Reena Virk, a 14 year old South Asian girl living in British Columbia, Canada was murdered in a racist attack by schoolmates in 1997. Today, November 14 2013, makes it 16 years that Reena was killed. This poem is written by Toronto poet and activist Gitanjali Lena in honour or Reena Virk. May she always be remembered.
Trigger Warning: the poem below deals with different forms of violence.
By Gitanjali Lena
Pounced upon by paleness
Set upon by mean girls of mixed races
And a boy for good measure
Who circled you like a titanium bangle
And kicked pleasure out of you
Gorged on your body
One November night in Saanich
Cracking bones burning bindi holes in your brown skin
Trampolining on your back until you were broken
You weren’t pristine
Your swagger spirit already soaked in spit, shame and
Too intimate touches from daddy
Fueled by mickey courage maybe you fooled around with someone at a party
How dare you? Lafungi besharam
You weren’t a delicate flower
With your broad Punjabi nose and masculine jaw
But “ugly” girls need protection too
Was the moon your only witness?
The stars your silent back up crew?
You needed us like brass knuckles, uppercuts and hugs for when you crumble
Standing at your memorial
I wished I could have stood by you in real time
Scattering daddy and Ellard into shards
We’d be that kindred sister posse that the coloured girls longed for
Post-mortem – details of the past rising to the surface like bubbles in bottle of Fanta
Denial of the community pushes back
Because to tear off scabs exposes raw flesh
And no one wants to be vulnerable in this land
Gitanjali Lena is a mother, activist, poet, lawyer, an all around awesome person with good politics and a heart for community.
See Gitanjali read her poem Who Was Reena Virk? here.
To learn more about the Reena Virk murder and the court case that followed please click on the appropriate links below:
Remembering Reena Virk video roundtable
Review of Reena Virk: Critical Perspectives On A Canadian Murder
Interview with Mythili Rajiva, co-editor of Reena Virk: Critical Perspectives On A Canadian Murder
I remember that day. Thanks for recalling her.
Reena was a lesson to teach in many households; before the social media we still had to alert and remind our children to not only be kind; but for me was a perfect time to teach about silent witnesses still being guilty.
If only we all had courage to report what we see and sense is going on, even as children, we can save a life! We remember you Reena, even if we only read about you and still felt shame for our pride in saying, “We are not racists in Canada”; we woke up and saw our truth in the mirror (too late for you) but maybe your death saved others; that’s our hope.
Thanks so much for sharing. I had not heard of this case prior to reading this…It truly is horrible and brought me to tears…I especially enjoyed the discussion had in the round table. I had Tara Atluri as a prof several years ago, and she is an incredibly brilliant woman. May Reena Virk never be forgotten and may the racism that contributed to her death be acknowledged, and the racism that continues in this country to never be ignored, or overlooked…may we all do our best, everyday, to stop this kind of brutality. Thanks again.