From the Ukrainian and Gaza-Israeli conflicts and the terror attacks in Nigeria to the mass murders in Mexico and the protests against police impunity in the United States, 2014 has been an eventful year of political, social and cultural upheaval, whose consequences will no doubt reverberate for years to come.
Should we remember 2014 as the year that people were divided? That battle lines were drawn? That communities were ruined? Or should we remember 2014 as the year people around the world united to fight social injustices, to rally for real change and to build a better future for their children?
How we collectively remember today’s events depends on which stories get told, how they are told and why they are worth telling. This is important because it is through these stories we tell that future generations will come to understand their own purpose in the world, learning through our hopes and fears, our successes and failures, and our lives and deaths. As Debo Odegbile muses, “In these often cynical times, [it’s the] story that highlights the difference that our attention and voices can make.”
In the same way, our ancestors’ stories continue to affect our place in society. They help form our identities and foster a sense of belonging and purpose, which subsequently shape our paths. “We need to educate younger generation[s] about the history,” argues Jim Wong-Chu, founder of the Asian Canadian Writers Workshop, whom Dong Yue Su interviewed in October. “Young people have to know the past so that they can work for the future.”
This year, The Source newspaper was honoured to offer a platform for individuals from myriad communities and backgrounds to share how they celebrate, remember and understand their stories. The articles highlighted how they are also working towards a common unity through diversity.
We also continued to cover many creative events and projects where artists, musicians, photographers, sculptors, dancers, writers and scientists have used their particular medium to retell epic tales, remember little-known stories or forge new trends. Here, we take a look back at some of this year’s stories.
Celebrating and creatively expressing stories
As Diane Walsh, writing in our first cover story of 2014, reminds us, Vancouver’s many cultural centres not only provide a place for communities to learn about and celebrate historical traditions, but all of us are invited to participate and immerse ourselves in those traditions as well. Whether it’s learning the Polynesian Hula dance, carrying wives during a Scandinavian midsummer or performing Khouneh Tekouni before Nowruz, the Persian New Year, for many, multiculturalism is at its best when shared.
Jake McGrail reminded us that the power of stories to capture the imagination and bring people together spans all cultures. In April, he gave us a glimpse of the Japanese Noh play Hagoromo andThe Tale of Rostam from the Persian epic poem Shahnameh. The former tale tells of an angel who descends to Earth, has her feathered robe stolen and with it, her ability to fly, while the latter recites the tale of a hero who finds a young horse and together they defend the land of Iran. Both communities were proud and honoured to be able to share their respective epics with the city.
In November, Anastasia Scherders brought us the story of Black Strathcona, an interactive media project that uses locative media to bring stories to life. Filmmaker George McLennan told us that the interactive technology developed in the last 10 years provides users with a unique and immediate connection to the past. When visiting certain locations, a video pops up showing a particular story of that same spot from the early 20th century. In so doing, the project inserts users into the landscape and cultural narrative of the once thriving black community in the historic Strathcona neighbourhood.
Stories that promote activism and change
Yet others choose to honour their life experiences through activism and The Source newspaper has covered them as well.
In July, Riyah Lakhani brought us the story of Shashi Assanand, founder of the Vancouver and Lower Mainland Multicultural Family Support Services Society which helps immigrant victims of domestic violence. Assanand draws strength from her story of being forced to leave Uganda in 1972 and struggling to establish herself in a new country to relate to others facing similar challenges. By providing cultural markers and language assistance, Assanand’s society enables immigrant women and children to overcome the cycle of domestic abuse. As Lakhani wrote, understanding what they are experiencing creates an intrinsic support system and builds a sense of community.
In February, Bessie Chow interviewed Charan Gill, whose efforts to improve the human rights, health, safety and employment standards of Canadian farm workers, and his successful campaign against a proposal to open a Ku Klux Klan office on the West Coast during the 1980s culminated in his founding of the Progressive Intercultural Community Services Society, dedicated to assisting immigrants integrate into Canadian society. Gill believes that being Canadian means respecting everyone’s rights, freedoms and liberties no matter where someone is from.
We at The Source newspaper will continue to write the many stories that need telling in our culturally diverse city. Mike Lee, who celebrated our paper’s 15-year anniversary in June, reminded us of our purpose: to share the perspectives of Vancouver’s multitude of communities, keep a finger on the city’s communal pulse and report on people, places and events that shape our city. We look forward to celebrating diversity, promoting understanding and building awareness through every story we tell in the next year and for years to come.