A brave warrior fell today…
A life taken by her own hands
For why we will not know.

Skill, Drive, and Smart…

An active activist,
A pusher of progression for progress.

I stop to reflect
On my own dialect,
My own rederic.

A world filled with people
Stronger, faster, and more fit.

Resisting an urge to be weak,
To seek the status of lie-s.
Just – to – get – by.

“We are strong & not meek.”
They cry to passers by.
Rhetoric told to tame our minds.

But my world is different and full.

We need more courage
To stand up to this mirage
Of instant strength…
Of instant strength.

It’s okay to be weak.
To discuss fears & shed tears.
Of Shame and Sorrow.

The breadth of my voice
Speaks gallons of emotions
Gallons of reflections.

My arms open to embrace,
The emotions you face.

To be there…
Solid like a tree – determined to absorb – and transform.
To not mask
These therapeutic tears of growth and trajectory
To something new and less blue.

Advertisements

uploadThe news came to me a week ago that someone I had known in Montreal had died – taken her life in an abrupt moment.

I question all of this in my mind. This womyn was positive, an activist, deep thinker, adventurous and really seemed to have so much going for her.

Her close friends, foreign friends, distant friends are all left wondering why? To most there wasn’t any signs that indicated that she was struggling.

But it really begs the point for me. Is there a stereotypical type of person that defines suicidal? No. Not really.

Read the rest of this entry »

The sea

Full of emotions
Moments of anger, stillness, soothing, and caressing…
Emotions.

It’s heard so many truths,
Felt so many things,
A keeper of keep sakes,
Never to be revealed to anyone but itself.

Headlands creating great divide…
Between the fury and force
Of the sea and source.

Exposing moments of intensity,
Exposing moments of beauty.

I open my heart
To this memory, this land, this place.


On a recent trip to the Hastings county I wanted to reduce the emissions of the trip (3 hours west of Ottawa) from Montreal – so I posted an ad on Craigslist rideshare.

The day of the ride I waited for an hour to meet up with the four people who agreed to ride with me – none of which showed up.Needless to say I was a bit disheartened, and felt that perhaps I should have just hitch hiked, ridden my bike, or  taking the train out to Ottawa rather than renting a car for this trip.

At the last minute I was contacted by a guy who needed a lift. I’m thinking this is awesome because at least someone will be coming along. In talking with Ray I found out that he was an artist recently based in Montreal – his forum was graffiti-based art. Although not into graffiti since his youth, Ray was exploring his work on canvasses primarily.

At some point my bladder was about to burst – and clearly it’s hard to drive and pee out the window… so I stopped at a gas station. When I got back Ray was listening to his iPod while he waited for me. Ironically, from this point forward Ray continued to listen to his iPod while I drove (read: the remaining 2 hours of the trip). Suddenly, I became a glorified chaffuer for a Montreal-based artist – “Would you like some tea and crumpets with your drive sir?”

Questioning our society

It’s this kind of behaviour that really makes me think about where we are heading with society. Sure it’s not an expectation that we would talk the entire ride, but isn’t there some basic polite principles that can be expected? Am I insane for feeling that this is really anti-social behaviour?

It makes me wonder how we got to this point? Where common norms and respectful behaviour to people has been lost. It’s this attitude of “it’s all for me” or “the world’s an oyster [i’m taking it]” that really makes me sad. Often I see youth driving around with their parents in the same situation as I was in. It appears as though there is no discussion between parent and child and those bright white earphones are hanging from their ears. A bubble is made.

Frankly, if I were an adult in that situation I’d rather listen to the same music as my child then create a situation like that. Tragically, I never told this guy how I felt when he left. He tossed me $15 American dollars and left the car. I felt a bit used.

Does it mean that I’m a jadded-no-longer-interested car pooler? No, it means that we need to work harder at continuing to build back our society from being so individualistic. I think it’s one thing to love and care for yourself and another to really ignore what’s going around you unless it means something to you. Life isn’t here to serve us we are here to interact with it.

Yes take care of yourself, nuture yourself, love yourself, but nuture people around you too. Destroy the bubbles and get to know people around you – build community.

I’m proud to say that I work in a really supportive cooperative organisation that empowers other organisations to mobilise their causes online through web technologies. It’s pretty amazing work to be doing right now and a big switch-up from doing workshops to youth in the past.

A recent alarm was raised by a close friend and co-worker about our organisation being an oppressive space, which has caused a massive  debate about the validity of this complaint. Our organisation sees itself as being very  ‘progressive’  and it was clear that it’s members felt a sting from this comment…

Systemic Oppression in the Workplace

I’ve talked a lot with other people outside of our collective about oppression in the workplace. I’m shocked to hear about how frequently this still happens in companies. It is also heart breaking to hear from people who don’t fight back against this societal norm of oppression.

Why are we accepting to be treated in sexist, racist, homophobic, dominant, and diminishing ways?

I suppose we have to look at the fact that society doesn’t really raise us up to fight for what we feel is important. It’s also a case of power in some situations where we could be fired (as I have been) for calling out overtly oppressive situations.

We still have a stigma towards really addressing issues face on when people raise alarms. We tend to just shut them up rather than listen and make changes. In turn, it means that people who do speak out about things aren’t guaranteed any results and it could make the situation worse…

Solidarity + Safe spaces = Positive Future

In some ways the debate of who is responsible for what or whether a place is oppressive or not has become a major issue at my work. It really raised some alarm bells for me in terms of how we are dealing with these issues.

This is simple and clearcut to me.

We need to stop trying to find justification for people’s complaints and openly talk about their concerns. Full stop.

If someone doesn’t feel a space is safe, inhibits oppression, or has a complaint then ask them if they are okay and how they feel it could be changed. This is a means of support rather than further oppression (through justification). Honestly, it doesn’t matter whether you agree or not, because in order to collectively work together we need to consider everyone’s boundaries when working/living/loving together in spaces. It’s just that easy.

On top of all of this I think as a main framework implementing systems to provide ways to report issues, create safety, and work on what needs changing is essential. We aren’t going to empower those within our organisations, our lives, our hearts without providing a space for them to speak up / speak out.

Showing Respect

This comes from not requiring other parties to really defend the validity of our complaints or concerns. It means…

  • Listening and trying to understand the complaint
  • Being aware
  • Thinking about the complaint and how we could make it safer for that person
  • Being humble
  • Discussing issues that you don’t understand (Note: This doesn’t conjure up ideas of getitng them to defend or provide examples)

Spending our energy on finding solutions rather than fighting a battle is way more productive and probably could solve most of the worlds problems. So this is a good reminder for me to just open my heart and listen.

Get In Line

I’m a huge believer in solidarity. I think the only way to really stop oppression is to raise flags when we see this being exhibited anywhere. Being an ally rather than passive simply means that we making it pretty clear to those around us that this is unacceptable. If we don’t show solidarity in banning together on these issues then we have less of a chance of really removing this from our patriotic system.

For society to progress we need to realise that lots of these things are difficult to unpack and unlearn. But with some heart, humanity, and humbness we can more so much closer to what we ideally want. With some concrete education on respect, love, and anti-oppression we move towards a society that respects itself and others. A society open to criticism, feedback, and shifting away from the history that we so tightly hold onto.

For me – well – I’m just going to keep striving to continue to listen, respect, learn, and grow in an anti-oppressive way.

 

Being part of the pack-down crew at Peats Ridge music festival has a lot more work involved then one would imagine. A lot more than I had imagined.
The idea behind this New Years festival is to be sustainable while providing art, music, and workshops. As they’re website states, “a major part of the Peats Ridge experience is finding out how to live more sustainably, and therefore reduce our impact on the beautiful Glenworth Valley, and the planet as a whole.”
One way in which this is achieved is by composting all the food waste – minus meat – in massive built up compost bins created by yours truly. During the day we separated the paper material like cups, plates, and cutlery from the food waste that were all deposited into the compost bins. The paper material is then shredded (including waste boxes laying around the festival) and is used as a layer between the compost. It’s a great way to ensure that a mix of green and browns is evenly distributed to the compost. It’s also an amazing way to divert such a large quantity of food waste that is left around after 5000 people eat at a festival. Go team compost!
Some festivals take on the approach of providing plastic plates which can be obtained by putting down a $10 deposit (way beyond the actual cost of the plate) and then after you finish eating your grub you return it – for a $10 refund – to be washed and reused. A rad solution to reducing waste and reducing emissions to create paper products.It’s something that a festival like Peats Ridge might consider to help reduce their extended carbon imprint.
I think it would be a hard balance
Later in the day we were asked to go help out at a massive dumpster behind the vendors tents whom had long packed up their things and left. We were asked to go through and sort out the organic material to be used in the compost.
Did they expect that vendors at the festival would act in such disconnected fashion to the festival? What lye before us was a massive mound of corn, 10 KG bag of uncooked beans, uncooked Turkish bread, a box of Ginger, and heaps more. Around the campsites there were mounds of waste generated from teh 3-day festival by attendies.
I believe that festivals like this have a shining opportunity to educate businesses and attendies on concepts around sustainability. Someone mentioned handing out a pamplet to attendies that come to educate them about not polluting waterways, taking their rubbish, and tips and facts about other things they waste.

For a moment consider the following classic scenario.

A womyn is working at a work place and her male manager begins to making explicit derogatory comments towards his fellow employee (read: comments ranging from sexuality, having sex, or competency – choose your own adventure). Most often followed by physical gestures towards this individual (read: winking, pinching, touching, etc.)

There are laws in place to indicate that the manager is at fault, because in this way his actions are creating a dynamic that is oppressing this womyn in the workplace. Tragically this type of situation is still happening and encouraging inequality.

Forms of Oppression

These days forms of oppression can happen in many different facets be it verbal, physical, or even mental abuse (in the form of non-verbal).

Mental abuse is actually a harder action to trace back to its origin mainly because the action itself is displayed through non-verbal actions (walking away, disregarding peoples thoughts, ignoring, not attempting to solve conflict, etc). Understandably, statistics indicate that mental abuse is the hardest form of abuse to prove. In contrast, physical and verbal forms of abuse are far more tangible and present.

Society still struggles with recognising that this is a true form of abuse. What’s interesting is that in the example above there are actually two forms of abuse happening. The manager making a sexual comment to his employee and then winking is indicative of both verbal and non-verbal abuse.

Resolving Oppression

At the base of this all it’s really important to stop any form of oppression or abuse.

  • Tell people – It’s important to tell people around you what is happening to bring more awareness to the actions.
  • Talk to the abuser – Not always the easiest option. Sometimes impossible (sometimes it’s easier to just leave I know). But realising that it’s not going to change that person if you don’t talk to them about what is going on for you. Using a facilitator can be helpful to ensure that no further abuse takes place.

Enter stage left… (Solidarity is the key)

The concept of solidarity is to create a pact of common responsibilities and interests around issues.

  • A pact – Creating a pact with other people who could be affected in this situation too (coworkers, friends, etc)
  • Solidarity – Collectively demand an end to the action
  • Actions – Taking actions like work-to-rule, striking, collectively resigning, or demanding the resignation or leaving.

What’s interesting is that it’s not about taking one persons side, but more about trying to balance the table. Demanding that an action does take place. If the person being oppressed has taken action and the oppressor has not recipricated the power is still in their hands. The crux of the problem.

We are all human and do make mistakes, but we need to be responsible for our actions in life. Intentions are great but actions are stronger. Actions have brought this world to what it is today whether we agree with it or not.

(Thanks Sarah for your awesome insight in this)

Pika’s are more than funny little creatures that live all through the winter – even during harsh temperatures – in the Rocky Mountains in Canada.

These animals are also at threat from rising temperatures due to global climate change.

“The American pika is a small mammal that inhabits fields fringed by suitable vegetation in alpine and subalpine mountain areas extending south from central British Columbia and Alberta into the Rocky Mountains of New Mexico and the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California.  The historical range of the species includes California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico.

A key characteristic of the American pika is its temperature sensitivity; death can occur after brief exposures to ambient temperatures greater than 77.9 °F,” according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service petitioned the U.S. government to add the Pika’s to the endangered species list. This would mean that the Pika would be added to the growing list of endangered species.

Tannis Bill, local Calgarian (and my creative Mom), has recently written a book about Pika’s and their lifestyles. Tannis had “often thought that “some day” [she] would find time to write a children’s book as [she] loved reading to [her] classes.” This engaging, interesting, and informative Grade 1-2 children’s book provides an intersting look into the lives of Pika’s. Closeup photos and a interesting story that ties everything together makes the reader feel like a Pika themselves.

Read the rest of this entry »

[It’s been ages since I’ve written on my blog but I’m back for good]

As Christmas approaches the overwhelming amount of spending in malls, shops, and other places around Canada will start to increase. Consumerism and good marketing has lead us to believe that Christmas consists of a Christmas tree, decorations, and gifts under the tree. It sounds really beautiful but elements of it aren’t as pretty as we’d like to think…

Rich and Poor

There is a massive division between the rich and poor in our country. As Christmas and good advertising ramps up it only further divides these people further. Parents of poorer families want to provide the same level of ‘giving’ to their children as the other families around them. But if you are working a job that pays $6 – $10 / hr and you are barely affording to pay your rent, electricity and food it would be pretty impossible to provide that much more.

Gifts gifts gifts

One of the bigger issues that I struggle with on a regular basis is where the ‘stuff’ that I buy comes from. Were the products manufactured in a safe, healthy, fair-waged environment? Or was is produced using sweatshop labour so that I could save $5 more? To me this principal in itself breaks the original concept of Christmas (from it’s Christian roots) about helping poor people that have nothing. In this case the gifts we are giving actually perpetuate some of this oppression.

Free yourself

This year my family and I are exchanging gifts that are all hand-made – nothing purchased. One thing that makes me feel exciting about this is that it fuels my ability to encourage creativity, newness, and give something that I put a lot of love and attention into. For someone that I really care about. The sky is the limit with the kinds of things that you could make!

Growing Movement

There is a growing movement of people who are really focussing on bringing back the power of the consumer by participating in events like Buy Nothing Day or Buy Nothing Christmas. People are becoming more and more passionate about the choices they have when it comes to buying things. Not to mention the fact that ultimately it’s a choice rather than an obligation as most advertisers would have you feel.

For me it’s also important not to be judgemental of others exchanging gifts as that ultimately is other peoples choice to make. But for me I want to have more control over the choices I’m making in my life – rather than being influenced by a corporation.

So get out there and start making some creative gifts!

“If we view society as a physical organism, there are clearly parts of this organism that are in dire neglect. For to leave one’s own, here and elsewhere, without shelter, without food, without love… is not very hygienic.

Without downplaying the seriousness of the H1N1 threat to many, we have to realize the disproportionate media coverage and financial investment thrown at fighting a potential pandemic, compared to that directed at the eradication of a flagrant problem which is killing thousands of people each day through hunger, insalubrity, violence, and so on. Not to mention the paranoia and fear which form the face of such coverage. Not very hygienic…” – Etat d’urgance

Every year an urban village was created in downtown area of Montreal to provide an eclectic space for homeless people of Montreal to receive support through food, free clothing, warm shelter, music, arts, and other programming.

My shift started at 7 AM in the morning on Sunday, November 29th – the last day of the festival – after 450 volunteers had managed to help pull off the entire shift by working around the clock to support the people at the village.

Throughout the entire week chefs came from various restaurants to prepare amazing food for the people living in the village. One mornings breakfast included salmon, oysters, eggs, croissants, and fruit. A feast for the kings and queens of the street.

To help out I carried most of the food being prepared by the chefs into the serving area, as well as refilling the coffee machines when they ran out. The entire experience was humbling – to realise that on a regular basis there are people on the street that don’t have the safe luxuries that I do. That most of the time don’t get to choose what they can and can’t eat. It was humbling to realise that after refilling the coffee machine 6-7 times we had essentially served probably over 600-700 people.

The chef that I worked with had an amazing story about having come from a war torn country. Seeing and experiencing threats of this magnitude changes a person I expect. For the last two years he has been contributing to this village through his amazing cooking abilities. He had gotten up at 2 AM in the morning to start preparing the trays of potatoes and sausages to be served. If that wasn’t impressive enough he had been cracking eggs to fill two gallon buckets for the meal.That’s serious dedication towards providing something as beautiful as food for people in need.

On a side note it was also really exciting to see ATSA’s mandate to lower their ecological footprint by recycling and composting all of the waste that was generated. Helping the people and helping the environment – that’s the kinda world that I want to live in.