KMHS/ Team Cobra Update VII: In Which I Accidentally Write a Eulogy

Here are my thoughts on our project this week, in no particular order:

1. As Liz pointed out: Where did our lovely map disappear to? I had thought I would add some locations today  but it seems to be missing.

2. Woah! We have class this week, no class next week, and the following week our project is due to KMHS. That feels so soon. I’m not ready give up our darling. I think a team meeting or two, outside of class, in the next few weeks will be in order to get her in shipshape. (Are websites treated as female the way ships and countries are? Is there even a precedent?)

3. I have done one revision of my text but I haven’t sent it to Liz (to put in Word format since Pages doesn’t seem to upload footnotes) or put it online yet. Second revision is happening tonight, then to the internet it goes.

4. Kensington in the news! Liz just posted a recent article about Kensington which addresses the pressure of big businesses and corporations trying to come in to Kensington Market and rising rent threatening to drive small businesses out. Just last week, in line at the grocery store, I overheard a young woman talking to the cashier about what a shame and outrage it is that Loblaws is looking to move into Kensington Market. People are talking.

I’m a bit torn here. On one hand, I am the kind of person who recoils at the words “corporation” and “chain” instinctually. I’m also emotionally attached to my experience of Kensington Market: wayward and bohemian, colourful (in just about every sense of the word), and a bit rough at the edges. On the other hand, I can’t ignore that we have studied Kensington Market as a story of change and of shifting demographics. Surely there was some sadness and nostalgia at the disintegration of the Denison estate, the exit of first the Anglo population then the Jews and so forth, as the population of Kensington changed. Surely Kensington of today is a far cry from what those who can remember of the original Jewish Market. As cities grow, the demographics of neighbourhoods change. Despite its heritage as a poorer neighbourhood and home to immigrants, Kensington can’t escape its location at the heart of modern Toronto. Downtown Toronto is just too expensive to be a haven for Toronto’s poorer or immigrant populations. Accordingly, gentrification is, in a sense, inevitable.

I find it noteworthy that, in the article, Ossie Pavao, Kensington “native” and owner of Casa Acoreana café shrugs at the rent hikes, saying “If I was a businessman and the time came, I would probably do the same.” There is, I think, a notion that with age comes an attachment to the past and a resistance to change. We see this abundantly in stereotypes about new technology, even in attitudes about racism. However, I think this maybe slightly off mark. It seems to me that much of the resistance to change comes from us: this younger inter-generation torn between the past of our grandparents and the future of our children.

When I became interested in family history, it was my grandmother who was quick to caution me: you are not defined by your history, don’t let it steer your course. Whenever she gave us things, be they heirlooms and or just items with a certain history, she was always clear: don’t keep this only because of sentimental value. These things don’t need to be preserved, only keep them if you want them. When my grandmother sold her home, built by our family in 1908, last summer, my whole family – her children and grandchildren – was heartbroken. It was my grandmother, the oldest generation, who was, in a sense, the least sentimental about it. For her, the house had served its purpose; our memories of how it was would last forever but circumstances, and our family, had changed and these were changes we should embrace. I struggle a bit with this notion that change is inevitable and involves letting go of the past and I think that history often cultivates nostalgia, but I can’t ignore the wisdom of her position. And so I feel about these potential changes to Kensington Market: resistant, yet not convinced that my resistance is warranted.

(And, this reads sort of like an eulogy for Kensington Market. Sorry guys.)

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