First Photos: Queen Elizabeth Park, Vancouver
August 26, 2020
This contribution from Zahra Ebrahim is part of Park People’s A Day at the Park series, exploring how city parks shape us. Be sure to check out all of the contributors throughout the summer months.
I have few photos of our first years in Canada.
We moved from Nairobi to Vancouver when I was eight months old. It was a time of transition for my parents, both of them in their twenties, carrying dreams and two kids under 3 – trying to figure out how their new life might support both.
Back in Kenya, my grandparents had owned a film and camera shop, which meant that every family moment, every family minute really, was documented. In this new reality of ours, where time and resources were scarce, the taking and developing of photos didn’t happen at the same pace – but I did notice recently, that the precious few photos I do have are always in public parks.
Like so many immigrant families, parks were our backyards. Our weekends were filled with their barbecues, jungle gyms, gathering places. It’s where we met friends and the first place we took extended family members who had just landed in town. We were always in the park. This photo, taken in Queen Elizabeth Park – a sprawling, lush, urban park in downtown Vancouver – is one of the first photos my parents took and developed, and every time I see it, I feel such deep joy.
Mostly because the contentment seen on my face is the exact same as it is today when I’m in a park. I know that it was the consistency with which we made public spaces an extension of our home that shaped the sense of belonging I feel today, and instilled in me a sense of responsibility for public space. Growing up, parks were all possibilities: spaces for play, togetherness, reflection, celebration, and creativity. If you see me in a park today, I don’t look much different than I do in this picture – barefoot in the grass and smiling.
Parks remain an essential service for so many individuals and families now. The risks to public health that have us encircling the jungle gyms in caution tape are understandable – there are so many unknowns about the pandemic we continue to face – and yet, at the same time, it’s important that while we tell people what they cannot do, we must also encourage what they can.
The process of rebuilding from COVID-19 will need to include a strategy for leveraging the power of parks to do what they’re best at: bringing us together and holding space for all of our stories.
Cover photo credit: s.yume
About Zahra Ebrahim
Zahra Ebrahim is the co-Founder of Monumental, an organization focused on bringing justice, fairness and equity to the heart of public and private institutions across Canada. Twitter: @zahraeb
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This contribution from Zahra Ebrahim is part of Park People’s A Day at the Park series, exploring how city parks shape us. Be sure to check out all of the contributors throughout the summer months.Choose Another Park Story