Dhahan Youth Prize in Creative Writing in BC High Schools – Launching Surrey Feb 28/2017

Dhahan Logo in all scripts

Uddari welcomes the launch of Dhahan Youth Prize, a province-wide creative writing contest where EIGHT British Columbia students of Punjabi will be awarded a CDN$500 prize, four in each of intermediate and advanced language skill levels.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017
10:45 am (SHARP)
LA Matheson Secondary School
9484 122 Street, Surrey

The contest is open to all secondary school students of British Columbia who are studying Punjabi in grade 11 or 12.
The writing submitted must be in both Punjabi and English.
Submissions will be accepted from March 1st to May 31st, 2017.
The awards will be given out at the Dhahan Prize Awards ceremony at the end of October 2017.

Coast Capital Savings is the presenting sponsor for the new Youth Prize, and L.A. Matheson Secondary is a supporting partner with Founder Barj S. Dhahan.

Punjabi is the 2nd most spoken language in British Columbia. This youth initiative will be recognized along with the Dhahan Prize for Punjabi Literature.

For more information about Dhahan Prize visit
dhahanprize.com
facebook.com/DhahanPrize

Contact: Carolyn Treger
Dhahan Prize
604-831-6831
admin@dhahanprize.com
..

Memory Wall on the Strip: a Mirror for the Officials of the City of Surrey

memorywall-daveFriends We Remember, Lives We Celebrate

There is a place in Surrey where a ‘Celebration Of Life’ event begins and ends with memorializing the ongoing presence of death.

In the icy evening of Saturday 17 December, a few people were gathered on 135A, Surrey’s homeless Strip, to honor and remember those who had died here. The Strip is one of the few streets in Surrey that has no trees. Sparse one-level structures of a couple of auto parts shops, Front Room (drop in center, shelter and a food outlet serving the homeless), a couple more commercial units, and a small church across the street. In front of the closed auto shops, a group of 8-10 wonderful people, who said they were individuals ‘unalligned with any church or other group’, had laid out food on two long tables with boxes of pizza, cookies, juice and pop. On the sidewalk across the street, between a tent and a food table, a white board with some color markers and candles was propped up against the fence of the church.

Already, it had a few names.

I came to know of the Celebration of Life event in early December from a Surrey activist of Alliance Against Displacement (AAD), an organization helping the Residents of the Strip against homelessness. Scheduled for December 10, the event was moved to December 17th to avoid the snow storm; and, during that storm nine homeless people died on the streets of Vancouver, 13 in BC, in one single night.

The almost empty white board began to fill with names as people walked by, stopped to read, some came up and added names of their friends and relatives, some asked for other names to be added. A woman wanted ‘Jessy’ to be written as ‘Jessie’ because she said Jessie would turn in his grave if he saw it written like that; and, more than one person wanted to make sure that ‘Old Man Dave’ was indeed there along with ‘Dave’. A young woman touched a name on the board, cried and said, ‘My one best friend’.

The above photo and the two below were taken the next day, December 18, when a woman named CeeCee, who had the previous night added the name of her late partner to the Memory Wall, herself died in her tent.

memorywall-dave1Native / CeeCee / Dec 18, 2016

Tears are irrelevant in this place. The question is how many more people have to die before the prosperous City of Surrey yields a solution to the increased poverty and homelessness on its streets?

It is obvious to everyone except perhaps the high officials of the City of Surrey and its mouthpiece publications and organizations that these deaths are not ‘fentanyl’ ‘ODed’ deaths but deaths caused by homelessness and poverty. I say it because the ‘famed’ plan that the City was working on without consulting the Residents of the Strip, came out to be a plan totally off the mark- it’s as if people were dying because of hunger, and the City assigned more ambulances for a solution. The irony is, it’s not ‘as if’, this is exactly what has happened and is happening. The City’s new ‘plan’ for the Strip is to scare away it’s residents with increased surveillance and intimidation, but the problem is that there’s no place else to go from here.

There is a letter that a group of academics put together with regards to homelessness in Victoria, I find, it’s relevant here too. And so, Surrey! THIS WINTER – HOUSING FIRST!

The City of Surrey must provide the following to the residents of the Strip:
– Comfortable housing to the homeless people living on the Strip.
– Full assurance that until their housing needs are met, the people living on the Strip will not be required to unpitch their tents and leave each morning.
– A Memorial where the Memory Wall now stands.

memorywall-dave2Behind the Memory Wall

Uddari is grateful to Alliance Against Displacement (AAD) for supporting the Residents of the Strip in their demand for safety and housing, for organizing the Celebration of Life event, and for providing the photos for this post.

Contact Uddari Weblog
uddariweb@gmail.com
Facebook
UddariWeblog
Twitter
twitter.com/UddariWeblog
..

Surrey Steals from the Homeless! RALLY AND MARCH – Oct 3/16

homeless-march-poster

..
When: 3:00 pm, Monday Oct 3
Where: 135A Street (near 106th Ave), Surrey

Every day the RCMP, Surrey bylaw officers and city workers come to “The Strip” (135A Street) in order to force homeless residents to take down their tents, pack up their belongings and make everything moveable. And every day they confiscate somebody’s possessions because they consider them unattended or just garbage.

But homeless residents of “The Strip” are fighting back. We will be marching to Surrey City Hall to protest the city’s orchestrated and relentless theft of our belongings. We demand that the City of Surrey stop stealing our stuff.

FOOD
Food will be provided at the end of the event, around 5pm on the 135A strip

TRANSPORTATION
We will be organizing transportation to this march so other displaced and evicted communities can support the Surrey homeless in their struggle. To get a ride from Maple Ridge, Abbotsford, or elsewhere, and to travel together by transit from Vancouver, contact AAD: organize@stopdisplacement.ca or (778) 708-5006

Organized by
Residents of The Strip
&
Alliance Against Displacement

From: https://www.facebook.com/events/1937640533130081/
..

Contact Uddari Weblog
uddariweb@gmail.com
Facebook
UddariWeblog
Twitter
twitter.com/UddariWeblog
..

‘Bits and Pieces: Edge City as Space of Exile and Refuge’ by Fauzia Rafique

Sound Thinking 2015 Symposium
Sponsored by Geist magazine and Surrey Libraries
Presented by Surrey Art Gallery, SFU English, South of Fraser Inter-Arts Collective (SOFIA/c)

Most of ‘Bits and Pieces’ was presented on the second day of Sound Thinking 2015 Symposium ‘Voicing the City In/verse: Reading Surrey and the Super Suburb’. The event was organized by a team of amazing volunteers and staff, and it was beautifully convened by Phinder Dulai (SOFIA/c) and Jordan Strom (Surrey Art Gallery). The first panel ‘Edge City as Space of Exile and Refuge’ had myself, Cecily Nicholson, Joseph A. Dandurand and Heidi Greco. The second panel ‘Kinetic City /City in Motion’ had Sadhu Binning, Taryn Hubbard, Kevin Spenst and Tom Konyves.

The second day began with the Traditional Kwantlen Welcome and Drum Song offered by Kwantlen Nation Elder Kevin Kelly with Michael Gabriel and Joseph A. Dundrand. After, M.G. Vassanji gave an insightful keynote on the marginalization of spaces, artists and art. It was great to have Vassanji and Noorjehan visit from Toronto where the two have been working for the last thirty or so years to develop literary communities through organizing, writing, editing (Toronto South Asian Review) and publishing (TSAR Publications). At the symposium, Vassanji provided us with a larger framework for the subject, and with the depth that had been created, it was easy for me to bring it right back to Surrey.

Bits and Pieces

Writing and reading Surrey is challenging because Surrey in Vancouver Lower Mainland is somewhat like Muslims in North America, we have to begin by saying what we aren’t and what it isn’t. So, yes, Surrey is not boonies, not rife with violent Punjabi gangs, not a hotbed of crime, no, it’s not in the third world. It’s right here on the south bank of Fraser River, the city of parks, of future, of the desis; the city of prosperity and abundance, of poverty and violence; it’s an edge city of exile and refuge. Sounds like any of all cities to me, and yet so unique. In the next twelve minutes, i’ll present a few bits and pieces that i have carefully collected to contribute to this discussion.

The first item is a paragraph from the fourth and the last section of my novel Skeena that takes place in Surrey where Skeena, a 37-year old Pakistani Punjabi Canadian woman, arrives after having lived the last thirty years in Toronto, Lahore, and a Punjabi village.

‘This building is sitting on a ravine on one side, and Scott Road on the other. Brenda came for a visit last year, and she asked me why I bought a condo here when better residential areas were also available in Surrey. I could not find an answer for her then. Now, as I look at the ravine, it appears to be a cluster of trees in my village, and away from my view, there also is the continuous hum of a busy Ferozepur Road in Lahore.’

Skeena, Libros Libertad 2011
novelskeens.wordpress.com

Next we have excerpts from a blog post on hijab, titled ‘Purdah Manifestations’, a contemplation on different forms of purdah and how it’s implemented in different places by different social segments of Pakistani Muslims, it touches my experiences in about six different cities in Pakistan before getting to Surrey.

‘In 2004, i saw a bearded male lead a burqa-clad and hijab-thrown woman at 72nd and 124th in Surrey British Columbia. For some reason, i got transfixed on the couple, and stood watching them till they walked out of my sight. First i tried to be the man to figure out why he would want his wife to be in hijab in a country where most women were showing their faces. What does he think is unique about the face and body of his wife that they must be so hidden. Then i tried to be the woman to see why i would accept an existence where when walking i can barely see the two-and-a-half-feet long road that culminates at the heels of my husband. My imagination was injured by imagining both roles…’

‘In 2009, burqa/hijab/purdah hit the Western news stands with intensity because of the controversy generated by the legislated ‘ab-use’ of it by the French government.’

‘Most recently, and as late as this last winter, i was confronted by a black member of the Muslim brotherhood at Scott Road Station in line for a bus to Newton Exchange. In love with his own voice, the Preacher went on and on about the absolute necessity for women to observe purdah and the unforgiveability of not observing it. As an illustration of his preferences, and of an exemplary state of a Muslim woman, he pointed out to me a burqa-wearing woman who was also in the same line. The ‘discussion’ became an argument; the woman in burqa did not participate…’

‘Last month, i spotted a woman in burqa at Broadway skytrain station who later chose to sit beside me while coming to Surrey. She caught my eye because though in burqa, she was standing straight without covering her face. From the fair color of her skin, i assumed she was Iranian or Lebanese. On the skytrain, she made patronizing attempts to converse with me that made me feel suspicious of her intentions. It seemed, she was hoping to convert a chadar-wearing brown woman to stricter disciplines. And then, it came out that she was an Anglo Saxon convert to Islam. I offered her my poetry chapbook that had just come out. She skimmed through it, stopping at ‘My Shariah-Compliant Bra’ and ‘My Drone-Dead Lover’, and then she shut it close producing a sharp noise; ‘I don’t read poetry’, she thrust it back at me. This is one of the rare instances when i was happy to be rejected as a poet. I consider it a compliment to be rejected by an Anglo-Saxon-woman-convert-to-Islam who was using the burqa to gain high moral ground so that she can preach purdah to wayward and ignorant brown Muslim women.’

A blog post on purdah:
Purdah Manifestations

The next item is a song by Mariam Zohra, a founding member and the Creative Director of Surrey Muse. The song is about East Vancouver’s Tent City that came up a few years back as a protest against urban poverty and homelessness. Tent City had activists camp out in a park during the summer. This is an excerpt, and the link to the song is at the end of it.

get your ensemble
oh teacher
wanna talk about
tent city
so,
what are people
doin in Oppenheimer Park?
Teacher
what are people doing
parking tents, tents at the park,

teacher
get up get up
oh
I don’t know you gotta find out for yourself
we can talk about
tent city

Lyrics/Vocals: Mariam Zohra D. Music: Michael Louw. Song Composition: Michael Louw & Mariam Zohra D. 
Tent-City Song

Next is a spoken word item that has become written text now, so i’ll just read it to you.

‘It was a beautiful, warm and golden summer day. I was visiting a home in East Vancouver, and while the host made tea, I stood by the window and enjoyed being part of a quite residential street lined with thick old trees. Narrower than most streets in Surrey, it had a small park on one side and prosperous and old single family homes on the other. As I took in the view, a man appeared from one end of my vision of the road, in the way he walked he seemed to be a part of the street, the trees, of leaves, and the breeze rustling through them. It was as if he was gliding, smiling for sure. Then he passed right in front of me, dancing on tiptoes, twirling something in his other hand. Just watching him was a privilege. Seeing his back, I noticed that he was wearing a white sleeveless tank top, arms full of black, blue and red tattoos, with white cotton shorts over tattooed legs. It was a tall white guy with brown hair. And just then, I heard sirens, shattering the peace on the street with shocking accuracy. A police car came out of nowhere, zoomed past me, and hit hard breaks inches from the guy. By the time, the police car stopped and a cop jumped out, two other police cars were already there blocking the road on the other side, and a couple of cops were making their way toward him from the park.
The next moment, the guy was pinned to the road, and cops were holding him down while another stood ready with a tazer aimed at him. They mauled him, searched him, and then came away. They had ‘recovered’ a long white feather.
‘Sorry, Sir, we received a call from a property owner on the street who thought you were wielding a dangerous weapon, like a long knife ‘with glittering white blade’, they said.’
And then after deliberating among each other, they returned the feather to the guy, and left while the guy stood bewildered amidst shattered shards of a peaceful sunny afternoon.
The white guy was on a rare summer vacation from Newfoundland.’

Unpublished item.
It was presented in readings at Surrey and New Westminster.

Now, we have Jamie Reid’s poem PRAYER that I first heard from Vancouver’s wonderful slam poet RC Weslowski at the September gathering of Surrey Muse, just after Reid moved on. Last night, Heidi Greco was kind enough to lend me the anthology with the poem in it. I’ll just present what occurs most often in the poem, the refrain. As well, not just the refrain but the whole poem is in capitals- a form of protest, shouting or both, i guess.

PRAYER
By Jamie Reid

LET THE SKY ESCAPE
LET THE SKY ESCAPE
LET THE SKY ESCAPE
LET THE SKY ESCAPE AT LEAST
AT LEAST LET THE SKY ESCAPE PLEASE AT LEAST
LET THE SKY ESCAPE

Pages 74-76.
‘Revolving City’, eds. Compton & Saklikar, Anvil Press 2015

So far:
In the first item, the migrant character Skeena sees the new place as a continuity instead of a break, an important distinction. Purdah Manifestations shows how specific issues are faced by each of us in all our different social locations, ‘us’ includes everyone, colored/white migrants and indigenous peoples. The Tent City song points to poverty as integral to the cityscape, an issue that seeks resolutions. In the so-called spoken word item, the white man with a white feather brings out class as an entrenched form of othering, and Jamie Reid’s poem touches the heartache where the city destroys the land and the landscape. And this brings us to our last two items: an image and a slogan.

The image is of a new city park in Seattle.

fromthehungsrsiteFrom the Hungersite.

Seattle’s new city park reminds us of Havana where in the decade after the sanctions were placed on Cuba the average Cuban adult lost 20 lbs. But by the end of that same decade…

The average Cuban was getting ‘2600 calories and more than 68 grams of protein, an amount considered “sufficient” by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. By 2006 average caloric intake was up to 3356 calories. A lot of this food was produced not in the countryside (requiring transport to the cities) but in urban gardens, where food was grown and consumed in the same neighborhood. By 2002, 35,000 acres of urban gardens produced 3.4 million tons of food. In Havana, 90% of the city’s fresh produce came from local urban farms and gardens, all organic. In 2003, more than 200,000 Cubans were employed in urban agriculture. In 2003, Cuba had reduced its use of Diesel fuel by more than 50%, synthetic fertilizers by 90%, and chemical insecticides by 83%.’

Surrey, the City of Parks and of Future, is best-placed to turn some of its manicured parkland to nutritious food forests in anticipation of a delightful urban future.
the-worlds-most-sustainable-country-what-cuba

And now, the slogan. We have about three renditions of it, and i think we’ll be able to choose one easily.
The first:
A Tree For A Tree
The second:
A Tree For Every Tree
And the third:
A Tree For Every Profit-Damned Earth-Loving Brown Ass Tree

All in favor of the third one, raise hands.
On second thoughts, in the interest of brevity and simplicity, we better choose the first.

To view the context of slogans, check this poem presented the previous night at the Literary Cabaret.
‘Good news…’

Thank you, it was a great pleasure to be with you today and to participate in this 2-day event.
Fauzia
frafique@gmail.com
gandholi.wordpress.com
.
.