BONNIE AGNEW
An excerpt from Lee Lakeman’s presentation at Bonnie’s memorial on October 2, 1998.
“On Monday evening August 17th, we lost Bonnie from life, our lives and from the struggle for the lives of others. Her past work goes on to give us comfort from the storm, to give us pleaures in the struggle and to give us power. The Vancouver Rape Relief crisis line and shelter, the BC alliance between feminist houses and the newsletter she generated, Newsletter of the Alliance of Feminist Transition Houses, the association of sexual assault centres across the country, the already planned moments of alliance with the women in India, Russia, Japan, Indonesia, Nepal are all the real and lasting essence of Bonnie.
She is present in the well-being of so many young men and women carefully encouraged by her. She offered life’s most precious lessons and she worked to pass the word. She was at her best talking about “taking oneself seriously,” about “mutual aid,” about “the means conditioning the ends.” She taught against sexist violence, against pornography and prostitution. She loathed poverty and more importantly she taught others to loathe the wealth that necessitated poverty.
She celebrated difference and individuality and collective cooperation. She rejected notions of mass education and mass organizing and clung to her understanding of feminist collectives. She hated white supremacy, elitism, and racism. She instructed us all to consider it a matter of personal responsibility to keep oneself able and willing to struggle for the common good.
She was often kind and sweet and good-humoured and always she was hard-working, thorough and thoughtful. Her friends and allies all know that Bonnie did have a certain short fuse. She didn’t suffer fools easily. She worked hard to convince people of her ideas. And she worked hard to understand the ideas of the dispossessed. Even she didn’t think her every idea should be upheld without challenge. But she certainly didn’t allow her ideas to be dismissed.
“I have great respect for Bonnie” some say, “even if I did not agree with some of her ideas”. They must be too young to remember her setting up a cell in the coffee room at a prison conference at Harrison Hotsprings. We were with Betsy Wood and Gay Hoon, the women accused of aiding a prison riot. Bonnie planned to disrupt and disturb and she did. It upset even our collective considerably.
I guess they didn’t hear her interrupt the Attorney General repeatedly to call the chief of police a liar about services to women. And I guess they never saw her get between the cops and the Aboriginal women who had occupied the DIA offices and were being hauled to jail through the back alley of the courthouse.
I suppose they never saw her heckle a right wing speaker. And obviously they weren’t present when she gathered a group of us to invade a criminology class at SFU where a professor was promoting nonsense. Probably they didn’t see her that Sunday morning outside Jimmy Pattison’s Christian Church, yelling at him about selling pornography.
And I guess they are not counting when she marched with Aboriginal women into the driveways of Shaunessey to scream about stolen children.
They forgot how with the others she occupied the cathedral downtown with the street prostitutes. And they never noticed when she snatched a young prostitute off the street to escape a violent pimp.
Those who speak of liking Bonnie but not her politics are lying. If you removed her political music from her music case, her political messages from her writing and speech or the political art from her house there was nothing left. If you eliminated those friends that she loved for their political convictions and practices there would be no friends. If you eliminated lovers who did not enhance her politics there would have been no lovers. She loved her bicycle in the countryside and beautiful design and children’s unbridled laughter too but all these were a part of her politics. Those who will speak of her at proper, as sexually modest, as of course heterosexual, as a nice girl, as a moderate, as reasonable, have no knowledge of Bonnie.
We would correctly refer to her as an unwed mother, a woman who abandoned her child, a woman whose child was taken by the state, an adulteress, a woman who dared to love who had no respect for the rule of law, a law breaker, a smuggler of illicit political books, a welfare recipient, a welfare cheat, a conspirator who helped women sneak their babies across borders, a partisan advocate, a lobbyist, a radical, a revolutionary, a feminist.
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