How does this poem end?
Do the daughters' daughters quilt?
Do the alchemists practice their tables?
Do the worlds continue spinning
away from each other forever?
Lucille Clifton, "Quilting"
We’re often asked why we chose the name “textile” for the magazine. As a noun or adjective, textile refers to cloth or woven fabric. Individual stories are strands of thread, fabrics spun from diverse walks of life. We want to weave a tapestry of creative writing and visual art that reflects a literature of Kitchener-Waterloo. Textile also represents an artifact that ties the past, present, and future of our region together, shaping our historical, contemporary, and future relationships. The Neutral, Anishnawbe and Haudenosaunee peoples, whose promised land is the Haldimand Tract, have always woven the material, social, and spiritual worlds together in art and in oral traditions. Indigenous traditions have undergone erasure for hundreds of years, and the violence continues to this day. Even while conversations with our Indigenous communities are becoming more commonplace, when it comes to truth and reconciliation, our region falls short in many ways. To be able to ignore the stories and ways of others is often a privilege, reflecting social structures and systems of control. Which stories are valued the most? Where does power reside?
For settlers, “textile” might evoke the region’s industrial history, where some of the livelihoods available to residents in the late 1800s and into the later part of the 20th century were contingent on textile manufacturing. Hespeler Yarns, the Alpine Knitting Co., and Day-Smith Limited were some of the old mills in Waterloo County that were greatly impacted by post-war era realities, the automation of jobs, and the growing reliance on mass producing industries worldwide. Shirts, collars, cuffs, buttons—our local economies depended on factories that produced fabrics, clothes, and related products. While these industries no longer figure prominently in the region, their legacies linger. The Forsyth Shirt Company, Arrow Shirt Factory, and the Kaufman Footwear Plant used to employ thousands of hard-working people; now, they are luxury lofts that only a handful can afford to live in. As the region has become a hub for tech, money is pumped faster and faster. Amenities proliferate, some more organically than others.
Of all the ways our local sites and scenes are transforming, nothing has signaled growth more than the newly installed light rail transit system. On the first day of service, we boarded at Uptown Square. As the train ran behind subdivisions on Parkside, we felt we were in a bigger city because of the sense of cutting through—peering over tall grass into backyards and industrial sites. Riding back towards Fairview Park Mall, we also considered the disparity of service to other neighborhoods in need, justified frustrations with the placement and accessibility of stops, and the local businesses that closed due to construction. For instance, Traynor-Vanier, a youth-rich and multicultural neighbourhood, lost pedestrian access to basic amenities for several months during construction. While it is true that the billions invested along the LRT corridor will encourage density in our urban core and prevent sprawl into the countryside, it also increases the risk of displacement and gentrification. Affordable housing is disappearing and social services are being elbowed out of the downtown core. How will we coordinate the needs and wants of community members with businesses and institutions? How much will we accommodate tech-driven lifestyles? Will there be justice for the poor?
In the midst of rapid change, we want to uplift and empower people who are historically and culturally marginalized. Textile’s mission is to do this through sharing stories. In this issue, themed In Transit, you’ll find a diversity of forms and stories that unfold through Kitchener-Waterloo. The power of transit, seems inextricable from individual growth, as explored by the bus-faring protagonists of Ariya Mamun and Emily Arnott. Similarly, Aaron Francis reveals how he (fictitiously) figured out how to move through the system formerly known as Kitchener Transit. Memory, individual and collective, transports us: from pleasant to painful, poetry from Zainab Mahdi, Zain Bandali, Nitica Sakharwade, Nur Al-Mouna, Hiba El Miari, Shama Saleh, Eve Nyandwi, and Taylor Small explore the relationships, both tender and trying, that occur in transit. Often, we find ourselves occupied with travels that never take place, such as in the reflections of Meseret Abebe and Connor Chin-Quee. Further, we are transported to places and scenes that we could never imagine, such as in the poetry of Shams Aldouha Alsayer. Finally, we are called to action by Janice Jo Lee, who asks us to more radically reimagine our future home. Throughout, we are accompanied by the artwork of various students from Conan Stark’s art class at Cameron Heights Collegiate Institute. Alumnus Jo Spiegl, as well as Yasmeen Arafeh, provides many thoughtful illustrations directly in response to the themes presented. All of these folks have a connection to Kitchener-Waterloo, a reminder of the breadth and depth around us.
Perhaps you’ll appreciate this depth next time you stroll down the Iron Horse or Spur Line trails, or ride the new ION. We imagine strangers mingling on our trains and buses. The interactions between residents will reveal points of view influenced by race, class, generation, gender and geography. These conversations across boundaries can be mundane, humorous, illuminating, or traumatizing—in any case, they are inevitable. So, what kind of interactions do we want to facilitate?
How can we listen with hope and grace, allowing for forgiveness while committing to critical reflection and accountability? We hope that by reflecting on these differences, and highlighting a plurality of local voices not given such platforms, we can build a better informed community and a more equitable reality in the cities we call home.