factory and the Feminist Fuck It Festival. Stay tuned for upcoming news on social justice workshop series for the live performance community. I am inspired right now by the next generation who are questioning old paradigms and standing up for social justice in every sphere. I am also working on finding time for fun self care and seeing my friends and family more often.

To stay updated on Sedina’s work, follow along on twitter and instagram.

Photo by Warren Cleland. 

A New Year, A New Set of Questions

We are behind the scenes, developing a wonderful lineup of creative, inspiring humans who will share their questions with us this year.

In the meantime, feel to contemplate and reflect upon one or more of these questions as we settle in to 2018:

What will I do this year to remind myself that I have the support of my ancestors and traditions behind me? 

What unhealthy ideas/ beliefs/ways of being  have been unintentionally passed down to me?  What do I need to do to let them go?

If my ancestors could speak to me now, what would they remind me to do/be? Is that advice in line with what I want to do and who I want to be? Why or why not? 

Come back often.

Stay a while.

You’re home.

How can I?

Ancestors,

 

I have thought and thought and I don’t know if I have any questions for you. I know your words were stolen, your stories and bodies turned into sites of shame. I wouldn’t want to burden you with questions you might not want to answer, or memories you may not want to recount. So I guess I have no questions to ask of you. I only have gratitude for you. Because of you, I’m here. Because of you, my daughter is here. Because of you, we still have a small patch of land to call home, a place we can speak our languages and hold our ceremonies together to make our nations strong.

Maybe I do have a question or two after all.

How can I make you most proud?

How can I best show my appreciation for all that you’ve done?

 

 

Descendants,

 

You are worth all the struggles I’ve had to endure and will have to endure in my life.

You are worth it all.

 

 

 

Alicia Elliott is a Tuscarora writer living in Brantford, Ontario. Her writing has been published by The Malahat Review, The New Quarterly, The Walrus, Macleans, Globe and Mail and many others. Her essay “A Mind Spread Out on the Ground” won Gold at the National Magazine Awards this past May and has been selected to be published in Best Canadian Essays 2017. She has most recently been named the 2017-2018 Geoffrey and Margaret Andrew Fellow at UBC.

Follow her on twitter @WordsandGuitar.