Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Getting Animated About McCauley

Group Shot
Originally uploaded by raise my voice
From September to the end of December 2010, I was contracted by Action for Healthy Communities (AHC) as a Community Animator in McCauley. AHC is a non-profit organization that supports community development by equipping community members to develop Community Initiatives. Through this process, leadership and capacity amongst community members is developed, leading to initiatives that enhance the overall health of the community.

My role as a Community Animator included working directly with a small group of community members to develop initiatives; serve as a facilitator to connect people with resources and information; and, to foster discussions and dialogues about issues of concern.

The first month of my contract was spent mostly doing research and fact-finding, including meeting with several community members individually as well as Jane Molstad, McCauley’s Revitalization Coordinator. An email list was established as an easy way to send out announcements and gather information. As well, a Facebook page for McCauley Community Animation was created also to disseminate information and act as a discussion forum.

Early in October, myself and two other representatives from AHC met with three community members: Gary Garrison, Wendy Aasen, and Anna Bubel. The purpose of this community dialogue was to identify areas of concern for residents, discuss possible initiatives, and clarify AHC’s role in the process.

One of the first initiatives stemmed from conversations I had with Gary Garrison, who was looking to organize a coffeehouse that would connect artists, writers, poets, and musicians. The challenges were the general organization of the event and finding a suitable space. A preliminary meeting using the Boyle McCauley News office was not successful. However, after connecting community members with Revitalization as well as people involved with the Heart of the City Festival, the first McCauley Connect Coffeehouse was born.

The McCauley Connect Coffeehouse took place on December 4 at McCauley Centre (formerly McCauley School). The evening featured live music performances on a professional sound stage, beautifully decorated tables with a winter theme, and free snacks courtesy of Multicultural Health Brokers. Gary Garrison served as MC. It was a modest start of what will hopefully be more coffeehouses in the future. In fact, two more are scheduled for February 19 and March 19, with the tentative location of the school. The long-term goal is for a permanent facility for artists to mingle over coffee, have live performances, and showcase their work akin to The Carrot on Alberta Avenue.

The other initiative stems from the fact that Church Street was recently designated a historical resource by the City. What better way to celebrate than having a street dance and moveable feast/potluck along 96 Street. Colleen Chapman (BMC News' other Volunteer Coordinator) is organizing this event which is tentatively anticipated to take place in July. She already has several of the major churches on board and a DJ for the dance. If you are interested in helping out, you can contact Colleen care of the paper.

All of the Community Animators with AHC periodically met together as a group. At our final meeting, we discussed what we learned the most personally from our experience as Community Animators. I said that my knowledge was reinforced of how much capacity, ideas, and talent there is in McCauley. I also said that I did my very best to actually listen to what people were telling me and do the best I could to answer people's questions and take seriously their concerns, even if there was nothing I could immediately do about these particular issues or requests. This is the kind of respect McCauley needs from all parties who do consultations and development activities in the community, otherwise it just becomes a top-down, empty exercise.

Being a Community Animator was also a great networking opportunity for my work with Boyle McCauley News. I met Clara Gladue, another Animator in McCauley, who now writes the Aboriginal-themes column Drum Beats. I also met an Animator from the local Salvadoran community who lives in Boyle Street, who may also be interested in contributing to the paper.

My contract ended at the end of December, but obviously the initiatives and discussions that got rolling during my time as Community Animator will continue. I will still occasionally send out notices of news and events via the email list, so if you would like to get on that you can send me your email address at editor@bmcnews.org. As well, the Facebook page is going to remain online.

I want to thank everyone who took part in the animation process, whether it was providing feedback online, taking part in one of our initiatives, or just providing encouraging words.

Part Two: Seeking McCauley Balance

A dialogue with a community member raised the following questions that she felt had never been addressed as a neighbourhood. These questions were presented online and answers are being gathered and organized for information and interest. If you would like to take part, please send your responses care of the paper to editor@bmcnews.org.

McCauley needs to strive for balance, especially a balance of the things that are important to people in the area, such as less concentration of social housing, a better spread of demographics, and the improvement of safety issues.

1) What does balance in McCauley look like?

2) What would have to change in order for us to get there? It would be interesting to see the points of agreement and disagreement, and to see what the variance is depending on how long someone has lived here.

3) What is “McCauley normal” (as compared to “normal” for other areas)?

4) There needs to be indicators of positive change and a way keep track of such information. What is the current direction of change in McCauley and is it the change we want?

5) We also need to gather success stories. Can you tell a success story from your McCauley experience?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Holiday Time Again

Christmas has come and gone for another year. Like I do annually, there were a few holiday-themed events I attended.

As I was on my way to another event in McCauley, I noticed some reindeer outside of The Mustard Seed. Then, Santa appeared. Of course, I had to stop and take some photos. I wish the event had been better publicized - there really weren't that many people around.

The event I was heading to was the first Winter World Market held at McCauley Centre (the former school) and featured vendors from a variety of cultures as well as ethnic performances. The gym was quite full - again, it would have been great for more people to be there, but the first time for any event always has its challenges. Here are some photos.

Another first-time event I attended was the Bethlehem Walk, presented by West End Christian Assembly. It was an incredible performance recreation of Bethlehem in Biblical times, complete with period costumes and interactive displays. Take a look and you will see what I mean.

On our way back from the Bethlehem Walk, I made my annual visit to Candy Cane Lane. While not as shining and bright as in years past, there were a few new and original displays and most of the houses along the route put out at least some lights. Check it out.

My personal favourite Christmas event if the annual Nativity Display at West End Christian Reformed Church. Over 500 Nativity scenes from around the world are presented. I look at it like art, with so many different styles and mediums are used to communicate the birth of Jesus. Here are photos of a selection of Nativity scenes.

Finally, it was not a Christmas event as such, but just before the holidays the annual McCauley Cup took place at the skating rink in the McCauley neighbourhood. Members of the Edmonton Police play a hockey game against community members, mostly young people, and there is a hot dog roast. This is a wonderful opportunity for the police to be out and about in the community, in a very different role than usual. I made it to my first McCauley Cup this year and the game looked like a lot of fun! Here are some photos.

On a personal note, I have been spending part of the holidays doing an extensive cleanse and purge of my living space. I honestly do not remember the last time I have boxed, discarded, recycled, and vacuumed to this extent. So much for spring cleaning - I am far more productive when the lure of warm weather is not an issue.

Happy holidays!

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Rally for Public Healthcare

On December 4, around 500 people rallied at the Alberta Legislature to show their support for public healthcare. Speeches were presented from Dr. Raj Sherman and his lawyer, MP Linda Duncan, Friends of Medicare Executive Director David Eggen, and numerous other people who deplored any suggestion that Alberta's healthcare system may become two-tiered. Dr. Sherman's lawyer announced that he will be launching an investigation into the whisper/smear campaign against his client for speaking out against the problems in the healthcare system. Here are photos from the rally as well as a video of Dr. Sherman's speech.

Friday, December 03, 2010

REACH Rendezvous

Earlier this year I became a Founding Member of the REACH Edmonton Council for Safe Communities. REACH is a community-based organization that seeks to improve safety in the city including crime prevention, harm reduction, working with other organizations, and citizen engagement.

On December 1, REACH held its first annual Rendezvous event at the Sutton Place Hotel. After a short time of food and socializing, several speakers talked about the importance of REACH and its mission, including Mayor Mandel and Fred Rayner, the chair of the board. Several youths performed original hop hop compositions and the keynote speaker was Mark Anielski, who spoke about the Economy of Happiness. In a nutshell - higher income does not always correlate with higher levels of happiness.

The event was well-attended (I am guessing about 100-150 people) and consisted of members, non-members, and people from various community organizations. I would encourage anyone interested in issues of community safety to join REACH and stay connected with its opportunities and findings over the next while. REACH has not been around long but it is growing.

Here are some photos from the evening.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

George Galloway in Edmonton

After a ban on him entering Canada in 2009, British Parliamentarian George Galloway recently finished a cross-country tour. He was in Edmonton on November 25 to deliver a talk entitled "Free Palestine, Free Afghanistan, Free Speech." The lecture theatre was packed with over 600 people eager to hear his message of peace as well as an elaboration of what went down last year when he was accused of being a terrorist because he provided aid for the Palestinian people directly to Hamas, the elected government in power in Palestine.

Galloway made it very clear that anti-Semitism is evil and that the Holocaust is one of the worst atrocities in history. He also emphasized that he does not support Hamas, but believes that when you are working for peace and providing aid, you have to work directly with the government in power. He is currently suing the Canadian government for defamation.

Rather than me go on about what Galloway said, you can view the videos from the event:

Introduction (Professor Yasmeen Abu-Laban)

Music (Paula Kirman & Maria Dunn)

George Galloway: Speech

George Galloway: Q&A

As well, here are some photos.

I am a member of the Edmonton Coalition Against War & Racism (ECAWAR), one of the local organizers of the event, as well as Independent Jewish Voices, one of the national organizers. In what has been the biggest audience of my musical career thus far, I was honoured to be asked to sing a song (along with the incredible Maria Dunn) to get the evening started.

In addition, this event had a personal connection for me for other reasons. An online friend of mine in England used to write to Mr. Galloway and rave about me, even sending him some of my music. He mentioned me on his radio show twice because of her - once in response to him asking the audience to send in names of famous Canadians, and the other time as part of a list of my friend's top five women. She also put together a mashup of one of my songs with one of his speeches.

As a result, when I approached Mr. Galloway after his talk, he already knew who I was - amazing, because the events described above happened around three years ago or so. And, he must meet a lot of people. So I felt very complimented.

Finally, when Mr. Galloway was banned from Canada last year, I felt so moved, that I recorded this video blog about the situation - and took a load of abuse, which led me to film a follow-up. I am so privileged to have had the opportunity not only to hear him speak, but to take part in the event.

Boyle McCauley News: Dec.-Jan. 2010/2011

The December-January 2010/2011 issue of Boyle McCauley News is now online. This is our annual "Holidays" issue. Here is a look at what's inside:

* Church Street Awarded Plaque
* Twenty Years of Artspace Housing Co-op
* Christmas Cooking
* Grand Manor: Five Years of Support
* Homefest: About Music AND a Message
* Chanukah: Let There Be Light
* An “Enlightening” Holiday Gift!
* Cop’s Corner: ‘Tis the Season for Crime Prevention Tips
* Around the Rink
* McCauley Revitalization Update
* Letters To The Editor
* Community League Updates

Download the entire issue as a PDF here.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Rewriting a Country - Parkland Conference

I attended the Parkland Institute's annual fall conference on November 20 and 21. I unfortunately was not able to make it to the November 19 opening plenary from Margaret Atwood, but I made it to most of the other sessions which dealt with various aspects of Canadian politics and policy from a progressive perspective (sorry about the alliteration - I actually always attempt to avoid alliteration).

The theme of this year's conference was "Rewriting a Country: Toward a Just and Peaceful Canada," which explains why several of the speakers were writers. Linda McQuaig, author of numerous books about public policy, and poet George Eliott Clarke finished off the two and a half days with his witty and humorous views of politics in Alberta over the decades. One breakout session that stood out for me dealt with human rights and dissent, particularly in light of the mass arrests at the G20 in Toronto.

Here are my photos from the conference.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

God Loves Fags/Hugs Not Hate

When the Westboro Baptist Church announced on its website last week that it was going to come to Edmonton to picket outside of a production of the play The Laramie Project on November 13, the city's GLBT community and other sympathetic activists knew they could not sit quietly.

Although members of the church, which is led by Fred Phelps and mostly consists of his immediate family, never showed, the counter-protest took place anyways. It was known by two names: God Loves Fags, as a response to the church's famous picket signs that read "God Hates Fags", and the more family-friendly "Hugs Not Hate."

Around 300 people showed up. Speakers included local politicians, GLBT activists, and even an estranged child of Fred Phelps who traveled all the way to Edmonton just for the rally. The entire event was organized in less than three days. What a cohesive and strong way to show that Edmonton does not tolerate hate.

The Laramie Project is a play about the 1998 murder of gay college student Matthew Shepherd.

Here are my photos from the protest as well as a video of Fred Phelps' estranged son Nate Phelps speaking.

Churchill Square Holiday Light Up 2010

I attended the Holiday Light Up in Churchill Square yesterday. This was my second time at the event, and I was looking forward to another spectacular fireworks show. And spectacular it was, despite the event running slightly behind schedule.

Different from last year was the placement of the tree - instead of being on the square itself, it was over at the west end of the street between City Hall and Churchill. The stage was also on the street in that location. This threw me off somewhat in terms of filming the fireworks, as I expected them to start in the sky over City Hall. Instead, they were along the east side of Churchill Square, like last time.

It also seemed a bit strange to be at a Christmas event, when it is barely mid-November. People on Twitter have been commenting that it seems Edmonton gets ready for Christmas earlier and earlier each year. I haven't really noticed, but I do find Christmas music being blared in cafes and stores to be annoying no matter how close to December 25 it is.

I took a few photos and filmed the tree light up and fireworks show. Enjoy!

Homefest 2010

Homefest is an annual event presented by the Edmonton Coalition on Housing and Homelessness featuring music, poetry, art, and speakers to raise funds for and awareness of homelessness and housing issues. This year's event featured a fun and interactive children's area with storytelling, crafts, and clowns, as well as panels speaking about the experiences of homelessness from a variety of perspectives.

This year's art exhibit was expanded and included visual art (particularly photography, paintings, and mixed-media) that dealt with different aspects of housing issues. Photos from the late Leonard Martial were there (he was homeless and documented the streets), work from inner city youths and adults, and even a few of my pieces that were featured in Edmonton's Food Bank's Expressions of Hunger earlier this year.

As for music, a number of Edmonton's best folk and roots artists performed on three stages. The performance that stood out the most for me (and for others, as I gleaned afterwards from discussions) was "One Room," which featured singer/songwriters Bob Jahrig, Jessica Heine, Maria Dunn, and Joe Nolan performing songs they wrote to narrate photos taken 25 years ago by Sharon Nolan. Nolan photographed elderly residents of a downtown rooming house.

This was my first year attending Homefest, and I thought the connection between art/music and working on solving an important social issue was important. Here are my photos from Homefest.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Boyle McCauley News: November 2010

The November issue of Boyle McCauley News is now online! You can download a complete copy in PDF form here. Below is a look at what is inside:

* BMHC Celebrates 30 Years
* Iris Court Squashed
* Community Walkabout Highlights Issues
* Help Through the Seasons
* New Manager for McCauley Apartments
* Unique Solar Electric System in McCauley
* Where’s Our Shack?
* Cop’s Corner: Avoid Unwelcome Visitors
* Plans for Boyle Street Community Garden
* McCauley Revitalization Update
* Letters To The Editor
* Community League Updates
* Dining Out: The Noodle Maker

Friday, November 05, 2010

Rise Up on CJSR

CJSR FM88 is the University of Alberta's campus radio station. Each year around this time the station holds it "FunDrive" to raise the money to keep its alternative programming on the air.

One of these alternative programs is Rise Up, an independent news program focusing on revolutionary politics and activist happenings. It airs on Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. During the FunDrive, two of the shows were expanded to an hour.

I was privileged to be asked to be a musical guest on November 3. I performed one of my songs live ("Marching in the Street") - my first ever live radio performance (and I understand a first for the show as well) - and was interviewed about my involvement in Edmonton's activist community, particularly how I got involved and what issues stand out for me.

I was also asked about my work as an independent journalist covering the activist scene, particularly with my website RaiseMyVoice.com and tried to encourage listeners to get involved in media activism as well.

The show should be podcasted on its website some time in the future.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Norman Finkelstein Speaks in Edmonton

On October 29, Dr. Norman Finkelstein made a return appearance in Edmonton. Dr. Finkelstein is an independent scholar from New York who is very passionate about his support for the Palestinian people and is highly critical of the Israeli government. He has taken a lot of criticism and setbacks both personally and professionally for his stance.

Here are photos of the event, as well as the video of his talk and the Q&A period that followed. As well, the videos are embedded below to watch right here:

Tar Sands: Pipelines and Birds

Greenpeace and the Sierra Club recently held two major protests at Gazebo Park concerning the effects of the tar sands. The first was called "No Tar Sands, No Tankers, No Pipelines, No Problem" and took place on October 16. The event was concerning Enbridge's plans to run pipelines through indigenous land. Many speakers were Aboriginal and spoke about how the tar sands are destroying their communities. Here are photos and a video I put together of speakers and music.

On October 30, the Sierra Club organized the "Zombie Duck Rally." Syncrude was recently fined three million dollars for the deaths of 1600 ducks in their toxic tailings lakes. Less than two weeks later, more birds landed the tailings ponds of oil companies in northern Alberta. Participants dressed up as zombie ducks bemoaning the fate of their brothers and sisters. This was definitely one of the most creative environmental rallies I have participated in. I sang "Butterflies and Rainbows," a song I wrote over three years ago about the effects of the tar sands in Alberta. How said it is that little has changed. Here are photos from the event and the video playlist.

Edmonton Anarchist Book Fair 2010

I attended the Edmonton Anarchist Book Fair during the Thanksgiving weekend in October. The EABF features speakers, workshops, and lots of info tables on a variety of topics from worker's rights to women's issues to ways of reorganizing society to be more equal and just. I don't always agree with everything presented, but I find all of these different perspectives thought-provoking.

As I have been doing for the past few years, I provided some musical background to the event. This year, the EABF took place in the Old Strathcona Performing Arts Society. The venue has an excellent stage and acoustics, but what made the gig even sweeter was teaming up with fellow activist musician Paul Folk to perform original and traditional folk and blues songs. Considering we never played together before nor rehearsed, the unity of our playing was incredible.

Here are some photos.

Monday, October 18, 2010

October 2010 Boyle McCauley News

The October 2010 issue of Boyle McCauley News is online. Our theme is "Giving Thanks" and is loaded with articles and news from community members and organizations. To download a copy in PDF format, click here. And here is a rundown of the content highlights:

  • East Meets West: Three Days of Culture
  • Sacred Heart Church Under Construction
  • Calling All Creatives
  • McCauley Gets Animated
  • Ability and Community
  • St. Stephen’s Saved!
  • Community League Wins Appeal
  • Cop’s Corner: Donations and Panhandlers
  • McCauley Revitalization Update
  • Letters To The Editor
  • Community League Updates
  • Dining Out: Padmanadi - Vegan/Indonesian
  • Friday, October 15, 2010

    Water is a Human Right

    This blog post is written as part of Blog Action Day 2010.

    A few years ago I switched from buying bottled water to a reusable metal container. Water should not be treated as a commodity used by large corporations to make profit hundreds of times over while re-selling the same substance that is found dripping out of our taps.

    While millions of people go daily without clean water, we buy it out of vending machines. We forget to turn off the faucet while we brush our teeth. We take showers for as long as we want, without fear of running out of this precious substance.

    Access to clean drinking water is a human right. When those of us in a more fortunate position buys water, we are undermining this fact. We should not be supporting companies making billions off of such a simple, yet for some so elusive substance of sustenance.

    I encourage everyone to buy a reusable container for water (and other beverages) - it will help the environment by using fewer plastic bottles, save you money (at two or three dollars a pop/water, a $20 metal bottle will pay for itself quickly), and stop lining the pockets of greedy corporations who have put a price tag on something almost as common and necessary as air.

    Change.org|Start Petition

    Friday, October 08, 2010

    Social Media and Language

    The growth of the use of social media has changed the way some people speak and write. In some cases, new words have been entirely invented to reflect the use of a particular service, like Twitter. When I post to Twitter, I am "tweeting" and my post is a "tweet." Facebooking can refer to anything from updating one's status to adding friends.

    Which leads to the next category of existing words that have been changed in meaning or usage. "Friend" can now be used as a verb ("I friended so-and-so on Facebook"). "Followers" may not mean there are creepy people following us around, but how many people are reading our tweets and blog posts.

    Then there are abbreviations to add the illusion of laughter like the ubiquitous "LOL" and "ROTFL" (and countless variations) in addition to emoticons that are constructed by punctuation in the shape of a smiling or frowning face (again, with many variations to account for facial hair, glasses, and other emotions).

    While some perhaps shudder at these inventions, one should not label such changes as disintegration necessarily. Change can be just that - reflections of the times. As society changes, so does its language. We don't speak Victorian English anymore, and there are numerous words that have changed meanings or connotations over time. For example, although it is technically correct, few people still use the term "gay" to mean "happy."

    However, where there needs to be concern is related to the actual time and place of usage. It is appropriate to use these words when discussing and using social media (or other electronic forms of communication like texting and e-mail). If someone actually starts referring to making friends in real life as "friending" people, maybe he or she isn't really spending enough time away from the computer. As well, when people start saying things like "LOL" and "smiley face" during in-person (or telephone) speech, then there is potentially a problem when someone cannot express him or herself properly without the use of such enhancements.

    Which begs the question of whether this is just laziness on the speaker's part or representative of an erosion of language. As someone with a wide social network both online and offline, I don't think such situations as described in the above paragraph are widespread yet. Verbal skills already vary from person to person based on culture (is English their first language?), level of education, and cognitive ability (which includes everything from general intelligence to whether or not a person has a developmental disability or brain damage).

    How someone uses the language of social media will depend on how much time a person spends with social media and how important social media is to that person. Someone who is only a casual user of social media will of course not be speaking of tweets and friending the way someone who uses it for hours every day will. Also, younger people growing up in a culture of social media, who have not known a world without it (or at least were too young to remember) could potentially be more likely to do the verbal LOL-ing.

    Another consideration apart from speech is written language. So far, I have not seen too many smilies or LOLs work their way into newspapers or magazines. I also don't think many teachers or professors would accept such things in a term paper. Unless, of course, the paper is about social media. :-) (Sorry, I could not resist.)

    Still, we likely won't know how social media ultimately affects language on a long-term basis because it is so relatively new. Like MySpace (which is now mostly used by bands), Twitter and Facebook may eventually go out of vogue to be replaced by other services with their own vocabularies. In the meantime, I don't think the English language is suffering too much.

    Thursday, October 07, 2010

    Peace in September

    Peace and related activist events tend to pick up in the fall, particularly since university is back in session. I had the privilege of taking part in two peace events in September.

    September 21 was the annual UN International Day of Peace, which takes place in cities around the world. As always, it took place at City Hall Plaza, and featured the flag-raising ceremony. The peace flag features the word "peace" in 50 different languages. Elementary school students from St. James read their own writings about what peace means to them (and we were astounded at how profound some of them were). Two keynote speakers from the University of Alberta's Political Science Department offered insights into world events, and music was provided by Quetzala Maria Carson and myself. Quetzala sang a song called "Generations" that she wrote, while I sang a traditional Jewish hymn called "Hinei Ma Tov." It is based on Psalm 133 and is about peace and unity. It was fun giving the children (and everyone else) in attendance a lesson on how to pronounce the Hebrew to sing along. Here are my photos from the event as well as the video playlist on YouTube.

    Less than a week later on September 25, the Edmonton Coalition Against War and Racism (ECAWAR) organized a rally for the National Day of Action to End the War in Afghanistan. There is usually a fall day of action called for by the Canadian Peace Alliance, but this year the CPA was late in getting the word out, so we had less than a week to pull a rally together. We succeeded. Though less time to publicize meant we had a smaller crowd at Gazebo Park, the media coverage was excellent. Two speakers from ECAWAR spoke about the need for Canada to not extend the mission in Afghanistan beyond 2011 (preferably to bring the troops home now), I sang a couple of antiwar songs, and then we opened up the stage for a moderated open mike. One more speaker from ECAWAR discussed against Canada taking a seat on the UN Security Council, which was an interesting talk. Here are my photos and the video playlist. As well, here is the article about the event from the Edmonton Sun.

    Wednesday, September 22, 2010

    Media Release: National Day of Action on September 25

    For Immediate Release

    Edmonton Peace Activists Join in National Day of Action to End the War in Afghanistan
    "Don't extend it. End it. Bring the Troops Home Now!"

    Edmonton peace activists will be gathering at Gazebo Park (83 Avenue and 104 Street) at 3 p.m. on Saturday, September 25 to add their voices to the National Day of Action to End the War in Afghanistan.

    The federal Harper government has been vague about its intentions towards Canada's role in Afghanistan beyond 2011, which is likely to be debated in the House of Commons very soon. Canada's peace movement wants to send a clear message to the government to bring the troops home now. September 25 is the first Saturday after Parliament resumes and the perfect time to demand that this costly war (which has already reached $28.5 billion - not to mention the human costs) providing legitimacy and support for a corrupt, warlord-led government end and not be extended.

    The Day of Action was called by the Canadian Peace Alliance. Similar demonstrations will be taking place in cities across Canada. Edmonton's rally was organized by the Edmonton Coalition Against War and Racism (ECAWAR). It will feature speakers, music, and spoken word presentations. Funds will also be collected towards the legal fund for the G8 political prisoners.

    For More Information:
    Paula E. Kirman, ECAWAR
    (780) 905-6094

    Saturday, September 18, 2010

    Media Release: Five Years of Visual Activism

    Five Years of Raising Her Voice
    Independent Photographer/Filmmaker Celebrates Five Years of Documenting Edmonton’s Activist Scene

    In the summer of 2005, Paula E. Kirman was scouring the Internet, looking for a place to connect with Edmonton’s activist community with the goal of putting her lifelong interest in issues concerning peace and human rights into practical action. “I knew there was a scene going on, but it was difficult to find where they were or information about what they were doing,” she explains.

    Kirman was able to connect with a few groups and started to showing up that fall to rallies, marches, speakers, and other events, with her camera. She began posting her pictures and videos online, just as a matter of personal interest to share with other activists. The demand for her work by the community was so strong that she began RaiseMyVoice.com, an internet portal to her work that features thousands of photos and videos from almost every major activist event and group in the city.

    “I started posting my photos online on a free service. After my first peace march, the download rate was so high it crashed the site,” Kirman says. “I purchased a domain and hosting package, and put together a quick and dirty website, just to get my work out there.”

    RaiseMyVoice.com celebrates five years this month, and has expanded to include the use of social media. Most of the photos are now hosted on associated sites on Flickr and the videos on YouTube. The YouTube videos have received almost 700,000 views and feature not only clips of rallies and marches, but entire speaker presentations. The Flickr site has grown into a photo blog not only of Edmonton’s activist scene, but the almost 12,000 photos are also of festivals, events, and general photos from Kirman’s artistic perspective.

    Kirman is an avid organizer in the activist community in the areas of peace, community media, poverty/housing, and labour issues. She maintains the Twitter account @yegactivist to send out announcements of local activist events and links to her work, as well as doing the same with her own account @livingsanctuary and active Facebook presence. In the last couple of years, she has also emerged as a political singer/songwriter, often performing her original songs at protests and rallies. She continues to work at her activist photography and film making completely independently, putting in “an uncountable number of hours” without any funding or monetary support.

    “What is happening in the activist community is part of our history as a city,” says Kirman, who works as a freelance writer, editor, and photographer. “No one has been documenting it, until now. Whether they agree or disagree, people are fascinated by it and it prompts a lot of discussions of the various issues at hand. It helps activists in Edmonton share what we are doing with the rest of the activist world, and gives those from outside our community a real education into what some of the issues are and what our events are all about.”

    For more information/interview requests:
    Paula E. Kirman
    paula at raisemyvoice.com
    (780) 905-6094

    Monday, September 06, 2010

    Stones (or, The Way Things Fit Together)

    A stranger handed me two polished stones today. One was in the shape of an arrow; the other, a heart.

    When I was a child I used to collect rocks. I would walk in the river valley and local parks and pick up rocks that looked colourful or had an interesting shape. Sometimes I would rub a small stone or two against sandpaper to smooth it out. These mementos of my childhood are somewhere in a rusting tin can in the garage.

    Today was like any other day. I had to go take some photos for work and grab something to eat, then ended up spending time with several different groups of friends along the way while visiting some river valley parks. At the last minute, I remembered I needed to grab a few things at a drugstore. I told my friend who was driving which store I wanted. Instead of going to the one closer to our homes, we went to a different one about halfway between the park we were coming from and our neighbourhood.

    I picked out the items I wanted and followed my friend into the magazine aisle. Let me add that I rarely check the books and magazines in this particular store, but today I decided I wanted to buy a copy of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and this was where I was going to get it.

    While I was browsing, and older gentleman asked me about the sticks I had dangling from my backpack. I explained that they were juggling sticks, how they are used, and how I entertain kids with them at parks and parties. Seeming amused by my juggling exploits, he reached into his pocket and pulled out several polished stones. He invited me and my friend to pick one each. I picked a limestone and quartz composite that is white with black flecks, and is in a shape resembling an arrow.

    The man went into detail about how he collects stones and showed us other specimens from his pockets and around his neck, both from the river valley and beyond, in other parts of Canada. Some were actual semi-precious gemstones like amethyst and jade. He gave us tips where to find some good rocks when the river gets lower.

    I commented that some of his stones looked like worry stones, and he said that was how he used them at times. I told him how I broke a worry stone once (and it was true - my anxiety-ridden self rubbed that poor stone until it was translucent and snapped). He gave me another stone that he said won't do that. Flat on one side, rounded on the other, when I took a closer look at it later I noticed it looks like a heart.

    An arrow and a heart, slightly misshapen, given to me by someone who would only reluctantly tell me his first name. As I held those stones, I was taken back to those more innocent days of collecting rocks when I was a kid. And I ponder how these shapes and textures and the objects they represent reflect my life now. Finally, I look back at the day and how every event and every choice that was made, directly or indirectly put me in the path of this unexpected gift - a profound moment in my life that has left me with something tangible to ponder.

    Thursday, September 02, 2010

    Boyle McCauley News: September 2010

    The September issue of Boyle McCauley News is now online. Here is a look at what's inside:

    * Peas Be With You Garden is Now With Us
    * BMHC Celebrates 30 Years
    * Farewell to Berezans
    * Fab Flowers
    * Front Yard Finalist in McCauley
    * Adult Learners to Lose Valuable Tool
    * Our Reunion: A Learning Experience
    * Cop’s Corner: Theft From Vehicles
    * McCauley Revitalization Update
    * Letters To The Editor
    * Community League Updates
    * Dining Out

    To download the issue in PDF format, click here.

    Monday, August 30, 2010

    Eat, Pray, Love in Edmonton

    I just finished reading Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. To summarize, without giving too much away, the book is a memoir of one year in the life of a woman who steps outside of her life and travels to three global locations where she learns a new language while finding pleasure in food, develops her spirituality despite doubt, and finds true love while continuing her spiritual journey.

    This plan certainly worked for her and while I don't agree with all of her choices, has caused me to take inventory of my life. Going on a world tour is not practical for many of us, yet taking stock of our lives and finding new ways to develop is part of having an active, healthy life. So here are ways in which we can eat, pray, and love - right here in Edmonton.

    I have this habit of "discovering" a certain kind of food and then trying it out at as many different restaurants as possible. The most recent example of this is pho, Vietnamese noodle soup. I'm addicted and have even picked up a few words of the language in the process. Slowly, I am moving onto banh mi (Vietnamese submarine sandwiches) as well as other kinds of ethnic delicacies. I sometimes feel like I travel the world with my mouth. Edmonton certainly has many wonderful restaurants from just about every culture: Indian, African, Latin American, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese ... the list goes on. Try something new and discover something about that culture and your own tastes. My site at Yelp offers reviews of hundreds of restaurants (and other local businesses) to give you just a sampling of what's out there.

    Even if you have not darkened the door of a church/temple/mosque/fill in the blank for decades, it is never too late to get in touch with your spiritual side. Even though I come from a Jewish family, I always find it fascinating to visit a house of worship of another religion. It teaches me about that faith and sometimes helps answer questions I have about my own. Years ago, I helped to plant a church that combines elements of two of the major Abrahamic faiths - it still meets in west Edmonton. That is kind of extreme (and a lot of work) but getting together to pray, share, and worship with a few others in a home is another way to build fellowship. I also tend to view prayer and meditation as a personal practise and thus I often do that in private, or find spiritual elation in such solo activities as biking and long walks/hiking in the river valley. That whole social justice thing I am into? You got it - it is all part of how I practise my faith in a practical way in the real world. What do you believe? Live it.

    While a torrid affair with a sexy Brazilian might be a pleasant fantasy, it is not realistic for most of us. Besides, that is only one kind of love. Expressions of kindness towards those closest to us (family, friends) and those who are the most vulnerable in society (children, seniors, the homeless, those at-risk of becoming homeless...). Volunteer with an organization like the Boys and Girls Club, Youth Emergency Shelter Society, The Mustard Seed, Hope Mission, and Edmonton's Food Bank - these are only a few of the worthwhile places that need volunteers. As far as love in the emotional/physical sense goes - when you are active and involved your passion shines through, and it makes for a very attractive package to those watching. Just get out there and be involved and the rest tends to fall into place.

    As a side note, I began reading the book before the film came out - even before I knew there was going to be a film. I am honestly not sure if I want to see it. I find that movies are never as good as their books. But I probably will eventually. For now, I want to concentrate on living life and finding my direction.

    Monday, August 23, 2010

    Privilege and Protest

    Protesters are often stereotyped as poor - after all, we're a bunch of semi-employed or unemployed hippies. How can we hold a job when we dress so slovenly? How can we find the time to organize if we work full-time?

    This stereotype is, of course, false. Most activists I know work full-time in addition to organizing and attending events. Most make a comfortable living, though most are not what one would consider to be rich in the materialistic sense.

    Here in Edmonton, there has been a lot of activism going on lately in a different sense than peace marches and pro-labour rallies. A group called Envision Edmonton has been working very hard getting a petition signed by enough people in the city to force a plebiscite on the the issue of whether or not to close the Edmonton City Centre Airport.

    I am not going to get into the arguments about whether or not the airport should stay open, or whether or not there should have been a plebiscite in the first place. There has been enough debate in the social media world on both sides of the issue, most notable from Mack Male (pro-closure) and John Winslow (anti-closure).

    Speaking on behalf of myself and a few others, there were those in the activist community who thought a plebiscite was the way to go. However, we were at a loss on how to get organized around taking on such a huge project. Getting tens of thousands of signatures on a petition is no small endeavour. So it does not surprise me in the least that several of the people behind Envision Edmonton are quite well-off individuals.

    And, as someone who tends to rally for the poor and underprivileged, this does not bother me in the least. Wealthy people have a right to protest also. In fact, I find it rather heartening to see people putting their money behind a cause they believe in. However, there is another rub: many of the people involved in Envision Edmonton are of a Conservative political viewpoint.

    While this is yet another point that can lose people in my activist cohort group, again, I counter: Conservative people have a right to protest also. Even when it is a cause that I don't agree with. That is part of living in a democracy. Except in this case, I do agree. So do other left-of-centre folks.

    At first I thought this was cause for the Rapture to come. On second thought, it made me realize that people from opposite ends of the political spectrum to come together for a common cause. I am not sure those causes will come around often, but when they do, privilege and protest can go hand in hand.

    Current Photo Exhibits

    On August 12, I attended the opening reception for the 2010 Open Photo Show from the Visual Arts Alberta Association. Out of over 300 submissions, 62 made the cut, and two of my pieces made it into the show. It runs until September 23 and is located in the Kaasa Gallery in the Jubilee Auditorium (downstairs) open from 10-4 daily.

    I also have a solo exhibit at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital. Called "Think Again," it features a variety of colourful, quirky, and sometimes unusual subject matter. The show is free and located in the Blue Curve Gallery (turn to your left after entering the main entrance and you'll walk right by it). It also runs until September 23.

    This afternoon, I dropped off some photos that will be a part of the Kaleido Family Arts Festival September 10-12. The festival takes place on Alberta Avenue and the gallery is located in the old Alberta Cycle building on 92 Street and 118 Avenue.

    Summer Festival Checklist

    Edmonton is known as a festival city, especially because of the concentration of major summer festivals that take place starting in late June through August. I try to make it to as many as I can, as they are fun, involve a lot of things I enjoy such as art and music, and are a great way to enjoy the city in the summer. Here is a rundown of what I did on my summer vacation (so to speak):

    The Works Art and Design Festival: This year's festival was special for me, because my photographs (and one poem) were included in two exhibits (Expressions of Hunger at the Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts and Diversity 2010, the annual members' show for the Visual Arts Alberta Association). The tribute to Gilbert Bouchard was especially moving. Photos

    Edmonton International Street Performers Festival: I spent more time here than I have for several years. Most of the acts I saw were jugglers and clowns and geared towards a younger audience, but fun nonetheless. Photos

    Taste of Edmonton: Although most of the restaurants are the same year after year, I always find something new to try. I found the portions to be bigger than in the past and the festival has gone environmentally friendly. Photos and more photos

    Heritage Festival: Probably my favourite of all of the festivals, I try to go at least twice during the weekend. I love ethnic food, music, and dance, so I am literally in my element. This year, some of the highlights for me was delicious food from Afghanistan and Ethiopia and spending quality time at the Latin American pavilions. Photos

    Edmonton Folk Music Festival: I grew up on folk music and having our own folk festival is something that makes Edmonton world-class. Not every city has one, and certainly not at the high level of ours. This year, I was excited to see Zachary Richard in concert, who is one of my favourite musicians from the Francophone world. I also had a religious experience seeing Melanie, one of the Woodstock performers, sing her classic "Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)". To read reviews of these and other specific performances, check out Inside World Music, my World Music blog. Photos

    Fringe International Theatre Festival: More street performers and food - I used to just go to wander the grounds around Gazebo Park. This year, I went to three plays. "The Big Oops" was about a children's entertainer who finds herself unexpectedly pregnant and explores how she and her partner make decision on what to do. The play was presented like a children's television program, complete with catch phrases and musical cues. "War and Therapy" was written by Paula Caplan, who got in touch with me personally prior to her arrival in Edmonton. She was looking to get the word out about her play to Edmonton's peace community. Based on her own experiences as a therapist, the play explores the enduring trauma of soldiers returning from war. It was short, but powerful, and included a short discussion period at the end. Finally, "Hair" was at the New City Suburbs, a BYOV venue, and was incredible. The cast, many of whom are local theatre students, really nailed the music - which was performed by a live band. It was two hours of antiwar, hippy goodness. Photos

    The city also has a number of community festivals that often feature art, music, food, and cultural displays. They are often worth visiting just as much as Churchill Square or Whyte Avenue. I am talking about Heart of the City, Eastwood Festival, East Meets West, and the Kaleido Family Arts Festival.

    Monday, July 26, 2010

    Photo Walking

    City Centre Market
    Originally uploaded by raise my voice
    On Saturday, I took part in my first organized photo walk. It was one of three such walks going on in Edmonton the same day, part of the Scott Kelby Worldwide Photo Walk 2010. I was part of Edmonton Group #3, a downtown walk from Rice Howard Way, to the City Centre Market, and then back to Churchill Square for Taste of Edmonton.

    Rice Howard Way was full of great buildings and shapes, as well as some of the cars from the Honda Edmonton Indy that took place this past weekend. Heading down Jasper Avenue, I photographed many buildings - I found it interesting how I have been in this area many times, but suddenly everything takes on a different shape when I am looking to photograph it.

    The Farmer's Market was an excellent place for shots, as always. I would have headed here anyways. Ditto for Taste of Edmonton, although I would not have gone back along 103 Avenue, which also made for some interesting architectural shots.

    Although I arrived late, ended up getting separated from most of the other photographers in my group, and never had a chance to meet the leader (I opted to stay at Taste of Edmonton rather than venture to the restaurant for the get-together afterwards), I had a very memorable time and took many photos. In fact< it ook so many that I made a separate set for each area I was in, and put it all together under this collection.

    River Valley Horse Show

    I am not a horse fanatic, but I do appreciate equestrian events from time to time. Due to the construction on the Whitemud, I haven't been able to bike down to the Whitemud Equine Centre in a couple of years to see any of the summer horse shows that go on. Thankfully, thanks to a combination of ETS and a free shuttle the City set up near the Quesnell neighbourhood, I managed to make it down on Sunday for the final day of the River City Horse Show. I'm always amazed by how high these huge horses can jump. I took some pictures and was thankful there was a concession set up for cold drinks. Iced chai never tasted so good - it was hot out! A woman ahead of me in line ordered a hot chocolate. Takes all kinds!

    Monday, July 19, 2010

    Whyte Avenue Art Walk

    The Whyte Avenue Art Walk is an annual event that I look forward to. Hundreds of working artists line the sidewalks, both selling their art and making at. I met many new and familiar faces, listened to some great music at the U22 stage in MacIntyre Park, and saw some incredible art in a variety of styles. I even bought something for the first time - it was a button with a cartoon on it of cookies and milk - the cookies all have different facial expressions. Trust me, it's going to look cool on my hoodie. The only thing I found unusual was how little photography there was this year. Lots of crafts, sculptures, painting, sketches, and mixed-media - but very few photographs. Here is my photo set from the event, and my iReport for iNews880.

    Take Me Out to the Ball Game

    I went to my very first baseball game ever yesterday. It took place at Telus Field, between the Edmonton Capitals and Yuma Scorpions (Yuma is in Arizona). This was also my first time at Telus Field, and my first time enjoying a hot dog at a ball game (if you go to a ball game, you have to have a hot dog - I think it's a law somewhere).

    Yesterday was my second time volunteering with Edmonton's Food Bank by helping gather donations of money and non-perishable food items. Most of the donations came as people were entering Telus Field. People were extremely generous - we filled up nearly three large boxes with food. Many people apologized that they did not bring food, but filled our jugs with money instead that will be used to purchase food hampers at Sobey's

    After the game started, our table relocated to the second floor where people donated in between innings. We wrapped it up after the fifth inning. I am eager to find out how much money and how many kilograms of food were collected.

    As for the game - I am not really into organized sporting events, but I always enjoy new experiences. It was interesting watching the fans - and at around $10 a ticket, I am surprised there were not more people there. Other than my co-volunteers, I knew absolutely no one there, which is another rare thing for me. It was a completely different slice of life.

    Oh, and we won - 11-0.

    Here is my complete photo set from the game.

    Sunday, July 18, 2010

    Boyle McCauley News: July/August 2010

    The Summer issue of Boyle McCauley News is now online! Here is a look at just some of what is inside:

    * New Mural Unveiled in McCauley
    * U10s Fought the Law - And Won!
    * In Memoriam: Frank Roccia
    * A Skateboard Park in McCauley!
    * McCauley Church Celebrates 100 Years
    * BRAC II Report Accepted by Council
    * ICYDA Withdraws From Boyle Renaissance
    * Heart of the City Music Festival 2010
    * Cans of Hope
    * McCauley Revitalization: A cultural experience
    * Letters To The Editor
    * Community League Updates
    * Dining Out

    To download the entire issue in PDF format, point your browser to this link.

    Friday, July 09, 2010

    Protesting the G20 Fiasco

    The G20 took place in Toronto last week and with it came the expected organized mass demonstrations against globalization and its resulting effects of hunger, poverty, homelessness, and damage to the environment. What was not expected was the mass arrests, including street sweeps that took in people who had nothing to do with the protests. The reason? A few black-clad "anarchists" dubbed The Black Bloc smashed some storefront windows and set a police car on fire. More damage was done in the 2008 hockey riots in Montreal than here, and yet orders came from on high to arrest, detain, and suppress - including in areas designated as free speech zones. Perhaps the most shocking news came from those who were arrested and found themselves in cramped quarters with little food and water, denial of medical attention, no sanitation, and other deplorable conditions.

    Vandalism (notice I am saying vandalism - not violence, as inanimate objects, not people were targeted by the Black Bloc) has a tendency to detract from the issues being protested. The media shifts its focus to that, and away from the issues being protested. As well, we heard little about the thousands of people who marched and protested peacefully, without incident.

    As an activist, I found what happened in Toronto frightening. We do not live in a police state, yet the random arrests and conditions of the detention brings to mind Big Brother and gulags. With the sheer number of police available, it is astounding as to why the people really responsible for the vandalism were not dealt with immediately. There needs to be an independent investigation into the police actions to find out what went wrong and where. Over a hundred police officers from Edmonton went to Toronto (on our dime) - I personally would like to know what they were up to over there.

    On Saturday, July 3, around 200 people took to the streets in Edmonton and marched from City Hall to Edmonton Police Headquarters in solidarity with those arrested during the G20. Here are some photos. As well, here is the video playlist of speeches and music.

    Second Genocide Memorial Service

    Last year, I attended the dedication ceremony of a Genocide Memorial Garden. Rev. Audrey Brooks, clergy in the Unitarian Church, built a beautiful dry riverbed in front of her home for this purpose. We wrote the names of victims of genocide on stones, and placed them in the garden. Rev. Brooks has decided to make this an annual event, so on July 4 we gathered at her home again for prayers, meditations, readings, and personal tributes to victims of genocides from different cultures and walks of life. Lewis Cardinal began the service with a traditional Aboriginal prayer blessing the Four Directions.

    Most of the service was led by Rev. Brooks, Mr. Cardinal, and Rabbi David Kunin from Beth Shalom Synagogue. People either placed another stone, or talked about the stone they place last year. Last year, I placed a stone for victims of the Holocaust (Jewish and otherwise). The Holocaust was brought up during a meditation about genocides that have occurred during history, so I decided not to re-dedicate the stone. I did say a few words on behalf of the March for all of the Missing and Murdered Women of Edmonton - the organizers were invited to attend but were unavailable.

    Here are some photos from the event. I also had the privilege this year of performing a song with The Raging Grannies. Given the interfaith aspect of the event which dealt with human right, I could think of no better song to sing than "I Only Ask of God."

    Monday, June 28, 2010

    Spread The Words

    The Edmonton Public Library recently rebranded with a new logo and slogan: Spread the Words. To help grow public recognition of the new brand, EPL launched a sticker photography contest. Low adhesive stickers were distributed to anyone who asked for them at any library branch. The stickers were in several different colours from the new logo and featured different sayings. The contest was to place the stickers anywhere around Edmonton (legally, of course) and take a picture of them. The pictures were uploaded to the EPL's website, where the public could vote for them on a scale of one to five (five being the highest). The top ten photos went on to the final round, where the public could vote once for their favourite photo. The top three photos with the largest number of votes would be the winners.

    I submitted several photos to the first round, and of the almost 200 photos submitted, two of them made it to round two. I was very excited to learn last week that one of my photos made it into the top three! I won a Sony eReader - an ideal prize for someone who loves books, but has limited space to continue buying lots of hard copies. I Have already been reading eBooks on my iPod Touch using Kindle software - I am happy I have something with a larger screen!

    My winning photo was taken outside of Giovanni Caboto Park. I placed the red sticker with the saying "We're Bigger Than Our Buildings" on a rail on the outside gate of the park. You can see my photo and the other two winning photos here.

    Tuesday, June 22, 2010

    Guitars, Bikes, Vegetarianism, and Me

    I am going to refer to Saturday, June 19, as my Edmonton Mini-Tour. My afternoon started off at the Bikeology Festival in Beaver Hills House Park. Bikeology is an annual event that takes place during June (which is Bike Month) and features an equipment swap, cookies baked my solar power, smoothies created by the energy of riding a stationary bicycle, information tables from various organizations, and live music. I was the first act up, and played a five-song set that was solar-powered. I have attended the festival for several years now, but this was my first time performing there. The irony was that I could not ride my bike with guitar in tow, but I had a great time. Here are some photos and the video playlist from my set.

    After I left Bikeology, I took a quick stroll through the City Centre farmer's market and also checked out some of the activities for Park(ed). 102 Avenue was shut down to cars for the day. It was great being able to walk right on the street and see the chalk art, spin class, games (I got hit by a water balloon!), and other such fun and frivolity. You can see some pictures in the same set as Bikeology.

    Just slightly more than two hours after my Bikeology gig, I was on stage at the new location of Padmanadi for the grand opening of their second location. The place was packed full of people enjoying the delicious vegan buffet, which I also partook of after my set. The restaurant is located at 10740-101 Street and I recommend it for anyone who enjoys fine vegetarian cuisine. Here are some photos and the video playlist.

    Wednesday, June 16, 2010

    Pride 2010

    I really enjoy the annual Pride Parade. It's loud, fun, and colourful. It's about celebrating who you are in the face of discrimination. And, it's a great photo-op for those of us so inclined. Here is my photo set from the event. If you missed the parade, or would like to experience it again, I filmed the entire thing - it's around 22 minutes in length.

    Monday, June 14, 2010

    Heart of the City 2010

    The Heart of the City Music Festival took place on June 5 and 6. Expanded into a two-day festival, the free event in Giovanni Caboto Park featured non-stop live music, free art workshops, hula hoop demonstrations, an interactive art project (painting the letters making up the words "Heart of the City"), art and craft vendors, and more. This event is huge for the inner city, as it causes people from all over the city to visit the McCauley neighbourhood and come away with a more positive feeling about the area.

    Here are some photos from day one and day two of the festival.

    This was my fourth Heart of the City as a musician. Once again, I was part of the song circle. This is a video of me performing my song "The One Thing" and another of "Summer," a song about homelessness that was inspired by my work in the inner city.

    I also filmed a number of the other acts. Here is the Playlist for Heart of the City 2010 on Boyle McCauley News' YouTube channel.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010

    Boyle McCauley News: June 2010

    The June 2010 issue of Boyle McCauley News is online! Here is a look at what you can find on the pages:

    * Premier Primavera a Blooming Success
    * Community Action Dash 2010
    * Downtown Arena Thoughts
    * Heart of the City Lineup
    * Revitalization Update
    * Soccer Update
    * Creating Balance
    * Is your garage easy pickings for thieves?
    * Letters To The Editor
    * Community League Updates
    * Dining Out

    To download the paper in PDF, click here.

    Friday, June 04, 2010

    Emergency Rally for the Gaza Freedom Flotilla

    This week, cities around the world held emergency rallies concerning the Israeli attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla which has left around 20 activists dead and many more injured. Much of the outrage is directed at the fact that the flotilla was in international waters and was attempting to break through the siege on Gaza to deliver humanitarian aid in the form of food, medicine, and construction supplies.

    There was a rally in Edmonton on June 1 at the Alberta Legislature. Around 500 people showed up. I sang two songs I wrote especially about the crisis in Israel and Palestine. Here is my photo set on Flickr. To watch footage from the rally, here is the playlist on YouTube.

    Expressions of Hunger

    What is hunger? Expressions of Hunger is an exhibit organized by Edmonton's Food Bank that seeks to start discussions on that very topic. Earlier in the year, creative people in Edmonton were invited to submit poetry and photographs depicting what hunger means to them in five categories: emotional, physical, mental, environmental, and physical. Entries were posted on the Food Bank's website, and the public voted for the top three entries in each category.

    Expressions of Hunger was launched at City Hall on June 1. I was privileged to have four photographs and one poem included in the exhibit. The media launch included speakers from the Food Bank, Mayor Mandel presenting a proclamation for National Hunger Awareness Week (which kicked off also on June 1), and a delicious lunch provided by Denny's. I was also honoured by being asked to sing "Summer," a song I wrote about homelessness which won in the Emotional - Poetry category to get things started.

    For me, homelessness and other issues surrounding poverty go hand in hand with the concept of hunger. I work in the inner city and "Summer" was inspired by people I have met, things I have seen, stories I have learned. The character in the song is fictional, but her story has become universal for too many people. Several of my photographs were also taken in the inner city area and deal with similar themes. Hunger, in many of these cases, means more than just needing food to eat. These people hunger for all of the basic necessities of life, from shelter to appropriate clothing to medical attention. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there is also the hunger to be accepted - a hunger to make eye contact with others, to say hello, to be acknowledged as being human.

    Another major aspect of "Expressions of Hunger" for me is the merging of art and activism. To raise awareness of a social issue using art as the method is a powerful way to get a message across.

    Here is my photo set from the event. John also took some really spectacular photos. To watch the media launch, here is the playlist on YouTube.

    Expressions of Hunger will be shown at The Carrot Community Arts Coffeehouse (9351 118 Avenue) from June 7-23 and at the Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts (9225 118 Avenue) during the Works Festival of Art and Design from June 25-July 7.

    Monday, May 31, 2010

    Squirrels Being Squirrely

    I was playing with my new toy - a Kodak EasyShare Z915 - last week in Laurier Park. When I saw a couple of squirrels playing around a tree, I thought this would be the perfect chance for me to test out the 10x optical zoom of the camera. Alas, my subjects were too far away and the sun shining on the LCD screen made it impossible to see if anything I shot actually turned out. When I came home, I popped the SD card into the card reader on my computer, and nearly hit the floor laughing when I saw this. I had to crop it a bit to bring out the subject, but wow - I understand this sort of photo is difficult to take because squirrel love action only takes a few seconds. And here I got it by accident! Adding more humour is the photo I took right after the, ahem, dismount. The look on the female squirrel's face says it all.

    No Mining in El Salvador

    Members of the local Salvadorian community came together with activists today to protest the actions of Canadian mining company Pacific Rim. The company wants to expand its operations into El Salvador to develop a large gold mine. Metal mining is currently not permitted in El Salvador. Here is the full set of photos.

    Two Rainy Weekends

    The last couple of weekends in Edmonton have been quite rainy. Although we desperately need the moisture, the weather has put a damper (no pun intended) on some of my outdoor activities. However, I still have managed to make it around to some events.

    Hip Hop in the Park took place on May 22, and featured live, local hip hop music and graffiti artists. I could not stay long as it was very chilly, but here are some photos, including some shots of the surrounding downtown area, Shaw, and Hotel MacDonald where I escaped the cold and enjoyed a latte.

    May 23 was opening day for the 2010 season of Fort Edmonton Park. One of my favourite Edmonton attractions, I decided to head down there. A lot of the events planned for the Victoria Day long weekend were postponed to the next day due to the weather. However, it was kind of nice having almost the entire run of the park to myself. I started a photo gallery for 2010 and will add to it with each visit.

    A couple of days later I decided to take advantage of the fact my multi-attraction pass kicked in. I headed to the Valley Zoo to photograph the animals and test out my new camera - a Kodak Easyshare Z915. I needed a point-and-shoot with good zoom (it has 10x optical) to travel more lightly when I ride my bike. I am thrilled with the results. I got some excellent shots, and have started up a photo gallery for the season. I have to add that I am not a big fan of zoos, but it's there and I may as well go and see how the animals are doing.

    It was quite the shock when I found out the guinea pigs were poisoned that night. The CBC asked if they could use a photo I had taken that afternoon. It was one of my favourites and has taken on an entirely different meaning to me in light of what has happened. Here is the story at the CBC's website.

    Prior to going to the zoo, I pedaled my way through Laurier Park. I took a few photos, the most interesting of which involved a couple of squirrels, shot at a distance. But I think that is fodder for a separate blog post!

    That same afternoon I also decided to cycle over the pedestrian bridge to Hawrelak Park, where I could not believe the blankets of baby Canada Geese to be found! I got some incredible photos.

    I spent some of this past rainy weekend delivering the June issue of Boyle McCauley News to our volunteer carriers. On Sunday, I went to Make It Edmonton: The Handmade Revolution. Although I did not buy anything, I enjoyed looking at the beautiful, independently-made arts and crafts (especially the jewelry). Here are some photos.

    Monday, May 17, 2010

    Blooming Events in Edmonton

    City Centre Market
    Originally uploaded by raise my voice
    The City Market opened on Saturday. I took a stroll along 104 street and enjoyed checking out the fresh fruits, veggies, and flowers. This year, I am going to cave and get some jewelry - the rings of Munro Jewelry Design really knock my socks off. Except I don't usually wear socks in he warm weather. But I digress. A Chinese cultural festival was a highlight of the day, with dragon dancers and other performances. Here are some photos.

    On Sunday, a gardening festival called Primavera took place at the Santa Maria Goretti Centre in the McCauley neighbourhood. Tomato plants and marigolds were flying off of tables, as well as other kinds of plants and flowers from Zocalo and a host of other vendors. The Italian Centre Shop had a table, as did numerous community and health organizations. Over 800 people attended - a huge success for a first time event. I took some photos here

    It looks like spring in Edmonton is off to a blooming start!.

    Friday, May 14, 2010

    Exploring: Paul Kane Park

    Paul Kane Park
    Originally uploaded by raise my voice
    I've lived in Edmonton my whole life, but there are still nooks and crannies here and there I have not yet visited. Paul Kane Park is one of these places. I must have passed it dozens of times riding my bike north on 102 Avenue. It is tucked away behind the Anglican Parish of Christ Church, which I always pass on that route.

    Instead of continuing to head north I turned left and entered the park. I was surprised at how big it actually was, with a huge decorative pool. Right now, the pool was filled with stagnant water of meltage from a recent spring storm, but I look forward to how it will appear when it is cleaned up. I also loved the landscaping - lots of trees and benches, and the long, paved path that runs throughout. Someone else on a bicycle was doing laps around the pool (and getting in the way of my pictures!), while couples strolled along.

    I am not sure how much of a destination Paul Kane Park is in and of itself, but I will definitely take a few detours through it this summer.

    Monday, May 10, 2010

    A Weekend of Giving: Shine Youth Clinic & Homeless Connect

    I had another busy weekend. On Saturday, I gave two hours of my time performing with Music is a Weapon as part of the organization's Busk for a Cause. The cause this time around was the Shine Youth Clinic. The clinic operates on Saturdays out of the Boyle McCauley Health Centre and provides services free of charge to underserved youth up to the age of 25. On the corner of 104 street and Whyte Avenue I belted out some songs and even did a little bit of juggling. This was my first time busking and I have a lot more respect now for people who do this for a living. Over $1000 was raised for the clinic! Since I was busy performing, I was not able to take photos. Good thing that @sirthinks showed up and took some shots.

    The first ever Edmonton Media Camp was also held on Saturday. It was an "un-conference" bringing together people from the worlds of traditional and new media, including journalists, PR people, and bloggers/social media folks. I was only able to make it to the last few discussion sessions, but it was great seeing some old friends and finally meeting a few people in person from Twitter and Facebook. Here are a few pictures I managed to grab.

    Sunday was Mother's Day, but it was also Edmonton's fourth Homeless Connect event. Homeless Connect is held at the Shaw Conference Centre and brings free services, support, and supplies to people experiencing or at risk of homelessness. A lot of volunteer power goes into making the event happen, and although I was not able to volunteer on the day of, I did help with some preparations beforehand like sorting coats and supplies for the care packages given to all of the guests who attended. More than 1200 guests visited the event and I was able to come down to the Shaw for a while to take some pictures. There is going to be another Homeless Connect event this October - please consider volunteering.

    Tuesday, May 04, 2010

    First May Weekend

    Welcome to May (although by the weather outside today, you would never know it). Here is a quick look at how today's snow storm looks from outside my back door.

    Fortunately, over the weekend we were a lot luckier weather-wise. Saturday, May 1, was International Worker's Day (also known as May Day) and Edmonton's march and rally started in Giovanni Caboto Park in McCauley, headed through Chinatown, and finished in Churchill Square. This year's march was organized by an ad hoc group of individuals, since the official May Week Labour Arts Festival was on hiatus this year. Still, the attendance was great (around 150 people) and the spirit was high. Here is a look at some photos and a short video.

    While I was in Caboto Park waiting for the May Day march to get started, I got recruited for a drum circle. There is an organized drum circle that meets and practices regularly in the park. I started out on a large, Latin American drum that I had strapped around my shoulders, then switched to a cowbell - not just any cowbell, one with a long metal rod extending from it, with a thigh stirrup. We learned some basic drum patterns, as well as corresponding dance moves. It was a lot of fun, and I hope to do it again soon. Here are some photos of the rest of the troupe in action.

    Sunday saw some rain off and on, but it stayed sunny long enough for me to check out the opening day of the Callingwood Farmer's Market. Located in the west end, Callingwood is the only Sunday farmer's market in Edmonton. A lot of children enjoyed the petting zoo. I thought there was a good variety of crafts, but did not see as many plants and produce as at other markets. I do plan to return, so maybe that will change as the season progresses. Here are some photos, which also include a few shots of The Dancing Guy, spotted as I headed for a quick shopping trip at WEM.

    Yesterday, I decided to go on a little local adventure by taking the LRT for its entire route, back and forth. We parked at the Stadium, took the train to the new Southgate and Century Park stations, then went all the way north to Clareview, then back to the Stadium. I took a few pictures along the route, mostly shot out of the window, catching some interesting reflections. I especially found the north part of the city to be interesting, with its old buildings, junkyards, and street art. Here is a look.

    Wednesday, April 28, 2010

    Homeless Connect

    I spent a chunk of this afternoon at the United Way's InKind Centre. We were volunteering for Homeless Connect which takes place at the Shaw Conference Centre on May 9. Homeless Connect brings together businesses, organizations, and volunteers to provide valuable services to people experiencing homelessness (or are at risk) such as eyeglasses, dental care, long-distance phone calls, haircuts, and mental health services.

    There is a lot of preparation that needs to be done before the event, and that is where I have been helping out. I have been distributing posters and cards, mostly in the McCauley area, to make people aware of the event (for both potential volunteers and guests). This afternoon, we helped sort personal care items for the care kits that are distributed to all of the guests who attend Homeless Connect (an estimated 1200). We then helped sort through coats donated for the United Way's "Costs for Kids and Families" campaign. The coats are all dry cleaned by Page Cleaners and then sent to the InKind Centre. We had to sort the coats based on size (Men's, Women's, Children's, Teens', etc.) and season (Spring or Winter). Spring coats will be given out at Homeless Connect.

    I had a great time meeting Kristy Jackin, the InKind Centre's Program Coordinator, and learning about the work of the Centre. hHomeless Connect needs volunteers on the day of the event, so check out their website to learn more.

    Tuesday, April 27, 2010

    Boyle McCauley News - May 2010

    The May 2010 issue of Boyle McCauley News is now online. You can download a copy of the paper in PDF format here. In the meantime, here is a sneek peak at what's inside:

    * McCauley Says Enough is Enough!
    * McCauley School to Close
    * Being a Good Witness
    * Shop Talk
    * A Dog Park in McCauley?
    * McCauley Clean Up
    * Call of the Wild
    * Letters To The Editor
    * Community League Updates
    * Dining Out