A Lakehead University student is headed to Minneapolis this week to present her poem that was inspired by racial tensions in Thunder Bay.

Jayal Chung wrote "A Poem for My Imagined Daughter" after the James Street swing bridge was damaged in a fire and  sparked racist remarks on social media.

Chung said the incident got her thinking about "the violence that words can have on people and how tiring it is for people to try to overcome those stereotypical views.

"It's a devastating thing that really impacts our city." 

James Street Bridge Fire

A fire last October damaged the bridge connecting Fort William First Nation to Thunder Bay. (John Laco)

She first presented the poem at the Building Bridges symposium at Lakehead University and has now been invited to perform it on Tuesday at the prestigious Shore reading event in Minneapolis.

Organizer and artist Emily Johnson describes the event as a celebration of the places where we meet and come together, for instance, the land and the water, or the performer and the audience.

'This dreaming and this hope for positive change'

Chung said she is inspired by Johnson's vision of connecting.

"I feel really connected to Thunder Bay as my hometown, being born and raised [here], Chung said. "When I am out in the woods out walking, I feel so grounded and at peace.

"The idea of taking time to pay attention and listen and being connected with land, it allows people to respond to each other and be connected to each other as well."

A Poem for My Imagined Daughter begins with these lines:

"Building bridges between the things we know and don't know
Making connections
Making the connections between you and me can be hard, especially if
we keep pointing out differences from a place of inferiority.
I be, no better than We."

Chung said she wrote the piece for an imagined daughter because it "is tied to this dreaming and this hope for positive change and for a better future where we can all just be ourselves."

The Shore event includes dance, storytelling, and a final potluck feast at the University of Minnesota's Northrup Centre.