Zachary

Age 23. Resides in Winnipeg, MB.

One thing I’ve learned about Zachary is that he can speak. Real well.

The questions usually stay the same.

Originally from Winnipeg, I grew up in Wolseley, the story I often tell people when they ask about my roots in Winnipeg is that I went to my first city hall meeting at the age of two.”

He’s since had a passion for city politics, he shared with me.

“We grew up on Palmerson. The folks next to us wanted to open up a hair salon. My mom helped organize the neighbourhood against it, we didn’t feel that it would be conducive to the vitality of the neighbourhood. We organized the neighbourhood and we spoke at committee and they rejected their rezoning variance. 

My mom always says about that story “We didn’t want our street to be like Pembina highway!” which I had no idea about whenever I heard that story growing up.”

As a two-year-old, I would bet Zachary couldn’t wait to see Pembina highway… But really, he has a clear passion for this city.

Winnipeg is an incredible city because it really speaks to the ability to work within a broader multicultural society, while still creating and maintaining your own identity. You have the opportunity to not be part of a melting pot in the same way that you might see in Toronto.” 

Zachary comes from Jewish roots.

When I asked for something typically Winnipeg, he took his time picking the right story for me.

“I can speak back to a moment I had riding my bike about two weeks ago. I was coming from Osborne Village – I’m a West Ender right now – and I took the long route around. I took all the way through Crescentwood and I had this beautiful bike ride with limited traffic. The snow was flying, I had my goggles on. It was such a picturesque moment that I got to enjoy on my ride home. It was so beautifully Winnipeg, and so beautifully serene.

To be able to ride through a city and feel connected to it, but also disconnected. But to see those tall trees and to really see a city that has so much history and the stories that could be told. For me what it really comes down to, not even that particular bike ride, but knowing that there’s so much history in this city. Stuff that really comes together over time. To be able to walk down the streets of Selkirk Avenue for example, and to be able to speak to it as a hub for Jewish communities – Ukrainian, Russian, German – and seeing it now as a counterpoint of Aboriginal activism is really really the history of the city is what it comes down to for me.”

The City of Winnipeg has history hanging out of it’s every dirty corner downtown. The Exchange has old buildings. Main Street has old buildings. You can go down to South Osborne and see that old street car stop.

If you’re interested to learn more about Winnipeg’s history, check out these links:

http://timemachine.siamandas.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Winnipegger-348146758548683/

https://www.facebook.com/VintageWinnipeg/

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Lauren

Age 23. Resides in Winnipeg, MB.

I met Lauren last night. She lit up when I asked if she had a “Winnipeg” story for me. She even pinky-swore on agreeing to be interviewed.

She’s born and raised in Winnipeg, though she spent the last three years living in British Columbia. Now she’s back.

What brought me back was a crippling drug addiction. It wasn’t the only thing, it was also the depression that accompanied it. 

I grew up in North Kildonan.

I moved to Penticton, BC. Small city, beautiful. Fucking beautiful. Orchard city, wine country, just stunningly beautiful. I also lived in Vancouver for a little bit.

But what brought me back was missing home, missing being near my family. I love my family and old me would have thought that being near my family and loving spending every day with my family would have been super lame. But now me it’s like it’s fun! Want to go to Costco, want to go skating, want to go cross country skiing? Sure! It’s great. It’s fun. I’m very happy to be back.”

As usual, I asked Lauren for a story that she felt struck her as “Winnipeg.”

“Oh you might hate this one!” she said. I was hooked.

“So I wanna ballpark between 11 and 13. I was with one of my very good friends, who I’m still very very good friends with to this day. Her and I were busing either home or to Polo Park mall. We were independent at the time and our parents trusted us to bus to and from Polo Park mall, which was the destination. We ended up on Main St. and I don’t know whether to feel bad or good that this is my typical Winnipeg story. But her and I ended up on Main St. at a young age and this native american guy approached us and started asking all these absurd questions. Making both of us very uncomfortable. 

And it was broad fucking daylight. And there were a lot of people around. People who were much older than us. Who should have been able to protect us from this frightening gentleman, who was making both of us feel very very uncomfortable. He was coming up to us like “how old are you girls?”, asking if we had substances on us, asking if we had money. And we were surrounded by business type people on Main St. So we wound up boarding the wrong bus just to get away from this fucking gentleman. Ended up on a random bus in the wrong side of town.

Got off the bus and I ended up calling my father, who was and continues to be a wonderful and amazing firefighter to this city. He came and picked us up from this random location in downtown Winnipeg.

No one saved us from it. No one attempted to. 12 year old girls.”

I didn’t hate it. I didn’t like it either, but alas Winnipeg, our city, is home to many sorts of experiences.

“That’s my Winnipeg encounter! That’s the one that sticks out in my mind and makes me think of Winnipeg.

I’m an adult now, and I can walk to and from work. I can do that, I feel comfortable doing that. Growing up, I lived in the suburbs, so maybe that played into a lot of my fear of these strange encounters. Also, my dad is a firefighter, so he was always feeding me these stories of these things happening around the city that were getting published in the paper sometimes, but sometimes not. So many stabbings and muggings going on. Winnipeg is a scary place. It is. If you don’t know what’s good and what’s not, you can get fucked up. But you can also be totally fine for it if you know where you’re going and you know what you’re doing,

Personally I know what to do. A lot of people who live here know what to do. Everyone who lives here and knows Winnipeg knows what to do. 

Anyone who has grown up here will understand.”

Winnipeg has undergone some changes in the past year, specifically relating to racism and crime. The experience of young suburbanites in the inner-city are often uncomfortable and frightening. Maybe because peoples parents instil some fear. But also maybe because people don’t take time to understand the situation.

Either way, at the age of 12, being approached by a stranger is always scary.

The Downtown BIZ works hard to keep our downtown area safe. If you’re one who fears the walk to the bus alone at night, check out their page for safe walk options and some realities of downtown Winnipeg.

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Perception vs Reality

Hazim

Age 27. Resides in Winnipeg, MB.

Hazim has lived in Winnipeg for close to three years now. He has recently filed for refugee status, to make sure he can stay here.

Initially, he came to Winnipeg as an international student. For personal reasons, funding for school has been complicated and became next to nonexistent.

I’m from Malaysia. I have lived in New Hampshire, I have lived in Singapore, I have lived in Vietnam, I have lived in several places in Malaysia, and Winnipeg is where I have been finding myself. It’s really great, tightly knit community here. it’s really easy to get connected and have your needs met compared to being in a big city, in which it can be very isolating.”

I asked Hazim if he had any particularly favourite memories so far from Winnipeg. I know Winnipeg can be a major challenge for some to live in, but it sounded like Hazim has started to find a niche here. I asked to hear more.

A really awesome moment…

When I had been working for almost a year to bring the TedX Winnipeg event to the University of Winnipeg, and also the Harsha Walia Thunderbird Hose event on the same day. I had been working super hard all summer and that day when it finally ended I just felt really really confident.

I’m usually really harsh on myself, and Winnipeg has been the first place I have ever lived in in which I truly feel good about myself. And that was the starting point of “hey, i’m not so bad!” because I used to feel so inferior every time I would walk into a room. It would give me so much anxiety. But that day was like…”

He stopped and made a face. something resembling satisfaction, happiness with a tiny touch of pride.

“Yeah, I’m not so bad!”

Hazim may not stay in Winnipeg, though.

I still got some work to do here. As Harsha Walia put it, I still got a lot of work to do on Turtle island. Maybe not necessarily in Winnipeg but I still feel Winnipeg is a really great place to grow because of the tightly knit community. I would not settle down in Winnipeg but I still feel like I have a ton of work to do.”

Hazim has received media attention from the Metro, among other outlets,  for his struggles to stay in Canada. From what I have seen of him, he’s a bright person with a big heart and a need to do good for others. His narrative could be tragic, like many in life, but it seems he’s taking the reins and steering his story towards the narrative he wants to live.

Here’s the Metro article: http://www.metronews.ca/news/winnipeg/2015/12/08/gay-university-of-winnipeg-student-raises-funds-to-stay-in-canad.html

 And for international students looking for places to meet people or get involved, here are a couple links.

At the University of Winnipeg:

https://www.facebook.com/International-Student-Ministry-at-the-University-of-Winnipeg-552289478151730/timeline/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/350954695011662/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/kelegmembers/

At the University of Manitoba:

https://www.facebook.com/AIESECmanitoba

 

Chris

Age 23. Resides in Winnipeg.

I met Chris at the Bell Tower. He welcomed me with a hug. After talking, I understand why.

I was born here, not in the Philippines. This is my place and my home. I really like the political landscape in Winnipeg. it’s very small, community based, you get to know everyone. Everything is very transparent, very open if you know the right people.”

“The story you can take from me is the relationships I have built. I wouldn’t be able to build these relationships now without Michael Champagne. I got to know Michael champagne through a conference known as “Count Me In” run by Shane Feldman who is a student in Toronto who decided to create a movement in getting young people and students to get involved in their schools. There was a conference here in 2013 where Michael champagne spoke. We decided to reconnect during the municipal election. Michael has roots in a lot of organizations in the community. He has built a network of relationships with institutions and powerful people in strong community and institutional organizations. So that has me to meet the mayoral candidates like Brian Bowman, Robert-Falcon Ouellette, the board members of Thunderbird House. There’s a whole group of people that has connected me because my relationship to working with Michael.

That’s kind of one of the big things about me in my own life. Growing up I didn’t have any cultural connections or lifestyles that my family has, so for me I have always been on my own trying to develop my own identity and who I am and so working with a lot of the Indigenous community through Michael Champagne has given me a sense of family and my sense of my cultural identity. Seeing how other young people from the Indigenous community try to figure out who they are, and rebuild family relationships has made me more proud to say that I am Filipino in the context of… at the end of the day, how I describe myself is an urban Canadian Filipino youth. That’s the end perspective that I am at in my own life right now. That has helped me frame my sense of involved and passions in life.”

Chris is one of many who seek to find their own identity in this city. He says he has always considered himself a Winnipegger.

“This is my place and my home. Ever since the beginning of the municipal election, I’ve felt like more a part of Winnipeg being politically active in the city. I was trying to run as a mayoral candidate in the 2014 municipal election. I had an official agent who handles the financial aspects of the campaign. He decided to drop out so I never had an official agent with me. I couldn’t hand in my forms for running for mayor. So I ran as a school trustee instead. It went good, I got 1030 votes in my riding. I ran in the Seven Oaks school division, ward two. I got last place but I didn’t even do any campaigning so I was amazed I even got 1000 votes. I got more votes than Michel Fillion and he was running in the municipal election as one of the candidates.

One of my dreams is to run for mayor in the future elections. My commitment right now is running for mayoral candidacy for 2018, 2022 2026 and 2030. My 15 year plan right now. One day I do hope to be the mayor of Winnipeg.”

Chris works in the community right now, helping with events at the Bell Tower and at Thunderbird House. The Thunderbird House has recently began a renewal of programming, and now offer many events for interested citizens. Everyone is always welcome. You can find the schedule here: http://thunderbirdhouse.com/wordpress/events/