“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

Black Women, [Inherited] Mental Health and Healing Art

black silhouette of elderly black woman with a headwrap on

by Gloria Swain

When I was first diagnosed with a chronic illness along with the deaths of loved ones, I felt my world falling apart. I fell into a deep dark emotional state for several years. The treatment for my physical illness took a toll on my body which naturally added more stress to my mental health. Finally, I was officially diagnosed with depression in 2004. After being on antidepressants for a few years and struggling with the long list of side effects -suicidal thoughts, anger, weight, hallucinations – I realized I needed a way out. I was on the edge and there was nowhere else to go but down. I was alone. And I felt invisible.

Black women are strong and resilient, but we are also human and mental illness does not discriminate. We are not strangers to depression, anxiety, bipolar or PTSD but Black women continue to suffer in silence because of the shame and stigma surrounding mental illness in Black communities. Growing up I suffered from undiagnosed depression. Being born in the late 50s, mental illness was unheard of and taboo, especially in the Black community. I was born and raised in the southern United States, at the end of segregation and the beginning of integration. My parents and grandmother refused to talk about their histories growing up in Alabama or South Carolina because of the violence and racism they experienced. It was too painful for them to speak on. Sometimes I wonder if they ever had an opportunity to heal. This is intergenerational trauma. Unexplained and unspoken wounds that are passed down to the next generation. When we don’t heal ourselves, we lack the tools to create healing for our future descendants. It’s difficult to talk about mental illness, especially if you’re a Black woman whose ancestors have suffered in silence for centuries because we are constantly told that we are strong. It’s even more difficult for Black women to seek help when the people who are advocating for mental health look nothing like us. Mental illness does not see race, sex, or economical status; yet, certain communities are routinely excluded from mental health conversations.

One day, while going through old photos, I found a picture of me as young girl painting. I remembered how art had brought me so much happiness. I started painting again and never looked back. Art was not only healing for me, but it also led me into researching my own history. I successfully traced my ancestors from Africa to Alabama, one of the largest states that took part in the U. S. slave trade. I learned there is a history of mental illness in my family as well as other illnesses that has now begun to take a toll on my body as I age. Being a descendent of African slaves in America I asked myself, what mental toll has slavery placed on Black people?

My art practice, together with my own lived experiences with intergenerational trauma, challenges the narrative of the strong Black woman and the shame associated with mental illness. My creative journey started at a very young age and it hasn’t stopped. Art pushed me to get back to school and today, at the young age of 60, I have completed my masters.

As a child, art was an outlet for my frustration of trying to fit in. Today, art is a part of my journey of healing. Through art, I face the traumas that come with intersecting histories of slavery, racism, and violence against Black women’s bodies. Through art, I am an activist; I strive to create art that opens discussions around social issues within the Black community. Through art I encourage connection; art brings folks together and moves people to change. Art has become a powerful tool with which I can find healing in my own pain.

Gloria C Swain is a multidisciplinary artist who uses art to explore the history of violence against Black women, the roots of Black mental health and intergenerational trauma. Her work is part of a social movement that seeks to raise awareness for Black female victims of police brutality, anti-Black violence and those who fail to warrant media attention.

Iraq

Colourful drawing of faceless man in all white with a headwrap sitting cross-legged playing a middle eastern instrument resembling an Ektara

The Land of Fife, the Cradle of Civilization, and My Home

By Falah Hafuth with Sowsan Hafuth

Artwork by Zeena Salam

I am Dr. Falah Hafuth, born and raised in Baghdad, Iraq. I graduated from the University of Mosul in 1983 as a physician and have been practising medicine in Canada for almost 30 years. I left Baghdad in 1984 after working as a physician for only a short period of time through the Al-Kindi Specialized Hospital and the Iraqi National Centre for Cancer Research.


The reason I left Baghdad was because I didn’t want to participate in Saddam Hussein’s unjust war between Iraq and Iran. I chose to join the opposition political front who were for a democratic state and who tried to get rid of Saddam and eliminate the reign of dictatorship. Saddam’s regime was never for the people and was governing Iraq without a real free election. The elections that took place were administered by Saddam and his puppets and he was always the winner by a 99.9% vote. How lucky, right? His regime forced people to become members of his party, the Ba’ath party. He introduced a law subjecting anyone from other parties to death sentences, torture, and prison. He was engaging the country in very risky acts like attacking neighboring countries and waging the war between Iraq and Iran for 8 years, destroying much of the infrastructure of Iraq.


Everyone was subject to a certain degree of harassment from the government, especially if they weren’t participating in the government party and activities held by Saddam. These included the student unions, youth organizations, women organizations, etc. Anyone not a part of these would be considered an enemy and went on the notion of “if you’re not with us, you’re against us.” I didn’t believe in tying my life into these organizations or these people who were so ideologist, I believe in freedom and everyone being their own entity. With these thoughts and not publicly supporting Saddam, you became under surveillance and on the watch list of the secret police or by

Saddam’s organizations. People like me were targeted.

One night in 1980, someone had written:

يسقط صدام حسين

يسقط حزب البعث

الموت للدكتاتور
(Down to saddam hussein, down to Ba’ath party, death to the dictator) on the wall of the medical school. That same night me and my friends were staying late in one of the reading rooms to study. So, when the secret police discovered the graffiti on the school wall, they immediately took every student that was in that reading room that night to the secret police headquarters in Mosul. Those days in the headquarters of the secret police were the most difficult days in my entire life They were torturing us on a daily basis in so many ways to figure out who wrote it. Immediately they released the students who were collaborating with the Ba’ath party and student union, but kept the students who hadn’t been affiliated with those organizations. We payed this price for two months. I was able to feel the joy on the face of the interrogator when he saw us in pain, calling our nightly torturing session the “night party”. The interrogator would tie our arms to tables or behind our backs and extinguish his cigarettes into our hands. They would tie us to poles in cold rooms and leave us there overnight on a very cold ceramic floor and take our jackets and belts away so we couldn’t hang ourselves when we’re alone. They would throw cold water on us 2 or 3 times a night during the winter then whip us with electrical cables. They finally released me after I had written the graffiti slogan in a book to fill about 100 pages and decided my writing wasn’t the same…after two months. The only reason I didn’t drop out of medical school was because many of my classmates would spend time writing the lectures and summarizing everything for me and the others. They then helped teach us everything we missed when we were released. Even people I never met before did this for me. During my time in jail, I made my final decision to leave this regime as soon as I could become a doctor and support the movement against Saddam. I didn’t want any innocent soul to go through the same wretched torture I endured. So, after medical school I worked for one year in Baghdadi hospitals. I then left Baghdad (the central government area) to support the rebels in the provinces of Kurdistan (Northern Iraq).

Me and a friend were smuggled in the back of a car across checkpoints to the North of Iraq (Kurdistan), where the government had no control over the rural villages. Once we arrived at the villages and gained the trust of the rebels who resided there, they let us join them. We spent two and a half years with them. I was helping this opposition as a physician by treating the wounded, delivering babies, and doing whatever I could to help these sanctioned areas of Iraq. People in Kurdistan weren’t allowed to sell their products to the rest of the country and were isolated, unless they worked directly with Saddam’s government. So, I went on the back of my horse with my medicine bag and a couple of books, travelling as a mobile medical unit between villages in remote areas with the rebels. The government never knew we were a part of the rebels because we changed our identities (our names, our looks, etc.). If they ever found out who we were by a photo or anything, they would go after our families.
My journey ended with the rebels at the end of 1986 when Saddam started throwing chemical bombs into the remote villages of Kurdistan where the rebels used to take shelter. Everyone was dying, birds were dying, animals were dying. I remember thinking to myself that I never appreciated the beauty of the different types of colourful birds there were until I walked through one of the villages that got hit by a chemical bomb a few days earlier and all these birds were laying dead on the ground. At that time I realized that we can not fight a regime that is poisoning the air. I had then left Iraq with the rebels. We had nowhere to escape to other than going to the Iranian cities on the Iraq-Iran border.  

At Saddam Hussein’s time, there was a state, but under dictatorship. No freedom. Although, after the American invasions in 1991 and in 2003, the entire infrastructure of Iraq was completely demolished. All the governments that came after the last invasion in 2003 have been even more corrupt than Saddam. Iraq needs a real, transparent, free election without the involvement of America meddling in its affairs. In Iraq now, elections are a very poor tool for measuring democracy. A democratic country should have equal opportunity for everyone where equal services are provided to everybody. In Iraq, basic services are almost non existent; there’s no clean water, only a few hours of hydro a day, and the unemployment rate is high among young people. Although the oil production companies are doing OK, there is a shortage of oil to Iraqi people. It is very clear that America is not interested in helping people as much as they are interested in controlling the oil of our lands. They didn’t take care of the infrastructure that was destroyed by their very own American war machine.

It is clear the reason for invading Iraq was not to introduce democracy, neither was it because Saddam was a vicious dictator. It was for controlling the oil. Before the invasion, there were hundreds of ways to get Saddam out of power and save hundreds of thousand of innocent victims, but America chose to invade Iraq and take the lives of innocent peoples in such horrific ways. America’s behaviour after the invasion shows they have no interest in democracy and improving the life of the people in the Middle East. As long as the Middle East has the powerhouse of the world, being the largest oil reserve, the warmongers of the Western world will never let this area settle. Until either oil no longer becomes a hot commodity, or the peace and justice prevails in the world. Although, I don’t see either of these two things happening in my lifetime. This is the reality.

Real hope for freedom is dependent on many factors. The main one is that peace and justice will prevail around the world and the people of each country will contribute to it. If we have a government that looks after its own people by genuinely respecting our human rights and cooperating with each other on an equal basis, the international community will not let others take advantage and abuse the resources of our nation.

Young people everywhere have the most power in their hands for a better future. If they stick with the peace for their own country and other countries equally, we could defeat the peace disturbers and live in unity. We would pull the rug out from under the feet of those who are opportunists that want to take the resources of others. Standing in solidarity together to fix the entirety that is our world, not just your own world.

Iraq will always be a part of me; it is the only place where I do not feel like a stranger. I still think about it because that was my childhood, my life, my education. My family still lives there. And it can never be forgotten. I will take those memories to the grave with me. To be away from Iraq for so long has solidified my love of true Iraqi history and has increased my interest to study it more. I keep falling in love with Iraq again and again. I express my love of Iraq and the open wounds I have from being forced to leave through various forms of art like poetry and music that can easily remind me of my old life. Iraq to me will forever be the land of life, the cradle of civilization, and my home.

Falah was born in 1955 in Baghdad, Iraq. He graduated from Mosul Medical School in 1982 and moved to Canada in 1988. He was also the first president of the Iraqi Canadian Society in 1991 and he was the founder and current president of the Kitchener Waterloo Arab Canadian Theatre. He is currently practising medicine as an ER physician and in an urgent care clinic.

Zeena is currently living in her home town Najaf, Iraq. She is studying accounting at the University of Kofa along with pursuing an art career on the side. She enjoys painting and drawing pieces that relate to Arabian culture, nature, and landscapes.

Awakening

a black and white illustration of a goldfish with a blue background

by Amai Kuda

For each of us, the process and timing of political awakening is different. My mother named me Salmon, she said I looked at her like a judge when I was a baby, so I think that process happened quite early for me. By the age of six I decided I could not eat my best friends, who at the time were some goldfish, so I became a vegetarian. Within a few years I was putting up my own hand-made ‘Go Vegetarian’ posters around the neighborhood. Although, I confess I am no longer vegetarian, I am thankful that my early relationships with animals taught me about empathy, spiritual connection and how to fight for things that mattered to me. I also attended an alternative school that encouraged us to write advocacy letters, and so at eleven years old I was writing to NASA decrying their vivisection practices, and contacting Nelson Mandela to critique post-apartheid South Africa’s continued employment of White police officers who had actively oppressed Black people during the apartheid regime. Having a mother who taught me about the political realities of our people, both past and present, was certainly a critical part of my awareness and engagement as well.

Then I went to a feminist all girls school where I was both empowered to have a voice as a young woman, but was also punished by some White teachers who were disconcerted by a little Black girl, albeit a light-skinned one, having academic gifts in math and science. When one such teacher, named Susan, accused one of the school’s few Black students of stealing a watch and the Principals called the police on this fourteen year-old girl, I decided to organize a walk-out.  The Principals then had to answer to us, the student body, for how they had reacted to our schoolmate. It turned out that the teacher had tormented that same student all year long, even inviting other students’ to ridicule her in class. I learned from a young age that in White so-called ‘progressive’ circles we, Black and Brown folk, were far from safe.

From grades ten to twelve I went to Weston Collegiate Institute, a high school resembling a prison where two thirds of the student body were people of colour and the majority of the teachers were White. They had no pretentions of ‘progressiveness’ and I observed the policing of Black students’ bodies and ways in which young Black people were miseducated. I listened to the Fugees and Dead Prez. My best friend and I performed Lauryn Hill, Bob Marley and Mahalia Jackson songs in duet at Black History shows, and I made my peers uncomfortable when I sang “Strange Fruit.” When I noticed the double standard that allowed Jewish or Muslim students to wear religious head-coverings, but barred young Black women, like myself, from wrapping our heads as part of a longstanding spiritually-rooted tradition, I created a petition to protest this injustice. It was during this time that I really clarified my own views about the problems of institutional education. I found the learning environment oppressive, from the rigid schedule and the constant grading, to the rows of desks and fluorescent lighting. I found it unfair that our education should be in the hands of people that didn’t love us and, often, even despised us.

Despite this unfriendly environment, I did learn a lot. I took anthropology and learned about the Yanamamo, the Bunyoro and the San peoples.  My readings confirmed my hunch that land-based/Indigenous societies seemed to have much healthier ways of doing things, and problems of homelessness, imprisonment, poverty, environmental degradation and racism were non-existent when these Indigenously living peoples were left to their own devices. In these societies where people were organized into smaller communities, one was not educated in cold institutions, but by one’s community members. One was not ruled by a distant stranger that one had never met. One knew where one’s food came from and where one’s waste went.  I learned how each Indigenous society had a complex spiritual tie to the earth that allowed them to live in relative balance. They were not perfect, but to my mind their ways of life were a far cry above the soul-sucking, oppressive, environmentally destructive path that our society was taking. I decided my career goal was to become a hunter-gatherer.

I pursued this goal to the best of my ability at the time. I spent a summer at Curve Lake First Nation with a family friend, Alice, so that I could begin to learn from the people whose land I was on about how to live in a better way with the land. I had begun visiting Curve Lake with my mom when I was about thirteen years-old. It was during discussions with Alice’s kids, who were mixed Anishishinabeg and White, that I realized that being mixed didn’t make one less Black or less Native. I realized that identifying with one’s marginalized identity was a kind of resistance.  So in the summer after I finished high school I mostly spent my time volunteering at the Curve Lake daycare centre and hanging out with the woods and lake there. Then I had an opportunity to spend a few months up in Red Lake with Alice’s daughter’s family. During my time with her family I did housework to earn my keep, and volunteered a bit with a local Indigenous youth group, but I actually spent most of my time in the bush. I had always loved the woods and during this period I determined that the trees were to be my main teachers. I learned to listen to them, and to connect to my own ancestors through them. This practice has been my source of guidance and wellness ever since.

 

Although I was keen to continue pursuing my career path as hunter-gatherer/tree-talker my mom was pretty keen for me to get my butt back in school. I was not to squander the opportunity that our ancestors had fought so hard for. So, having been granted scholarships to cover my tuition, I attended Trent University, which I had selected because there was lot of bush on the campus. I planned to camp out in the woods the whole time. I even took a tent and all my best woods clothes and everything, but then my Granny warned me that I would surely be raped if I slept outside alone. Having had this idea firmly planted in my head I conceded to sleeping in my dorm and just spent as much of the daytime as possible in the bush. I continued to learn from the trees and they guided me to pursue my commitment to social justice by working in solidarity with the Indigenous peoples’ of Turtle Island.

It was at Trent that I met Laura Hall and re-met Urpi Valer-Pine, the two Indigenous women with whom I co-founded the group Seven Directions. Urpi had, in fact, been one of the brown students who was also tormented by the same Susan teacher at the feminist all girls’ school.  Although, we had not been friends in middle school, all these years later we discovered that we shared a commitment to social justice, particularly Indigenous rights and gender equality.  So we formed a group. We hosted Decolonization Discussions and consulted with Indigenous elders about what decolonization could actually look like and how we could best contribute to it. We also fundraised for Indigenous groups fighting for their land, like the Secwepemc in BC and I took the bus out West to do some front-line land defending with Cheam First Nation.  I learned a lot in my time at Trent. I actually created my own degree specializing in ‘Decolonization: Indigenous Cultural Reclamation in Turtle Island and Africa.’ The program included Native Studies and African studies courses as well as a self-directed study course on genealogy and another on the role of religion in the colonization of Africa.

After three years spent exploring ideas of decolonization, consulting with local Indigenous community members and working in solidarity with land-rights struggles, Seven Directions began working towards the creation of a centre for decolonization. The idea was to buy land and establish a space where Indigenous peoples and allies could relearn their  land-based traditions and learn to live according to the treaties.

It took us some ten years to pull together the money to buy the land, which we finally did in 2013, and today we’re still working on building the infrastructure for the centre. Last year the group was able to host a first Hide Tanning workshop for the local Indigenous community with a grant we received. However, we found that it was a challenge to bring large groups into the space without sufficient resources to accommodate them. We’ve had to go back to fundraising so that we can create the necessary infrastructure, such as a big kitchen and showers. We are working on building both physically, emotionally and spiritually. We are still learning how to share space so we can function as a healthy community, while also developing relationships with the local Algonquin and Metis communities. the center.

As we work through the challenges of building an alternative to a colonial way of living, I am sometimes frustrated by how slow the process is. I know patience is a virtue, but at times I panic when I look up from this work to see how incessant and tireless the forces of destruction are as they tear up the earth in the name of profit, displacing our peoples and gunning us down or jailing us if we resist.  I am terrified that there will be nothing left by the time we relearn how to live in a good way. Perhaps it was in answer to these worries that I dreamt one night about riding a bus where I could not distinguish between people and baggage. In another part of the same dream I was with some Batois people, my ancestors, and we were learning the names of plants as we walked up a hill.  I woke up with thoughts of the Montgomery bus boycotts in my mind and I knew that we had to get off the bus! I felt that those of us who believed in a different way of doing things had to engage in a boycott as powerful as that of the Civil Rights movement. So I started plotting. After many conversation with Black, Indigenous and POC activists who seemed on a similar page to myself I wrote the Call Out below.

The Call Out is a work in progress. At present it is being revised to be more reflective of the Indigenous voices in our movement.  The movement itself is a work in progress. But I have to say I’m proud of some of that progress. Due to the overwhelming support from community members, we already have a website and a beautiful flyer that serve to educate people about how they can take steps towards creating a more just world. We’ve held three powerful actions that at once feed and honor spirit while, simultaneously resisting oppression. All this has happened in only a few months. We have many great social justice groups within the coalition already and we are building steadily all the time.  I know this revolution that we dream of will not happen overnight, and I know that we have to take time to do things in the right way, rather than rushing forward to our death, as the wise ones say. But I also know we are in a powerful moment and timing is everything. I know that my job is to listen closely to the guidance of my ancestors whether they speak through trees or dreams. I must keep my feet planted firmly on the soil and offer thanks and water daily in the constant flow of reciprocity. In doing so, I can play my role, not unlike like the salmon who performs the ultimate sacrifice to make way for future generations.


 

Amai Kuda
Amai Kuda is a Toronto based singer/songwriter, community activist and the mother of a young child. The name Amai Kuda means “mother to the will of the creator” in the southern African language Shona. Amai Kuda is a co-founder and co-coordinator of three organizations, Moyo Wa Africa, Seven Directions and R3, dedicated to the decolonization of African peoples and to indigenous solidarity respectively.Daughter of the internationally awarded writer, Nourbese Philip, who has used her work to speak out about all kinds of injustice, Amai Kuda grew up going to demonstrations and listening to her elders passionately discuss the history and future of African peoples. Her first music video, All My Fine Shoes, was part of The Reel World Film Festival 2010 and in October of 2011 she launched her first CD called ‘Sand from the Sea’, an indie release which she produced herself.

Erasure

By Anonymous

I wanted to erase every memory of him ingrained within the groves of my skin. My dress slipped to the ground and I slid into the tub. My fingers grabbed onto the crystal and slowly turned the faucet. Pushing the limit, I allowed the water’s heat to scald my skin. The heat did not delay from stinging my bareness. A crimson hue flushed my fairness. After some time, the skin grew accustomed to the water’s harshness.

The blades inched around my tips. I enjoyed the hardness of the metal in my hand. Grabbing my long strands, pulling my long strands, I carved. And I wounded. And I chopped the black, silk locks he once ran his fingers through. They fell onto the waves and drifted around me.

The purifier lathered between the gaps of my finger. I gradually rubbed it against my limbs. I wanted to purge his scent from every cavity. Every fracture. Every breach.

Frustrated, I scrubbed harder and faster, an anger was surging through every nerve. I scratched away at my weakness. My hands traced their way to the edges between my thighs and scoured. My nails scraped at the softness of my mounds. My fingers ripped at my unchaste lips. I clawed at every part of my existence that he corrupted. I grinded and chafed till the softness peeled away and revealed an unscathed surface. It was new and virgin.

Frustrated, I scrubbed harder and faster, an anger was surging through every nerve. I scratched away at my weakness. My hands traced their way to the edges between my thighs and scoured. My nails scraped at the softness of my mounds. My fingers ripped at my unchaste lips. I clawed at every part of my existence that he corrupted. I grinded and chafed till the softness peeled away and revealed an unscathed surface. It was new and virgin.

This unseasoned layer easily burned from the boiling water. Blood snaked just beneath its face. The blistering pain marking scars was inferior to the relentless feeling of a soiled soul. Then euphoria reigned over me. His presence no longer endured on my body. I felt forgiven. Felt recreated. Felt absolved. I had hated every fraction he ever touched, kissed, licked, or fucked… I collapsed lower onto the cruel steel and sobbed.

I finally erased the ubiquity of his violence within every fragment of my being.