Raspberry Magazine Spring 2021

Page 1


Published by

Spring 2021

Katie Stobbart EDITOR

Jess Wind EDITOR




Jennifer Hickey Katie Stobbart


Jacob Margaret Archer Dessa Bayrock Sharn Kaur Sandhra Katie Stobbart Jess Wind COVER PHOTO

Berry Sculpture by Manjit Sandhu


All things must come to an end:

26 farewell and the future 4

Calling all radicals: Racism in Abbotsford


New writing by Jacob Margaret Archer


Racism in the maternity ward


Final harvest / fallow harvest

CALLING ALL RADICALS by Sharn Kaur Sandhra Racism is a powerful force. It’s a powerful force because of its invisibility, because of the way it festers within institutions, because of the way it creates assumptions and systems of power that excludes people, people’s ideas, people’s values, and people’s sense of their own belonging. This is how systems of power function in the City of Abbotsford. It becomes systemic when organizations — like the Abbotsford News, Tourism Abbotsford, the Abbotsford School District, the Abbotsford Downtown Business Association, and the list goes on and on — continue to support racism by way of exclusion within power structures, led by our mayor and some councillors, but also reinforced by the silence of all councillors and these organizations. This article will be a breakdown of the most recent examples of exactly how these systems of racism function based on some of my own personal examples, but also based on things that I have seen. I write this as a historian, as a critical race theorist, as a professional, and as someone with more than 30 years of lived experience in this city. Some may wonder what is happening now that all of a sudden the City, Mayor Braun, the councillors, the media, and other systems are being particularly noticed. Why not years ago? Did these institutions just become racist? No, of course not. They’re part of a machine of racism in this city — but unlike before, we’re now living in a race revolution, which is emboldening the young people and people like me in this city to have the courage to speak against these powers that are simply so used to sitting among their own, with their singular thoughts and ideas. But let me tell you, these powers are taking notice. Their fragility is showing — their aggression, their frustration, their disbelief.


CHALLENGING THE MACHINE OF RACISM IN ABBOTSFORD “When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard nor welcomed, but when we are silent we are still afraid, so it is better to speak.” Audre Lorde, The Black Unicorn: Poems 5

City councillors’ racist rhetoric on Twitter My first real vocal activism began in July 2020, when I discovered and shared on Twitter a comment from our local Abbotsford city councillor’s business, Tanglebanks (owned by Councillor Brenda Falk). The comment, responding to a performative #BlackLivesMatter post from the Abbotsford Downtown Business Association, read: “All lives matter. Let’s treat people with respect and dignity no matter what colour or gender they are. Treat people the way you want to be treated and let’s stop the BS.” What followed was a back-and-forth between myself and another councillor, Dave Loewen, who attacked me on Twitter, asking whether my views should be equated to that of the University in which I worked, tagging the President of UFV and subsequently apologizing for doing so – but not before he thanked a white male reporter for his “dispassionate interaction” in the thread. Indeed, Dave only backed down from the days’ worth of back and forth, including while he was being questioned by my supporters who were people of colour, when questioned by the white male reporter. Those of us who are Indigenous women, Black women, and women of colour know exactly where this statement heads and what it means. It’s the pervasive white fear of the ‘angry Black woman,’ because anger to them is a signifier of irrationality. Emotion as irrational is certainly gendered, but it’s also very much intersectional. Believe me — we spend half our lives worrying about this because we know how much our lives and careers depend on the white gaze upon us approving our rationality through dispassion. I’ve even been warned within my PhD graduate experience to not be the angry Black girl in the room. So let me make this unequivocally clear: I do not accept Dave’s apology. His apology was a veiled racist and misogynistic one — one that, rather than addressing the harm done by a racist social media response, attacked the woman of colour who exposed it. I no longer have the patience to deal with white men like him. White men like him who aren’t used to being questioned by women of colour about their privilege.


Sharn (NOT Sharon!) Kaur Look what I just discovered ­­— this local restaurant also happens to be owned by @abbotsfordfirst member Brenda Falk. So... supporting people of colour is BS, eh?? @City_Abbotsford you all are on a roll lately. Dave Loewen Question: Am I to take your views expressed on Twitter as representing UFV, simply because you are employed by them? Sharn (NOT Sharon!) Kaur I am not an elected public official who owns a business on the side. I speak with knowledge and intelligence based on a movement of anti racist revolution. Your question is gas lighting and I’d tread very carefully. You invoking my job at ufv doesn’t scare me. Excerpt from July 2020 Twitter conversation.

Dave Loewen’s condescending, defensive, fragile, and misogynistic with racist undertones attack on me was but one catalyst of an ongoing shift in my world view since March 2020. Since this news broke about the business and Councillor Falk, not one single city councillor or our mayor have publicly addressed the deep-seeded, problematic nature of the #AllLivesMatter verbiage, despite hundreds signing a petition calling for Falk’s resignation, and personal requests to meet with the mayor. And it needs to be a public conversation. Backdoor conversations do nothing to dispel and address the harm caused to the citizens of this city. The systems continue to protect those in power despite such an incredible onslaught of dissension from people in our city.

Racism fuels the myth of the Abbotsford EastWest divide I once attended a roundtable forum more than a year ago about racism in this city where Mayor Braun co-opted the first ten minutes of the conversation — sitting in a diverse room amongst people like Mr. Ravi Kahlon, who is now the Parliamentary Secretary for Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development — and discussed his victimhood status because he faced racism through his Mennonite past. He then was shocked when I said that there were racist white realtors in this city that call West Abbotsford a shithole to their clients. Mennonites indeed have a past of incredible persecution, but the leadership in this City needs to understand the difference between histories of oppression and the oppressions of today based on race and the colour of one’s skin. They are completely non-parallel to each other and especially as it relates to the systems of power that continue to uplift one, and step on the other. There are nuances to these conversations which include anti-Semitism, anti-caste, transphobia, homophobia, and others forms of oppression based on identity. But for the Mayor in his white cis-hetero male power and privilege to sit and discuss his persecution and the racism he faced in that setting, harmed me, and I’m sure, harmed others sitting in that room. The Abbotsford News perpetuated the East-West city divide through their fear- mongering tactics in Townline hill conflicts years ago. To this very day, I have young Punjabis in their early to mid-20’s telling me they physically feel a barrier to entering the East side of Abbotsford


based on looks they get from white people there and the way they’re treated as though they don’t belong in that part of town. I’ve had people tell me white realtors will specifically tell their white clients to not buy homes in West Abbotsford because it’s a “shit hole.” These are the ongoing ramifications of an entire corpus of media messaging and stereotyping my entire community as being nothing but gangsters and creating a myth of Townline hill being some sort of Compton equivalent. It’s all a lie – I have family who live there, my children went to the preschool there, and I know teachers who teach at Eugene Reimer, Harry Sayers, and Hansen. All of these schools and places and people have been impacted because of what the Abbotsford News did and perpetuated. I’m not interested in intent or purpose anymore. These organizations need to read the room, read it clearly, and understand their role moving forward so we can heal from this and grow as a community. If you are silent about these systems and if you continue to bootlick those in power to sustain your own privilege, including those at UFV, then I assure you, you are no ally of mine, no friend of mine.

Ignorance and inequity at the top On November 16, 2020 Mayor Braun in an Executive Committee meeting, in speaking about a Plan A report, spoke of how he honours Indigenous communities shortly before expressing that there’s too much attention being given to, in his words “First Nations” and “South Asians” — something which he also says was already alluded to by Dave Loewen. His argument being that, Plan A did not involve the Dutch and Mennonite communities. Mayor Braun goes on to suggest that there need to be ways to include these communities, including phone-calling and creating accessible ways to engage. Sure, fair enough. Everyone deserves to be included and feel like they belong as part of a municipal and political exercise. I’m curious why this logic of phone calling and finding more sustainable ways of getting representation doesn’t


“The leadership in this City needs to understand the difference between histories of oppression and the oppressions of today based on race and the colour of one’s skin.” come into effect with the City’s almost all-white committees. Why is it okay to have an almost all-white political leadership including committees and staff, but it’s most definitely NOT okay to have Indigenous and South Asian communities overrepresented in some report? Especially when we have one of the most diverse populations in terms of race in all of British Columbia. Those in power are used to being in the centre — they are used to having their culture, their religion, their language, their everything be at the core of the structures within this city and supported by and through other local organizations. That is why the mayor can hold a Christmas card contest in this city, supported by the Abbotsford School District and promoted by Tourism Abbotsford and the Abbotsford News, but when a white ally asks that Dave Loewen in a December 3, 2020 committee meeting of ‘Community, Culture and Environment Advisory Meeting,’ acknowledge the Farmworkers’ strike in India as it relates to and affects thousands of Punjabis in the Valley — Dave’s response as a Chair is to “pull rank” and say the conversation is out of order. This is even though UFV’s Provost and VP Academic agreed in the meeting that the committee needs to acknowledge this, along with two other white allies in the committee. Talk about inclusivity and an openness to engage eh? Our political structures within the City of Abbotsford are ill-equipped and lack knowledge and understanding about anti-racism, privilege, and decolonizing. They don’t hear the anguish and pain of those citizens not conforming to their centredness, they only hear complaints. They will only pay attention when it’s their communities being left out or harmed. And they are supported by the utter silence and invisible voices of all other councillors and every single system of power and influence in this city.


How ignorant is our Mayor when it comes to decolonizing? In the same November 16 Executive Committee meeting, the question of decolonization emerges. The video is uncomfortable to watch. Uncomfortable because of the power differentiation, imbalance, and abusive space that forces a woman to have to explain/justify decolonization to a group of ignorant, ill-informed white men who have no understanding of their own body language, condescension, gender, power, race and its many intersections. The Mayor isn’t concerned about Indigenous rights, about the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as it relates to Justice, Health, Language and Culture, Education or Child Welfare. The Mayor’s certainly not interested in action #57 which says “We call upon federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments to provide education to public servants on the history of Aboriginal peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal–Crown relations. This will require skills based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.” And I’m sorry to say, having a one-day or onetime training from Archway Community Services about diversity isn’t going to cut it based on the deep-seeded issues this leadership has. No, no, no folks. According to the video, the Mayor is worried about statues, please for the love of god, just don’t let anything happen to his precious statues. What statues do you think our Mayor is concerned about exactly? Leave aside


the number of historians and scholars who’ve argued against the narrative of statues being torn down being a sign of history being erased - but really, is this how crude an understanding our leaders have? Concern for physical artefacts and false whitewashed monikers of history as opposed to real humans affected by those histories? Is this really where we’re at?

Anti-racism takes action If you are an organization within the City of Abbotsford and you are not calling out systems of privilege and oppression that continue to create barriers of ‘us’ and ‘them,’ then you are a part of the problem. If I have taken time out of my life to write emails to you in great detail explaining your privilege and the harm you’ve done and you’re not working towards rectifying that, then you are a part of the problem. If you are not holding those around you accountable based on the harm they are doing to others, then you are a part of the problem. It means that come election season 2022, we need to make change in this city. We need younger, more thoughtful, more empathetic, more fearless, social justice minded and diverse people to represent diverse experiences and opinions. It means the bootlickers need to beware because they will be called out more and more. If you’re truly interested in being a part of that change then you’re welcome to reach out to me: Sharanjit.Sandhra@gmail.com or @SharnFTC on Twitter.

Further local racial tensions I didn’t even get to explain the harm done to Black Connections in this City, with a promise of a permanent #BlackLivesMatter mural being shattered by some “unknown” powers within the City structures. I haven’t even touched upon the issue of police defunding in this City as an engagement / theoretical concept relating to race and oppression.

I haven’t even discussed the insidiousness of Evangelical racism in this city, supported by systems like the Abbotsford School District that still allows high school graduations to take place in the same churches that try to proselytize and evangelize us.

These are the unspoken conversations being had in private, when they need to be had in public.


côte-des-neiges by Jacob Margaret Archer I think a lot about parenting for someone who knows they’re not going to bear children. I think a lot about fixing the light fixture in my bathroom ceiling for someone who can’t stand on a stepladder without getting vertigo. I think a lot about the jump for someone who knows how much damage the fall can do. It’s devastating that I’m more afraid of ladders than of death. On good days, I walk. On really good days, when the air is crisp, I walk six or seven kilometres past all of my friends’ houses and blow kisses at their bedroom windows. I hope my affection collects like mold in the cracks between the weather stripping and the glass. I hope they breathe it in, unknowing, while they sleep, and carry my love around in their lungs like a lingering cough that follows them through the winter. In every version of reality, I live at the end of a dead end street, in a house that cannot be passed casually. My home is a destination or my home is a mistake. The only thing that follows me are my footprints on the unplowed sidewalk. My niece has the words, now, to tell me stories about princesses who turn into birds and retreat to clouds too high up for sound or touch or even love to reach them. My niece is big enough, now, to jump from footprint to footprint behind me, leaving none of her own. It’s always winter, here, until it isn’t, and then it’s always summer until it can’t be anymore. Temperance isn’t something I can carry in my body, and neither is change, but there’s more than one way to be weightless. I need you to know that I was once fourteen, illuminated in lakewater and the first sunrise of fall. That I was never afraid to hit the water. I am so tired of showering in the dark. I am so tired of using children as metaphors. My niece flings herself off my snowy porch one hundred times in a row. Each time, my one sharp breath is how long she’s buoyant in mid-air and not thinking about whether she will be caught.



“Going somewhere, but together — even if there’s no reason for it.” Art, home, place, and driving around the Valley with Jacob Margaret Archer Interview by Dessa Bayrock What does the experience of living in the Valley, and creating in the Valley — and creating from the Valley, since you’ve moved away and then moved back — feel like to you? Talk to me about home and place and creation. How do you see those things intersecting? I feel like one of the most unique parts of my artistic voice comes from growing up in the valley, actually. I remember spending my whole adolescence here and feeling that feeling of: I need to get out. I always assumed there were better things elsewhere — that there would be more for me elsewhere. And a big part of that is just, you know, that growing up queer in the valley is weird. Shocking, I know. I’m actually working on a theatrical project right now that sort of deals with that — with the trope of being young and queer and rural and thinking you will find yourself or find your people in the city. And from a comedic standpoint, when I was at the National Theatre School, I 14 would always include things in freewrites

or projects that were just part of my adolescence, and people would say, What? People don’t do that! The valley gave me a different set of reference points, different from those of my peers, who had mostly grown up in cities. The result is that, apparently, I can find a new way to say something based on my experiences growing up here. Now I’ve lived in two cities, Montreal and Vancouver; I felt at home in one of them, and I didn’t in the other. But this, here, the valley, has always remained home. I can see, now, that the answers aren’t specifically anywhere else. I think what you’re kind of gesturing towards is that you came to this realization — that the answers aren’t in any one specific place, that the places that we go help us find those answers but that they aren’t in any one place in particular — was there a moment when you had that realization? It’s been a series of slow realizations. The first time I moved away from Chilliwack, which is where I was born and raised and went to university, I was 24,

maybe? And I found myself living my life pretty much exactly the same. I hadn’t changed, from moving. I didn’t realize this until I moved, but I had this idea that being in the city and being closer to things would make me extroverted and would make me interesting in a way I didn’t feel I was. And no: I’m introverted and boring no matter where I am. [Laughs.] It wasn’t until I moved to Montreal that I had a secondary realization that I was, in fact, introverted and boring, but also that being those things had its own particular kind of joy. I could find that joy anywhere, if I was willing to find it there. I can forge relationships anywhere, and that’s where my joy was coming from. I’m a very one-on-one relationships kind of person, and those realizations kind of had to happen at the same time: that I’m not somebody who wants to disappear into a vibrant crowd, I’m somebody who wants to know the six people at my party. I’m a Libra moon. [Laughs]. Partnership is important to me. And ever since I’ve started focusing on that, I’ve been more at home with my sense of place and with the fact that my sense of place moves around. What I’m trying to say, I guess, is that it’s the relationships that make a place feel like home — which is very cliché and I’m sorry for saying it. But clichés are clichés for a reason! And with that in mind, how have you found the experience of moving back to the valley, which you did recently? It’s not the same valley of your youth, for many reasons, including the pandemic — I feel like all places feel like ghost places of themselves right now. It really does feel like that. When I’m trying to explain Chilliwack to my friends who haven’t been here, they always ask what they should see if they ever come through town. And I say: come to my parents’ house. We’ll go to the woods. I’ll

show you the lake I grew up in. That’s one really nice thing about being back, especially in pandemic times; it’s so nice to have access to outdoor spaces that feel familiar and feel safe. Even outside of the pandemic, I’m someone who carries a lot of anxiety, so it’s nice having something that’s familiar and beautiful. I love Montreal, but when I was living there in pandemic times, I felt trapped by my neighbourhood. There wasn’t anywhere I could go to be alone, because even taking a walk involves being on the street and passing a lot of people. The city was always full, and there was only so much access to green space, and it’s very determined by what neighbourhood you’re in, and as a result the thing that I would usually take solace in — being outside — wasn’t as available to me. In your mind, what is emblematic of the valley? What, to you, is very valley? One of the things I always return to in my poetry and my writing is just the incredible valley teenage experience of your night’s plans just being driving around. I have such a fierce nostalgia for that. People who grew up in cities don’t get it, and I don’t understand it enough to explain it to them, but I look back really fondly on the times when everyone had an N, so we’d split up in our groups of two and be like — let’s go to Hope, let’s go to the Dairy Queen. The buoyancy of that feels incredibly Valley, to me. I started doing it when I was seventeen, but even in university we’d all say to each other: where can we go? And we’d drive to Mission and go to Rocko’s, or whatever. Or just drive back and forth between people’s houses, because it wasn’t really about being somewhere. It was about going somewhere, but together. Even if there was no reason for it.


A story of racism in maternity By Katie Stobbart

On July 1, 2013, Maria Dada gave birth to her son at the Abbotsford Regional Hospital and Cancer Centre (ARHCC). On July 5, after days spent in severe pain, she was discharged with a case of postpartum eclampsia that nearly claimed her life. The reason: racism in the maternity ward. Maria immigrated to Canada in 2003, leaving Kenya and settling in Abbotsford. She is currently working toward becoming a social worker, while she parents her three children: two teenage daughters, and her now seven-year-old son. Because of a workplace injury to her spine shortly before becoming pregnant, Maria and her doctor had decided to schedule her son’s birth by C-section. But the baby arrived earlier than expected, and soon after the birth Maria was feeling very unwell. “My hip hurt, my back hurt, I was swelling,” she says. The nurse explained that it’s normal to expect some swelling when you have a baby. But the pain continued, and worsened. When the doctor came to discharge her, she asked to stay and have blood work done to see what was the matter. With the birth of her daughter several years previously, Maria had needed a blood transfusion; she worried she would need the same again. By July 4, three days after the birth of her son, Maria was still in the hospital and still in pain. She’d dealt with pain before, even during the pregnancy with her injury. “It was nothing compared to those five days I was in the hospital.” Even so, hospital staff didn’t order any bloodwork. Nurses checked in occasionally and she was given Tylenol, but it was days


before anyone even lifted her gown to examine the areas causing her pain. “Then the social worker showed up,” Maria recalls, “and she came in very aggressively. I was just lying there, and when I opened my eyes, I saw the label ‘social worker’. She said, ‘So what are you up to?’ and I said, ‘I’m not feeling very well, and I have been trying to get some bloodwork done.’ “She said, ‘I hear you are refusing to go home.’ I said: I’m not refusing to go home—’ and then I read her tone and [asked to be treated by a doctor]. And she told me, ‘All I care about is that child.’” The social worker asked more questions—why was Maria was alone at the hospital, who would support her at home, how many children she had—and continued to press, seemingly dissatisfied with Maria’s answers. “I kept saying, my legs are swollen, and I’m in a lot of pain. She didn’t budge, she kept asking me questions … she kept interviewing and interviewing me. I’m in pain. The baby’s crying. I’m trying to nurse the baby, and [because of the extreme pain] there was no milk. She never budged.” When the social worker finally left, she was followed by a nurse who asked how things went. “I’m in a lot of pain,” Maria said. The nurse just turned around and left. Maria did not understand why she was not receiving proper care, so she phoned a friend who worked in maternity. “Why am I not getting help in this maternity?” she asked. “Are you asking?” “What do you mean?” “What colour of skin are you again?” her friend said.


Her first reaction was disbelief. “I’m not the kind of human being who thinks racism existed in maternity,” she says. In a June 2020 article entitled “Why Black Women Fear for Their Lives in the Delivery Room,” award-winning journalist Eternity E Martis writes: “Race is a significant factor in just how closely monitored women are in pregnancy—not to mention, according to many Black Canadian women, how seriously their health concerns are taken and how they fare both during and after childbirth” (Huffington Post). Racism in maternity is part of North American colonial history in which enslaved Black women were forced into experimental surgeries as test subjects, and through which the act of childbirth was coopted as a way to perpetuate slavery through reproduction. Minimizing and dismissing black women’s pain has been, for much of this history, par for the course. To this day racism continues to influence mothers’ and infants’ survival rates in and beyond the delivery room. In the US, Black mothers are three times more likely to die of pregnancy-related causes than white mothers, and Black babies are twice as likely to die before the age of one than white babies are. In Canada, we don’t collect racialized data, so it’s hard to say for certain how similar we are to our southern neighbours, but stories like Maria’s paint a grim picture closer to home, too.


Discharged despite continued pain It wasn’t until much later, after requesting her medical records to find out why she almost died, that Maria learned the social worker had deemed her as “drug-seeking.” Finally she had an explanation for the rudeness and neglect she’d experienced in the maternity ward, and confirmation of her friend’s insight. But at the time, she had no idea of the social worker’s assumption, and followed her doctor’s recommendation that she be discharged and make a follow-up appointment at the clinic where he worked. In all this time, her baby still hadn’t breastfed, and the nurses would not give her formula to use, explaining that they try to encourage breastfeeding. “I told the nurse, ‘The milk is not coming out because of the pain. But I’m like a tanker. I have a lot of milk. I’m a proud breastfeeder … but for now, give me formula.’ It didn’t happen.” Upon returning home, barely able to walk or speak, Maria’s pain continued to increase. Sitting in a chair in her apartment, she realized she could no longer stand. She couldn’t move. “My door was left open and a neighbour was passing by, and I couldn’t even say anything,” she says. Her neighbour went for a smoke, and on the way back she locked eyes with Maria through the open door, holding her stomach, and thought she was in labour. After clearing up the confusion, they were able to call Maria’s friend to come back to the apartment, and they called 811. The operator insisted she go back to the hospital. Barely two hours had passed since she’d been discharged from maternity. In the emergency room, Maria—in and out of consciousness now— received the urgent care she needed. “When I was able to talk I asked, ‘Am I going to survive?’ and the doctor said, ‘I’m doing my best.’” While in emergency one of the first things she asked for was formula for her son. The amount they brought, a baby that young is not expected to finish. He finished two bottles and was still looking for more.


Then, despite her initial protests, she was transferred back to the maternity ward. And the care she received—from the same staff—was radically different. “Now I have a nurse full time taking very good care of me, showering me, changing me, giving me a pillow to prop myself, asking me how is your back doing, can I give you medication, asking how is the baby, is the baby getting [enough] formula.” Later, reading the social worker’s account—which not only incorrectly identifies Maria as a drug-seeking individual but implied she was lying about her back surgery—Maria says she was judged before the social worker even entered the room. And the consequences—death, or possibly having her child taken away—could have been more dire than what happened. “I was a sick, sick, sick patient who needed care. I had every right to be there. I had every right to be taken care of. I had every right to be looked at as a patient regardless of my background,” says Maria.


A need for stories and data While birth alerts have been banned in BC as a racist practice since September 2019, we have a long way to go before ending maternity ward racism and the resulting lapses in care experienced not just by Maria, but many other women across Canada. According to Chatelaine’s Tayo Bero in 2019: “Here in Canada, we like to pride ourselves on our health-care system. But the truth is, we don’t know how that system treats Black people, or any Canadians of colour for that matter. There is a dearth of race-based data within our public institutions, an issue that stems in part from a general hesitancy to talk about race and racism in this country.” Without data, the racism that leads to the kind of negligent care Maria experienced is allowed to silently threaten the lives of BIPOC mothers and their babies. It’s why stories like Maria’s are important to share. “Why did I survive?” Maria asks. She’s been told that the difference of a minute or two might have been the difference between her being here to raise her children or not. “Why did I make it? Because this story has to be told.”


final harvest / fallow harvest by Dessa Bayrock

When I started writing these local book reviews five years ago, it felt like nurturing flowers in a field — clearing away the invasive weeds and giving the beautiful local flora a place to thrive. What a blessing to be able to do this work, to cultivate, to aid, to amplify. But after five years of my hands in this soil, I’m beginning to be tired. The soil is tired, too. And as so many farmers in the valley well know, you have to let the soil rest sometimes, to let it go fallow. This ending isn’t really an ending, is it? These flowers, or others, will rise again. But for now, we rest. We let our schedule of harvest lapse. We let clover grow gently over the earth, and when it’s time, someone new will plow it under and begin again. But before that, I wanted to gather some of my favourite flowers for you — to talk about the books I’ve loved, and the work I’ve loved, before we lay it down for good. The very first book I reviewed for Raspberry was a novel by Jane Hutton called TwoGun and Sun. I threw my hands on this book as quickly as I could, because there’s nothing like a novel about journalists to get a journalist’s attention. This one, in particular, was set in the “wild west” of 1922, a dusty mining town somewhere in BC’s wild and frothy middle, and the journalist in question was a woman, fighting against the patriarchal powers that be and the (common, at the time) anti-Asian sentiments which saw violence levelled against her Chinese pressman — a mysterious figure with secrets of his own. It’s a book that feels like a fierce battle but also, somehow, pleasantly, a romp. I still recommend it.


I read Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson on a road trip, the purpose of which was partly to transport a pal’s favourite books from her parents’ home in Calgary back to Ottawa, where we both lived. Somewhere around Regina, I finished all the books I brought with me; somewhere around Winnipeg, we stopped for gas and I rooted around in the trunk until I came up with her lovingly battered copy of this novel. Nearly a year into what would become a five-years-and-counting sojourn away from my beloved BC landscapes, Robinson’s storytelling instantly made me homesick: for the ocean, for the dark temperate rainforests of my youth, for cold sand beaches in the winter, for the hot fried bannock a group of laughing women used to make in the kitchen of the underused student union building on UFV’s Chilliwack campus. Shortly after I finished this novel, that building was knocked down for good. But the book stays with me, and will stay with me, I think, always: a slowly unwinding mystery of family, old stories, bad dreams, sheer force of will, and otters with sharp teeth. Not every book I review sticks with me; Wayde Compton’s short story collection The Outer Harbour is better described as one that refuses to let go. This series of linked short stories — revolving, at one speed or another, around a new volcanic island that appears in the wide ocean outside of Vancouver. This book asks questions we should all be asking: who owns the land? Who has a right to it? What is the value of new life, 23 of old life, of compassion?

I would be remiss not to mention The Plague by Kevin Chong, which was intended as a play on Albert Camus’ narrative of the same name but now, in retrospect, looks nothing short of uncannily prescient. Vancouver locks down in quarantine after a new, incredibly virulent and prolific virus is detected in the city’s population (sound familiar?). Chong explores the state of this terrified city through the intertwined narratives of its citizens, who strive to come together even as they’re driven apart (again: sound familiar?). The only mistake in Chong’s prediction was that this virus would be (or could be) constrained to one city. The last book I reviewed for this column, in February of last year, was a book I love dearly — Generation X by Douglas Coupland, a contemporary fable in which three twenty-somethings move to the desert in an effort to make time feel like it’s moving less quickly, less urgently, less forcefully and apocalyptic. These characters are trying, in their own way, to avoid the apocalypse. In my review, I talked about how life had begun to feel more and more like an endlessly scrolling Twitter feed, more like history passing in front of us like a movie reel on fast-forward, flashing and glittering and burning. That feeling, I’m sorry to say, has only grown in the last year. But if you, too, find these feelings filling your chest like an ersatz balloon, then Generation X might be the balm you need. These are only a few of the flowers that I’ve collected these last five years, and the bouquet still feels as if it’s an armful, a sheaf of unruly plants and daring petals. I’ve done my best to help these flowers face the sun, to thrive and blossom and twine strongly around the stakes thrust in around them for support. They’re a testament to the vibrant earth beneath our feet in this valley, the most fertile river delta in the world other than the Nile. Remember this: that our local harvest is always more than enough, and that caring hands will always bring it to light. At least for now, and at least in this exact way, those hands will no longer be mine. But you have strong, capable hands, too. The weeds will cower before you. The flowers will grow taller than the sky. And we will sit in the garden together.



Projects need to end The end of Raspberry, and the way forward by Jess Wind

We’ve referenced Dr. Hannah McGregor’s podcast Secret Feminist Agenda here before and on December 4, 2020 McGregor released her final episode of the three year project. The podcast underwent revisions and refinement as it grew and pushed the boundaries of academic public scholarship. And as it came to a close, McGregor explained that while the project was meaningful to her personally, and the work engaged with is important and far from finished, sometimes projects need to end. They need to end so they can grow. They need to end so they can transform. It’s why we’re sad Schitt’s Creek is over, but glad that it didn’t fall into the sitcom trap of trying to clumsily force out another season that no one wanted. I’m looking at you How I Met Your Mother. But maybe I can cut HIMYM a little slack — because when you’re staring down the tunnel of a project, it’s not always clear where that exit point is. A global pandemic and an international race revolution is as good a sign as any. When BC went into official lockdown in March 2020, Raspberry had just printed its fourth physical issue and its 21st issue since launching in 2016. That issue was never distributed and like our work


clothes and all sense of time, was shelved until the pandemic passed. Our governing organization, Red Press Society, cancelled its annual arts and culture showcase and our usual season of summer tabling at outdoor community events went with it. But the pandemic didn’t pass, and my sense of time is still up on that shelf next to a box of undistributed magazines. It took a few months to realize just how much COVID-19 affected our operations, and then a few more months to decide what to do about it. What was supposed to be a fifth issue in the summer eventually turned into this, our fifth and final issue, a year after the world changed.

Learning is work One thing that Raspberry has been committed to since its inception is trying to include diversity of representation in our content. We’ve always tried to capture the many intersections of art and culture in the Fraser Valley. We’ve discussed at length how to see this diversity realized in our production and operations. These discussions aren’t good enough. The conversation around who and how art should be produced has shifted dramatically in the last year. And while this conversation has been happening for years (decades, centuries even), 2020 brought society’s marginalized voices front and centre. I’m speaking now to our readers who may still be wondering why their stable structures of art and entertainment are “getting political”. Art is political. Canada is built on a foundation of racism and genocide of Indigenous people, one that continues to permeate all levels of institutional structures today. Black lives matter. Trans and queer lives matter. If you’re threatened by these statements, ask yourself why. If you’ve always benefited from fitting within white hegemonic society’s expectations, then it’s harder to understand why others don’t.


“Now is the time to do the hard work of understanding, of unlearning socially conditioned racism, transphobia, homophobia, misogyny, and ableism...” 28

No stranger to hard work I’m sure, now it’s time to do the hard work of understanding, of unlearning socially conditioned racism, transphobia, homophobia, misogyny, and ableism, of learning how to shut up and listen, of trusting the lived experience of others. And for Raspberry, that means admitting we’ve got hard work to do, too. So we’re stepping back. We’re letting this project end so that others may emerge in its place. We’re moving to a place of listening and learning (and unlearning), to better understand if and how we may contribute to the artistic and cultural heartbeat of this community. We hope if you’re reading this, you’ve already read Sharn Sandhra’s editorial about racism in Abbotsford. We hope you’re going to read beyond this issue. We hope you start to question the whiteness of this community’s organizations and start to hold those institutions more accountable. The other experiences in this issue speak louder than we ever could, so we’re here not to introduce you to these concepts, but to leave you with them. Do the work.


a fond farewell By Katie Stobbart; comic by Aymee Leake


Well, here we are at the end of things, with nothing left to do but say goodbye, and of course, thank you. It’s been a true pleasure over the past few years getting to dig deep into the fertile cultural ground of this valley, and we hope that although this is Raspberry’s final season, new ventures will bear fruit in its place. Thank you to everyone who has supported this magazine over the years. We couldn’t have done it without our local artists; without things like low-cost event space and sponsorships; without Michelle chipping in for our Adobe subscription; without the countless hours of our board and volunteers; without the enthusiastic support of local businesses and organizations to produce our annual arts and culture gala; and without the many people who came to our tent at community events and participated in our zany art projects or dropped a toonie in the donation jar. And so many more folks who were willing to lend their time, energy, and creations to the cause. Thank you all. This community is in a different place than it was five years ago when we first started this magazine. It has grown, and begun to shape the kind of cultural community it wants to be. Someday we hope you’ll be able to look back at our pages and see just how much it has and continues to grow. Until then, we’re excited to see what comes next.


Contributors Jacob Margaret Archer is a non-binary playwright, poet and dramaturge born and raised on unceded Sto:lo territory (Chilliwack, BC). A 2019 graduate of the Playwriting program at the National Theatre School of Canada, their plays include Celestial Bodies (Geordie Theatre 2020-21), THINK OF THE CHILDREN (National Theatre School 2019), All I Want Is To Be Happy Sometimes (workshopped at John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts 2019), Such A Heart As Yours (Intrepid Theatre 2016), and Miss Somewhere (Theatre BC Mainstage Festival 2015). Their dramaturgical work includes We came from dust (2018, National Theatre School) and Untitled Flamingo Play (2020, Nathaniel Hanula-James), and their poem “when the power goes out” was published by post ghost press in 2020. They are an amateur guitar player and an even more amateur ukulele player. Dessa Bayrock is a Fraser Valley ex-pat who lives in Ottawa with two cats and a variety of succulents, one of which is growing at a frankly alarming rate. She used to unfold paper for a living at Library and Archives Canada and is currently a PhD student in English, studying literary awards and the production of cultural value. She really likes books and has a tattoo of Mount Cheam on her arm. You can find her, or at least learn more about her, at dessabayrock.com, or on Twitter at @yodessa. Jennifer Hickey lives in the heart of Chilliwack, BC, where she coordinates community events. She has worked for the Chilliwack Arts Council and the Abbotsford Arts Council, and studied Visual Arts and Graphic Design at UFV, in addition to Hospitality and Event Planning Management. You can find her sampling delicious Fraser Valley food and beverages,


exploring local art galleries, and observing zany occurences throughout the Lower Mainland. Aymee Leake studied visual arts at UFV, and is a staunch arts advocate in Abbotsford. She has been an enthusiastic administrator and coordinator in a variety of organizations, including the Abbotsford Arts Council and a number of galleries. In 2016, Aymee was nominated for the Christine Caldwell Outstanding Arts Advocate award. She’s quirky, passionate, and patently hilarious. These days, you can find Aymee painting eyes and firing up the kiln at the Clay Cottage. Sharanjit Kaur Sandhra is the Coordinator at the South Asian Studies Institute and also co-curates exhibits at the Sikh Heritage Museum, located in the National Historic Site Gur Sikh Temple in Abbotsford, BC. Sharn has a great passion for activist work and engagement in the community through academia and museum exhibits. Katie Stobbart is the founder of Raspberry and Red Press Society. She has a B.A., Honours English in Creative Writing from UFV. On an average day, you can find her writing, painting, or tending to her apartment jungle. On a special day, she’ll be embarking on wild adventures in Dungeons & Dragons or blogging about nerddom and mental health. Jess Wind teaches Communications at the University of the Fraser Valley and is an editor at Raspberry. She has an M.A. from Carleton University, a B.A. from UFV, and enough zombie research to survive the apocalypse. She’s a pop-culture nerd, a retro-loving geek, and a writer of many things. She also shares a birthday with Harry Potter.

Governance Red Press Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to raising the profile and stimulating the growth of Fraser Valley arts, culture, and community life.

Jess Wind

Hannah Celinski



Dessa Bayrock

Lian McIntyre



Aymee Leake

Christopher Towler



Katie Stobbart

Shea Wind



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