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 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.