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Spring, Easter a time of renewal and reflection

‘We are a community of diverse people, beliefs, cultures, and religions’

Spring brings a sort of awakening, a renewal of the land, a time of growth, and sometimes healing. I lost my mother almost 20 years ago, and the last meal we shared was Easter. She came home from the hospital briefly, along with her oxygen tank. We enjoyed a meal together, and my son experienced his second, and what turned out to be his last, holiday with Grandma. Shortly after she returned to the hospital, and passed away a few days later. A heartbreaking, yet somehow beautiful time. This was, and is, hard to reconcile.

We are a community of diverse people, beliefs, cultures, and religions. I had someone share with me that some Alex House ‘old timers’ don’t see themselves at Alex House anymore because of the work we are doing on decolonization, diversity and inclusion. This was sad to hear, but I was comforted knowing that so many others in our community who have not felt at home here are able to see themselves and feel connected at Alex House. Neighbourhood Houses are social justice organizations, vehicles for change. Those of us that work at neighbourhood houses are not perfect, we get things wrong, but we are learners, aspiring to walk alongside our neighbours. As a member of the dominant culture, I see myself everywhere in this community, and I want other people who are from underrepresented communities to have that same opportunity. We all benefit when people feel seen and heard, even when what they share is uncomfortable to hear.

Recently we hosted Iftar, with guests from the local Muslim Association, and wider community. It was a time to connect, learn, and be together.

A few weeks earlier we celebrated Lunar New Year, and made dumplings with the Tea & Chat group that brings Chinese Canadians together to connect, learn, and engage in community. In a few weeks we will gather again around a Passover Seder table. We also shared dinner with Richard Pierre, a Katzie Nation member, and Indigenous Knowledge Keeper in residence at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. We engaged in meaningful conversation and dialogue learning about the impacts of colonization, and the traditions of the Coast Salish People. Why is Alex House focusing on this work? It is in response to racism in our local community during COVID, and is generously supported by the Canadian Government’s Community Services Recovery Fund, through the United Way of BC.

We live in one of the most beautiful places in the world, with robust human rights and freedoms, but we also struggle with racism. This too is hard to reconcile.

As we decolonize our approach we are moving away from our colonial history, walking towards a future that engages our community in a meaningful way. We aspire to walk alongside the people of Semiahmoo Nation, and our neighbours from all walks of life. We expect there will be some people who will be upset with us as we let go of our colonized history in order to move forward in a good way, and in good relations. As we talk more about Land Back and what that means, we know that fear may be expressed as anger.

When I first started my learning journey I was filled with fear and uncertainty. I am still learning, and at times sit in discomfort, but I will continue to plant seeds that I hope will give rise to better understanding our colonized history, bringing a renewed understanding of what Land Back means. Rest assured no one is coming for your home. Land Back is about governmental injustices that need to be corrected, it is about sovereignty for First Nation’s People over their land. It is about Indigenous Peoples rights and freedoms. In the words of Fannie Lou Hamer, a women’s and civil rights activist, ‘Nobody is free, until everybody’s free.’ This is what co-liberation is all about.

For many of us Easter is around the corner, and is an important and meaningful time for Christians. More than just the Easter Bunny, it is a time of reflection. A time for family gatherings, and to feel a sense of belonging. When people feel a sense of community belonging, they often feel healthier physically and mentally. This is reciprocity in action. In community, everyone deserves to feel they belong. If any of these issues matter to you, or you are open to learning, we invite you to join us on April 9, 2024 5:30-7:30 p.m. for a conversation on Allyship with Samantha Jack, an Indigenous woman from the Nuu Chah Nulth and Yale First Nation. She is a consultant with Len Pierre Consulting, and current co-chair of the Surrey Urban Indigenous Leadership Committee. Register @ Enjoy the season, whatever you choose to believe!

Penny Bradley is the executive director of Alex House.