Building a mosaic of experiences and the people behind them, BIPOC Stories Project is meant to capture the variety of human actions of resilience, and the depth of personal experiences. Capturing their pasts, presents, and futures, the BIPOC Stories Project is representative of an eagerness to listen, to improve our community, and to emphasize the rich diversity currently growing in our city. Sharing the beauty of an individual perspective, the BIPOC stories project aims to uplift and empower BIPOC voices, sharing their unique experiences with the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement. This project hopes to spread awareness about these distinct experiences, leaving the interviewee and reader alike feeling uplifted and heard.
Meet Winluck: Bringing different perspectives from all over Canada, Winluck describes his unique experiences with COVID in different areas of Canada. Recently deciding to make Saint John his home, Winluck describes what it’s like to settle in Saint John and become a part of the community. Covering his experiences with the pandemic, mental health, isolation, and anti-Asian hate, Winluck is a beacon of positivity, and a testament to growth and self-actualization. Winluck has found a community in Saint John, detailing how he found a sense of belonging during his brief time here. He has found a sense of healing since coming to New Brunswick, detailing how his mental and physical health improved drastically as he settled in his new home. “It was almost as if a veil was lifted and I recovered quite quickly” Winluck states, “It was almost a confirmation that it was a good move to leave where I was before”.
As the conversation turned to COVID, Winluck shared his experiences with isolation, describing what it was like to isolate in different environments. Rather, Winluck found that social media was the most isolating aspect of quarantining.
“During this whole time, I would go on social media, and there would be lots of messages saying “it’s so great to have a group of friends that I can communicate with. Then there’s me, scrolling through all of these messages from people that I used to call friends who reached out to me to check in on how I was doing. I don’t know why, but that compounding effect made me feel even more weighed down by the isolation”
Winluck calls for those feeling isolated to reach out to others, having found solace in taking the first steps towards rekindling old connections and friendships. “I realized that the cycle was going to continue unless I took the first steps and try to reach out, no matter how awkward it would be, even though it had been years since I’ve talked to these people. It did help me over that period of depression. …. It made me, in a way, feel like less of a victim of loneliness”
Winluck shares his experiences with anti-Asian hate in Canada, emphasizing how Canada has much to do before it can be considered anti-racist. We talked about the rise in anti-Asian hate sparked by COVID, and how he has been affected by the pandemic as an Asian Canadian. Winluck directs the conversation to his time in Montreal, detailing how the wave of Asian hate began rising very early during the pandemic. “There were physical attacks on Asians in Montreal Chinatown, and Chinatown was vandalized over and over every night. It was tough because I felt helpless and couldn’t really do anything that counted” he says when explaining why he felt he needed to leave Montreal. He expresses feeling angry that Canada had betrayed its image of progression and acceptance when it’s citizens needed it most. “…you’re wondering if this is the Canada that I was born in and raised in? Has it always been there, this aspect? Did it just suddenly happen? It makes you wonder as to what we feel for our Canadian identity.”
Winluck found that his feelings of anger and helplessness were perpetuated further by COVID restrictions. Because of quarantine, there were little to no opportunities for those in the Asian community to find support, to help those affected by discrimmination, and to advocate for justice for those impacted. Describing his personal experiences with anti-Asian hate, Winluck details a racist encounter in a grocery store in Montreal:
“It was near the beginning of the pandemic, and I was in a grocery store going down the aisle. At that time, public health measures didn’t mandate masks indoors. I was already wearing a mask going into the grocery store. There was a lady in the aisle, and she was perfectly fine with other passersby who were near her, she didn’t react to them or anything. But when she saw me coming, she very openly grabbed her scarf and covered her face, obviously because of the way I look. At the time, I wanted to say something, but at the moment, I was just so shocked that I didn’t react. That’s true of most of the victims of these incidents. We hear about it in the news, but we don’t imagine it happening to ourselves, and when it does happen, the shock is just so extreme that we don’t even know how to react in the moment. We don’t end up taking that moment to either take a stand for ourselves, or at least to react in a way that makes that person reflect a little bit more about what those reactions caused. After that incident, I just stopped going out and it was really disappointing to see all of that, and see in the news and on social media as well. It was really heartbreaking. It’s in times of crisis that you really see the true face of a lot of people”
Winluck found that “as soon as the pandemic hit, suddenly the social pressure, or social taboo of being racist, [was] suddenly ok”. He finds that the pandemic created a perfect storm for the already mounting racist tensions stoked by politicians to be unleashed. In his descriptions about his experiences with racism due to the pandemic, Winluck notes a backwards shift in societal progression in Canada, arguing that the effects of the pandemic have taken our country back decades in terms of anti-racist progress. Winluck calls for others to put in the work to advocate for anti-racism, believing that sharing stories about what the BIPOC community goes through is a good place to start.