Indigenous youth using memes and hashtags As resistance

Ronnie Dean Harris, 34, woke up on Oct.18, made a meme in support of the Mi’kmaq anti-fracking blockade and the missing women’s inquiry, then went back to sleep.  A few hours later, Harris signed into Facebook, and saw that his meme had been shared thousands of times.

Glen Coulthard, a Political Science and First Nations Studies professor at UBC, said that it is important for Indigenous youth to practice forms of resistance so they can preserve the land and Indigenous cultures for future generations.

Indigenous youth are using social media to show their politics to both their supporters and non-supporters.  However as Harris explained, his work didn’t come from a place of activism, it came from being Indigenous.

Harris explained his activism through memes as ‘political humourism’.  He said that pairing humour with First Nations issues is a very powerful way of familiarizing people to social issues.

“With me, it’s more about raising awareness and challenging people to educate themselves on what’s going on” said the Vancouver-based, multimedia artist.

Social media is allowing young Indigenous peoples to have control over their own activism.  This control means that they don’t have to rely on the media to shed light on their social issues.

In fact, IdleNoMore, a series of internationally spread, Indigenous protests, had many followers on Twitter before the media even began covering the protests.  This is thanks to organizers and the hashtag, #IdleNoMore.

Social Media as a Community Builder

Jerilynn Webster, a 29-year-old IdleNoMore organizer and hip-hop artist, said that she is bringing Indigenous politics into new spaces, and social media is one them.

Social media creates fast communication and community building.  On Oct.18, Vancouver, IdleNoMore organizers used Facebook to bring hundreds of people together for a protest in support of the Mi’kmaq peoples in New Brunswick.  This process took a mere 24 hours.

“Social media has […] opened the dialogue to the issues on a really truthful and authentic level and [it has] brought us together” said Webster.

In contrast, Coultard was slightly critical of the virtual relationships that are built through social media.  He said that people often replace real-life relationships between communities with social media relationships.

However, Coulthard explained that, if Indigenous peoples can use social media as a tool, rather than a replacement for relationships, it could be an effective tool for resistance.

In addition, Twitter and Facebook also teach non-Indigenous people about First Nations issues.

IdleNoMore is using social media to improve the relationship between Indigenous peoples and the rest of Canada.  Through online communication, Webster hopes that IdleNoMore’s efforts will show Canada that the movement is for the benefit of everyone.

“It’s not a First Nations issue, it’s a human issue” said Webster.

A Peaceful Resistance

Coulthard said that Indigenous resistance is often mischaracterized as violent.  Social media is a peaceful outlet where Indigenous youth can express their activism through words and images.  This challenges the assumed relationship between violence and protesting.

On Oct.17, First Nations peoples in New Brunswick gathered to protest fracking. Coulthard said that “the police threw everything that they had at an encampment that was, for the most part, a peaceful, civil disobedience.”

Harris said that the resolutions to many Indigenous issues would not be found through Molotov cocktails.

He hopes that this new movement of social media activism will shed light on the social issues first, which will allow for healing afterwards.

Watches wont stop world hunger

Michael Kors has teamed up with  #WatchHungerStop campaign is a nice idea.  The designer has partnered up with the United Nations World Food Programme to raise money in hopes of feeding 5,000,000 families.

The campaign is in part helping families in the Philippines affected by Typhoon Haiya, which is great!  In addition, #WatchHungerStop is feeding many other families throughout Africa, South America, and Asia.

But what about local hunger?  In North America, 162,672,000 children are living in food insecure homes.  The #WatchHungerStop campaign, however, has completely overlooked child hunger in its own backyard.

This process is creating an inherent hierarchy between the those who live above the equator, and those who live below it.  Because it is only helping starving children in certain parts of the world, the campaign implies that the children in those countries need to be rescued by the white hero.  This is a concept that has fuelled colonialism throughout history.

In addition to forgetting the local, starving children, the campaign gives privileged people the idea that they are making a difference.  This campaign gives accessory lovers the chance to say they help world hunger, when in actuality, they are likely completely disconnected from what is actual happening, and are not aware of the systemic issues of world hunger.

Let’s face it, they were probably going to buy a Michael Kors watch anyway.  Getting to tell their friends that they’re helping starving children is just an added bonus.

One of the #WatchHungerStop watches costs nearly $300.00, but only $25.00 of that goes to feeding families in need.  This means that Michael Kors is profiting from about 88% of the sales of the #WatchHungerStop watch.

The #WatchHungerStop campaign isn’t going to stop hunger worldwide.  The goal of the program is to feed 5,000,000 families.  Unfortunately, this goal doesn’t even come close to feeding the 15.9 million children in the United States or the or the 53.1 million people in Mexico who live in food insecure households.  In addition, both the United States and Mexico are both countries that have been overlooked by the campaign.  

So no, #WatchHungerStop wont actually stop world hunger.  It will feed some children though.

But, by only feeding people in certain, so called third world countries, is the campaign implying that those are the only starving children?  Or are children in those countries more worthy of so-called first world help than those children living in the parts of North America, Europe, Asian, Australia, etc that were neglected by the campaign?

If Michael Kors’ #WatchHungerStop campaign is actually going to make a solid contribution to stopping world hunger, then it must rethink about what the definition of the world is.

While it will give 5,000,000 meals to hungry families, Micharl Kors’ project has forgotten about the many hungry children in his own back yard.  Even though it is helping some children get a few meals, the #StopWorldHunger campaign is a bandaid solution to a hugely systemic issue that isn’t going to be fixed by a fashion designer and his loyal, privileged fashionistas who want to buy a fancy watch.

Community helps Eastside Boxing Club rise from the ashes

Fighters train for the annual Aprons for Gloves fundraiser at the Eastside Boxing Club before the fire.

Fighters train for the annual Aprons for Gloves fundraiser at the Eastside Boxing Club before the fire. Photo: Eastside Boxing Club

A popular community boxing club on Vancouver’s east side is optimistic it will re-open by the end of November despite a devastating fire, thanks to the support of local businesses.

LuluLemon Lab, REMAX, CAMRA Vancouver, various clubs and restaurants, and a restoration company have all supported Eastside Boxing Club after the fire on Nov. 2 that destroyed its equipment.

The nonprofit volunteer club for at-risk youth and women didn’t have insurance, so they’re depending on Vancouver citizens and businesses to make up for the loss.

So far, sponsors have donated over $3,500, and some people have given pieces of equipment, such as punching bags, to the gym.

“We are really relying on the city to help us out and so far [it] has been really overwhelming”, said Anna Farrant, a coach at the club.

Personal impact

Eastside Boxing Club coaches, Jordan Bowers and Anna Farrant at fundraiser at The Bottleneck on Nov.10.

Eastside Boxing Club coaches Jordan Bowers and Anna Farrant at The Bottleneck fundraiser on Nov.10.

The club opened six months ago with the help of a fundraising program called Aprons for Gloves run by service-industry professionals.

Two boxing competitions had brought in $270,000 since 2012, which gave the Eastside Boxing Club the means to open its doors in April of this year.

The fire at the Woodland Smokehouse below the gym on Commercial Drive damaged an estimated $20,000 worth of equipment, and left the facility uninhabitable.

More than 100 people, including 30 youth, used the gym.

Shaylen Washburn, the two-time champion of Aprons for Gloves, was one of the members affected by the fire.

“The Eastside Boxing Club really meant a lot to me personally,” said Washburn, who grew up in the same neighbourhood as the boxing club.

“I was one of those troubled youth that I see coming into the gym now.”

Washburn expressed disbelief when she heard that the gym had caught fire. “All that stuff that we worked really hard for and people […] donated, it’s all gone.”

Reaching out

The Eastside Boxing Club has been spending the past few weeks fundraising, building awareness and reaching out to people in the community.

CAMRA, an annual Aprons for Gloves sponsor, donated $250 to the gym’s fire fund.

To do its part, REMAX is hosting a happy hour at their Main Street office on Nov. 29 and donating all of the proceeds from the door and bar to Eastside Boxing Club.

Community tweets support for boxing club

Fundraising activities

A showing of the 2013 Restaurant Rumble, the fundraiser that Aprons for Gloves organizes, was done at The Bottleneck on Nov. 10.  Cover was by donation and $1 from every beer went to the boxing club.

Successful fundraiser at The Bottleneck on Nov.10.

The Bottleneck hosted a successful fundraiser for the Eastside Boxing Club.

Lululemon Lab supported the club by posting a photo to promote the fundraiser at The Bottleneck on Instagram.

Despite the recent setback, the Eastside Boxing Club is not willing to go down without a fight.

The club’s members are doing their best to keep the momentum going and to not let the fire put a damper on their training.

“We meet outside the gym now on days that we would normally train and we train on the streets” said Washburn.

Thanks to the community’s generosity and support after the fire, the club has high hopes to have a temporary facility by the end of the month.

(This article was previously posted at thethunderbird.ca on November 20, 2013).

Action Over Indolence

Though my soul may set in darkness,

it will rise in perfect light.

I have loved the stars too fondly

to be fearful of the night.

(excerpt from Sarah Willams’ “The Old Astronomer to His Pupil”)

Shelley Fralic’s article advises women that they shouldn’t go out at night because “the night has always belonged to the diabolical and demonic, to the Jack the Rippers and Willie Picktons, to the blackguards and predators, to those for whom evil is their human nature.”

What would be your response, if you learned that 60% per cent of sexual assaults occur in a private home? (D. Kinnon, “Report on Sexual Assault in Canada,” Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women, Ottawa, 1981).

Furthermore, I reference a recent sexual assault, when I argue that sexual violence is not an exclusively nighttime affair.  This recent assault occurred at 5:30 p.m..

So, Shelley Fralic, when you say that you “learned to avoid the dark corners of the world”, you’re suggesting that women should learn the same complicated lesson??  Thanks, for the advice…

Contrary to popular belief, the recent sexual assault at UBC are not about lessons that young women should learn about their personal safety and the dangers of going outside.  Like Fralic, women know that going outside at night could be dangerous.

Instead, the recent sexual assaults shed light on the lack of preventative justice within the Canadian Justice System, which is a lesson that authorities need to learn and an issue that needs to be fixed.

Fralic refers to her own realization, while simultaneously giving the vintage advice:

“I learned that, sadly, there are no safe streets, and there never have been and that, after all these years and all those Take Back The Night marches, evil never goes away and that it’s up to me, as much as anyone else, to do everything I can to avoid becoming a victim”.

This isn’t anything new, nor is it helpful.  It’s not a matter of realizing that the world is an unsafe place, and then simply accepting it.  To quote Celia Haig-Brown, “people rarely comply fully and easily to the introduction of oppression”, and the oppression within this ever-going advice, that women should stay inside at night, is no exception.

So yes, Fralic, police forces, and all of those other wise individuals who assume that staying inside will equate to the demise of sexual violence against women, you are right to say that the “dark corners of the world” are unsafe.  However, what separates the active from the idle, the oppressed from the liberated, the passive from the active, is resistance, and not sitting back and letting injustices happen to half of the world’s population.

End rant.

Review: Bonita Lawrence and Indigenous Identity.

Bonita Lawrence’s explanation of identity is one that is very important to me.  I identify as a non-status Métis, and I have been struggling with my family to retrace back to my roots.  My papa (my mother’s father) is Métis, but he will not admit this.  As a child, my papa’s mother dropped him off at, what he recalls to be an orphanage, when he was about seven years old.  After listening to his stories, doing my own research on Indigenous identity, and comparing these to my papa’s rejection of his Métis identity, I am very certain that my family is a representation of colonial success.  At present, my family identifies as French-Canadian and Scottish, and Lawrence’s work continually explains to me that his is because of the government’s regulation of identities.

Lawrence’s discussion about the colonial legislation’s regulation of and control over First Nations’ identities connects to that of trans identities.  Lawrence notes that, “the numbered treaties were thus crucial to the project of forcibly identifying and segregating ‘halfbreeds’ from ‘Indians,’ regardless of how individuals saw themselves.” (Pg. 11)  In addition, Lawrence says that Indigenous peoples were often classified by colonial legislation, taking identity out of the individual’s hands.  This is similar to the regulation and control over trans people.  One cannot fill out a government document without checking off one of the ‘male’ or ‘female’ boxes.  Again, for another demographic of marginalized people, the legislation is regulating other people’s identities.

Although Lawrence does an impressive job at discussing the regulation of Indigenous identities, she definitely missed the mark in some areas.  It is troubling that Residential Schools, the massively misunderstood and often unknown pieces of Indigenous history, are not brought up in the article.  Lawrence claims that, “identity is […] about how history is interpreted and negotiated, and about who has the authority to determine a group’s identity or authenticity.” (Lawrence pg. 4)  This claim is interesting because it is exactly what she is doing when she misses such pivotal events in First Nations’ histories.  Residential Schools, which were absolutely centered around the regulation of Indigenous identities, get zero attention in this piece, which shows Lawrence’s authority, whether conscious or not, over how histories are discussed in this piece.

Given the focus on gender inequality and the time in which the work was written, one would think that a discussion of the Missing Women’s case would be a significant topic of interest.  However, aside from noting the “unimaginable levels of violence, which includes, […] sexist oppression” (pg. 5), Lawrence barely touches upon violence against women, let alone missing Aboriginal women and girls in Canada.  Neglecting a discourse on violence against women in a piece that aims to discuss the intersections between race and gender, does a serious disservice to First Nations women.  I’m not sure whether or not it would be worse if Lawrence consciously chose not to discuss violence against women in a more in depth manner, or if she overlooked it.  It is possible that Lawrence chose not to discuss violence against women in an attempt to focus purely on the regulation of First Nations identity.  However, I would argue that violence against women is in fact a form of regulating Indigenous identities.

Bonita Lawrence, “Gender, Race, and the Regulation of Native Identity in Canada and the United States: An Overview”, Hypatia, Vol. 18, No. 2, Spring 2003: 3-31

I Thought I Hated Babies…

Babies…
Just the thought of them used to make my uterus want to shoot up further into my body, like a jellyfish, squirm up my esophagus, tickle my uvula, and splatter itself across the ground in front of me. On July 27th, 2013, my thoughts about infants lightened when I met the most beautiful soul to grace my life: Milo Cooper Cayden Hall.

Baby, Life, Beauty, new parents, first baby, cute, precious.This precious bundle was made by two people who are very dear to my heart.

Both parents are people who I can’t remember not knowing.  The mother is my best friend, but a best friend that goes beyond the ties of friendship. We can be away from each other for months and months on end, but when we reunite, it is as though we were never apart. This is why I think of her as a sister.

Growing up, I remember Alyssa and I pondering about what we would name our children. I don’t remember my own options, probably because they were super mainstream and boring.  Alyssa’s options, however, were definitely memorable.

“I want to name my kid ‘Cabbage’!” the little weirdo said.

Baby, Life, Beauty, new parents, first baby, cute, precious.Although ‘Cabbage’ original (to put my opinions lightly), I certainly think ‘Milo’ is a much cuter option!

Like Alyssa, the father is someone who also brightened up my yesteryear. My memories of James are nothing but fun, happiness, and good times. Both Alyssa and James have colourful personalities, and happy, golden faces, which is why I am not surprised that they have made such a beautiful child.

They’re cute, and so is their kid.

Don’t get me mistaken, my internal clock is not ticking by any means. In fact, my internal clock continues to be a stopwatch, and the “start” button is broken indefinitely.

I am pleasantly surprised that although I, a young woman who is about to begin her Masters degree in Journalism, with a focus on feminism, have spent plenty of hours researching motherhood and births, meeting little baby Milo has taught me a lesson that my $40,000 student loan could never teach me:
Baby, Life, Beauty, new parents, first baby, cute, precious.Although he could not speak, as I gazed into his pondering eyes, Milo sent a lightening bolt of realization down my spine.  I am only now beginning to recognize the fluidity of life, and this guidance has put disorder into my, otherwise, structured livelihood.  My lovestruck mind, brimming with thoughts I had never thought, and my heart, full of emotions I had never felt, could only pull the words,

“He has perfect ears!”

Baby, Life, Beauty, new parents, first baby, cute, precious.together.  I remember when my dad complimented me on my ears, and it was the nicest thing he had ever said to me.  I never understood why that was the praise he chose to give me, until now.

When a child holds your heart in his or her little fingies, to you, they are the embodiment of utopia. Every piece of them is equally as beautiful, which makes it difficult to muster up the words that can appropriately express your emotions.

Milo made me understand the true beauty of life.

Baby, Life, Beauty, new parents, first baby, cute, precious.Seeing Milo, a perfect blend of both his mommy and daddy’s features, creates a pleasant confusion in my mind. To my surprise, this confusion is absolutely bearable because it’s not something to be understood, it’s something to be felt and embraced. Life, and all its unpredictability, has a erratic way of creating happiness, and it is this spontaneity that builds the most precious occurrences that life has to offer us.

And that, my friends, is the beauty of life.

Baby, Life, Beauty, new parents, first baby, cute, precious.It’s science! I know, I know, humans make other humans, which seems simple, right? But when you pair emotions with science, you can be left in a baffled awe, and you are nothing but content.

Summer 2013: Memories, The Cabin, and The Fam

camping, summer, 2013, tulameenAhhhhhh! Sigh of relief! Finally, I’m in complete solitude!

My Mecca, my home away from home, the beautiful abode that holds hundreds of moments from my childhood: 2630 Strathcona Ave.

Driving up and down the winding roads, through Princeton, a left at the bridge, a quick meander through Coalmont, past the shoetree, Tulameen is just around the bend. As a child, I remember the drive being so long, constantly asking, “Are we there yet?” in between Alanis Morissette songs on a mixed tape. I liked this tape because my dad would let me sing all the words, even “chicken shit”, which was a big deal for a six year old.

As an adult, these roads don’t seem long at all; in fact, they give me just enough time to ponder about the past and become excited about my current visit. I pass the hockey rink, where my dad and aunty played as children, and where my sister and I have done the same. I pass the general store, where I recall my sister and I buying a plethora of sour peaches, licorice, and ice cream, after spending our afternoon selling “Magical Blend”, a mixture of lemonade and iced tea, to passersby. After a quick right, then a left, I pull onto the cabin’s grasses.

camping, summer, 2013, tulameenIt’s nothing fancy, and it’s not a lake house; it’s a cabin, a real life cabin, in which my grandpa built, with the help of some friends, in the mid 20th century. It’s like nibbling on a delicious treat that your grandmother baked, and comparing it to a cookie from Costco. Everything tastes better when a grandparent made it, and my love for the cabin is no different. I think I’m so partial to this place because it is a representation of my family: The Quinney’s, The Campbell’s, and the Desautel’s.

It’s curious how a space, especially a shared space, can be a perfect mirror of the personalities that inhabit it. Although my grandpa passed away when I was only two years old, I can imagine who he was by combining the stories I’ve been told, who my father is, and who my aunty is. I know that my grandpa and I share a common experience: the drunk tank. Although I am not proud of going to the drunk tank, I can look back and laugh because this shows me that Fred Quinney (my grandpa) knew how to have a good time, but could get a little carried away, and these are characteristics I see in my father, my sister, myself, and even my aunty.

Even though my dad can have a bit of a temper, he is also very helpful, and fairly carefree. My father’s personality connects to my auntie’s in this way because she too is very helpful, but she is much better in the communication department. Contrasting to my dad, my aunty is structured, pays close attention to detail, and doesn’t put up with anyone’s shit. Although I don’t remember much about my grandmother either, judging by various stories, I can only assume that my aunty’s headstrong, detailed and structured traits come from my grandmother (The Campbell side). As for my father, he certainly did not pick up on the same Campbell traits as my aunty; in fact, I believe that he rebelled against them, which gives him a more carefree attitude.

camping, summer, 2013, tulameenMy sister and I are two very different individuals. My sister is very much like my dad, and I’ve always been told that I am a lot like my aunty. Although he would like to claim otherwise, my dad is a softy. He is compassionate and loving, but often shows these traits through jokes. Similarly to my dad, my sister is also very compassionate and loving. Both my sister and my dad would help out anyone who needs it, although my dad might curse a bit prior to doing so. I, like my aunty, am compassionate, headstrong, and stubborn at times, which brings all of my family’s traits into a full circle. My dad, my aunty, my sister, and I are all a family-sized salad; we have a similar base, but we all add in new, exciting aspects, which together create contrast, harmony, and variety.

Alone in the cabin, left with my thoughts and my kitty, I look around and remember the lovely memories within these walls. The table reminds me of the Thanksgiving my mom, dad, sister and I spent up here. The oven was old, and the turkey didn’t cook, but the first thing about that weekend that comes to mind is drinking hot chocolate and playing an old trivia game that was probably from the 60’s. I remember being shocked at learning that the person who invented the toilet was named Thomas Crapper.

The old, orange couch reminds me of mornings of fuzzy cartoons that came in and out as my dad repositioned the rabbit ears on the old television, the scent of bacon, and the sounds of laughter.

camping, summer, 2013, tulameenAs we got older, the front door was our get away. But that damn door was so squeaky! Fortunately, my dad snored so loud that my mom had to wear earplugs, which made sneaking out a breeze. Which brings me to the memory of being taken home in a police car. My best friend and I were out past our curfew, which prompted the adults to send the cops out looking for us. Other than being out a little late, we weren’t doing anything wrong, but I can still remember the ocean of guilt that flooded my veins as I pulled into the lawn in the back of a police cruiser. I was in big, big trouble. For years after that, however, my dad and his friends would make fun of my friend and me for what happened. My dad is always quick to forgive, and quick to make jokes.

Since my dad and aunty were kids, until recently, there was an infamous bread box. My mom had accidently left a loft of bread in this bread box one summer, and when we returned the next summer, my mom opened the tin box, and the bread was still just as fresh as it was the day she left it there. At the time, we all thought this was amazing, now, I wonder whether it was the insane preservative overdose in the bread, or some kind of anonymous chemical in the metal bread box.

camping, summer, 2013, tulameenAlthough I don’t remember my grandparents very well, I can imagine who they are through who my dad, aunty, sister and I have all become, and I see a little bit of every family member throughout different aspects of the cabin. The personification of a space turns a wooden shelter, equipped with couches, a stove, some beds and a water pump, into a home that provides warmth, full tummies, rest, and appreciation of the past. This cabin may not look rich, but if memories were monetary, these wooden walls would be Persian Princes.