Monday, April 19, 2010

From Global to Local - Rethinking My Activism

I am someone who has been interested in the subjects of peace and human rights for as long as I have been able to think as an independent person. My life changed dramatically a few years ago when I decided to take concrete actions and stand up for my beliefs by becoming an organizer in the local activist scene. I have helped to organize, spoken at, and sang at countless events and demonstrations. I donate my skills as a website designer, photographer, and videographer - in the process, I have created an archive of Edmonton's activist scene. Regardless of where one falls on the political spectrum, this is part of the city's history.

Social media is also central to my activist life - in fact, last year I presented on social media for activists at Public Interest Alberta's annual advocacy conference. In fact, I recently created the Twitter account @yegactivist specifically for announcements about activist events.

While peace marches are fun and we all need to do our part to save the environment, a lot of the time there aren't tangible results. At least, not immediately. This has frustrated and burned out many an activist, who sees their efforts as futile. I am not one of these people, but at the same time I have also discovered that dealing with these large issues on a smaller, community-focused level is equally important.

Take, for example, poverty. Poverty is a serious issue, both worldwide and here at home. In December, I volunteered with the Edmonton Food Bank's Stuff-a-Bus campaign. Did we solve the issue of people not having enough to eat? No. But I am willing to bet that many families in Edmonton were able to have a nutritious meal thanks to the donations of money and food we collected.

In reflecting on my activism, I realize that community is a big part of what I do both professionally and personally. I've been involved with both of the city's street newspapers, helping people in poverty make money and develop skills. My work at Boyle McCauley News has made me into an advocate for the inner city. BMC News is so much more than a community newspaper - it is a community project with volunteers taking part in just about every aspect of the paper's existence, from operations to content to delivery. I joined the McCauley Community League

Most recently, I decided to get involved in the Capital City Clean Up as a block captain. I adopted the block upon which the Boyle McCauley News office resides and have gathered up enough volunteers to keep the block clean from May to September. Will this solve the world's environmental woes? No, but it will sure be great not to have litter flying around.

Since I absolutely cannot keep a guitar out of my hands, I had to find a way to set local social justice to music. And I found it. I've gotten involved with an organization called Music is a Weapon that raises both awareness and funds for different causes, locally and globally. I look forward to busking on Whyte Avenue, taking part in drum circles, and maybe even juggling my devil sticks in time to the rhythm of social justice.

Although I am hardly what one could consider affluent, I try to put my money where my mouth is, and joined the Edmonton Social Planning Council and Friends of Medicare while donating what I can to local charitable organizations such as the Youth Emergency Shelter and Habitat for Humanity. In fact, one of my goals is to take part in a Habitat for Humanity house build. While giving money is important, giving of my time lets me feel like I am making more of a difference.

I will continue to take part in events that deal with peace, the environment, and human rights. These are global issues that continually create a need to raise our voices to educate others either as they pass by on the street or hear about it in the media, and hopefully influence public policy. However, I will also be making extra efforts towards community and social justice in Edmonton. While I agree with those in my circle of activist friends who believe we need to be looking at the root causes of injustice, war, and poverty and trying to deal with those issues from the ground up, I have to disagree when local efforts are dismissed as being band-aids to larger problems. After all, a band-aid is supposed to help stop the bleeding and I see enough bloodshed around me to carry a first-aid kit at all times.


Alberta Report Editorial Collective said...

And we are thankful for it. Thanks Paula for all that you do!!

Anonymous said...

thx u very much, i learn a lot