Day 320: Hey, White Person

I refuse to let the politics of fear,
begin to divide the love between us.
So much has happened this past year,
I get the sway of a blank canvas.

Sometimes the choices may seem unclear,
but really what’s left of justice?
Is your view from my shoes, sincere?
Or is it easy to pretend to be blameless?

I choose to think this is a smear,
a move to spin the emotional axis,
until we believe things so severe,
that all people are only their bias.

I know you are more than fear,
and not some words that are faceless.
Because you also have a conversation to steer,
in unmasking the myth of progress.

© Manivillie Kanagasabapathy

AN: A response to these posters that have started showing up across East York part of the City of Toronto.  

Also on another note – sometimes it takes a community to write a poem:) Thank you to Janny, Jenn, Manimolie, Sandra and Wendy, for always having insight and answering my many many many questions! 



Day 289: Why Brown Lives Should Care

Let’s forget the fact that these lives lost were people, with dreams and families. Imagining future stories to be created and recollecting tales from the past.

Let’s pretend that these people didn’t just step outside to see, and to feel the air of freedom on their onyx skin. Understanding the gift that freedom is, and the ability to share their wonder with others.

Let’s argue that all the things we know about their humanity were false and that the truth of who they were, lay in past mistakes. In choices made in the circumstance that their privileged prevented.

So – ask me again why this matters?

The hierarchy of race, we were taught to care about from the time our eyes could discern the spectrum of life that was around us.  As if the brown skin was better, was (en)lightened because it glowed like maple syrup on snow in the winter, and looked like gilded sands on a Grecian beach in the summer.

A system that sells us the belief that milk baths will quench the thirst within, to belong. That the sun only shines for those who “need” color and not for those blessed with it. In this world where contrast is beautiful, and dark shadows are just the background in which alabaster figures command…

attention, freedom, focus, centre point, the right to be

Because if the only way I can talk to you is in words of colour and melanin, let me remind you that brown is made from mixing purple and yellow; blue and orange; red and green – There is no “white” in there.

You, my brother, my friend, are more closely aligned with the shadows than you are with the light. Those eyes choose to only see two tones, and though it makes them glow, those eyes will remain blinded by reflections cast by ivory statues;created by men who sought to capture all the world’s colours and only give us back two.

© Manivillie Kanagasabapathy

AN: This piece, “Why Brown Lives Should Care,” was written as a response to all my family, friends, and acquaintances that see #blacklivesmatter as a black issue and ignore the fact that it talks about systematic racism. Working in social Justice, I have held many sessions with youth and community members from the South Asian community, who will tell me that they don’t face racism because they are part of the “White” crowd, that they fit into these patriarchal and colonial structures (my more honest words) and will be seen as individuals, not by the colour of their skin. Challenging racism in racialized communities still remains one of the hardest parts of my job but I always believe, things will get better. 

Day 252: Unseen Darkness


When you tried to paint
my body in colours of
blue and purple,
my dark skin
hid your sins
from eyes trained
in the glow of
soft white light.

© Manivillie Kanagasabapathy

Day 76: Can of Worms

I wonder if it began like this
The reason we flew
“Harmless” words and names
Thrown with purposeful intent.
A belief in humanity
Our compassion to overcome
Divisive acts of terror
Cloaked in political showmanship.
Theatrical smoke and mirrors
Smoky hazes to hide empty performances
Of morality and concern
Gilded tongues of spoilt men
Mute voices of the “others”
Convincing them that they don’t matter
Their safety renounced
To reclaim the glory of a nation
“Of the people, by the people, for the people”

© Manivillie Kanagasabapathy

AN: I think it’s impossible not to be influenced by the elections in the USA right now. As one of the most powerful, if not the powerful, nation right now, every decision taken by the citizens has implications for all nation-states. Makes me remember that all dissension began with a few divisive voices.

Day 50: I Am…

I am Canadian,
When I travel the world,
Successful representations of what can be.
An ambassador of acceptance,
The embodiment of the immigrant dream.

I am Sri Lankan,
When I talk about my past,
The pearl upon which
Adam first stepped.
An exotic mix of tradition and modernity.

I am Tamil,
When I blast A.R. Rahman
From my car in Scarborough.
Move to the beat of the Earth,
Telling my stories through Bharatanatyam.

Canadian – Sri Lankan – Tamil

I am Tamil,
The Tiger that hunts on foreign soil
Determined by broad stroke of identity,
Creators​ of chaos,
Untamed children of a dying people.

I am Sri Lankan,
The other, the unwanted refugee
The people who came on ships,
To take this land,
But at least they brought Tea and curry.

I am Canadian,
A performer to sing and dance,
My culture woven into the Tapestry
Of the multi-cultural story.
A piece of the picture,
But never the whole.

I am…
Tamil – Sri Lankan – Canadian

I am
Without one identity
I am
Both the light and the dark
I am

© Manivillie Kanagasabapathy