Katherena Vermette knows her beloved neighbourhood in Winnipeg has a reputation for violence and racism. But, the Governor General Award-winning Métis poet is using the power of words to change that.
"This was my way of responding to what the world has been saying about my neighbourhood. So much of the attention has been from an outsider perspective, calling out our city in general, and the North End, in particular for being an awful place to be, especially if you are female and indigenous," said Vermette.
Vermette's first book of poetry, North End Love Songs, is an ode to her neighbourhood.
CBC Aboriginal commissioned her to write a new poem about the North End, while Sam Karney of Ice River Films created the video for Heart.
Katherena describes five of the locations in the Heart video and what they mean to her:
1. The train yards are iconic and the very physical division between the North End and the rest of the city. They cluck and fuss around like chickens, and just demand attention.
2. Showing Meet Me at the Bell Tower was essential to me. Those kids inspire and lead all of us, and we had to get that in there. The videographers also got a few portraits there too. You can just see the joy and pride in those faces. (Meet Me at the Bell Tower is now in its third year and is a weekly gathering on Friday nights to show strength and support of the city's North End neighbourhood.)
3. The graveyard is at the one at St John's Cathedral, and one of the oldest in the city. The stones read where the names of our streets come from - Machray, Anderson, Polson. I was always afraid of the graveyard, couldn't go in but was completely intrigued. We used to play in the park and I would just look over the fence 'cause I was too scared to go in. They say it's haunted. They say the old pipe organ plays itself at late night. We used to stay out there as late as we could to see if we could hear it. I never did, but I've heard good stories.
4. The river is my home. She is so beautiful all the time but especially this time of year. We spent a few hours at St John's Park on the first really nice day of spring day, so everyone was out and insanely happy, like we are in Winnipeg when spring finally comes. Those kids playing are my nieces, the hams of the bunch, who really played their parts well. Some friends came down too. The river was sparkling and the kids were laughing, it was a good day. I'm glad it was captured so well.
5. Neechi Commons is a wonderful example of what vision and determination can do, plus they have the bannock! (Neechi Commons is a worker-owned cooperative store, highly visible on Main Street.)