Single Moms Chilling Park
Happy Mother’s Day! This installation is a love letter to single moms, poor moms, teen moms, east van moms, queer moms and trans and non-binary parents whose labour is so often ignored and disrespected.
It also joins a conversation started in 2018 by Andrea Finlay and Cynthia Brooke of Queer Spacing Collective when they installed the “Dyke Chilling Park” sign at what is otherwise known as Grandview Park – the terminus of the Vancouver Dyke March on Commercial Drive. Their work followed the renaming of Dude Chilling Park in Mount Pleasant (initiated by artist Viktor Briestensky’s sign installation named for a reclining figure sculpture in that park).
Then for the 2019 Dyke March, Cynthia worked with Ifetayo Alabi and an ad hoc group of trans folks (who wish to remain anonymous) to install a “Trans Chilling Park” sign in the same spot – particularly urgent at a time when anti-trans lesbians were spreading hateful messages at the dyke march.
The 3rd iteration I installed on Mother’s Day speaks to the park’s history as a gathering place for low-income, single moms.
In the early 1990s I was a queer teen mom, recently moved from the suburbs to East Van. I knew I needed to be with other dykes and activists and I got that in spades. But I also landed in a neighbourhood full of cool, single moms and resources to help us and our kids thrive. I even met a few other queer moms – a big deal in 1992, not like now when you can’t walk down the Drive without tripping over queer spawn and their moms.
In 1992 I spent my first East Van Mother’s Day in Grandview Park at a Single Moms Festival organized by the Vancouver Status of Women. Though it wasn’t explicitly a queer event, it was run by lesbians, and it meant the world to me that dykes were acknowledging my existence and labour as a mother.
In the years that followed my son and I spent countless hours in and around Grandview, attending festivals like La Quena Fiesta, Rock Against Prisons, Stonewall, and marching to and from it for International Lesbian Week, in support of my trans friends and, later, to protest the 2010 Olympics. We’d go to programs at Eastside Family Place and Britannia Community Centre and often end up in Grandview where Andrew could play on the enormous playground that ran the length of the park. There weren’t many other places in town I could hang with my kid and check out cute dykes.
I know that my addition to the conversation does not capture the full story of this park. These namings are not mutually exclusive nor are they always inclusive.
And “Grandview” Park is in a neighbourhood with a large urban Indigenous community and all of it is on unceded Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh territory. Also, many users of the park are unhoused, in stark contrast to the increasingly affluent families – many of them queer – using the renovated playground at the other end of the park. And even though I know there are still many low-income families who use the park (thanks in part to a large number of housing co-ops, social housing and Indigenous housing in the area), in some ways the park functions as a snapshot of increasing inequality in this neighbourhood.
But gentrification can’t erase all the layers of history in this park and this community – layers of resilience and resistance. I’m proud to call this neighbourhood home.
Thank you to Sarah Leavitt for the installation help and to all the artists and activists who installed the Dyke Chilling and Trans Chilling signs and allowed me to barge into this conversation!