Presented to City of Edmonton Council on May 17, 2021.
Poetry is political because it is preoccupied with people. – Amanda Gorman
Sir Winston Churchill wrote of my Indian ancestors that
we were “a beastly people”
after his government looted my motherland’s wealth,
the Queen still wears her stolen jewels.
Churchill engineered concentration camps in South Africa and called it “great fun”
he swore there would “not be a Japanese left on the face of the earth”
he crushed resistance in the Irish and stole land from Kenyans
he had an insatiable appetite for “glorious, delicious war”
for 12 years of public school I swore on a true North
free of influence or intimidation
and yet on paper we are subjects of a historical and present empire
continually committing genocide in the name of dominion
your Worship, today is my 29th birthday
and I have lived through hatred, racism, and discrimination.
but at the end of my life, my children will know what I stood for and what I faced
they will fight for no one to endure historical and present denigration
at the age of 29, Lillian Shirt raised a tipi in view of the Mayor’s Office
on Treaty land and lived there for 12 whole days.
she protested anti-Indigenous prejudice in the very place
we hold candlelight vigils that should burn in an endless blaze.
Winston wrote that he did “not admit,
that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians”
to Churchill we gave sainthood and Nobel Laureateship
and to Lillian we denied housing and cemented meridians
Churchill gassed Iraqis and called it humane,
he praised Mussolini’s hatred in the war against unions
Jerusalem erected a statue of Winston
to celebrate his complicity in murderous nationalism
I think if we build statues at all,
we should base it on kindergarten criteria:
we should build them after people who were kind to others
we should make them out of play doh in the likeness of feminist Cree mothers
so that we understand history is alive within the choices we make
and our ability to rectify mistakes is what makes us so human.
to topple statues takes more courage than platforming war mongers
it is a necessity for living for justice.
and maybe there are some of you who would say that he’s gone
– let sleeping dogs lie, and legacies be forgotten.
I think to admit we were wrong is the harder choice to do what is right
and that is why it is the choice worth making.
we are people who gather in the Square for joy and tragedy alike.
we sit under trees and split green onion cakes.
we listen to the sounds of lifelong jazz musicians,
we taste buds and crush ice and boba on hot days.
four years after Sir Winston was erected
the Environmental Protection Act codified the requirements for the land’s remediation,
you see with a growing knowledge of climate change and ecological collapse,
we improved, and rectified the system.
we changed our beliefs based on research and fact,
we agreed that some things are worth saving
– like the trees and the wetlands we share with the geese
and the stories of honour that we pass to our children.
I think if you’ve ever said sorry out loud
known remorse is an indication of deep caring
you should stand on the side of the iconoclasts
you should ask for love for these citizens to be what this city remembers
in the end is it the name that matters so much
or is it what we fight for and do there?
is it the legacies we leave behind in our memories
or the ones we create to fight for what’s fair?
I am asking us to be the opposite of Churchill today:
to be brave and fight for what we know to be true
I am asking for empathy, for us to dream bigger than heroes:
To Take a Risk—It’s The Most Edmonton Thing We Can Do.