Jul. 11, 2012 - Issue #873: The Big Cover-Up
Telling a story
Edmonton, you're beautiful. If we were ever in doubt, the past week has jogged our collective memory, the one that gets wiped with blowing snow over a frozen wasteland for eight months out of the year. But that's all over. For now we have long nights where the sun never completely sets, heat that fails to dissipate over a 24-hour period, and a river valley where it's easy to forget we're in a city at all. Despite this, there seems to be a bit of an identity crisis going on in this city.
More than the conversations over our "world-class" credentials and huge public expenditures on large buildings in our downtown core, this conversation seems to reveal not our over-estimation of what this city is, but a seeming inability to define what this city is.
Over 2000 entries were received by Northlands in the "Name Your Fair" contest, and whether it is a decided lack of imagination on the part of citizens, or on the part of the individual who did the final selection, names like, "EdFest" (which is already taken by another festival) "The Edmonton Exhibition" and "Edmonton Summer Exhibition" reveal a rather bland view of our city, or perhaps this particular festival.
But that Northlands contest's results came just weeks after the disappointing naming suggestions for the former airport lands, with suggestions such as "Central Park," "Crossroads," and the bizarre "Sol'Town," it seems to point to a larger problem of mistaken identity.
The most repeated complaint about the airport lands naming is the lack of history found in many of the suggestions. Many comments pointed to the obvious omission of using Blatchford Field, after Edmonton mayor Kenneth Blatchford who developed the lands. As blogger and Edmonton activist Zoe Todd points out, Edmonton's history begins before the first white developers, so why do we call it Rossdale Flats when historically it is Pehonan, Cree for "gathering place?"
Names call attention to our history and begin to tell the story of how it came to be our own. In giving preference to the bland, or in the case of the suggested "Central Park," the borrowed, it fails to recognize this city's own diversity and our own story.
Perhaps the most frightening part of writing a story is not knowing where the narrative will take you. The desire to be someone else's city conveys a safety in knowing what someone else is, but we can only become Edmonton if we are unafraid of recognizing our past, welcoming of our diversity and uplifting to the underground communities that make this city worth living in. V
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