Somewhere in the region, at least a fifteen minute drive away, my baba used to rent a small lot in a community garden. I can’t recall exactly where it was located, but I do remember every time we entered into the countryside, baba would crack a window open and demand to know who fessi. We knew it was the farmland, but it was still fun to point fingers at each other. My brothers and I liked to spot the horses and cows that punctuated the otherwise monotonous acres of crops. Endless, rolling landscapes looked alien and lonely.
I built a friendship with that garden lot. It was satisfying to pull weeds, or pluck whatever fruit and vegetables were ready to be harvested. If I wasn’t gardening, then I was practicing riding my bike. The dirt road by the garden is where I first mastered riding without training wheels. I remember biking past a group of people when I heard someone shout “nigger”. It caught me off-guard; I was by myself, my brothers and baba focused on the garden several meters away. I turned back to the offenders but they were already slowly disappearing behind a line of trees past the main road. Living on the land has meant also always having to consider that even the most life-giving of spaces can be subject to such violences.
When I consider what it has meant for me to live here, I think about what it means for all Black or Indigenous people in this region. I think about how on October 3, 2020, a 15-year-old Black boy was arrested by three police officers at Fairview Park Mall in Kitchener for merely misbehaving (I can’t count how many times I misbehaved at that same mall). The very next day, racist vandalism directed toward Land Back Camp was found in Waterloo. Someone used a permanent marker to write ‘This land is our land (Stop giving to Indians!)’ and ‘Take back Victoria Park’ along the Spurline Trail.
Racial violence in this region is a daily occurance, and it cannot be divorced from the region’s violent settler-colonial histories. In light of this reality, living on Indigenous land means always finding pockets where I can heal and be protected. Hiking trails behind my house, waiting for a cut at Diverse Barbershop, feasting at weekly potlucks at Healing of the 7 Generations, hooping on Stanley Park’s courts, being in ceremony at O:se Kenhionhata:tie. It has meant leaning into stories and storytelling, finding strength and solidarity in Black, Afro-diasporic and Indigenous traditions. For me, being on this land has always meant searching and fighting for spaces to connect the projects of Black liberation and Indigenous decolonization.