At the rally for the one-year anniversary of the beginning of the tent city on Maple Ridge’s Cliff Avenue, Tracy was upset because fewer former residents of the tent city had turned up than she had hoped. For an outsider it was obvious why. The rally was beset from the beginning by anti-homeless bigots that Tracy calls Ridgeilantes, a shorthand for Maple-Ridge-vigilantes. They were mostly angry White men who dressed like bikers and raged about their “taxpayer rights.”
Speaking to a smattering of reporters before a group of supporters holding signs, Mama Bear explained that she, Pitt Bull, and Tracy set up their tents to start the camp because it was the last place she had seen her husband before he died. Bylaw officers had stolen the cross she had put up for him so the three of them made a camp together to protect each other and to guard a new memorial site. And then Tracy read her new poem, which appealed to the Ridgeilantes standing across the street to try feeling compassion for homeless people as human beings. She was feeling deflated and read her poem sitting on the street beneath the banner that read “Homes Not Hate.” Later, sitting in the shade of a nearby park to debrief the rally and plan next steps, Mama Bear put her arm around Tracy and said, “I’m going to support you. You supported me when it counted, and I’m going to support you now.”
It is not possible to write a profile of Tracy Scott without centring her relationship with her community. It is not possible to sit with Tracy anywhere outside in Maple Ridge and hold a steady focused discussion because she is constantly interrupted by people coming to ask her something, or to bring her a grape soda. It is not possible to separate her opinion from the thoughts and feelings of those around her because when they get near she calls them over to join an ad-hoc meeting, to share what they think and what they need.
Tracy is a Cree woman who credits her toughness to growing up around Commercial Drive in East Vancouver in the 1980s. It is her poet’s sensibility that allows her to talk about Ridgeilantes and bylaw officers as “bullies” while remembering high school bullies at Van Tech. Her poetry was what gave collective voice to the Cliff Avenue Tent City as she synthesized the feelings and frustrations of those around her into camp statements in rhyming metre. “It’s the elders, the older generation that pushes me to stay out front,” she said, sitting in front of her building in early May. One of those elders interjected to say, “We needed someone! We need you!” And it is this community that is continuing to fight for its survival, with Tracy proudly on its front line.