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Warning: Logan Film Spoilers, Swearing, Lots of Music and Pop Culture References, and Epic Levels of Bad Role Modeling, Discussions of Suicide, Mental Illness, Sexual Abuse…Like if you were too young to watch the Logan Movie in Theatres Don’t Read This Blog Post.

Now that those are all out of the way, yes, I came probably the closest I have ever come to successfully killing myself last month..

But I didn’t and more interestingly, I haven’t felt as good as I do now since I was 17 years old.

All because I watched the Logan Trailer over 100 times…

This is just my story. I can’t say it will help anyone else but as I have recently been reminded, often when we are trying to avoid killing ourselves we search the internet for..something..to help us stop.

So, maybe this series of blog posts will help someone else. That’s why I am writing it.

I am not saying go watch the Logan Trailer 100 times and you will be fine because I am not fine. No, I am still a hot mess. I am still struggling daily with a mental illness. My life is still kind of a ruin. But something has changed…for the better.

So, first, how did I get to the whole wanting to kill myself thing?

Well, I am going to have to explain that more fully over the whole series of blog posts but here is the short answer:

My mother committed suicide and her 4-year death anniversary was coming up.

My grandmother had also died earlier this year and that hit me way harder than I could’ve expected and that along with both of my mother’s cats who were kind of my last connection to her dying in quick secession shot me from my usual clinically depressed state into a full on double depression and massive generalized anxiety disorder flare up.

My life has been a blur for most of 2017.

I always find it funny when people say “Oh, you have been so busy.” Why do people think that? Seriously?

Actually, I have barely left my house this year. During Ramadan, I can count the number of times I left my house on one hand. Ya, one time was to do a Parliamentary Press Conference but like public speaking comes pretty easy to me….ask me to speak to press about hate crimes or to a group of strangers in Toronto about being suicidal.

Sure, easy.

Ask me to answer the phone when a friend calls or frankly anything work related.

Nope, that’s way too scary.

The truth is I have been literally asleep for most of this year.

So all of that on top of experiencing a confusing, scary and demoralizing time at work, I have honestly just been hanging on to life by the thinnest of threads.

And then Chester Bennington from LinkIn Park killed himself.

And I was like “Stick a Fork In Me! I AM DONE!”

Chester Bennington killing himself has had a real impact on me because, like me, he was a survivor of sexual abuse as a child and a lot of the pain and damage in his life that caused is explored in his music. So, I overly identify with him.

But Chester Bennington was a successful musician with a family! But he still killed himself?

Who was I kidding if I thought I stood a change coping with this whole life thing given what little I have to hang on to?

If he couldn’t make it, clearly neither could I.

So last month, I just decided one night that I was done.

My life wasn’t going to get any easier and was clearly now just degenerating out of control. Things were just going to get worse.

So PEACE OUT World! Drop The Mic, Walk off the stage. I’m outta here.

I decided to psych myself up to follow through by binge watching a bunch of LinkIn Park songs.

Songs like Crawling

The lyrics of this song related to how I felt right then.

Crawling in my skin
These wounds, they will not heal

There’s something inside me that pulls beneath the surface
Consuming, confusing
This lack of self-control I fear is never ending

But then I decided I would watch the Logan Trailer a few times because it was so sad and the song Hurt covered by Johnny Cash is also so sad.

I was just trying to load up on sadness.

Even though the lyric doesn’t appear in the Logan trailer, the lyric I always think of when I think of the song Hurt is “Everyone I know goes away in the end…”

Yep, everybody leaves because everybody is dead.

I also totally relate to Logan in the film.

Logan can’t heal anymore the older he has gotten because the metal they put on his claws is poisoning him. His body is breaking down, it is scarred and infected.

I relate to Logan’s Aging: The older I get, the less resilient to the pain I have become.  I feel like I am also scarred, infected and rotting from the inside out.

Crawling in my skin
These wounds, they will not heal

Logan’s Poisoning: I felt that I came from a bloodline that is basically cursed and that’s the poison running through my veins. And I really just need to except the inevitable and fade away.

There’s something inside me that pulls beneath the surface
Consuming, confusing
This lack of self-control I fear is never ending

But then other thoughts came to me.

Thought 1: Logan and Dr. Xavier’s relationship reminded me of my relationship with my mother. I, like Logan, was just surviving in order to take care of her and protect her. But I wasn’t really living.

Thought 2: The actress that plays Laura, the child mutant who was cloned using Logan’s DNA, looks a lot like my mother as a child.

Thought 3: My mother was such a big Patrick Stewart fan. I always hoped to some day talk her to a Comic Convention where she could meet him. But I never made the effort and now I would never have the opportunity because she’s gone.

Thought 4: My mother loved Patrick Stewart’s reading of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I bought it for her for Christmas. She loved Patrick Stewart’s voice.

Thought 5: It is really cool how the editor’s of the Logan Trailer take Patrick Stewart’s Professor Xavier dialogue with Logan out of context and yet, in doing so, beautifully spell out Logan’s dilemma in the film. Logan is just surviving for Professor Xavier. He is afraid to have to care about anyone else who might also tie him to a life he really wants out of. This really is such an EPIC Trailer.

Thought 6: Wait a minute…why do I know feel that Patrick Stewart as Professor Xavier is now speaking to Logan…and ME?

Thought 7: Okay, so I am really totally bad shit crazy now, I think Professor X is talking to me.

Thought 8: Okay, yep my suicidal depression has entered some type of delusional psychoic break because now I am thinking that Professor X is actually speaking to me on behalf of my dead mom! WHAAHT?

Thought 9: Once again, I am completely bat shit crazy now.

Thought 10: Ok well, I’m totally nuts now so I guess there is no harm is trying to figure out what my dead mom via Patrick Stewart’s dialogue as Professor X in the Logan Trailer is trying to say to me.

The Dialogue in the Logan Trailer

Logan/ME: What is she?

Professor X/My Mom: She’s like you. Very much like you.

Professor X/My Mom: She needs our help.

Logan/Me: Someone will come along

Professor X/My Mom: Someone has come along.

Professor X/My Mom: Logan, there is still time.

Thought 11: This makes a lot of sense.

So what was the first message revealed to me by the Logan Trailer?

I realized that I had two choices.

Choice 1: I could kill myself now and “go down in despair”, like Logan planned to, shooting himself in the head with an adamantine bullet….that’s the only kind of bullet that could kill Logan.

Choice 2: I could choose to not just survive but live and “go down in hope”, like Logan choses to do in the end when he remembers who he really is…HE’S FUCKING WOLVERINE!

By this time, you are probably like, “Wow, this woman is bat-shit crazy.” (I only get to say that because I am mentally ill. It’s OUR Word).

And you are right, I am a hot mess that is probably risking all future prospects of volunteering or being hired by sharing this story.

But that’s what I am talking about when I say “going down in hope”.

I have lived my life being very scared all the time of everything. In particular, I have been scared of losing my friends and ending up homeless because I have no job-both experiences I have had at some point in my life.

Because of my fear of ending up homeless I have put up with a lot of assaults to my self-worth in work and volunteer contexts. Because for me, leaving a job or volunteer position that could lead to a job always meant one thing-I am going to end up homeless.

In writing this series of blog posts, and taking on the risks that this entails, I am choosing to “go down in hope” LIKE FUCKING WOLVERINE.

Yes, I may lose my job.

Yes, I may never work again.

Yes, I may end up homeless

Yes, I may freeze to death on the street after experiencing repeated violence and humiliation.

I accept all of this.

But I am NOT going to self-destruct any more. I am not (inshallah) going to try to kill myself anymore.

I am NOT going to put up with people bullying me and making me fell I am worthless.

I am going to face my greatest fears and accept that they may come true.

Because keeping my head down because I am afraid has just made me so sick that I came so close to killing myself.

That’s not living that’s just surviving….barely surviving.

And I want to live now.

Even if the majority of people who read this series of blog posts think I am an un-hirable hot mess, at least one person reading it will be helped by it. I know you will be.

And that is what I mean by going down in hope…LIKE FUCKING WOLVERINE!

So ya, if you are a suicidal Chester Bennington fan but you really want to find out more about what I learned about my past, possible future, and the meaning of life from watching the Logan Trailer, you are going to have to stay alive for my upcoming blog posts…

See you next week…..

Chelby and Mom 4

For my mother who taught me to read history from the bottom up….and always liked to make faces…and yes, that’s what my hair looks like….

So people have been sharing a Facebook Post I wrote so I decided to make it a blog post so I can add links.

Honestly, I have zero idea why people are sharing what I wrote. One person told me it was because I was a trusted source of information. I am a middle aged woman who has nothing better to do but blog, I am like the very definition of an untrustworthy online source!

But anyway, I have added links and some rants.

Trigger Warning: White Supremacy, Racism, Global Anti-Blackness, Anti-Antisemitism, Genocide, Nazis, Words for genitalia

My Mom is White. I Am Black.

My mother is White. More specifically she is French Canadian (Father) German American (Mother-had an American Dad and a German immigrant mom). She identified as culturally French Canadian but I was raised in English because her dad was a self-hating French Canadian and her mom didn’t speak French. Family was Catholic until something happened…possibly involving the theft of communion wine…and they just stopped going to Church and became United….which seems to Church a lot of Canadians joined at the time if stuff got awkward at the Churches they originally belonged to.

My mother was often asked if I was adopted. To which she would reply “No, she came out of my vagina. They sewed me back up crooked so I can prove it!”

My mom had very little sense of what was respectable to say or do. I wasn’t raised with any real sense of that either. It took years for me to realize that probably no one really needed to know about the state of my mother’s vagina after she gave birth to me but I always liked how it made officials like teachers who bullied me look super uncomfortable. “Ask a dumb question, get an answer that is going to totally weird you out.”

My Mom Teaches Me to Read History From the Bottom Up

My mother never graduated from high school. Her social anxiety and depression made it impossible for her to keep a job. But my mother was a very intelligent woman who was very curious about the world. I was working towards trying to her her own laptop before she committed suicide in 2013 because she would have loved all of things she would have been able to teach herself that were available online…

My mother was a victim of sexual, physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her parents. She never really got to be an adult. My grandparents controlled our lives-from getting my dad deported to killing our cats until my grandfather finally went to jail for his crimes and my grandmother was convicted for hiring a hitman to kill my adopted aunt in my early teens (Yes this all really happened, some it even made the local news). So when I say I come from a dysfunctional family I don’t me cute dysfunctional like Modern Family I mean DYSFUNCTIONAL.

But despite all of this, my mother and I had each other and we would spend a lot of time teaching ourselves about the world from the comfort of our living room. We mainly learned history from television.

Two subjects my mom liked to learn about were The Holocaust and The American Civil War…so basically two subjects where you can get a good dose of clearly still very relevant White Supremacist History. I was raised knowing about the KKK and the significance of the Confederate Flag.

This was both part of my mother trying to teach me the harsh reality of what it is to be Black in North America but also because this was my family’s history. My grandmother’s mother was a German Immigrant and her father was a multi-generational American with origins in Virginia.

My family fought during the Civil War and I grew up knowing that my grandmother was convinced that we were related to Colonel Benjamin Butler. This Butler connection led to me be super confused because my grandmother first told me about this when I was like 4 and we were watching a John Wayne movie set during the Civil War. So, somehow I concluded that I was also related to John Wayne…which I only worked out was possible by the age of 7 (that’s nothing, I was convinced Marvin Gaye was my dad until about the age of 6).

Colonel Butler is an interesting figure seeing as he did write the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) Act of 1871, which aimed to allow the US Government to go after the Klan. The Act is still used in courts today…most notably in some Black Lives Matter cases.

I don’t think we really are related though because that never came up on the Butler family tree that my distant relatives up online years ago. But members of my family did fight for Virginia in the Civil War, meaning that they fought for the Confederacy (correct me if I am wrong distant relatives). I definitely feel that we were culturally more influenced by the American South. Chelby is a very common Southern Name for both men and women (Remember Steal Magnolias?).

One of my mom’s favorite shows she liked to watch about the Civil War was North and South. It is about two friends who find themselves fighting on opposite sides of the Civil War. One of them, Orry played by Patrick Swayze, is in love with Madelaine,a woman who (Spoiler Alert) was born into a privileged Southern family but who soon discovers that her mother was Black but passing (like Rashida Jones). Here is a scene from the show.

I never met my German great-grandmother for a variety of reason (including I was told, my race). But we knew we were of German Heritage so I think that added an extra-dimension to our viewing of films about the Holocaust.

Our favorite film was Music Box, where a woman discovers (Spoiler Alert) that her Hungrian father, who she defends throughout the film, was really a Nazi who tortured and raped people. How much can any of us really know about our parents’ past?

I think my mother identified with slaves and people persecuted by the Nazis because she saw herself as being at the bottom of society and so that was the history she was interested in, learning about how people at the bottom of society, at the bottom of history, survived or at least tried to die with some integrity.

My mom didn’t leave out that Romani (Gypsies), Gay people (original of the Pink Triangle Symbol), people living with disabilities were also taken out by Nazis…she didn’t know about the sterilization of mixed race Black children because that wasn’t widely known outside of Germany at the time. But if you read Hitler’s Mein Kampf (yes I have) you will know that he obsesses over the Rhineland Bastards, mixed race Black children born from the relationships and rapes of German women by African soldiers brought in by the French post World War I.

Heritage Front Tries and Epicly Fails to Take Over My Neighbourhood

Back in the early 90s, the violent CANADIAN White Supremacist Movement Heritage Front led a targeted campaign to recruit followers in the low-income neighbourhoods of Ottawa…..we too often forget that Nazi stands for National Socialist and it is common to find White Supremacist groups that are very anti-capitalism…They even rented the Boys and Girls Club to host a concert. People like my mother were considered race traitors. Their pamphlets were fascinating reading, particularly those that focused on how Black people were only intelligent in North America because they had White Blood…which is why White people needed to stop having kids with them so that Black folks could go back to be stupid like cattle… how Jews were controlling the economy, and how immigrants were taking all the jobs. The Heritage Front was eventually run out of my predominantly White neighourhood with Baseball bats. (I grew up knowing that you always need to have a baseball bat or hockey stick within grabbing distance from your front door…everyone else grew up doing that, right?).

Heritage Front got taken down using tactics that we are now more familiar with seeing the RCMP and CSIS use with Muslim extremists-MOLES. Read more about that story here.

Hilariously, Some White Supremacists Actually hoped that they were responsible for 9/11. You had White Nationalists trying to calm them down on chat forums. Former White Supremacist Daniel Gallant said “We thought it was our guys. We thought it was the white supremacy uprising. We went and got out all our guns. Then the order came to stand down, and we were confused. Didn’t we have common cause with al-Qaida?”

White Supremacy versus White Nationalism

White supremacist ideology is not going to go away anytime soon, particularly in colonial contexts because it is a constructed identity aimed at justifying being here but it is also rising in Europe where Whiteness is being constructed around not just skin-colour but lineage, language, and religion.

It is fascinating to look at how people BECAME White in North America..my mother grew up at a time when it wasn’t unusual to hear English people in Ottawa or Gatineau using the N-Word to refer to…drumroll…French Canadians…I still remember when all Lowell Green could complain about was French Canadians and People on welfare (so basically me and my mom)..until more immigrants came and Muslims came.You can easily see this in the writing about early migrants to the North America like the Irish…The Irish eventually got to be White which it seems means messing with Black and Indigenous folks with impunity.

The Protestant/Catholic divide has always been a strange dynamic in the North American Context.The KKK used to also attack Catholics and anti-Catholic sentiment continues in the work of some White Nationalists..there is a lot of unpacking that needs to be done about this because although racism definitely has existed in colonies belonging to both Protestant and Catholic settlers,there are some very disturbing differences, particularly around miscegenation (racial mixing)-generally Protestant settlers would completely deny their own children if born to Black community members be it in the US or South Africa, bizarrely because of Reformist readings of the Old Testament and extreme sexual morality-it was common to admit that you had a kid out of wedlock in Southern European Catholic communities but in Protestant communities you never admitted to having sex outside of marriage. In constract to the denial of mixed race identity, in Latin America, Casta Painting evolved to show how the coupling of different races led to different looking kids…still a racist hierarchy but at least admitting that people were hooking up and having kids!

As a mixed race child myself, I continue to be fascinated by societies, like the US and South Africa, which for generations people denied their own children and made marriage across race illegal…again if we look closely based on “religious morality due to readings of the Old Testament”…

But even during World War 2, European societies found communities that just weren’t WHITE enough be it Orthodox Serbs in Croatia or the Romani (Gypsies) in Poland.

The more you unravel Whiteness the more you find disturbing repetitions of history, how Whiteness was constructed in Europe-particularly in Britain, as land was taken from indigenous populations (in this case the original peoples of certain European countries, mainly Celts) like Ireland, Scotland, Wales and their indigenous languages were wiped out…in the UK.

My experience with Heritage Front, led me to become deeply intrigued by White Nationalist and White Supremacist movements in North America and Europe and the logics they would use to justify their ideologies, from science like the University of Western Ontario Professor who felt he could demonstrate that penis size was inversely proportional to intelligence leading to my favorite extremely Inappropriate Kids in the Hall Buddy Cole Monologue.

Or you have the Norwegian Death Metal Band that burned down Churches because they believed that their land had been colonized by Christianity as a Jewish conspiracy to make White people weak with values like mercy, compassion, and forgiveness versus traditional Nordic religion with Warrior Gods, Valhalla and Thor!…

To other White Nationalist theories that believe that other races are also superior. They just don’t want them immigrating to White-majority countries because they don’t want the competition. I got to listen to a Chinese international engineering student at the University of Toronto school his White friend on the truth of White Nationalism, which he didn’t feel attacked him as a Chinese person because he had no plans on staying in Canada. He also advised his White friend NOT to hook up with any women with Aztec blood during his stay in Mexico. “Only look for a pure Spanish woman.” Great wing-man advice.

These White Nationalist theories believe that Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, Persians and South Asians of Ayran descent as superior races. They just want them to stay in their countries. Remember Aryan is a word derived from Sanskrit meaning noble and the Swastika is symbol popular throughout South and East Asia (oriented a different way of course). Swastika comes from a Sanskrit Word.

Is your mind blown a bit?

Ya, it seems that White Supremacists and White Nationalists can’t figure out if they are all about being White like Vikings or White like Hindu Brahmans or Iranians. Figure it out People!

Gandhi’s writings to White South African officials harkened to this shared sense of Aryan supremacy for why he didn’t want “native” Blacks and South Asians living in the same neighbourhoods or put in the same prison cells. That’s why folks in Ghana were like take down that Gandhi Statute. Seriously, can we please learn more about Dr. Ambedkar who was an actual dalit!!!

Unfortunately, being Black in many of the communities that these White Nationalist praise is definitely not safe either.

China has an irrational fear of a “black invasion” bringing drugs, crime, and interracial marriage 

South Koreans Share Their Thoughts On Black People In Eye-Opening Video

Or dealing with anti-Black racism in South Asia…where you can also connect with the African descendents of slaves and indentured labour…but few folks from India or Pakistan know that about their own history

So ya…White Supremacy and White Nationalism are scary and shocking but when I read about mobs attacking African students in India I’m like, wow, best not to travel while Black anywhere.

Here’s a cool video about descendants of African slaves and traders in Iran…Black folks are everywhere….

Or being Black in Karachi, Pakistan

And don’t even get me started on being Black in North Africa or the Middle East

Or let’s just be honest being seen as of slave descent even in “Black” African countries

Or facing your messed up history exchanging human beings for an umbrella (Nigeria)…I mean my Nigerian ancestors were slaves but also owned slaves!

My mother raised me to read history from the bottom up.

I don’t look to history to make me feel proud. I don’t defend what my ancestors did if it was shameful.

So, take down the Confederate Flags, and let’s take down whatever their equivalents are in ALL of the communities and countries we come from.

Let’s ALL start reading history from the bottom up, from the perspective of slaves and persecuted peoples, instead of needing to hold onto our own sense of “Supremacy” and “Superiority” by identifying with history’s “winners”.

So please, yes, what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia is terrible but it is not shocking to me. I see a bunch of deeply insecure White people who have to focus on the achievements of their White ancestors to feel like they are worth something in life…Get your own achievements! Make something out of your own life instead of claiming you are from some sort of superior lineage and if you haven’t done much now it is affirmative actions’ fault!

We need to do something about racial hatred in our own backyard,  our country, our own community….That’s means if you are Canadian start focusing on what is happening HERE-like the fact that Black people are still the most targeted group for Hate Crimes with Jews and Muslims following closely behind….

We need to face the parts of our own history that are shameful and stop making excuses for them because of our own insecurities…

I strive to be secure enough in myself that I don’t have to try to find confidence in my bloodlines, racial superiority, or the achievements of my ancestors…

Trigger Warning: Violent Anti-Black Racism, Torture, Murder…inconvenient episodes in recent Canadian history

“When I get older, I will be stronger, they’ll call me freedom, just like a wavin’ flag.”

Check out my introduction to the series here if you want to know what this is all about.

Originally written about Somalia by Somali Canadian artist K’naan Warsame, Wavin’ Flag, became an international hit, the 2010 FIFA Anthem, and was also recorded by a number of Canadian artists as part of a fundraiser for Haiti…kind of like a Canadian version of We are The World.

July 1st also marks the independance day of Somalia and here in Ottawa, where there is a large Somali community, it is pretty common to see both Somali and Canadian flags raised today.

Whenever I hear Wavin Flag I think about The Somalia Inquiry. No, I think about Shidane Arone, the 16 year old Somali teenager who was tortured and killed by Canadian peacekeepers after he was caught sneaking into a Canadian compound. They even took photos of it all. These “peacekeepers” were part of a UN peacekeeping mission aimed at addressing famine and political instability in the region.

When news broke of the murder and attempted cover up, footage of other messed creepy racist Canadian peacekeeper antics was broadcast on CBC. I watched it because my mom raised me on CBC. In the footage you see Canadian military officials dropping the N-Word and basically being totally scary creepy racists and some even partook in weirdo hazing rituals….all proud enough of this stuff to record it on film for posterity.

I had been raised to idealize Canada’s role as a peacekeeping nation, the legacy of Lester B. Pearson. And then I saw this footage. And then I saw the photo of Shidane, taken by his captors…like some kind of trophy.

I was not only disillusioned, I was scared as a Black person. These were peacekeepers, they were Canadians, they were supposed to be the good guys. And they hated people like me because we were Black and they tortured and killed a kid…and took photos of it because Black Lives DON’T Matter. And this life wouldn’t have matter if there hadn’t been a whistleblower.

I have never really felt entirely safe in this country after that. And the more I realize how few Canadians remember this story, the more fearful I become.

I had already experienced Heritage Days, when Canadian White Supremacists, members of Heritage Front, had tried to recruit followers from low-income neighbourhoods like mine. This eventually all culminated in a riot on Parliament Hill in 1993.

It is important that we don’t forget Shidane Arone, who never got to “get older” and “stronger” and play a role in the rebuilding of his nation because exported Canadian anti-Black racism killed him. And as Canadians we cannot forget the conclusions of the “damning report” which came out of the inquiry. If you have never heard of it well, you want to get on that. Because if we don’t learn from history…we will repeat it.

So if you are surprised at hate crimes against Muslims now that says more about your obliviousness to Canada’s relatively recent history of racism than that racist violence is unusual in Canada.

If you can remember Alanis Morissette singing “Too Hot To Hold”, you can remember scary White Supremacists going around beating up immigrants and only being taken down via a CSIS mole and you can remember that racist Canadian peacekeepers beat a Somali kid to death and took selfies of it before cellphones made it super easy to take selfies.

And the only hope we have of actually doing something about our present racism problem is if we remember this recent history.

More to come this week for this post….

To find more song’s on Chelby’s Alternative Canadian playlist visit here.

Further Reading:

Rex Murphy on the Somalia Affair: ‘Bloody and contemptuous images’ (CBC) Warning these images are horrifying.

Somalia Affair (CBC Archives)

Somalia Inquiry’s Damning Report (Macleans)

20 years after Somalia affair of tortured teen (Metro)

Experts wonder if military remembers lessons from Somalia affair (Canadian Press)

“Loco Locass: Désolé pour le passé, à présent, qu’est-ce qu’on fait ?
Samian: Allume le calumet qu’on fume pour la grande paix

Check out my introduction to the series here if you want to know what this is all about.

If you want to know what the lyrics say in English, check them out here and then pop them into Google Translate.

Samian is a hip hop artist who performs in French and Algonquin. This video is filmed on his reserve in  Pikogan in Quebec. He’s of mixed Algonquin (mother) and Quebecois (father) ancestry which he reflects on in this song “Je fais partie de deux peuples donc je finirai comme l’un d’eux

The following are some of the different thoughts I have when I listen to the song:

I live in a city which is on unceded Algonquin territory. I don’t just say that to sound informed…it is a fact which is even listed on the City of Ottawa’s website.

Ottawa comes from the word adawe in Algonquin which means to trade or barter….it is just a sign of how deeply rooted cultural genocide is that most people say the word Ottawa, a word that probably almost every Canadian will say sometime in their life…possibly with an undertone of contempt… as it is the name of Nation’s capital and the seat of the federal government.

Loco Locass is a sovereigntist Quebec hip hop group. As someone of Quebecois heritage, although raised Anglophone due the influence of a German American grandmother and self-hating Quebecois grandfather, I can’t really relate to the English version of Canadian history. Also Quebec television is just a lot better at making historical documentaries and dramas…or frankly anything (English Canada stop ripping off French Canadian shows like 19-2 YOU CAN’T DO THEM BETTER!).

I grew up surrounded by a sense that as French Canadians we were somehow “inferior”, “backward”, and “trashy”, speaking a crappy version of French which English kids surpassed by learning “Parisian” French in schools. Considering that teaching French and programs like French Immersion were aimed at bridging the Two Solitudes between English and French Canada, I can say with a lot of confidence that just getting people to learn French ISN’T doing that. Let’s face it most people just put their kids in French immersion to get them into schools in more middle class areas and so they can eventually work for the government, it’s seen as giving your kid a competitive edge in the job market…it’s not so that they can better understand French Canadians. I got to learn that “good” French too in school but it was weird being told by teachers that the French I was more familiar with, known as “joual“, spoken by my great-grandmother, was “bad”. How can you have a bad version of a language?

There’s a cool scene in one of my favourite films, Ararat, by Atom Egoyan, where an Armenian immigrant, played by Egoyan’s wife, Armenian Canadian actress Arsinée Khanjian,  is having an argument with a French Canadian, played by Quebecois actress Marie-Josée Croze , and although the argument is in French, you can see how the Armenian has the upperhand because she is speaking “proper” French. It is an essential Canadian scene that is very appropriate for the film’s setting in Montreal, home to Canada’s largest Armenian diaspora….and many immigrants and refugees who speak “proper” French which can sometimes both connect and disconnect them from the Quebecois.

And then there is that whole English joke that our ancestors were prostitutes-Les Fils du Roi. I recently heard this from a North African immigrant living in Montreal. Although I sympathize with the extreme racism and Islamophobia she is facing living in Quebec, it is creepy when newcomer communities start picking up English Canadian slurs which are inherently misogynistic, dehumanizing and creepily eugenicist.

That said, the whole Fils du roi experiment was inherently colonial as it was about wanting to expand the French presence in Canada, giving more French men reason to stay in the colony and make sure these colonists were PURE French and not mixed with the Indigenous peoples….which we were totally doing…my mom’s family would often joke about our mixed origins, usually in summer time because of how dark my mom got when she tanned….that said, that isn’t something I claimed to avoid “settler guilt”. We are settlers and even if mixed my ancestors didn’t respect these origins enough to maintain ties. Totally not into Quebec’s mythology of Métissage….even if according to DNA studies about 50% of French Canadians have Indigenous ancestry and my family definitely falls into that, even just based on what I have learned from French Canadian genealogists. But that doesn’t make me NOT a settler…if anything it just makes me the product of a planned assimilation process by the Roman Catholic Church and agents of the French crown.

Most the the Fils de Roi were seriously poor and didn’t have many alternatives, because really who wanted to move to the colony of New France? Those who stayed were often those who didn’t have anything to go back to or who couldn’t afford to leave.

So ya, maybe some of my ancestors were sex workers. And so what?  Seriously, so the-FRACK-what? I may be ashamed of my ancestors complicity in colonialism and genocide but I am NOT going to be ashamed of their class origins and what they may have done to survive. You honour your ancestors because they did what they had to do to survive so you could exist.  

What I like about this song, even where it is filmed, is that is clearly expresses the need to just chill with Indigenous folks, and have some difficult conversations. Just getting to know each other as a sign of commitment to reconciliation and Nation to Nation relations on a personal level, and that’s the only way to make it a reality, and not just empty words and politics.

When you chill with people, it’s not a one off thing, it’s not an event, it’s not for show. You have a relationship and that’s ongoing, so you can no longer act “surprised” when it comes out just how messed up things are for Indigenous peoples here and how directly involved you are in causing this totally messed up stuff to happen, and how you need to stop doing this totally messed up stuff. (I am working on a list of “totally messed up stuff happening now” for my own education which I will link into this paragraph when I am done. Although I will like at Canada as a whole I am going to prioritize specific stuff that French Canadians, so my ancestors, were and currently are majorly complicit in).

But I guess what I like about the song and video is that it’s not some creepy “Let’s feel sorry for Algonquin peoples..” thing which I feel like you see a lot of when people discuss Indigenous communities in general. But that’s really not allyship….that kind of looks like pity or charity which is always mixed with contempt and can turn to angry if the people you pity are grateful for your pity. I find that you see this a lot whenever Indigenous folks get angry when they are demanding justice-we turn on them like they are ungrateful children who should just be happy we are doing them the favour of even acknowledging them because it’s not like we really have to. We are just being nice. It’s totally paternalistic.

This reminds me of a discussion I had with a Black community activist. We were talking about how some allies only show up when things are going bad, so like at demonstrations, but they are never around when we are celebrating. And if you are really an ally you need to be present at both times.

I just feel that this song and video kind of expresses that aspect of allyship. It’s a real relationship, it’s grounded in respect and justice….not pity.

This song helps me to reflect on my own origins and complicated connection to this land and how I can maybe try to do my part in setting right what I and my ancestors have been complicit in totally messing up.

That’s what I reflect on when I listen to it.  So it is a great way to start off this playlist.

To find more song’s on the playlist visit here.

Further Reading:

Our Proud History (Algonquins of Ontario)

When truth is stranger than fiction: the capital that sits on another nation’s land (Spacing Ottawa)

Historic land deal with Algonquin peoples signed by federal, Ontario governments (CBC)

Canadian Cities Rooted in Traditional Indigenous Territories (Muskrat Magazine)

Most French Canadians are descended from these 800 women (CBC)

Uniting the Two Solitudes (Montreal Gazette)

The War that Made Canada (National Post)

Settlers claiming Métis heritage because they just feel more Indigenous (Rabble.ca)

The genomic heritage of French Canadians (Discover Magazine)

12 Easy Steps For Canadians To Follow If They’re Serious About Reconciliation (BuzzFeed)

Canada 150 is a celebration of Indigenous genocide (NOW Toronto)

CBC recently developed a Playlist of Canadian’s 20 favourite Canadian songs. This is a personal response to that exploring my conflicted feelings around celebrating Canada’s 150th in the first place. I will be adding a new song weekly for the next few months.

Why do I have conflicted feelings about my Canadian citizenship? Well, I’m the daughter of a deportee (you can listen to my CBC interview about this here). I only reconnected with him in my twenties and met him in person in Lagos, Nigeria in my thirties. So, ya, it’s complicated.

I also was born and raised on unceded Algonquin territory. The Algonquin were also the allies of my French Canadian ancestors against the English. I know it was one of those The Enemy of My Enemy Is My Friend deals but either way it probably saved some of my ancestors so Meegwetch (Thanks in Algonquin).

As problematic as it is to be a settler in Canada, when you also have been directly impacted by the fact that not everyone who gets to Canada gets to be Canadian-particularly if you have no money-which is really the main reason my dad got deported- Canadian identity will always be problematized, there is no way around it.

We celebrate our welcoming of immigrants and refugees but if you don’t have money we will kick you out and break up your families as we saw recently with the case of Dima Siam, who Canada had on a list to be deported back to Syria because her husband who sponsored her had to go on social assistance for a few months because he was unemployed. Thankfully, due to some awesome activism, she is now a permanent resident. But we still have this Guatemalan family we will be breaking up and deporting this month (the kids to the USA and the parents to Guatemala)..please sign the petition to keep them together here.

But I am a Canadian and whatever that is…that IDENTITY is real for me….I feel it most when I listen to the music produced in this country-music I was raised on-I feel that “Canadian” homey feeling. “This is my home, all I have known” to quote K’naan. Whatever injustices led to my existence, this is where I am. So now what?

I am sharing a collection of songs that give me that “Canadian” “homey” feeling, but each, in their own way, problematize aspects of Canadian identity, the myths we tell ourselves about Canada. And let’s face it, most of us have complicated relationships with our “home”.

The following songs I feel are all celebratory of identity in some way and each deeply resonate with my complicated feelings about my own Canadian identity. I also think each of them “problematize” Canadianness.  Like in Ottawa’s own Electric Pow Wow‘s Sisters when actress Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs, from Kahnawake, waves the Mohawk Nation’s Flag out of a car’s sunroof….one of the upcoming songs on the list.

For each song, I will explain what I associate with it when I listen to it. My posts will be super rambling.

Many of the things I associate with these songs include not so great episodes in Canada’s past and present. If you think that it is unpatriotic to try to learn from messed up stuff people in your country have done or continue to do, this is NOT the playlist for you. But I don’t think there is anything unpatriotic about talking about things like this, that’s the only way you can make things better.

What the point of celebrating 150 years if you don’t want to bother to reflect on what happened during that time?

What does Canada mean anyway? Well, if you like me grew up in the age of the Canadian Heritage Minute, you know that Canada means village. You also probably think that Jacques Cartier didn’t know that the word just meant village and wasn’t the name for the whole territory. He knew it just meant village and sometimes referred to the region as Land of Canadas so Land of villages.

Now, what language is Canada in? Blank Stare.

Okay, so Canada comes from Iroquoian-you probably learned about the Iroquois in history class-dialects of Iroquoian are spoken by Haudonosonee First Nations like the Oneida and the Mohawk- Canada still means “town” in Mohawk.

I like the idea that the second largest country by landmass in the world, that has a population that could fit into the US state of California, is called “village”. It just says something about the “Canadian” predicament.

This Canada Day, I recommit to working out how we can live together in this huge state called “village” in a way which favours a real nation to nation relationship with Indigenous peoples, interdependence over exploitation, empowerment over charity, cooperation as inhabitants of the land over partisan politics (my loyalty is to the land and the people on it not to a political party), and the sense that no matter what, we are all in this together, we are not islands, we impact each other’s lives, our choices can hurt or they can help. I want to hurt people less and be hurt less.

Before I begin, as a Canadian music fan, I need to give a show out to A Tribe Called Red, who are the biggest thing to come out of Ottawa (NO OUR CITY IS NOT BORING).

It is pretty much a ritual for me now to play Electric Pow Wow Drum  whenever I leave a Canadian city. I always travel by bus, partly it is cheaper, partly because times are more flexible, and partly because I like meeting people on the bus-so many different people take intercity buses so it is a great way to see what Canada looks like across our diversity-particularly class diversity which Canadians often like to ignore. So whenever I leave Ottawa or leave another city to return to Ottawa, I listen to this song. It’s just fills me with a sense of movement, travel, the open road, possibility…and I connect it with the city I come from and have lived in my whole life.

Here is a great interview with A Tribe Called Red, where they explain how they developed the song Electric Pow Wow Drum.

The Playlist:

  1. La Paix des Braves by Samian featuring Loco Locass 
  2. Wavin’ Flag by K’Naan

Part 1: Understanding White Privilege in Canada (30 min)

Open Discussion: What does Canada mean? What does Ottawa mean? What languages are these words in?

Presentation: White Privilege & White Fragility in Canada

Huddle Discussion: How can we become more comfortable acknowledging the impact of racism in Canada and our own conscious or unconscious racial biases?

Part 2: Anti-Black Racism in Canada (30 min)

Open Discussion: What are the top 3 Black communities in Ottawa? What do you know about each of these communities?

Presentation: What does anti-Black racism look like in Canada?

  • Facts related to anti-Black hate crimes, drop-out rates, low-income rates, incarceration rates of Black communities in Canada using infographics from the Addressing Anti-Black Racism in Ottawa Report by the City for All Women Initiative (CAWI) and the Ottawa Local Immigration Partnership (OLIP).

Graphic_Facebook_Black Communities 01Graphic_Facebook_Black Communities 02Graphic_Facebook_Black Communities 04

  • Discuss how anti-Black racism could be impacting the students participants volunteer with

Huddle Discussion: How can we create supportive environments for Black students we volunteer with?.

Part 3: Islamophobia in Canada (30 min)

Play the Video Cover Girl by Deen Squad

Open Discussion: What stereotypes about Muslim women do you think the video was trying to challenge?

Presentation: What is Islamophobia?

Huddle Discussion: How can we create supportive environments for Muslim students we work with?

Last year I participated in a local TEDX. I had hoped the video of my talk would be up by now but it isn’t and I am not sure it ever will be. So to restart my blog posts about coping with loneliness, I have decided to post the text of my speech here. Enjoy and share.

******

Loneliness killed my mother and it almost killed me.

But first, I probably should explain the whole Zombie reference in my title.

I watch the Walking Dead. There are just so many reasons for me not to like the Walking Dead. Like Rick, he is such a terrible leader and I am so angry that he hooked up with Michonne. She is so much cooler than him.

But I just keep watching the show. And I think I know why. In the Walking Dead, I like it how The Group’s members will put their lives on the line again and again to save people who are not their blood relatives and who they have no interest in having sex with. People are rescuing people who they are not trying to hook up with and who are not their kids.

And I like watching that because for me that’s the fantasy world I want to live in because after my mother committed suicide three years ago I was left with no family and no one who as far as I know wants to have sex with me. I was left completely alone.

And I know I am not alone in being alone, more and more people in our society have no real connection with family and are single.

I have friends but, let’s face it, friends are a strange phenomenon with no grounding in biology.  It’s hard to know if we can rely on friends the way it seems like we can rely on family and lovers because DNA and oxytocin are on our side.

After my mother’s death, I sunk into a serious depression. I have struggled with depression my whole life so that was nothing new. I also had a lot of grief and guilt because her death was so unexpected and I blamed myself for not preventing it.

But there was something else happening to me. That was unfamiliar and that at first I didn’t know how to name.

It was like this black hole opened up inside me and it was full of fear. It was like the kind of fear you would have if your house was surrounded by zombies and it was only a matter of time before they got in to eat you. And like, who really wants to be torn apart by zombies? Like it’s fun to watch on TV or in a movie, like I will admit that’s a personal highlight of mine because there is a lot of talent that goes into making a good zombie dismemberment, a lot of artistry because it’s not real it’s just awesome make up and prosthetics.  But it would be pretty scary to have to face death by zombies in real life and I found myself feeling as scared as if my death was imminent.

Then I realized it was because I was alone and I thought that I could choke on some shawarma in my house and there would be no one to do the Heimlich maneuver or call 911 and no one would notice I was dead because most of my close friends live in Toronto, most of my Ottawa friends are just pretty busy so I don’t see them that often and I mostly work from home so….no one would notice if I was gone.

My mother was the only person who ever would have noticed if I wasn’t there.

I soon realized that what I was feeling was Loneliness.

Because what is loneliness? It is that feeling of pain we experience because of social isolation or social rejection.

And it makes sense biologically. Neuroscientist Dr. John Cacioppo believes that because humans are social animals and we are so dependent on one another for our survival we have developed the feeling of loneliness to be a signal so we form attachments and stay connected. If you think about human life before Starbucks or roads, it was a lot like life after a Zombie Apocalypse, you can’t last long without other people.

And what Cacioppo’s research has also shown is that long-term  loneliness is as detrimental to our health as smoking and three times more dangerous than obesity. Because think about it. It would be super scary be alone in the jungle by yourself thousands and thousands of years ago. Just like you wouldn’t want to be by yourself in a city overrun with zombies because sooner or later something is going to try to eat you and there is no one around to have your back.

So his research has shown that when were are experiencing chronic loneliness it is like we are alone in a zombie apocalypse, our cortisol levels go up so we can be ready to fight off attacks or run, we sleep less deeply because you have to listen out for walkers trying to come up and eat you. And if you experience this for a long time, it compromises your immune system, your cardiovascular system, it often leads to clinical depression, it makes your more likely to develop dementia. It prematurely ages you. It shortens your life. It can kill you.

Cacioppo argues that we need to take loneliness seriously and consider it a public health issue the way we see smoking as a public health issue.

But how do you cure loneliness?

Let’s put that on hold for a second and I want to get back to social rejection.

So as a kid I watched everything, like I think I watched Night of the Living Dead, the original and still the best zombie movie every when I was 5. My mother and I were best friends, we were each other’s only friends, it was just me and her against the world.  So I would watch whatever she watched. Although I had a childhood that on paper seemed pretty messed up as there was poverty and sexual violence and my family ended in the news because it was so dysfunctional and messed and trying to hire hitmen to kill each other which kind of explains why I don’t talk to them anymore, I have to say when I look back it is full of great memories of watching movies with my mother. And she would also give me the history of the month, and tell me about the director and the actors and different challenges they had on set.  So time with my mother was great.

It was time with other people that was scary whether it be my family or people at school. I didn’t fit in at school mainly because I was just really weird kid, I mean I just said that I watched Night of the Living Dead when I was five that’s weird. And I just couldn’t relate to anyone because their life didn’t seem like life and I had nothing really to talk to them about because you know they weren’t really interested about how Night of the Living Dead was really about racism in America. Which of course my mom taught me.

So I had a lonely childhood outside of my house, but inside I was safe and I loved and I was wanted. We belonged to each other.

So our experiences of social rejection, particularly if they last for a long time like they did for me, effect how we look at the world. I learned to see people as threats, not as people who can help you or people who can make things easier. It was best to avoid other people.

So that makes sense given how I grew up.

But what neuroscientists are also finding is that if you experience chronic loneliness, even if you didn’t have a childhood like mine, your brain will also start looking at other people as threats. So at a time when you really need to be reaching out to people, you can find yourself withdrawing. But again it makes sense from a survival perspective. As we see in a lot of Zombie Apocalypse scenarios you need your group because other groups could want to steal your stuff and maybe even eat your for protein…because let’s face it all the canned tuna is going to run out.

So, over the years, I did develop friends and I became very outgoing and sociable. Which left my mother alone at home most of the time.  So as my world grew, hers go smaller and as she also coped with serious mental illness, it all eventually took its toll.

But after my mother died, I found myself, going back to how I was as a child. People scared me. Phone calls scared me and I sometimes wouldn’t answer them even if they were from friends who I desperately wanted to talk to.

Of course I didn’t know about any of this research at the time so I just thought I was totally losing it.

But what was also confusing what that, I would feel scared about going a friend’s birthday party but I could very easily stand in front of a 100 people and deliver a speech. That was fine. Which made no sense.

I forced myself to go to my friend’s birthday party and I hid behind my laptop the entire time, I only spoke when I was spoken to.  I felt so scared. I felt that like, if the zombie apocalypse happened right then, all of these people around me, even my friend, would conspire to feed me to the zombies.  I would become zombie bait!

But the same week I facilitated a workshop for a bunch of strangers on a really challenging topic and no problem, I was talking, I was joking, I was doing my thang.

What’s the difference?

The problem is we often think lonely people lack social skills or are all introverts. That’s a myth actually. Research has shown that ya, if you put people who identify as chronically lonely in a group where they are just left to sit around and spark random conversation, it is hard for them to do. But if you us a role and a task, we are awesome, we sometimes actually show better social skills than the unlonely people.

Because what some people who study loneliness now believe is that lonely people may actually be more attuned to people around them, we read people more. Because we want to connect with them or because we because we are kind of wary of them and want to protect ourselves. For whatever reason, it is not that we don’t have social skills.

I am a great listener which is why people tell me too much information all the time. I am good at facilitating or tutoring. I can connect very easily to people and groups if that’s my job.

But I can’t do birthday parties or weddings or parties or hanging out with more than just one person in a coffee shop.

So again, how do you cure loneliness?

Well, what is the opposite of loneliness?

It’s feeling connected, feeling like you belong, feeling like you fit.

And that is a feeling it is easy to lose. You can lose that feeling in your family, in your marriage, at work. If you immigrate to a new country.  There are so many ways we can become disconnected. You don’t have to be like me and have no family. You can have a huge family but if you don’t feel they accept you, if you don’t feel you are understood or that you belong, you can feel very lonely, even surrounded by people.

That’s also why, according to neuroscientist John Cacioppo, you can’t cure loneliness just by being kind to people. We can be in a hospital and the nurses are kind to us and we are fed and all of needs are met, but we still feel lonely. Because we are not giving back.

The relationships we need to not feel lonely have to give us a sense of “mutually aided protection”. The relationships are reciprocal, you depend on people and they depend on you. You give and you take.  We need to feel both needed and wanted and we need to feel the same about the people who feel that way about us.

Again according to the work of neuroscientist John Cacioppo, you don’t need to have many people in your life that you feel that way about, it can be just a few people.

When I realized that what I was feeling was loneliness I googled loneliness and discovered Cacioppo’s work and that of other academics on the subject of loneliness. Realizing that what I was experiencing was a serious brain state and not just as character flaw really helped me to feel not so powerless in the face of loneliness.

So again, how do you cure loneliness?

The answer is I don’t know. But I am learning how to manage it.

Cacioppo recommends a system called EASE and I have been trying to follow that.

The E in EASE stands for Extend Yourself-That means answering phone calls, accepting invitations to parties and get-togethers. Basically, I have to stop withdrawing.

The A in EASE stands for Action Plan: So you take control. I mapped out my social connections and during the week I try to connect with a least two of my friends in person, one on one or by phone

The S in EASE stands for Selection: To overcome loneliness it is about quality not quantity. It is also about making sure you feel safe and comfortable and connected with people who you can really build some sort of relationship with because you have things in common.

The E in EASE stands for Expect the Best: This means expect the best from people. This is really difficult for me because I have had a lot of negative experiences with people so trusting people is hard and being vulnerable around people is hard.

Taking the step to take action on dealing with my loneliness meant letting people know I was lonely, letting people know that I really need their time and company and love. And that was very hard.

It is easier for me to ask people for money-I grew up on welfare so I am pretty desensitized to the humiliation that comes with being financially dependent on others-but asking for people’s time, calling up a friend late at night because I felt like my loneliness was literally crushing…that has been incredibly hard.

But I started to do it and yes some people rejected me or made fun of me or gossiped behind my back so those people aren’t in my life any more and good riddance.

But most other people took the time when they had it, they made space for me in their lives. And they did it in a way that I didn’t feel like they were doing me a favour, they made me feel that I was someone they wanted around. That I was part of The Group. And that is the key to easing the feeling of loneliness.

Right now my battle is with loneliness. And if I survive it, I probably will be strong enough to take on some zombies.