Jan 2017 29

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Nancy and Tommy Kang lived next door. They were Korean.

The Agbuyas lived a few doors up. Filipino.

Both Samir and Paresh down the street were from India.

Blaise was from France.

I dunno where Michael was from, but he was a gorgeous deep shade of chocolate and could hit a baseball right over the fence like none of the rest of us could yet.

David Tse was Chinese and to this day, I will say he drew the best Spider-Man I have ever seen. Jane’s parents were Scottish and she punched some kid in the face who was bugging me.

The twins were from Croatia. Chris was German. Surrinder was from Iran. And me? Me, I was half Japanese-Belizean.

This was my street growing up. It’s only now, looking back and thinking about it that I can even say where my friends were all from. They were just my friends. We all grew up on a street in a townhouse complex in the suburbs of north Toronto, in a little area called Rexdale.

We were all different. So none of us were.

Blaise’s mom would yell out the window for him to come home just like any mom. Tommy’s dad took us fishing, like any dad could’ve. Paresh’s mom made a great birthday cake. Mr. and Mrs. Agbuya exposed us all to ABBA. And we all debated, regardless of background, who we’d rather be – Han Solo or Luke Skywalker.

We all dreamed of getting a new bike, kissing a girl for the first time, and made fun of each other in a no-holds barred democratic way that didn’t see country of origin or skin colour. We celebrated each other’s amazing rock throw, and lamented when one of us got grounded like all of us had been.

I was very lucky to grow up in Rexdale of that time. It exposed me to people, places and cultures that I think gave me an open mind and heart to prepare me for my adult life in today’s Toronto, and Canada.

Right now, people are trying to convince you that being open and welcoming to people from other countries, or who follow ‘other’ religions, is wrong, and they shouldn’t be welcome in America. I don’t know what’s happening down there, or what the future will hold.

But I do believe that we need to hold fast to our own beliefs, and history here in Canada, as a multicultural and welcoming nation.

Like the President of the United States has been championing ‘America First’, indeed we must take this approach as well. Canada First. Canada – our beliefs as a loving, open-minded, and free society must not dim in these times. When the world gets darker, we must shine brightest. And this doesn’t just fall on our government. It falls on each and every one of us. And it doesn’t mean just changing your Facebook profile pic when appropriate.

Let’s spend more of our energy emphasizing what makes us so great, and less time gawking at the circus happening to the south of us. I’m not saying we shouldn’t care. Of course we should. There is a serious problem growing, and I have friends in America I’m worried about just like you probably do.

But in this nation’s 150th year, what a great time to show who we are.

We’re a bunch of Belizean-Japanese-Indian-Croatian-Korean-Mexican-Vietnamese-Greek-Italian-Nigerian-Somalian-Pakistani-Irish-German-Ethiopian and World hooligans. Straight, gay, bi, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Catholic, atheist.

We’re a 30 million headed beast. And you mess with one of us, and bub, you gotta mess with my whole street.

 

 

Photo (c) Albert O. Bradley