TRENCHES photographed by Esther Cho.
Introducing a new series of interviews with the founders of ZFC and their backstories. In our first interview, TRENCHES shares his experiences with racism during his life in Canada.
A 90’s kid born in Montreal shares with us that Calgary, Alberta is his favorite place to live in Canada. Even after having lived the big city life in Toronto for a year, and having seen similarities between three of Canada’s largest cities, TRENCHES would still choose YYC. This is home for him – a place where his friends live down the street and where he got to experience the uplifting energy from the Black Lives Matter protests in early June. “It’s really cool, all that is happening, and it’s very needed. People are really seeing how deep the situation is, and they are finally feeling it.” We took a moment to appreciate the different reactions in the media, and within our communities, to the murder of Michael Brown in August of 2014, and George Floyd in May of 2020. Two events that deserved uproar, and one that TRENCHES hopes is just the beginning of a larger movement. He describes the energy around the protests as special, and even lingering during the post-protest buzz when he witnessed driver’s honking their cars in solidarity and yelling, “Black lives matter!” out the window.
“I see everyone as an equal person, so treat me as one too. Who knows, we could be friends and find similarities between us, no matter our skin colors.”
Having found a community of Black people in Calgary, TRENCHES describes feeling best when surrounded by friends, and says he felt at home on high school teams that were inclusive. It is validating for him when he is recognized by acquaintances that make an effort to remember him, at work and within his community. “I see everyone as an equal person, so treat me as one too. Who knows, we could be friends and find similarities between us, no matter our skin colors.” Leading his interactions in this fashion, TRENCHES wishes that others would do the same and set their judgments aside. He loves being Black, down to the smallest detail, and even with everything going on globally. While joking that there has never been a dull moment living in a city with a predominance of white people, he reminds us that he is a just an individual like the rest of us; intelligent, creative, and personable, and only wanting to find similarities with other individuals in order to build connections.
While we’ve been all eyes and ears on the media in the past couple weeks, we tend to forget to look for racism within our own communities. In the Beltline of Calgary is a restaurant called Singapore Sam’s, a Chinese joint known for its late night eats and dancing on tables. The first thing that TRENCHES noticed when he walked into the restaurant with a Black friend was the hip-hop music blasting on the speakers. The origin of hip-hop is dated back to the 1970’s, and was an underground urban movement that was formed in the Bronx, New York City by Black people. Originally feeling welcomed into the space because of the music and the individuals who were dancing on the table, TRENCHES and his friend decided to order food. After some time, the music died down and they started to notice stares directed at them and a general tension in the air. It didn’t take long to notice that they were the targets of this sudden change in mood, but they tried to make the best of it by ordering food. When they ordered, their food was almost thrown at them, and the servers avoided eye contact. TRENCHES looked around and noticed the disparity between the ways that they were being treated compared to everyone else. After struggling to flag down the server to get their bill paid, then finally paying, they decided to walk out without their change and to leave the establishment. They were then stopped at the door and had four servers stand in their way while one of them went to make sure that they had actually paid for their meals.
This is a movement, not a moment. Black lives matter.
About the author : Mariebelle Sawma is an up and coming Lebanese Canadian writer, currently writing for TEDxYYC and holds a poetry publication with the Femme Handbook, Volume 2. She has lived in Calgary, Alberta for most of her life and is currently completing her Bachelor of Arts in English at Mount Royal University. Mariebelle enjoys reading a good book at a cozy coffee shop - a trip never complete without daydreaming about the eradication of systemic racism.
Photos by Esther Cho