Conversations on Racism

Challenging Injustice: A conversation with human rights activists Keiko Mary Murakami-Kitagawa and Tosh Kitagawa

April 13, Wednesday  7pm – 8:30pm

Keiko Mary Murakami-Kitagawa and Tosh Kitagawa

Keiko Mary Murakami-Kitagawa and Tosh Kitagawa have spent decades as human rights activists in the Japanese-Canadian community and beyond.

Their zoom conversation with Rumiko Kanesaka, a long-term volunteer of the Japanese Garden Society, will range through history, their own family stories, and what empowers them to emerge from personal and collective trauma as strong community members.

Mary is the older sister of well-known Salt Spring Islanders Rose and Richard Murakami, and with them endured the wartime dispossession and removal of Japanese-Canadians from the island. The generation which experienced the Uprooting of Japanese Canadians from the Coast is vanishing and an opportunity to hear their first-hand story is becoming rare.


2021 Sessions

hosted by the Japanese Garden Society
with assistance from the Salt Spring Foundation

“Conversations on Racism” is a series of free online conversations designed to explore the history of racism and colonialism on Salt Spring Island. We will hear from activists who have brought to light histories of injustice and who are challenging current manifestations of systemic racism. The first of three spring conversations will focus on stories about recovering silenced histories of Black settlers and Japanese Canadians (April), the second will be a conversation between three BIPOC activist women (May), and the third will focus on the experience of people of Asian and mixed ethnic heritage (June).

The series will continue in the fall. These conversations will support a wide understanding of racism in our community, then and now. They will offer inspiration through personal stories and experiences of the panelists, and provide examples and suggestions of how to challenge systemic racism.

This conversation series was made possible by a grant from the Salt Spring Foundation and donations from the JGS supporters. 



Where Are You Really From? Questioning the Question

June 2, Wednesday  7pm – 8:30pm

A conversation about the experience of people of Asian and mixed ethnic heritage with, Ken Lister, Lavonne Leong and Moonie Garner, moderated by Kisae Petersen.

“Where are you really from?” is a question that is familiar to many people of Asian and mixed ethnic heritage, regardless of how long they and their families have been making Canada their home. Even if innocently asked, the question can convey the assumption that you don’t really belong here.

It is a very personal question, perhaps stemming from genuine curiosity, but it is also a reflection of systemic and institutional racism in our society. For people of Asian heritage and those with mixed ethnic backgrounds, it can make them feel like perpetual foreigners.

The question could be interpreted as a ‘microaggression’, subtle, indirect or unintentional discrimination against people belonging to ‘othered’ ethnic groups by stereotyping or projecting historic biases onto those social groups.

Under the COVID pandemic, hate crimes against Asian Canadians in BC have increased by over 700% in the past year. Salt Spring is no exception.

With this as a social background, the panelists will share their stories of being who they are in the Salt Spring community and beyond, and explore the impact of this question on their sense of belonging.

Lavonne Leong

Lavonne Leong was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, and has lived in New York, the UK, and Idaho’s panhandle. She moved with her family to Salt Spring Island three years ago. Lavonne is a journalist and academic, and is working on a master’s degree in strategic foresight. She also serves on the Salt Spring Island Library board. 

Moonie Garner

Moonie Garner was born in Victoria, British Columbia as a Canadian-Korean,and raised in Tokyo, Japan. She moved to Belize in Central America to help her mother start an organic farm and also starts a tour & film co-ordinating company catering to Japanese clientele in Belize. During the pandemic,  Moonie moved back to Canada, and currently lives on Salt Spring Island on an organic farm.

Kenneth Austin Lister

Kenneth Austin Lister was born in Trinidad in 1967. His father, Leroy, born inCanada, was a Welsh/Quebecois/Meti mix and his mother, Kimchoy,  is of Chinese/Creole/Arawak origins. He moved to Edmonton at the age of 3 and has lived in B.C for 32 years now, mostly in the coast, where he makes a living as a stonemason, carpenter, and farmer. Ken’s West Indian family is made up of many different shades of folks, which is an accurate reflection of Trinidad as a whole – home to such a wide diaspora of cultures and races.

Moderator: Kisae Petersen

Kisae Petersen has lived on Salt Spring Island for 22 years and is an active community member and mother of two sons. She has ancestors from Japan, Denmark, Ireland and England who all came to Canada, seeking greater opportunity and freedom from oppression and poverty. Kisae volunteers for many local organizations and is the Executive Director of Islanders Working Against Violence. 


It Takes a Village

May 12, Wednesday 7pm – 8:30pm</a

A conversation with Sharyn Carroll and Molly Murphy
moderated by Shamana Ali

Shamana Ali will moderate a wide-reaching conversation with Sharyn Carroll and Molly Murphy about the impact of systemic and historical racism in their childhoods and as adults and parents on Salt Spring Island. They will explore how the events and movements of the past year have created internal shifts and led to a deepened activism. Sharyn and Molly will speak about their work challenging racism, including a focus on their involvement with a BIPOC committee addressing racism in the school district and the recommendations in the committee report. The panelists will share their hopes and their thoughts about how islanders can contribute to a dismantling of racist society.

Molly Murphy

Molly Murphy is a renegade builder, a flailing mother of three, and an advocate against oppression wherever she finds it. At the moment she splits her time between fighting for old growth forest and the BIPOC community on Salt Spring.

Sharyn Carroll

Sharyn Carroll is a mother, daughter, sister, auntie, feminist, educator, trained midwife, and a community organizer. She has worked on the sexual assault response for the Southern Gulf Islands and is the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator for Islanders Working Against Violence. She is a founder of the Salt Spring-based BIPOC Community Collective, which is working with SD64 to dismantle racism within the school system.

Shamana Ali

Shamana Ali is a singer, writer, and photographer, who has been a gender and race activist since the mid 1980s. In the 1990s, she became a lawyer to deepen her activism, and ultimately burned out 25 years later. The recent emergence of authentic race dialogue in mainstream conversation persuaded her to breathe into this effort again.


Bridges of Love: Unearthing Histories

April 20, Tuesday 3 – 4:30pm

A conversation with Evelyn White, Joanne Bealy, Rumiko Kanesaka and Brian Smallshaw, moderated by Maggie Ziegler

In this time of escalating racial hostility, in our immediate community and across the world, the work of bringing to light history and historical racism is critically important to making sense of the present. This conversation features two couples who, in addition to having made significant contributions in unearthing history and building bridges to the past, have chosen to do this work in relationship with each other. Evelyn White and Joanne Bealy contributed to making visible the history of the Black community here, while Rumiko Kanesaka and Brian Smallshaw have been involved for many years with projects that unearth Japanese Canadian history. “Bridges of Love” inspires with stories about learning together about the place in which you find yourself, and about how building bridges within intimacy and community enriches connections and understanding at multiple levels.

Evelyn C. White

Evelyn C. White is the author of Every Goodbye Ain’t Gone: A Photo Narrative of Black Heritage on Salt Spring Island (2009) and the acclaimed biography Alice Walker: A Life (2004). A former resident of the island, she revelled in her ballroom dancing classes with Mearnie Summers (1927-2017) who was instrumental in the creation of the Japanese Garden Society. She also learned how to swim while living on Salt Spring and especially enjoyed her seniors’ yoga class with Celeste Mallett-Jason. 

Joanne Bealy

Joanne Bealy is a writer (mostly poems, also stories), a photographer (mostly portraits, also nature), and a gardener who tries to convince her neighbourhood that it’s easy to grow food. Joanne moved from Salt Spring Island to Halifax nearly nine years ago and likes it alright.

Rumiko Kanesaka

Rumiko Kanesaka moved to Salt Spring Island from Tokyo in 1994. One of the founding members of the Japanese Garden Society, she has worked tirelessly to make public the history of Salt Spring’s Japanese Canadian community. She has organized various educational exhibits, talks and research projects about the island’s Japanese Canadian history.

Brian Smallshaw

Brian Smallshaw lived for many years in Southeast Asia and Tokyo, Japan, where he met Rumiko. He has studied and written about the history of Asian settlers in Canada. His book on the dispossession of Japanese Canadians on Saltspring Island, As If They Were the Enemy, was published in 2020. He is the grandson of white prairie settlers.

Maggie Ziegler

Maggie Ziegler, has been involved in many Salt Spring community projects and organizations over the past twenty years. She is a facilitator, educator and retired psychotherapist who has worked with individual and collective trauma for several decades.