untitled/unnamed

By naomi doe moody 

my name is naomi and i am half asleep

my brown limbs fall in a gangly tangle of exhaustion on the couch that i am too long to rest on comfortably and as i begin to relax, my vagus nerve sounds the alarm to my limbic system: danger! it cries and i jerk awake

memories old and new of being woken in the night for the sake of being harmed are a common reality for those of us who have lived through or are born from violent acts of colonization

you’re growing like a weed my mother tells me every summer when her white hands pull the dusty box of clothes labeled naomi from the attic and tries to make them fit

they never do

she glares at me through the bluest eyes and i see myself through her distorted lens; i am a weed, to be pulled from her garden and discarded 

what must i have done to deserve this? i ask myself and look down the length of my little brown body to find my answer

my name is naomi and i have dark skin and dark hair and dark eyes and i speak English as my first language and i know no other well enough to claim a second

i was born in an academic town in a northeastern corner of turtle island right by the sea but i am forever being told to go back to where i come from

having now reached the peak of maturation and searching for a “from” to go back “to”, i have

ventured further inland to less populated parts of this corner we now call New England to plant seedlings and put down roots

and perhaps it was here that i unwittingly became the carrier of a likewise mature deer tick that transferred to me through violent means a bacteria named borrelia and their sibling with a much lovelier name, babesia 

and perhaps because i’ve become accustomed to wearing too short shorts and making do with what i’ve  got i went into the woods vulnerable and unprotected and once again the colonization of my brown body is my own fault 

because people always ask: weren’t you wearing pants? 

the lyme lays waste to my body

like the inhabitants of a man camp the spirochetes drill holes through the vital parts of my being and rob me of what sustains me

the babesia attacks and destroys my red blood cells, leaving me gasping for air and oxygen though my breath is steady and strong

there are days i am so sick i am sure i will die and days i am ready to let it happen 

in the course of my treatment i have been prescribed a number of herbs, some that i have abandoned and some that have become close and trusted friends

there is one whose scientific name revealed nothing to me about who they are or where they came from but they have become requisite to my existence

the kinship i experience with them i attributed entirely to necessity:

they are the THING that WORKS on my DISEASE 

very western 

very modern

very science 

when i work with this medicine i am able to breathe i am able to rest i am able to sleep through the night and the hope is that i am able to heal, though intuitively it feels like there is something missing from our dialogue

a quick google search tells me the story of their origin, the reality of our bond and, most likely, the mystery of the missing link: unsurprisingly this plant was stolen, exploited, colonized

Nibima, as they are called in Twi, is a weedy vine Indigenous to West Africa and championed by what the western herbal community refuses to call Traditional African Medicine

Nibima has been an ally of Indigenous peoples of so called Ghana and surrounding nations for centuries

a true herbal remedy, infusions and decoctions of the root have been used to treat many cases of illness and disease by traditional medicine people, including malaria, a leading cause of death in small children and pregnant people in West Africa

but because of this, their strongest constituents are stripped from them, concentrated into forms palatable by white bodies and given a new name (very western, very modern, very science):

cryptolepis sanguinolenta

and suddenly they are dropped from English speaking tongues, trapped in brown bottles with white labels adorned by this cumbersome lie of a name, exchanged by white hands, nibima’s origins and history thoroughly erased 

(it’s worth noting that though lyme aka borrelia is a disease of whiteness named after a town in so called Connecticut where it was first discovered-or let loose-babesia is malaria’s cousin)

(it’s worth noting that as human intervention disturbs and disrupts the natural habitats of other beings like microbes and pathogens, we become more visibly a viable host and more likely to carry these beings with us as we invade and colonize our way across the globe) 

(it’s worth noting that weeds and weedy plants are among the most effective remedies for fighting these pathogens and that many of the plants we call invasive are often introduced to a new environment without consent)

and so we all come together in this confluence of colonization

with names from tongues that ancestrally are not our own

naomi

babesia

cryptolepis

scrutinized out of context through the Eurocentric experience, stuck in an unending cycle of appropriation and pathology which perpetuates a lack of health beyond just being sick with a disease that is difficult to treat

the only way forward, the only way to heal, is depopulation of my cells…quite literally decolonization 

there is a belief that those of us with impaired immunity are especially vulnerable to tick borne illness and my immune system has been run ragged by a fight or flight response that just won’t quit

it’s been stuck in the on position since 1492 and been in overdrive since 1619

to decolonize my body of pathogens i’ve had to decolonize my connection to plant medicines which in turn has led to a decolonization of my spirit; i’ve learned to not only look down upon my length with love but to turn that love inwards as well

i’ve had to debunk the myth of the missing link within myself; parts of me were never gone just hidden, connections not broken but obscured

histories not erased but painted over only to be chipped away again to reveal the beauty beneath

to free the truth and my ability my right to speak it to power:

i release the lies and labels others have thrust upon me in their fear, their ignorance, their hatred

i release the false names i have been given to sanitize my truth out of existence

i release the false ideals projected on to me until i bend and break myself into a more acceptable shape and size 

i reclaim my rightful place to take up space and grow and thrive, like a weed, like a persistent medicine plant, beautiful and vital and welcomed as i am: whole

my name is still naomi for now but i am wide awake and i am healing from colonially imposed self-hatred as much as i am healing from illness and dis-ease

nibima my sibling remains with me and reminds me that like them, my true name is out there and i will recognize it when i hear it


naomi (they/she) is a Black multiracial community organizer learning and sharing how to navigate and heal trauma by allying with plants. They live on Abenaki ancestral land and spend most days in the woods or gardens homeschooling their 7 year old, lil j. Connect at @radiclenaomi on IG and at susuheals.com

 

Aversions to THC

The Alternative Use of Topicals

By Tyner Bouteiller

The legalization of cannabis has had a ripple effect and I have directly seen its impacts. People now discuss the consumption of cannabis openly and cannabis accessories are cropping up every which way I turn. More and more people have started to explore weed culture and are often surprised, if not mocking, of those who do not partake in this recently normalized indulgence.

Although many people have chosen not to use cannabis products for moral or personal disinterest — there are some of us who do not use cannabis for other reasons. I suspect many of us want to participate in this newly legal and sensory-stimulating culture but a few of us are finding that cannabis is not all it’s cracked up to be. Speaking from a place of experience, cannabis, regardless of the strain, can cause an increase in anxiety.  

In my experience, I have noticed that the consumption of cannabis can lead to other unwanted effects, including hallucinatory-like visions that can be long-lasting (even in small doses), unpleasant physical sensations, and hangover-like symptoms occurring the following day. Not everyone appears to experience these side-effects, and it has made me wonder if some people may be intolerant to tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC. Some people can even experience stuffy, runny noses and rashes, suggesting a full-blown allergy. So how can people with these issues benefit from cannabis?

Thankfully, for those who are intolerant or do not enjoy the effects of THC, there is an alternative. Several companies have been offering CBD oil with low or negligible levels of THC. CBD (cannabidiol, which is an active compound of cannabis) has most of the medical benefits of cannabis without causing people to get high or hallucinate. Although some people enjoy taking the oil as oral droplets, others like to use it as a topical. Topicals, often in the form of creams, are applied to the skin and body rather than inhaled or orally consumed. Companies have produced lotions, body butters, and even bath bombs and lubricants with CBD oil.

So, if CBD doesn’t get you high, what are the benefits? Well, there have been reports of CBD being used to reduce pain and inflammation, which is likely of interest to many of us, whether we have experienced arthritis, earaches, back pain, or even just sore muscles. The benefit of having a bioactive ingredient that focuses on both pain and inflammation is that it helps reduce the symptoms and the potential problem.

Unfortunately, since research has been limited on CBD’s ability to reduce inflammation, I would suggest combining the oil with a variety of other well-known anti-inflammatory natural ingredients, such as turmeric, ginger, and honey. If you are interested in creating your own pain-lowering and anti-inflammation lotion, it is easy to do. I have even made my own “honey, lemon, and ginger” topical cream, named after the soothing drink my grandmother makes me when I’m sick. It involves using one’s preferred body oil (I like coconut oil), CBD oil, aloe vera gel, which one could harvest from their own plant, minced or powdered ginger, powdered turmeric, a bit of honey, and lemon essential oil. Blended together in one’s preferred quantities, I have found it useful for reducing sore muscles and feet, and even some of my headaches when applied to the back of the neck. CBD oil is an exciting new natural cannabis product that many anti-THC users may enjoy and benefit from.


Tyner Bouteiller is a recent Bachelor of Arts graduate from the University of Guelph. She majored in psychology and minored in nutrition and nutraceuticals, which is where she discovered her interest in bioactive ingredients and topicals. Her holistic perspective will eventually be used to help those with mental health disorders.

Weed and Sisterhood in Quarantine

By Hannah Endicott-Douglas

My older sister and I are in quarantine together. We realized the other day that this has been the most time we’ve spent under the same roof since we were teenagers. It’s brought up a lot for us. Old dynamics have come to the surface and we are forced to navigate them in a deeper way because we are sharing space so intensely. Some days we talk for hours- about what’s going on in the world, or about us, or about our family- a whole lot about healing. It can get heavy. Some days our energies clash- she might be feeling especially inspired and I might be feeling especially cynical. So on those days, we tend to stay out of each other’s way as much as possible but then no matter what has taken place that particular day (they do seem to all blend together don’t they?) we find ourselves, around six pm, together in the kitchen, hungry! 

And our evening ritual begins: I roll a joint for her and one for me (an added Covid 19 precaution) and she starts to cook. Sometimes I help. No, I’m joking, I do help. Usually. I’m rolling the joints through- which is ALSO important! Anyways…

Then we smoke together, and there’s a shift. 

We’ve taken to blasting music (mostly nostalgic throwbacks) and singing at the top of our lungs, dancing around in a way that I only really feel totally comfortable doing with my siblings. Then we eat and pick something to watch. We were watching The Sopranos but sometimes we need a break from the violence so we’ll watch Insecure or a movie (mostly a nostalgic throwback) instead. Then eventually one of us (her) will start falling asleep and we’ll say goodnight and head to bed.

The weed is a small part of our evenings together but I think it has played an important role for us. It gives us permission to slow down and just have fun. We get to be silly and get in touch with our younger selves. And through that, I’m not exactly sure how yet,  it feels like these evenings together are a vital part of the healing that we talk so much about. 


A Photo Series of Weed in Quarantine

From seed to ash my plants bring me joy. Whether tending to my garden or smoking up, they help me escape the sometimes overwhelming world we live in. Growing for myself, my friends and family gives me a sense of pride for being self-reliant. Times like these show us how important self-reliance really is. The plants rely on me and in many ways, I rely on them. From seed to ash.

DJ Hotknives

Weed opens my mind to see, that everything in my surroundings is a reflection of me. Right now The universe is forcing us to slow down, forcing us to reflect and go inward. Lately, my “high thoughts” have been inner revelations, beautiful moments between me and myself. After smoking last night, I sat in my bed and thought “there is no more war”. No more war between myself and what I thought I had to fight for so long. I wonder what I will reflect on today. 

Chela

Smoking has always given me peace of mind. However most recently I find smoking has been able to life me out of negative thinking spaces. As I’ve found myself feeling very negative through this pandemic many many times. Having this pause on life has turned me to dealing with trauma that I never realize I had. Peace of mind is more essential than ever for my mental health. 

Anonymous

High in the house and I’m in the house high. During quarantine its what I do to get me by, I stay relaxed and my anxiety is managed. Balance is key and the weed is what keeps me in harmony.

A state of tranquility is reached & I try to keep the momentum that may peak. As an introvert, I am at peace & I appreciate weed during the quarantine. Covid-19.. staying positive is key, why stress about what’s not in your control, Everything you need to accomplish your goals is already within you. Pray for better days and maintain to stay sane. 

Takia

I often find myself sifting through memories in my mind’s file cabinet.

I come across one that catches my attention, smile and sometimes cry, then place it back gently, so if we’re to ever share this file, it would remain intact

Lyfeboy

I feel like Covid-19 was a huge reality check. It showed me how vulnerable our jobs, our health and livelihoods can be subject to unexpected change. Its quite scary, thinking of how many people have and will fall victim to the virus. Weed keeps me positive amidst all this anxiety. I realize how covid-19 has taught us all how adaptable we can be. It’s also the first time in a long time that we have had to work together worldwide to achieve a common goal.

Anonymous 2

My connection to this herb is forever evolving and changing. A smoker through and through, I never thought I could replace the simple joy that smoking a joint brings me. Recently, I have found a new way to enjoy weed. Oils have a magical effect, both in appearance and effectiveness. If you ever get your hands on some trim, I highly recommend spending some time to create this long-lasting alternative. Stay healthy my friends.

Ciana

“You Should Learn How to Cook!”

Pastel color aerial view illustration of light colour hands holding a bowl of soup with a spoon it it. On the counter are various ingredients, spices and herbs like garlic, tyme, lemon and lentils.

By Mehak Siddiqui

Illustration by Yaansoon

“You should learn how to cook”. 

I was just around twelve or thirteen when I first began hearing this. 

It started off as a playful suggestion from my mother and grandmother, like it could be an exciting summer vacation project. But when I didn’t really heed it, year after year, the voices began to multiply and grow increasingly incessant, impatient, pleading, and even shameful. 

By the time I was around fifteen or sixteen, I’d learned how to fry an egg, make instant noodles, and brew chai, the spiced milk tea that’s an everyday ritual in my household. And over fifteen years later, those are still the only three things I’m most confident crafting in the kitchen. 

I realize in retrospect that my resistance to cooking has stemmed from a mixture of fear and rebellion. During adolescence, learning to cook was synonymous with the whole ‘becoming a woman’ rite of passage that was already wreaking havoc on my life and body. 

Growing up was confusing and stressful, and — even though I didn’t have the vocabulary to express it at the time — fundamentally unfair in how it translated to more and more gendered notions about propriety. 

I was just a teenager but had already heard one too many a sexist old adage like how ‘men make houses, women make homes’, and how ‘a way to man’s heart is through his stomach’. Or sexist husband-and-wife style jokes shared openly — often repetitively — at family gatherings, even in front of children. 

Right from a young age, I found it hard to miss how the woman is always the butt end of the joke in this style of so-called ‘wisecracks’, whether it was about her looks or lack thereof, her wits or lack thereof, her ambitions or lack thereof, her children or lack thereof, or of course, her cooking skills or lack thereof. 

Go to any house in my family, community, or even country (whether for an everyday meal or festive feast), and it’s guaranteed that you’ll find only female members of the family puttering about in the kitchen, frying samosas or pakoras, making chai, or loading up platters of food and drink. For come joy or grief, women need to ensure everyone is always fed, watered, and caffeinated. 

To date when we have large sit-down dinners in my extended family, the men are served first while the women fuss around, replenishing servings, popping things in the microwave to reheat, asking if anything else is needed. 

 As a child, I never aspired to take on that role. I began associating cooking and homemade meals with domesticity and docility. I guess you can say that in my mind, food became synonymous with the patriarchy long before I ever understood what patriarchy meant.

And so I resisted learning how to cook, instead devoting all of my time to doing well at school and university, and then building a career. I realize that I am incredibly privileged to have had the choice to do this and to be able to question the age-old expectations that I’ve been ensnared with. 

Although things are slowly changing and more people are rejecting sexist ways of being, there is much shame involved. Both men and women who transgress the divide between gender roles are perceived as ‘too much’: too out there, too modern, too disrespectful, too smart for their own good. This inherent culture of judgment is partly the reason why I’ve chosen to steer clear of matrimony too. To this day in my community, there are arranged marriages in which one of the first things a prospective bride is asked about, regardless of how accomplished she may otherwise be, is her skill in the kitchen.

The closest I’ve come to ‘learning how to cook’ was taking a baking class with my best friend back in the summer after we finished our O Levels. This remains one of my favourite memories: how we learned to accurately measure out ingredients, combine them with precise techniques, and then watch as the cake magically rose in the oven into soft aromatic goodness. I remember witnessing how the doughnuts browned beautifully in the right temperature of oil, and how the cookies solidified into just the right blend of crunchy and chewy.

I still have the recipes we learned back then, meticulously recorded on yellowing notebook paper in the roundish print that was my neatest handwriting. That first foray into baking translated into a passion that has led me to slowly discover how food is a love language and that preparing it from scratch — both for myself and others — can be a deeply rewarding and enjoyable experience rather than the monumental and monotonous chore that I’ve long perceived it as. 

I feel a deep sense of awe and admiration for my mother, aunts, and all the other women I know who have devoted their lives to cooking. They have been stepping into the kitchen almost every day since they were children, initiated into the culinary arts by their own mothers and aunts and grandmothers. 

These women have perfected recipes and techniques passed down through generations and invented some of their own tricks along the way. They’ve adapted and catered to the varied tastes of their husbands, children and in-laws, and learned to give new twists to old staples. They’ve experimented with ingredients, put leftovers to innovative uses, and expressed incredible creativity and fortitude without ever wanting or getting much credit for it. 

They have patiently slow-cooked biryanis and kheer and rolled out hundreds upon hundreds of rotis, those gorgeous flatbreads that are as tedious to make as they are delicious to eat. They have rustled up something even when they’ve been feverish or cramping or pregnant, never once protesting. They’ve bonded over different ways of cooking the same dish and found joy in sharing magic ingredients. 

They are a testament to how cooking and food brings people together and how, for that reason alone, everyone, regardless of gender, should indeed learn how to cook.


Mehak Siddiqui is a writer, blogger, and traveler, currently based in India and working on her first novel. She enjoys long walks in nature and dreams of seeing every country in the world. Connect with her on Instagram @ worldofmehak or read more of her work on www.mehaksiddiqui.com

Lost Seeds

black and white illustration of maple pods

By Vanessa Ong

Illustration by Thaila


ma ja.
(good morning Grandma.)

peeping through the blinds,
I see the hazy morning skies,
a bowl of sweet black sesame oatmeal,
little sips of delight.

ma wuo keu takjeu
(Grandma, I’m going to school.)

unwrap the sticky plastic,
chả on white bread, no crusts,
“what -is- that?”
hold back the tears,
wrap, wrap, wrap.

jo ni leu bho jiat?
(why didn’t you eat?)

carry two extra chairs to the dinner table,
arrange six pairs of chopsticks,
delicately engraved red and green characters all lined up,
call everyone to jiat beung,
grandma’s pride written on her face.

ha kiang.
(So good.)

egg tarts are a sweet treat,
flakey crusts and a buttery custard,
share a taste with your school friends,
spat, spat, spat.

wuo bho toe kuong.
(I’m not hungry.)

silent meals,
chowing down as the chopsticks click clack,
three generations in one another’s presence,
together,
we were peace.

ho jiat, bho nang jai!
(If it were tasty, nobody would know!)

cycles of attachment and of shame,
hiding your language and hiding your food,
your culture’s a memory,
now, who are you?


wuo mzai.
(I don’t know.)




Vanessa Ong is a Teochew-Chinese- Vietnamese-Canadian WOC, living and working in Kitchener, Ontario. She is a sometimes-poet, gardener, and interdisciplinary researcher, currently exploring connections between food, gentrification, and sense of place in Downtown Kitchener. As cofounder of Littlefoot Community Projects, she is interested in building a decolonized food justice movement, which addresses difficult topics like affordability, just sustainabilities, land sovereignty, intergenerational trauma, and cultural loss. She spends her time overthinking and curling up in bed when the too-muchness of life takes hold.

My Gardening Journey

black and white sketch of 3 strawberry plants growing

Weeding out colonial ways and reclaiming my roots

By Tresanne Fernandes

Growing up, every summer I would find myself in the airport bathroom in London disposing of plant cuttings. I felt bad that Nana had taken the time to prep them. I felt worse on the phone a few weeks later when she would ask me how the plants were doing. I didn’t want to garden and I wasn’t allowed to cross back to North America with them anyway. I think eventually she picked up on the fact that we didn’t share that hobby. But, since 2018 when I started gardening, I’ve learned a lot of lessons. I’m left to wonder which ones she wanted me to have. 

Survive 

In the 1930s (or 40s?) my grandfathers both left Goa, India and went to Uganda and Kenya for better job opportunities — to increase the likelihood of their survival. In 1948, my Nana and Grandma followed to get married — to increase the likelihood of survival in the long run. My parents (Goans born in Kenya and Uganda) received a good education and then 9-to-5 jobs in the western world for survival. 

I finished university and never got a full-time job, so I decided to scrap that plan. I started working part-time gigs and gardening here on Turtle Island as part of my long-term survival strategy. I don’t see a 9-to-5 as a secure guarantee of money. I see racist hiring (and firing), and a lack of work-life-play balance, if I were to be offered a “real job”. I fear a 9-to-5 will only come with imposter syndrome. I see cuts to funding for typically secure jobs. I may as well learn life skills and balance part time jobs.

Growing food was not something my parents did — their survival was sustained through buying food because they had money from their jobs. Like many brown immigrants in North America, their focus was on education and trying to get that “Canadian work experience”. To fit in was a good path to survival for them. And somewhere buried in my parents (and myself), there might live a fear of being looked down upon for farming and/or not having a 9-to-5. Shadism in Goa relates to people being dark if they worked in the paddy fields, so working in the fields was  frowned upon. My parents decided to buy food, not grow it. Most of the food I consume, I buy. For me, gardening takes a lot more time and energy than obtaining the money to buy the food. But that may not always be true. It’s empowering to know I can grow food. I was reminded at an event hosted by Rootcare that people of the diaspora have developed the skills to use what they have and what’s available to them. My Nana grew food in Kenya and England. She connected to the lands wherever she went. I think she wants me to as well. What is the point of surviving if I’m not also connected to the land and water? 

Surviving and thriving on other people’s land 

In 1972 my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and parents left Kenya and Uganda out of fear of being killed. We don’t talk about that much. We also don’t talk about what it meant that, before 1972, Goans could settle in Africa and take jobs from Ugandans and Kenyans. Or that now we’ve settled in Canada — we’re settlers in Canada — we’re here taking survival from Indigenous people of Turtle Island. Sometimes invasive species are just trying to survive, but that doesn’t justify them taking over. Replanting myself in Goa is always a valid option. My generation of brown people are starting to have discussions about the complexities of living here but we have a long way to go. White settlers and non-white settlers have to do their part to learn about and honour protocols and treaties as they were understood by Indigenous people where they live. The Europeans did a good job of dividing and conquering. 

I want to undo that. What protocols other than the Points System can I follow to be allowed here? How can I strive to survive without limiting other people’s ability to? Should I move back to Goa? For now I’m in Tkaronto, previously known as “the meeting place”, trying to figure out how to live out the Two Row Wampum Treaty and the Dish with One Spoon Treaty. For now I believe I can live here and do more good than harm. How can I be less like an invasive species and more like a companion plant, with a mutually beneficial relationship with Indigenous communities? 

For as long as I choose to live on lands that aren’t my own, there are a few things I want to do. I want to learn about my roots as well as the history of the lands I’m on and the cultures of Indigenous communities of Turtle Island. There is a lot to deconstruct and reconstruct in this colonial world. 


I want to develop a mindset of abundance and giving. I dream about living in community, growing food with like-minded people, and trading with the neighbours.


Gardening to weed out colonial ways and reclaim my roots

I reflect on the impact gardening has had on my life and I realize how much it has been threaded into my journey of reconnecting to my roots. 

  1. Colonizers try to kill us off and destroy our relationship to the land. Gardening to survive is an act of resistance. They want us to rely on the systems they create but we learn to sustain ourselves.
  2. As I opened to the plant spirits, I started to allow myself to open to my ancestors. I pour water intentionally as an offering in my backyard. I am reminded there is another way of being in the world. In Goa, the Portuguese colonizers introduced Catholicism and likely beat out other spiritual practices of my ancestors. I don’t know what those were but I’d rather create rituals through intuition and connecting to ancestors than practice what the colonizers forced on my people.
  3. My right brain is important too — I want to allow my creativity to flow, feel my emotions and listen to my intuition. Post-university degree, I learned the importance of moving away from left-brain — linear and analytic — thinking. In the garden I am free to be myself. I grow my emotional awareness. I calm my nervous system when I run my fingers through the soil. I breathe slower. It’s fulfilling to work with my hands and I’ve started to value what I most dreaded in school — the arts. The right brain is what the colonizers didn’t want us to use. I’m the first generation of my family allowed to use my left hand (controlled by right brain). Uncle Ernest was Nana’s helper in the garden. As a child he was beaten for using his left hand. As an adult he was pitied for not having a “normally” functioning left brain. But he was so mindful — he made everyone laugh, and when we visited he would stand up mid-conversation and dance and sing. I wonder if he pitied us for not using our right brain more. Sometimes I pity white men for not seeing the true beauty of the cultures which they suppress/suppressed.
  4. I know some things like Catholicism were from the Portuguese, but other things — like what grows in Goa — have not changed. Thinking about the land there makes me certain that I can know some aspect of my culture that existed pre-colonization. I may not grow coconuts or rice. But I can use rice as an offering.  I played with and then mulched my plants with coco coir, a product made from coconut husks that is commonly used for gardening. My family has always used coconut heavily when making Goan sweets at Christmas time and now I will do it with more pride. The shame around eating rice and curry disappears.
  5. I want to develop a mindset of abundance and giving. I dream about living in community,  growing food with like-minded people, and trading with the neighbours. I want to move away from the western fear of scarcity and isolation that often fuels greed and individualism. Initially I wanted to garden because my (white) activist friends used to talk about the importance of growing food for oneself when civilization collapses. In my body is a very human and intergenerational fear of landing in a new place and not being able to survive. But I’m also learning to trust the Earth’s abundance. I’ve seen a whole African violet plant grow from one leaf. Plant cuttings are amazing. I’m also seeing the abundance and resiliency of my family who kept bouncing back after migrating. And the resiliency of many Indigenous people and communities on Turtle Island who survived so much trauma. And I’m seeing the importance of community. I recognize that my privileges of living with my parents and having light brown skin make it easier for me to change my mindset to one of community, trust, sharing and abundance. Gardening also helps me with this.
  6. Life is seasonal, not linear. I’m learning to nourish myself with what’s available now. 

In the last few years of my Nana’s life, she used to sit in her wheelchair by the window so the sun would warm her back. In my backyard I have a chair in the East that catches the rising sun. It faces the blackberry bush and hydrangea bush, two of her favourites. There is a picture in the window of Nana and Uncle Ernest so they can watch it all grow. 


Tresanne Fernandes has roots in Goa, India. She is a new gardener, excited to grow food and medicine. She loves her jobs facilitating workshops and babysitting, where she gets to practice mindfulness, play, creativity and spontaneity. She is also starting out on her journey as a birth doula.

Mental Health in the Legal Profession

A blue digital illustration of two ambiguous books. One is open and laying on a pillow the other closed.

by Naomi Sayers

This piece was first written when Naomi was an articling student and under a good character investigation by the Law Society of Ontario (“LSO”) as a result of her self-disclosures to the LSO. The LSO does not investigate all lawyer-licensee candidates. During that time, Naomi felt isolated and alienated from the legal profession given her experiences. To date, she stills feel isolated and alienated given the conversations around self-care and mental health fail to interrogate the ways in which colonialism and all of its misogyny and racism (and other isms) impact Indigenous law students to date. Naomi kept this piece in its original format, but she is now a lawyer. She still believes that LSO still has a lot of work to do in order to truly practice inclusivity. This represents Naomi’s views only and is not legal advice.

Self-care. It is one of those terms that seems to have been taken up by everyone and anyone. Sometimes it is used by people, organizations and institutions in an unintended way. One such way includes avoiding responsibility of systemic and institutional neglect over many years, decades even.

At the time I first drafted this piece, I was in Ontario’s lawyer licensing process. This means that I have graduated law school, applied to become a lawyer in Ontario, passed the lawyer licensing examinations, or as some of my friends have done, deferred the lawyer licensing examinations until after their articles. Completing your articles is the process of learning through doing. In laymen terms, it is like a co-op placement.

Throughout law school, I struggled. I struggled in the sense that I felt alienated and isolated from the discussions that were taking place in the classroom. This is not to say, however, that I did not do well. I felt alienated and isolated from the structure of law school. I did not see or hear about similar experiences that I went through within the classrooms. In one experience, where I enrolled in a course dedicated to social justice advocacy, I thought I would excel. I heard about how you could write an op-ed (an opinion piece that is either solicited by the editor of a major media outlet or that is pitched to a major media outlet by an individual who is not a regular contributor) or, if I recall correctly, how you could learn how to make submissions to parliamentary committees. In any event, it was a class where I already had done all the things in my advocacy work seeking to decriminalize sex work. It was also work that I continued to do throughout law school. The unique thing about this disclosure is in the fact that I went to a law school where many professors supported the complete abolition of prostitution all in an effort to save women like me, poor little indigenous women. But, I didn’t and I, most certainly, don’t need saving.

When I was articling, I was living in Toronto, completing my articles on Bay Street (almost every little middle-class white boy’s wet dream, chasing after his daddy’s footsteps) in a space that prioritizes health care, especially mental health care. However, for the profession as a whole, this does not always mean that they prioritize health care, despite saying otherwise.

When I was in law school, I kept hearing or seeing these self-care narratives literally everywhere. What was missing from these messages was the trauma-informed approach where self-care originates. For example, trauma-informed approaches acknowledge that each individual responds to their own experiences, including traumatic experiences, in unique ways. This means that sometimes your friend may prefer to be alone after expending their energy in negotiating a difficult conversation or another friend may require immediate support in the way of bonding over your choice of substance to alleviate the anxiety from a traumatic experience (Note: I am not encouraging different kinds of substance use; rather, it is about supporting an individual’s choice). Now that I am in the articling process, I see these same messages, “Practice self-care”. What is missing from these conversations, again, is the trauma-informed approach. Yet, this begs the question, can a profession support individuals from a trauma-informed approach when it has historically excluded (and arguably, presently excludes) individuals who have been regulated and policed out of the legal profession bylaws?

During the 1950s, the laws that prevented Indigenous people from hiring lawyers were repealed. This means that, throughout the time of Canada’s colonization (and continued colonization), entire generations of Indigenous communities were left without legal representation—at a moment in time when colonial Canada was passing laws that infringe on their rights. Yes, the concept of justice and the nature of Indigenous law does not always align with those of Canada’s views or concepts. However, the effects of these laws mean that an entire generation of people were literally erased, silenced and ignored during a critical point in the making and shaping of colonial Canada. This is not unintentional. While this article is not about the colonial context of Canada, it is important to understand parts of this history when talking about trauma-informed approaches to mental health care.

Mental health care and self-care discussions in predominantly white spaces translate to discussions about how a bubble bath can make you feel safe and warm. These conversations do not mean that we have conversations about how institutional racism and everyday microaggressions impact your physical health.

Trauma-informed practice is about embodying a range of principles that centre the needs, experiences and expertise of individuals who have experienced or continued to experience trauma in their lives. Trauma can range from a single occurrence to intergenerational trauma. A trauma-informed practice, ultimately, centers an individual’s control, choice and safety. It means that the individual attends to what will make them safe in that moment, by making the choices they can and in a way that they can.

When it comes to self-care, most institutions that have taken up these narratives inadvertently appropriating these terms in a way that, as I mentioned, avoids responsibility. First, institutions, like law schools or institutions who have a history of excluding racialized or Indigenous folks, that adopt a self-care approach without a trauma-informed approach tend to cause more harm. When I was law school, I reached out to a professor in law school after another professor stated that there were only two kinds of laws in Canada. This idea that there are only two kinds of law in Canada means that Indigenous legal traditions are never acknowledged. This erasure, again, means that Indigenous law students are left arguing their own existence. Then, when you have certain experiences being policed and regulated out of the profession, we have a different kind of conversation happening altogether. The question is no longer how much needs to be done to improve the diversity and inclusion of certain kinds of people. Rather, the question becomes what needs to change at an institutional and systemic level in order to address the barriers created by having honest conversations about institutional and systemic discrimination in the legal profession.

Recently, the regulator for Ontario’s lawyers mandated all lawyers to adopt a statement of principles. The statement of principles is one of many recommendations from the Racialized Licensees Report. This specific recommendation, along with the others named in the report, is meant to address the barriers faced by racialized licensees. However, the Report outlines that Indigenous licensees face “unique experiences” (The Racialized Licensees Report, p 8). The Law Society of Ontario (“Law Society”), as the Report states, “has a duty to maintain and advance the cause of justice and the rule of law, to facilitate access to justice for the people of Ontario and to protect the public interest” (The Racialized Licensees Report, p 11). In order to fulfill this duty, the Law Society must also ensure its policies, practices and programs live up to the values and principles of equality and diversity (The Racialized Licensees Report, p 11). One such policy and practice, however, includes their good character form.

While I agree with the rationale behind adhering to the good character standard, I question whether the Law Society’s policy and practice of adopting a form requirement across the board for all licensing candidates is truly an equality and diversity practice.

For example, when a licensing candidate applies to the Law Society, this candidate must disclose a range of things, including criminal convictions. However, question one on the good character form asks, whether the candidate has “been found guilty of, or convicted of, any offence under any statute” (Lawyer Licensing Process Policies, Part IV: Good Character). You must answer yes to question one if you have been found guilty or convicted under any statute. (Canadian Civil Liberties Association, p 1). The consequence of this question is that it has a wide reach for almost any person. For Indigenous people, this is troublesome.

Indigenous people who are convicted or found guilty of any offence under any statute (which does not seem to be slowing down at any rate) will have to answer yes to question one as outlined above, including those who have accessed the Gladue sentencing regime. The question, then, is not whether the Law Society is adopting equity and diversity principles in its policies, practices and programs. Rather, the question is whether the Law Society is engaging in systemic and/or institutional discrimination with its blanket form, applied across the board to anyone, especially regarding Indigenous people. Again, my issue is not the rationale behind the good character form; it is the practice of assuming that this form is applied equally in a fair manner. Sadly, the Law Society released a report on a review of its good character practices in early 2019 (Professional Regulation Committee, 2019). The facts for lawyer-licensee candidates from this report are as follows:

  1. Over a six-year period, the Law Society received 14,000+ applications from lawyer candidates with only two hundred candidates self-identifying as Indigenous.
  2. 10% of the non-Indigenous candidates answered yes to a good character question.
  3. 18% of the self-identified Indigenous candidates answered yes to a good character question.
  4. The report does not provide numbers for the Indigenous candidates who had their good character issues resolved at an initial step, at an investigation or at a hearing. The report does state that 80-90% candidates of those who did answer a good character question in the affirmative were resolved at the initial step and only 1-2% candidates went to a good character hearing.
  5. Presumably, 10-20% candidates went to a hearing.
  6. Since the number of self-identified Indigenous candidates who answer yes to a good character question is higher by 15-25% (5%-10% estimate based on item 3 above), it is safe to assume that 20-30% of self-identified Indigenous candidates went to a good character hearing.
  7. Based on the above assumption, it could be assumed that 40-60 self-identified Indigenous candidates out of 200 went to a good character hearing over a six-year period or approximately 10 self-identified Indigenous candidates went to a good character hearing each year over a six-year period.

With the conversation around the statement of principles taking place in Ontario, I cringe each time I hear or read about another lawyer impacted by racism trying to justify why this mandated recommendation is essential in ending barriers to racialized licensees. I also cringe when people assume that this is a free speech issue. Free speech for whom? It is most certainly not for the racialized or Indigenous licensees now almost being forced to write their stories, trying to convince everyone who doesn’t believe racism exists…. that racism exists!

It was only in the 1950s where laws that excluded Indigenous people from entering law school, practicing law or hiring lawyers were repealed (See Constance Backhouse, “Gender and Race in the Construction of ‘Legal Professionalism’: Historical Perspectives” in Adam Dodek & Alice Woolley, eds, In Search of the Ethical Lawyer (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2016) 126 at 133). Entire generations of Indigenous people were excluded from entering the profession. That is, people like my grandfathers and grandmothers prohibited from entering the profession—two generations ago. During that time, however, my community was surrounded by several residential schools. It is very unlikely that my ancestors would have even survived long enough, sadly, to enter law school. And, undoubtedly, Indigenous folks continue to be excluded from the profession for a range of other barriers.

But I survived and I am here.

I write this in the context of acknowledging this history of denying indigenous people the illusion of freedom to enter the profession. I also write to highlight the problems with the discussion around the statement of principles, as an alleged diversity and equity initiative.

These kinds of initiatives are a distraction from the issue of racism in the profession. Preventing people from having honest conversations about the real issue—racism—is how institutional and systemic discrimination works. They allow institutions and people to say, “Look at all the hard work we have done!” And, when you critique the initiative, you are the problem such as I have done in very public spaces and have been ostracized by more senior lawyers, including racialized lawyers.

As for the statement of principles, these initiatives are merely check box approaches to the problem. Perhaps, one day, we can all have a healthy conversation about institutional and systemic discrimination without racialized and Indigenous licensees and licensing candidates carrying the burden of retelling their stories.

Naomi Sayers is an Indigenous feminist and lawyer. She tweets under the moniker @kwetoday. Views are her own.

We Are From Africa

A blue illustration of the African continent

By Donat and Lidia

We are from Africa
A continent yet so a country
The land of all
A mother of all
The land of lands
A temple for harmony
So peaceful yet so rightful
A continent that craves beauty
Yet filled with so much aestheticity
Garnished with abundant gold
Enthroned with ivory and silk
That’s our Africa
 
I am from East Africa
Where we love and cherish
Where our blood
Is a reflection of our flag
Where I am my brothers keeper
Where our anthems are blessings in disguise
Where I am from
The forbidden fruit
All of a sudden is not so forbidden anymore
East Africa! The jewel, the pearl
East Africa! Our golden trophy
 
We are from the horn
We are like lions
The pride of our own
The little star of culture
Shining deep in the heart of the continent
We seat strangers to the seas
Just as told by our Mediterranean
Just as told by our Red Sea
“The land of the barbarians”
Our peninsula…
The blessing you offer
Is the blessing you are
Shine no less brighter
But yet warmer.
 
I am from the south,
Amidst the greatness of Rustenberg
I dream of you at night
I dream of your light,
Your warmth,
Your compassion,
Is it still there?
The spirit of Ubuntu that captured our hearts
Is it still there?
Your rich soul that leads me through the road of Jozi
Oh my South Africa!
I dream of you at night.
                                                                                               

Donat and Lidia are grade 11 students at Our Lady Of Lourdes Catholic High School. They both left Eritrea at the age 4 and 5. Lidia went to Uganda and Donat went to South Africa. Donat immigrated to Canada on the 13th September 2018 and Lidia on the 24th April 2017. They are both cousins who love each other so much.

Violence as Healing; Not All Will Agree

black and white sketch of regan de Loggans

By: Regan de Loggans

Above artwork by Grace Insoga

Pisa Aiukli
 
Okhissa tiwwi, Okhissushi akammi
Okhissushi tiwwi, Okhissa akammi
 
Ish Haklo ho? Sa Haklo ho?
…………….Chi Nukshopa ho?
 
Keyu, sa tikabih. Omba sa banna.
 
Okhissa tiwwi, Okhissa akammi
Sabbak acheefa sa banna
 
Open the door, Close the window
Open the window, close the door
 
Are you listening? Do you hear me?
…………….Are you afraid?
 
No, I am tired. I want rain.
 
Open the window, close the door
I want to wash my hands.

When considering legacies of healing, I become bitter and resentful. I do not find it fair that I am expected to heal myself and my community because of things done onto us by foreign bodies. I know that my reaction sounds selfish and righteous, but I expect better. I know resentful behavior can only lead to anger and sadness, but it is how I feel as an indigenous person forced to navigate a colonial world.

I am angry as I write this. Not for the opportunity but rather because the opportunity exists in the first place. I cannot be alone in this anger-But I might be. As an academic, I want to be reasonable and respond with intelligence. And hope that my intelligent rebuttal will empower others in their healing. But honestly, I’m fucking tired of that feeling. I resist colonialism everyday when I wake up by being alive in a world that was not meant to see my survival. But that is not enough. Waking up in a colonial and capitalistic world is still my reality; and it’s a reality I did not consent to.

Legacies of healing can be just as traumatic as colonial violence; It takes everything in all of us to function. And I know we are all exhausted. But spite keeps me going. I refuse to heel in front of the police who want my death or imprisonment, while on my land. I believe that resistance is inherently righteous violence against the oppressive institutions. And it is hard to live a violent life.

A past of violence and a reaction that is violent is my life and the life of any indigenous person who chooses to reclaim, resurge, and redefine. And I need others to acknowledge that healing is an act of righteous violence and reclamation of violence done onto oneself and others.

But violence against the colonial state is a tactic of survival, it is a refusal of heteropatriarchy, colonialism, possessiveness, and imperialism. “The Kwe Method” is what some have called it. And it is what I want my life to be defined by-The chosen refusal of oppression. I refuse to heal quietly or alone. MY legacy of healing is one defined by violence, done as an act of revolutionary violence.

It will be loud. It will be fueled by anger. And it will be uncomfortable for all that witness it.

Regan de Loggans (Mississippi Choctaw-Ki’che’ Maya) is a historian/art historian, curator community activist, and practitioner of radical witchcraft. They are one of the founders of the Indigenous Womxn’s Collective: NYC. They live in Brooklyn, on the traditional lands of the Lenni Lenape. Insta: @PhaggotPlanet