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This story is part of the Black on the Prairies project, a collection of articles, personal essays, images and more, exploring the past, present and future of Black life in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Enter the Black on the Prairies project here.
Abushaka, now 21, sits on the bench at the outdoor skating rink in southwest High River where he taught himself how to skate. From the bench, Abushaka can see his childhood home and the windows his dad would peer out to keep an eye on him.
I remember seeing my dad watching me. He was like, 'Hey, get back up, keep going. I kind of just imagined myself on the ice and just imagined how my body would move. Pretty quickly I started to pick it up.
Like many Canadian kids, Abushaka played hockey throughout his childhood. Those years played a pivotal role in Okotoksalberta 4 good looking guy life. Ya sure, I might look different. I might come from a different country, but I was still able to keep up with them and build a bond with them too. Abushaka was born in Egypt and his parents are originally from Sudan. They immigrated to Canada and moved to High River when he was around five years old.
When he started hockey he was the only Black player on the ice. Being the only Black kid playing hockey against a bunch of kids that haven't been around Black people, they'd say some stuff," said Abushaka. He recalls driving home with his dad after a hockey game and telling his father that another player had called him the N-word. He said his dad warned him that people will say things and he shouldn't be shocked.
It bothered Abushaka, but he loved playing hockey and his main focus was to keep getting better. No one tried to harass me or nothing like that. We didn't really know the concept of race," said Abushaka. Through the years he continued to excel athletically in everything from hockey to track and field. In Grade 6, Abushaka was a strong track runner.
On that day in Okotoks, he was confident he would win the metre race. Then he noticed another Black runner, David Bowers, also lining up to compete. I look over. I see David. This man just drove past me. I came in third," Abushaka said. Abushaka and Bowers didn't become friends until high school, when a mutual friend introduced them. Bowers, now 20, said their connection was instant, even though they lived in different towns. So meeting Bap[tist] … I felt it was well needed. To not be all alone in a Okotoksalberta 4 good looking guy town," Bowers said.
Abushaka's family came to Canada when he was a baby. His parents fled war in Sudan and were forced north to Cairo, Egypt, where Abushaka was born. His parents immigrated to Canada shortly after that, settling in Calgary where they had the support of the city's strong Sudanese community. But after Abushaka's father got a job at the Cargill Foods meat packing plant just outside of High River, the family relocated to the southern Alberta town. I didn't have lots of money.
I was probably one of the poorest kids in elementary school at times. I remember seeing my parents just bust their asses every hour of the day," said Abushaka. His parents' sacrifices helped Abushaka and his two siblings fit in through sport and gave them a chance at a better future. His father and mother are originally from Dominica, a small Caribbean island just south of Guadeloupe.
They immigrated to Toronto, where Bowers was born. When work became scarce his father moved out west. Actually when he started out he was homeless Okotoksalberta 4 good looking guy a little bit," said Bowers. His family came to Calgary first, then eventually settled in Okotoks, where housing prices were more affordable. Like Abushaka, Bowers was the only Black student for most of his school years.
While he didn't understand racism when he was younger, the negative experiences weighed on him as he grew older. The two have now been friends for five years. Bowers has always looked up to Abushaka as an older brother and guide. Bap has been a huge role model to me. I'm not really an open person. I hate talking about my emotions, being vulnerable in front of people," Abushaka said. Abushaka still lives in High River and Bowers in Okotoks. They get together when they can, but pandemic restrictions have made their visits less frequent.
In the future, Abushaka sees himself elsewhere. His sights are set on Okotoksalberta 4 good looking guy Calgary or Toronto. He said when he's with friends in the city, he can truly be himself. Belonging to a group that I can call mine. I have amazing friends here, they're great guys, but I never really fully belonged," Abushaka said. Being from Toronto, Bowers understands and supports his friend's desire to move to a bigger city. He said he faces struggles he wouldn't in a big city, even for simple things like getting a haircut.
Like I have to call Bap and be like 'yo Bap want to come up 45 minutes to the northwest so we can get a haircut? Bowers remembers his aunt taking him to get a haircut in Toronto when he visited for Christmas in Like it's just a different vibe," Bowers said. Bowers said he's tempted to go back to Toronto, but that things are changing in Okotoks and Calgary, and he's hopeful. Abushaka said no matter where his future takes him, he will take parts of Prairie life with him.
Despite facing some racism, he said he also saw moments of acceptance and Okotoksalberta 4 good looking guy. Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.
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