Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Our Communities, Our Selves

Preamble: I am involved with a local blog writing group made up of Twitter friends. Each month we write on a specific topic. This month's chosen topic is community.

When I first started contemplating this blog topic, I thought about what my fellow bloggers may write. Perhaps I am being presumptuous, but I expect a lot of the following: "I am a member of [religion/culture] and my community here in Edmonton has been so [wonderful/accepting/supportive/etc.]. I am so glad to be a part of the [religion/culture] community here. All hail my [religion/culture].

For me, it is not so simple. I walk between many worlds. As a result, community to me has many meanings.

Community can be contradictory.
Sometimes one's beliefs can run contrary to the dominant paradigm of one's presumed community. I am Jewish, but my open criticism of the State of Israel and support for Palestinian rights automatically puts me on the outside. As well, my political and theological leanings (which I won't get into here) also sets me apart from pretty much every major Jewish denomination for one reason or another. At the same time, we have to have the strength and courage to stand up for our beliefs, even when they fly in the faces of our communities. Just because you grew up being taught something, just because it seems like everyone else around you believes that thing, doesn't mean it is right - and especially, it does not mean it is right for you. I even wrote a song about it, called "Walls".

Community can be based on who you are and who you choose to be.
I wasn't born an activist. I became one through my own explorations of the world and current events. As a result, I am part of the local activist community. While most of us are part of communities based on aspects of ourselves beyond our control (such as our ethnic group), we also become a part of communities based on our life choices.

Community can be inherited and adopted.
This is very much in relation to my point above. I'm part of the Jewish community because I am Jewish. I was born Jewish. I'm part of a neighbourhood where I live, by virtue of the fact that I, well, live there (duh). At the same time, I am deeply involved in the McCauley and Boyle Street neighbourhoods because that is where my work and passion lie. Although I do not live there, I am adopted as part of the community. I wrote about this at length in April of 2010 in a blog post entitled "Defining Community", so I'll leave it at that rather than repeat myself. My views are pretty much the same now as then.

Community can remain static, or it can change with life choices.
Remember what I said above about living in one place, but working in another? Perhaps one day I will move. Some people convert to other religions. I know people who have jumped in head first into political or social activities. Our communities change as we do. Likely in our lifetimes, we will have some communities in which we stay and others into which we grow.

So that pretty much sums up my take on community. I'll be posting the links to my fellow blog group members' work as they become available.

Related Posts:
My lifelong community by @TamaraStecyk
Creating Community Throught My Feet by @Joanna_Farley
Blog Group Topic #3: Community by @lindork

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Boyle McCauley News Has a Website!

I spend a lot of time in the inner city. One of the major reasons is because I edit Boyle McCauley News, the community newspaper serving the neighbourhoods of Boyle Street and McCauley. The paper is an important source of news and information about the area, presenting many of the positive aspects of life there.

For the past five or so years, BMC News (as it is known for short) has had a presence on the website for the McCauley Community League. About a year's worth of papers were archived in PDF form, so visitors could download the paper to read.

2009 marked the 30th anniversary of the paper, and myself and my staff thought a good way to commemorate this milestone was to properly archive all of the past issues of the paper in microfiche. When we researched that option, we also saw that we could have all of the papers scanned and converted into PDFs that were searchable and could be incorporated into a project such as a website.

We reached the conclusion that a website that was stand-alone and featured an electronic version of current issues as well as a searchable archive was not only desireable, but necessary as a valuable resource not only for the community itself, but for anyone interested in the history of Edmonton's inner city.

After receiving a projects-based grant from Alberta Culture and Community Spirit's Community Initiatives Program, we embarked upon the task of putting the website together. Today, March 1, 2011, the site officially launched at www.bmcnews.org. The site does an incredible job of presenting the newspaper in a format that stays true to the print edition, but has its own unique aspects like the archive. It was developed as a group effort of myself, designer Vikki Wiercinski, programmer Derek Hogue, and the BMC News Board of Directors.

Bringing Edmonton's oldest community newspaper online is something which I have been involved with for a while. I developed and maintain BMC News' presence on Twitter and Facebook. This new website brings the paper completely into the modern age. I am looking forward to the community's feedback as we expand the profile of Edmonton's inner city.