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Where I am from: Poetry and reflections from the BIPOC 2050 Project

Teacher, May/June 2023

Over the past several months, members involved in the BIPOC 2050 Project have hosted gatherings for BIPOC members from across the province. These gatherings were intended to:

· listen to BIPOC teachers in a space that does not require convincing or rationalizing.

· create platforms and places where BIPOC teachers’ voices were foregrounded.

· invite critical perspectives about social justice discourses and practices within the BCTF.

These meeting spaces were not to obligate teachers to speak about trauma, to offer proof that racism exists, or to burden them with the responsibility of “doing” anti-racism work. Rather, the aim of the 2050 sessions was to create an affinity space to gather and be in each others’ company in a welcoming union space.

Teachers were invited to share their stories through poetry, artwork, and artifacts. Teachers brought artifacts to these meeting spaces that revealed something about their identity, experience, and/or contributions as a BIPOC teacher in BC. They shared their stories with one another in community and listened in solidarity.

Drawing inspiration from George Ella Lyon’s poem, “Where I’m From,” and the I Am From Project, participants were invited to write a poem speaking to the question “Where are you from?” Using a template, participants wrote a counter poem celebrating their histories, communities, memories, and identities.

The framing of this poem is powerful and important. So often, the question “Where are you from?” signals othering, as though you don’t truly belong here and now. The response poems follow the prompt “Where I am from.” In this way, the speaker makes a statement as the subject of the poem, rather than the object of a question.

While sharing poems, artwork, and artifacts were welcome at these events, they were not a requirement. Being together in community to celebrate joy, power, victory, and solidarity was the aspirational hope of these gatherings.

Some teachers provided their informed consent to publicly share their poetry; those poems are included on the pages that follow.

I am from black culture

From Ajono drinking population

I am from cattle keepers

and rural home background

I am from the drummers’ clan

Music as a means

I am from the spear and shield

from Irarak people

who address most issues through story and song.

I am from Manila, Winnipeg, and Vancouver

from beautiful morena skin and butterfly-sleeved dresses

I am from a home filled with dogs, birds, my pet duck and pig

I am from mangoes and sampaguitas

whose sweet smells filled the neighbourhood and my belly

I am from “tabos” and “outside showers”

cleansing and comforting our bodies and souls

from my lola and lolo, feeding me fried chicken and pancit every Tuesday

and from “mano po” food pushers

unyielding hospitality, sometimes aggressive

From faith in the good of the world

humour, positivity

I am from throwing large handas

Big parties full of food, joy, more food, and karaoke

Sweet spaghetti and Jollibee

from Debut, our own version of quinceañera

from Todos los Santos, our day to honour and listen to our ancestors

sugared buttered pan de sal, eaten every day after school for merienda.

“It felt special. It felt scary. It felt important. It felt sacred. It felt new. It felt needed.”

Carolina Ganga

I am from hummingbird and wildrose

I am from steel drums and fresh baked bread

from safe teddy bear friends

I am from a place of quiet solitude and inspiration

And brothers who walked with me on my path

I am a lady slipper

who defiantly grows, even in the snow

I am from round roti lesson and never-ending piano practice

From the McNeils and Andrew clans, from the lost at sea

ancestors from the Ganga dynasty

and from roots set deep in time

and intruding on land that is not mine

and never was

from patiently examining what it means to be a good ancestor

I am from goddess Ganga and golden canola fields

shimmering under bright blue skies

from aloo and chana and turkey dinners

from enslaved peoples with lost histories

and from Mongroo Ram & Harrilal & Geria Ganga

from soccer games and tea parties

I am from the moments of existing in the middle

never fully fitting here, never fully fitting there…

My existence is resistance

I am from steel drums

endless sugarcane fields and canola fields

shimmering under bright blue skies

I am patiently examining what it means to be a good ancestor

I exist.


I am from banana growing community

from drinking milk and eating matooke

I am from Rwemiyonga, the land of plenty

and surrounded by loving neighbours

I am from avocado tree

Which stands strong

I am from rearing cows bare-footed

from Muruga and Bahindi

who love to run and talk

and dance and sing

I am from chant and worship

while mingling millet

A skill passed on

by Bizimu my legendary grandmother

I am from moments of joy, laughter, and fun.

“The takeaway from this experience is that our mere existence is important and space is important. Participants needed a space to be amongst each other safely, rather than focusing on providing products for people to consume.”


I am from an old wooden broken piano

from glasses and coin wallet

I am from the quietest place during the day

small two bedroom apartment

shared rooms

huge pine tree in the front yard

guardian protecting my family home

I am from sticker book, the only thing I brought with me from my country

with my ABC booklet in my other hand

from hard working and calm

from letting go of emotions

Going to Christian church, Sunday and at-home services

from kimchi and samgyupsal

from ancestors fighting in war to protect our country

riding a bike to show their granddaughter

polly pocket doll

I am from the moments of keeping my Tamagotchi alive.

Chiana Martine

I am from mom’s sewing machine

from Dutch cheese and Ikea couches

I am from cozy, made for two,

Opa and Oma right upstairs

I am from blackberry bushes

whose rough fingers scratched my knees

I am from PS2s and Walmart jeans

from Agnes and Dirk, Carol and George

from “Do you want coffee?”

I am from a wild head of curls and a wilder heart,

from winding canals and the deep Southern heat

I am from storybooks and jammies on Christmas eve

from pannenkoeken and sweet potato pie,

I am from the moments cuddled in my mama’s arms

held tight and knowing I am loved.

Rick Kumar

I am Hanrick Maharaj Kumar, but you can call me Rick

I am from the 20lbs rice sack that sat in the corner of the kitchen

From the piece of oblong jade my mother bought during a Saturday adventure to

North Vancouver

I am from the peeling and breaking stucco surrounding the warmth of home

and the uneven steps that lead to the backdoor

I am from the pair of pear trees in the background

Fruit, freshly sweet, nectar on my lips

I am from mango flavoured penny candies

and the mortar and pestle we used to grind spice

And from working ‘til my fingers stung

taking on the world’s inconveniences.

“There has never been a space like this.”


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