Guest post by Gail Nyoka

I flew to Vancouver through Denver, where I had an unplanned 24-hour delay at the airport. I was delayed all New Year’s Day night because a major snowstorm and Omicron-variant staff shortages had caused hundreds of flights to be cancelled. During my long wait with countless other stranded passengers, I was witness to a disturbing incident.

A Black man (I’ve named him Jokester), made a joke about the huge trolley of luggage in the possession of a white man – let’s call him Luggage Man. This was occasion for Luggage Man to proceed with a loud and uncivil rant against Black Lives Matter, to proclaim that Black people should “get off welfare and get a job,” followed by “I’ll never hire you.”

Although it is ever-present, I am always shocked when I see racism manifest. It is easy to see Luggage Man being part of a mob waving Confederate flags or brandishing swastikas. It leaves a lingering uneasiness.

This brings be to the balm to be found through art and through creating – a process of being in touch with the true inner spirit and connection to the creation that is the beauty of us all. It is fitting that I am staying at Historic Joy Kogawa House, which stands in remembrance of the harm that racism can do; in this case, the injustices against Japanese Canadians. We need places of remembrance and places of art. Joy Kogawa House is both, and it has been my pleasure to spend time here.

Over these past two months, I have been going deep into a new book, Oceans Carry Us, which speaks to the legacy of racism and empire over generations and across continents and countries. Above is a photograph of my aunt Sybil Edwards, who features in my story. I started work on this book a year ago and have been researching and writing since then. It will still take me some time to finish, but my residency has led to some unexpected discoveries and has given me the mental space and the time to delve into history and family and my own process.

And it has been a place where the unpleasantness of my journey has been washed away.

Gail Nyoka is a playwright and storyteller. In residence at Historic Joy Kogawa House in January and February 2022.

Gail Nyoka is a writer and playwright who enjoys writing for both adults and children. Her passion for oral storytelling led her to Ghana to collect stories of the Ewe people and to the e-book Voices of the Ancestors available for download here.

Gail was writer-in-residence at Historic Joy Kogawa House in January and February 2022.

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