Francis

Age 24. Residence undisclosed.

“I’m only human anyways.” he started off with. Meeting Francis was a bit of a treat.

“I moved to Canada in 1997. I’m from the Philippines. I was born there. It was pretty rough… third world. I have like, 7 siblings. We’re Catholic, my family. We attend church here, downtown, every Sunday.”

He was sitting outside near the college, with his hands in his face. I sat down next to him and had to scooch in to hear.

“Most people, I think, are atheist, or agnostic. The atheists just reject it. The agnostics say you can’t prove it, that you can’t say there is or isn’t a god. But I know the truth, I know there is a god… and this might shock you, but there is a god, and there is also a wicked evil. Lucifer.”

Francis’s faith was moving. I am not Catholic, or Christian, or even monotheistic. But I could hear in Francis’s tone, that I did not need to doubt…

“I’m one of those people that don’t really follow society… I’ve always had independent thinking. I was dependent on parents growing up, but I always had independent working.”

When I asked about Winnipeg, he said “It’s okay. Apparently we’re homicide capital. I don’t like that.”

When I asked about any good memories or stories from Winnipeg, he offered this little anecdote:

“I was walking around further down that part of the city, near somewhere Mountain street. I had to pee, so I was going to pee against the side of this building. Then some guy comes out and says ‘Hey you can’t do that’. I didn’t know, I had no idea it was a private property. I told him ‘Who are you? You’re not the security guard’ and he said ‘Yeah I am.’ And he went off on me. So I went like this, (holding up both hands), and said I didn’t want any physical contact. So i did what he asked, I obeyed what he was telling me. I moved away from the property, and I told him ‘It’s a free country.’ and he was like ‘Everyone knows you live in North America.’ I responded and said to him that this is a free country. and he said ‘you don’t get to just do what you want.’ and I said yeah I do. He replied ‘if we were down in Texas, I could shoot you if you did that.’ So I told him off. I said ‘you do know we’re in the end times right? Just trying to survive.'”

I found it a weird story to choose, but I appreciated it. Nothing like an interaction with some guy who won’t let you pee, right?

Francis went on, as he does. “Because you know, I would say that 87-89% of people in every country are peaceful, you know? But the rest are radicals, and criminals. Like ISIS, who kill people, and disobey God’s commandments… A lot of people are going to hell I’d say. Since it says in the Bible that money is the root of all evil.”

It’s clear to me that Francis is dedicated to his faith. Our conversation brightened my day, turned my mood around and made me appreciate my own faith in many ways.

Faith can be a tough thing to talk about. Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you feel comfortable. Don’t be afraid of those who have faith different than your own. Faith can be good way to get through the day.

Cat videos can help, too. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tntOCGkgt98

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Our Summit
Local community participates in the free Our Summit held by Aboriginal Youth Opportunities and Manitoba Moon Voices at the Odena in The Forks, September 18 2015./JENNIFER DOERKSEN
Mayor Brian Bowman advertises One: National Summit for Racial Inclusion outside City Haul in Winnipeg, Mb. September 16 2015./JENNIFER DOERKSEN
Mayor Brian Bowman advertises One: National Summit for Racial Inclusion outside City Hall in Winnipeg, Mb. September 16 2015./JENNIFER DOERKSEN

Anonymous

Age 22. Resides in Winnipeg, MB.

Has asked that name not be used. I am going to respect that. This is a short story, one close to the heart, evocative of compassion and personal understanding.

” I was painfully single at the time. He’s someone who is like, pretty shy and pretty quiet. Who’s really crass and has a really dry wit. And he’d never had a girlfriend up until this point. He lost his virginity at 23 or something, I don’t know.

He texted me the day of, and it was to his current girlfriend who he’d been dating for like four or five years at this point. But seeing them together, and him like, just being really happy, it allowed me to really be happy for someone else’s happiness. And like, not reflect on it in my own misery of not having a girlfriend at the time? Like at all, not thinking about that at all. just being really happy for him. Just really good feels. It’s like I’d overcome a bit of myself, yknow? Like, I’ve become a little bit of a better person now!”

It’s nice when nice change happens eh.

On a somewhat related note, if you want to expand your inner experience of life as a Winnipeger, come out to Nuit Blanche this coming Saturday (Spet. 26 2015) and see some cool shit. Check it out: http://nuitblanchewinnipeg.ca/events/

Mario

Age 79. Resides in Winnipeg, MB.

Mario is originally from Amato, Italy. He moved to Winnipeg at the age of 17 with his mother and brother. He said the move was very hard because they did not know any english. “We learned just by an old lady the old ladies that were there. we kept saying ‘how do you call this? how do you call that’ yknow? So that’s how we learned.”

I asked Mario about the size of Winnipeg when he first arrived. “Amount of people, I don’t really know… But we had the street cars. And the trolley buses. Like San Fransisco and all over the place, I don’t know why they took them out.” He remarked on this same issue later. I mentioned how rails would be useful today, considering Winnipeg’s dire need for rapid transit. Mario noted that other big cities still have them, so why did we take ours out?

Mario started his life in Winnipeg’s West end. “I lived in Lalexandra. It’s Logan and Alexandra. It’s almost uh, by the Arlington bridge. Near there. There were lots of the Italians, because we all came at that time. It was like a group, but now there’s no more there. Now they’re all in River Heights and all over the place.” When he moved to his current home, the neighbourhood was just bushes. “When we came here was just bushes. No trees, no nothing.” He lives in Tuxedo.

Mario met his wife here in Canada. “Actually, my mother was friends with her mother. One day they came to see my mom, and right away I went to her house. That’s how I met my wife Angie. She says “what you doing here?” and i says “I just came. that’s it. came to see you.” and that was it. I would just phone her, and go see her because our parents were good friends.” I’d guess it helps when your families already get along.

Mario spent most of his life as a hairdresser here in Winnipeg. It sounded like he had things pretty good. “Oh ya… well, we had all good people. Really nice people because they were from the river, eh. There was nothing like ‘here’ (referencing the South end.)” Getting upper-class clients from the wealthier neighbourhoods was good for his family and for business.

Night life in Winnipeg used to involve orchestras and Frank Sinatra. Mario would spend his weekends at dance halls with friends. “Back then we had the Copa, the Copa Cobana. It’s still there but they do something else now… socials.” The establishments have changed, but people do the same sort of thing at the bar on my weekends too. They didn’t have liquor in dance halls, though.

Mario has moved more than twice in his life. Once he was married, he moved out from the West end into Tuxedo. He said he’s “lived at Alexandra, then we went to Langside, then from Langside i got married and we went Beverly. This is the best. It’s nice and quiet.” Referring to the middle Tuxedo area.

When I asked if Mario liked Winnipeg, he responded appropriately. “Ah ya. Winnipeg’s my… 2nd best place. I mean, we still like Italy, because we were born there. But nothing to go back to. I’ll just go on holidays. It’s nice for holidays, when you have money in your pocket. But there is nothing there.”

Canada is known for its mixed population. Periods of heavy immigration punctuate Canadian history. Yet immigration is a hot topic to this very day. Canada has tightened its borders under recent government, and now global events are calling the change into question. If you’re not sure about Canada’s current immigration policies, or would like to see them changed, please contact your local MP for a friendly conversation. Here is a link that can let you know who your local MP is, and provide their contact information: http://www.canada.ca/en/contact/

Charlie

Age 26, Currently resides in Winnipeg, Man.

I met Charlie over the summer at Cousins on Sherbrooke. I could tell he was having a good night when he offered to buy the table a pitcher around 1 am. It was a nice first meeting – though it was a Charlie I may not meet again for a while.

The next time I saw Charlie was at an Aboriginal Youth opportunities meeting at the University of Winnipeg. AYO was hosting a meeting on how to handle the Anti-Racism Summit at the CMHR that will take place next week, September 17-18th. I have attended AYO meetings since, and have spoken with Charlie on his some of experiences in Winnipeg.

“At one time it seemed, like through photography and stories, at one time it seemed like there was people that were willing to work together for Winnipeg’s growth… but then something happened, suddenly the middle class come out from labourers, and it became very segregated, socially divided. And then the people that left these neighbourhoods built the suburbs, and this is what we have now.”

We were sitting in Neechi Commons at the time. Charlie noted that this area was where Winnipeg began.

“I had a very paradime lifestyle, like upbringing, you know. I lived with my grandmother for some parts of my adolescence in Charleswood. That was interesting. There was only like 3 indigenous families there… I had one teacher I really liked who tried to implement a lot of indigenous discourses and stuff. Talked about like Elijah Harper, and the Indian Act. His name was Mr. Learner.”

“I decided I wanted to try the inner city experience, so I came to Gordon Bell in high school. I met a lot of people… it was the first time I felt like, culture shocked. I was exposed to a lot of racialized poverty and newcomers. I remember seeing the tensions between racialized newcomers and indigenous people, pitted against each other. I guess it instilled a kind of respect and curiosity in me for this kind of interconnected discourse and learning.”

“Now I’m like an urbanist, like I feel like an urban scholar. I’m studying Urban and Inner City studies at the University of Winnipeg. Private property, segregation, colonialist discourse…”

I asked what it was like learning about his own culture or heritage.

“It’s like another piece of your reality that you never knew you had. For me it was like just choosing, free will to suffer with them and to do it together, and that’s what indigenous resistance is. I decided to do it. There’s a lot of collaborating, people defining it differently.”

When asked about a Winnipeg anecdote, Charlie mentioned a cryptic scene he witnessed on a bike ride home. “I’ve witnessed stabbings… Last summer, it was between a newcomer and indigenous fellow, and they were just like stabbing each other. This was by Cumberland. I was just biking down and saw it, and was very shocked.”

Charlie is working towards what all of Canada needs to work towards, and that is building relationships between all communities of people. He is a member of Animbiigoo Zaagi igan Anishinaabek from Lake Nipigon, Ontario, though he now lives and works in Winnipeg.

If you have any further interest in joining him in the good fight, consider attending an Aboriginal Youth Opportunities meeting, or come down to the Bell Tower on Selkirk. All are welcome.

For more info and ways to get involved, visit http://www.ayomovement.com/

Meridith

Age 20, resides in Winnipeg, Man.

Meridith is a friend of mine from the University of Winnipeg. She attends on money she applied for through her band council. Born in Norway House, she moved to Winnipeg after grade 12 to attend university. She is a lovely young soul, one learning to get by on her own in many ways. I asked her for a “typically ‘Winnipeg'” type story, and this is essentially what she came up with:

“I was walking home at like 4 am one morning behind Portage Place and came across a group of guys. I went to walk past them and they look at me and notice me watch me notice them and I’m like “Oh fuck… These people notice me! Oh shit, they’re talking about me… Oh God, walk faster”. I walk up to this staggering drunk Aboriginal woman and she starts talking to me, so I ask her if we can walk together because things are getting sketchy behind me. She’s like “Ah yeah yeah yeah…” She was just drunk as a skunk. I had to hold her arm. She started to tell me she was at a wedding – her nephew’s wedding – and about the people at the wedding. Apparently the bride caught the groom making out with the bride’s cousin, like in the bathroom. Then the bride started kicking her cousin’s ass, instead of the guy. “So I watch my nephew beat the shit out of some bitch” the woman says to me, and I can’t help but laugh. We walked almost all the way home together.”

Though short, it did seem a very Winnipeg type story. Your characters are some potentially “sketchy” guys downtown, a drunk person, and a young, also possibly somewhat drunk person walking home after a night out. One looks to the other in a time of potential danger, and she is open and welcome to the company. She even has a bit of a story to tell…

Seriously though, walking home in Downtown Winnipeg can be dangerous. If you have a phone, consider calling a friend. If you have a smart phone, you can now download an app called the Companion app to help you get home. Created by students at the University of Michigan, it recently made headlines: http://www.businessinsider.com/campanion-app-surging-in-popularity-2015-9

Introduction

My name is Jennifer Doerksen. I am presently a Red River College student in the Creative Communications program.

I have started this blog as part of my program, but also as part of an initiative to tell the stories of Winnipeg’s own.

The city of Winnipeg has many a written history, and recently became home to a museum in recognition of global history. Those in the city itself, though, may not feel particularly involved with these histories.

So, as an alternative, I will endeavour to collect personal anecdotes and experiences of humans who presently reside within Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Please join me in my adventure into the communities that I call home