Sometimes, You Have To Look For What’s Not There: Volunteers and Immigrants Especially, Are What Make This City So Beautiful

Surrey – The “Vibrant Surrey,” Is Green, And Gray, With A Giant Gun, Pointed At God In The Fucking Center Of The City. Please Stop Telling Me How Immigrants Are The Problem.

When I first got to Surrey, one of the things that I first noticed was a group of kids called Surrey Crew. I didn’t know who they were but they were filled with colour. There were goths, punks, geeks, artists, and future teachers, in this group and I really wanted to meet them, because after seeing them while I was on a bus, I knew they were probably some of the most interesting kids in the city.

Turns out like so many people in this city, they were uneducated, silly, goofy, and mostly concerned with making money to escape this town, and all these years later I fully understand why.

In North Delta BC I learned that the only thing that this world wanted from me was my body. Too many men used me and many other children as sex toys, too many adults were too busy just trying to survive to notice or care, and those that did were like us kids, too afraid to say something. I didn’t care then and I don’t care now, about their fear, their fear allowed too many children to be abused, medically kidnapped and placed into “reassessment programs,” where they faced often more abuse inside mental hospitals than out, and too many kids died, because of the neglect we faced in North Delta.

Today on Twitter someone decided to post this in response to an article about some things I am thinking about as we move towards voting for the next mayor of our city.

“Third World Scum.”

Let me talk about that a little bit. For years as a child, I was forced to go to a church that I didn’t believe in, because my mother desperately wanted to be connected to a church community again. We lost ours when we left Calgary, good riddance to me and others, but not necessarily to mom.

So we joined a church group and of course they were mostly white, but worst of all, they weren’t Catholic, so we weren’t just loosing our church community, we were loosing our faith, and that as a hard blow to two little mixed-race Black kids, who desperately needed something to anchor themselves, against all these big and new changes.

But noone, and I mean absolutely not one human on this planet, gave a fuck about the changes that we faced.

We were kids, there to be seen and not heard, and to volunteer every Saturday morning in order to keep us humble, and to remind us that others need help and that our job is to help others. Yes, very Abnegation. But as my mom got more involved with the community, the more big ideas came to her mind, and eventually those big ideas led to a major upgrade of the meeting hall, which included a fresh new downstairs space for church groups and youth events, and a beautiful hall for the adults.

And when that happened, the church organization was no longer interested in serving meals every weekend, the volunteers were getting older, and the younger generation wasn’t as interested in bringing their children against the houseless folks who attended the Saturday morning breakfast in droves.

And so after stumbling around a bit, my mom moved to another church organization, and rather quickly became a huge part of that community. Saturday morning breakfasts continued, we added programs, and more importantly than that, we invited people from all over the world to join us.

We had people from Egypt, Etheopia, China, Japan, France, Iran, the USA, England, Austrailia, either come to volunteer, come to participate in groups, or stop by on their random travels just because they were lonely after long journies on their own exploring the countryside of Canada.

The gardens that we grew, the programs that we ran, the cops we worked with, paramedics, teachers, nurses, and students, all contributed to creating a diverse beautiful community that came together to help the houseless – the hungry – the lonely – the happy – the here just to visit – and it was a really weird time.

I absolutely hated it, because I took a lot of shit from everyone. I was my mother’s daughter, and she was stressed so I got the brunt, staff expected me to do their jobs for them, and then got pissed when I said no, on and on it went for years, that the higher I climbed, the worse that I got treated. One man even wrapped his arms around me and refused to let me go, because I was trying to start a fight.

People Love to Praise Church Organizations, As Long As They Don’t Have To Get Their Hands Dirty. – Devon J Hall

It wasn’t until my boss slash mother came to my rescue that he put me down, but in the time it took for another staff member to get to me, I could have been killed, at the very least I was physically and what felt like sexually assaulted, by a man who I was always nice too, but honestly wished would die.

It was a painful, and humiliating experience, and it’s one that never happened again because I refused to hug people after that, and when I was forced to, it only added to the trauma of the job that I had literally fallen into.

Every day was a nightmare of hearing that someone had overdosed, or been guilty, or worse, hearing the stories that told us the tale of how they ended up on a mat under the window. It was exhausting.

But, the good part was working with the volunteers, and seeing how far they had come to eat our food, help us build sheds and gardens, to teach us their ways while we taught them ours. The University of Minnesota, for instance, came to visit, a few times. And every year they brought different people, and every year we learned something new, and so did their students.

But then the board of directors came, and among those new directors, was someone that this city knows very well. A quick google search will tell you who, but I will not. What I will say is that the year after that person showed up at the mission, the only place left in Surrey City Center that had any sense of colour and vibrancy vanished.

When they tore down the old library and the nursing center, they tore out the prayer garden where many of my friends in Surrey Crew went to sit and talk and laugh. That garden had hand-made by the elders of this city think stones, I guess you can call them, that were painted with a variety of beautiful colours. Where the fuck did those go?!

The trees, the plants, the beautiful flowers that brought honeybees into the heart of where City hall sits now are all gone, and in its place, a fucking cement boat, and a giant gun. Great job Dianne Watts.

If Surrey Has A Pasttime It’s Pretending To Care, While Stomping On All The Dreams Of Those Who Were Here First. – Martian

There were whole indigenous communities here when the colonizers came and destroyed what was, for what could be. Read any story about Surrey and you’ll hear that both the Indigenous and the colonizers were shocked at the amount of log clearing it took to build this city. Yet somehow we’re the city of parks.

The only major parks in this city are reserved for good clean families. I remember one time sitting with my friends in Surrey Crew, at one of the many parks that we had before redevelopment and all we were doing was sitting. Talking, laughing, enjoying each other’s company, and a neighbour called the cops on us.

We were immediately escorted from the park and all my friends could say was “welcome to Surrey,” youth back then had nowhere to hang out that was safe, and whenever we tried, we were immediately shamed for not having jobs, for not being in school. We had our reasons, all of us for why the system failed us, and so we found solace in each other’s company and at every turn, we were chased away.

Eventually, we got tired of being chased around by cops and neighbours and so we stopped hanging out together. Some of us got apartments that quickly turned into party pads, whether we wanted them to or not, and honestly, I just drank myself through one party after another until I fell back into working at the church, for literally, lack of anything better to do.

It was the immigrants of this city, that taught me how life could be, and it was the indigenous of this community that taught me how life should be, for all of us. Regardless of race, creed, nationality, size, and orientation.

FRAFCA used to have a building in the heart of Surrey BC, not far from city hall, and now they’re out of the way for many of their clients, their funding gets reduced every single year, and w want to talk about how the Pope is going to Edmonton to apologize to this very same community. For what, does he even know?

Does he know how stunted the Indigenous communities of this country are because of the trauma their ancestors suffered?

Do they understand in this city how many children lost out on free day camp because the church programs that my mom ran that brought in JUST enough funding to provide a safe space for these kids to go, many from immigrant and indigenous families, no longer exist?

If you want to talk about how Indigenous folk and Immigrants are the problems of this city then you need to think about all the developers who come into this town making the same promise that all developers make, without actually providing what they promise.

The Cheesecake Cafe used to have open mic nights and dozens of us would gather every week to hear the same or new songs by some of the most talented musicians we’d ever heard, men and women who didn’t have record deals, who could play an instrument and enjoyed doing it in front of a small close-knit of neighbours and friends.

Well, that’s gone now, and if we want to hear live music we have to go to Vancouver because Surrey is convinced that any time people gather there’s going to be trouble. Hard to imagine why that is when our new symbol is a gun pointed at God.

Surrey BC idolizes violence and always has, we permit it because it makes us feel sexy and cool to be a part of the inner circle that doesn’t get hurt, and then we laugh at those who do get caught because we’re somehow better than them.

No stupid, we’re headed in the same direction as all the gangsters and thugs of the past, the only difference is, and I can not stress this enough, is that if you’re dealing or abusing, or hurting others, you haven’t been caught, YET.

We’re getting an entirely new police force. That means a new sex crimes unit, that means a new community policing unit, it means a new network of cops coming into this city and investigating, it also means a new unit for those who are going to investigate past crimes.

In ten years they’re going to release a report that talks about how much Surrey idolizes violence and segregation, and it’s going to entirely be the fault of the kids who grew up to be adults after years of being told they didn’t fit in the system, only to join the system, and refuse to fight against the same things that used to piss us off as kids.

If you want to talk about how immigrants, Indigenous, and houseless folk are the problem, then you better get off your ass and help them to learn to be a part of the solution. I remember helping to get hundreds of people who lived on the street to vote for the first time years back. Voting for the first time because they didn’t know they were allowed to vote without an address.

So they were (legally) allowed to use the church address so they could vote. It’s that fucking simple. Get out there and use your skills to make this community a better place instead of bitching about how awful it is to live here.

Sending all my love,

Devon J Hall


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