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Views From Here (Guest Blog Series): A Space To Belong

Published on November 30, 2022

Views from Here is a youth guest blog series featuring voices from youth from our COM-Unity partner organizations. In the series, English-speaking youth share what it means to them to find— and sometimes struggle for— a sense of belonging in Quebec.


A Space to Belong

by Matthew Mullone

Photo by Matthew Mullone (Maza the Artist) 



The need for belonging is a hard idea to conceptualize. To fulfill the void of not belonging, we found places and spaces that are inline with our values. I will use my own personal perspective and experience of moving to Quebec and living in Montreal. My understanding of belonging comes from juxtaposing both the idea of the usage of space and what it means to be The Other. The concept of the Other is being different then the state of the social norms of the society, community or group of individuals in a space. When I am talking about space, I am speaking of how we find connection to spaces/environments around us. Public spaces are instruments that are used to connect communities. Is it through spaces like restaurants, cafés, parks etc, where we can find a sense of who we are, while creating an idea of The Other.  

I have recently relocated to Montreal, for the purpose of finding a community. I have always had trouble finding my place living in Canada. I was made to believe that the metropolis of Montreal was the place of community. When I lived in Tofino, BC,  I met a number of Quebecois that introduced me to the idea of Montreal as a vibrant community based city, intriguing me to move to the city.  After living here for over a year and now out of the initial shock of being in a new environment.I have been able to sit with my experiences over the last year. I soon found out how deep rooted prejudice and racism are in this province. Since arriving, there have been many ups and downs trying to find my place in this society, especially being a Black man from the United States. I have been fortunate enough to experience a variety of places in Montreal. Some give me a sense of community, peace and have allowed me to form a bit of a bond to the city. That being said, there are only a select few places in the city where I feel accepted.

Unfortunately, more typically what happens is that I am ignored and/or not met with a response that allows me to let my guard down and form a relationship with the space that I am in. There have been moments where I have walked into stores or restaurants and waited patiently for help, only to be overlooked and not met with warmth that allows me to feel invited.  I don't always think it is a  race issue, but the fact that I have an anglo accent when I speak French intersects with notions of my melanated skin, and has hindered my sense of  feeling socially connected. 

The systematic control of the government is heavily felt in the province, especially in Montreal, with its ideas of language protection and white French cultural preservation. Tensions between English and French seem to be everlasting. Further, the Premier does not try to alleviate? tensions but rather makes them worse by making comments on who are the appropriate immigrants that should be accepted into the province. 

Through my nomadism I have been able to find my place in this society.  I have been lucky enough to have the ability to adapt and seek out other individuals who have a similar vision or path as me. My perseverance has allowed me to find a place of belonging in the underbelly of mainstream society. There are spaces in the city of Montreal that cater to the core values and ideas of community building and creating relationships. Places like Turbo Haus and Cafe Osomo Marusan have opened the doors for me and allowed me to be involved in the society. Habitually this welcoming that I have encountered comes from other immigrants in similar situations to mine.

A sense of belonging is a crucial part of the recipe for us to have love for the place we live. This concept of belonging to the Quebec/Montreal society is not just a black and white issue and there are intersectional variables at play here when it comes to finding your place. The process of belonging is just that, a process, and we all take different approaches and have different understandings of what that means to us as individuals. I have been lucky enough to find footing along with other immigrants and like minded individuals here in the city of Montreal.  The underbelly of Montreal has allowed me to feel connected through many spaces and subcultured communities in the city. Still, the hegemonic and ruling class has let me know that I am The Other and I don't belong unless it is with the submission of who I am individually and culturally.  



Guest Author Bio:

Matthew Mullone, also known as Maza the Artist, is is an academic and musician who uses his craft to push for societal positive changes. Graduating with a degree in Anthropology and now a recent candidate for a Masters in education, he uses these lenses to get to the crux of community problems, and to look for concrete solutions. 

Maza the Artist (website).