A year in review: weaving cultures and traditions

Emblazoned in a red banner on the front page of every issue published by The Source this year are the words, “Celebrating 20 years in 2019.” To all of our readers – from those who have been with the newspaper since 1999 to those of you who are reading for the first time in 2019 – we are grateful for your support and readership.

Publishing a small community newspaper is no easy task, given the withering state of local journalism in the 21st century throughout the world. Even so, as I wrote in The Source’s 20th anniversary cover story in June, I credit our paper’s longevity to our ability to provide a vital platform and voice to the myriad individuals from a variety of backgrounds living and working in Vancouver. By reporting on stories which touch upon universal themes of communication, multiculturalism and diversity, the paper strives to promote civic engagement, celebrate and recognize cultural differences and create a strong sense of belonging in the local community.

These are the values that have helped The Source succeed for 20 years and will continue to help the paper carry on for another 20 years. Before we head into 2020 and our 21st publishing year, let us take a look back at some of the stories we wrote for you in 2019.

On the uses and abuses of language

How information gets communicated depends on how language is used or abused. Sometimes language is dangerously underused as reporter Colleen Addison found out, all the way back in our first cover story in January. Addison chronicled the efforts of Marianne Ignace, a member of the Secwepemc tribe who has been working to preserve and promote Indigenous languages like Haida and Squamish. Not only would its speakers struggle to communicate their needs to others, humanity would lose unique ways of seeing the world since language structures different ways of thinking. Ignace leads programs to teach Indigenous languages and to research and document the knowledge of Indigenous language speakers, hoping to keep these languages alive before they are lost.

In other cases, language can be abused to peddle false stories and narratives. Reporter Siddharth Bala discussed the issue of fake news and disinformation with philosophy professor Endre Begby in April. Fake news arises not because an individual’s belief-making process is compromised, but the environment and context surrounding the belief is manipulated. The proliferation of fabricated stories through social media, attacking journalism as agenda-driven and the re-sharing of conspiracy theories through social media are some of the elements in play in today’s media environment. Given this environment, forming a rational belief can be difficult and can output false beliefs – an ongoing concern in this decade and the next.

Telling a story through comics and tech

Telling stories is part and parcel of being human. But how those stories are told is totally up to the storyteller. Reporter Jake McGrail covered the Vancouver Comic Arts Festival in May, which brought artists and fans of comics together to share their love of the artistic medium.
McGrail spoke with Teresa Wong, one of the festival’s featured guests. Wong published Dear Scarlet, detailing her experiences with motherhood and postpartum depression following the birth of her first child. Despite being a first-time illustrator, she felt the comic book medium provided a great vehicle for expressing her story, as her memories came to her in images. The graphic panels lent themselves well to depicting the moments of silence that come with taking care of a baby. She hopes her comic helps uplift or inspire others going through similar struggles.

In October, reporter Xi Chen profiled Emily Carr student Edward Madojemu who told his story using a more contemporary medium. He created an immersive virtual reality (VR) novel, Dami and Falian, based on his experiences of moving from Nigeria two years ago. Madojemu related to Chen how he needed to express his emotions about moving to Canada, learning about a new world and self-discovery – the novel parallels his experience. Crafting the novel in VR allowed him to flesh out the world the novel takes place in: inventing new alien languages and allowing the users to experience the story the way the protagonists do. The novel was a finalist for the Vancouver International Film Festival’s Immersed competition.

Diversity and social unity

Living in a cosmopolitan city like Vancouver encourages us to think about the way we practice diversity and social unity. For some, that manifests in physical spaces; for others, in our hearts and minds. In February, reporter Betty Shea brought to our attention the concept of cohousing, a housing model that aims to build communities out of shared common spaces. As opposed to traditional housing, which discourages communication between neighbours, cohousing designs prominently feature common areas, encouraging neighbours to interact with each other. By doing so, cohousing hopes to not only build more housing, but also build social bonds and develop the social fabric among its residents.

On the occasion of the UNESCO International Day for Tolerance in November, reporter Matthew Fraser challenged the notion that intolerance and disharmony pervades the city. Although acts of prejudice exist in the city, they primarily stem from cultural misunderstandings and manifest themselves in isolated incidents that are quickly blown up by media and then fizzle away just as fast. Rather, Fraser suggests that tolerance for others and the desire for unity is the ideology most Canadians embrace and draws its strength from.

Two perspectives on Vancouver’s multiculturalism

Vancouver’s multiculturalism strikes a chord differently among those who grew up in the city and those who are newcomers. Verbatim writer Kira Matthes wrote in March about her experiences as a newcomer to Vancouver. She came from a place where people were almost expected to follow a life story that was not totally her own. Moving to Vancouver in 2018 in search of a clean slate, she detailed how her perspectives have broadened living in a multicultural place. She wrote how the city welcomed diversity of thought and opinion and encouraged the freedom to be different, all of which felt liberating for her.

“You can be different, the same, unique, new – whatever you want,” Matthes wrote. “You can be anything here, and you won’t be alone in it.”

Reporter Harry Jing shared his thoughts in the September Verbatim column about growing up in Vancouver, where multiculturalism is sometimes imperceptible and taken for granted. While travelling, he noted how much less diverse other Canadian and world cities are compared to Vancouver and realized how much other places struggle with the concept, treating it as something abstract and academic, rather than as a lived experience. Having originally taken multiculturalism for granted, Jing came to realize how special Vancouver is in the world.

“Multiculturalism is so omnipresent here in Vancouver that it’s woven into the very fabric of society,” Jing wrote. “Though we can’t always see or hear multiculturalism, it envelopes us every waking moment in this beautiful city.”

We hope our stories inspire in you the values of diversity and love of culture, as much as it does in us. On behalf of everyone at The Source Newspaper, we wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season and amazing new year – we will see you in 2020!