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.