Monday, April 18, 2011

Charity, Poverty, and Bandages

On April 13, I was invited to speak at a meeting of the West End Interfaith Coalition on Poverty (Weicop). Weicop is comprised of representatives from 12 churches of different denominations in the west end seeking to find solutions to issues of poverty and homelessness in the area.

I was asked to speak as a representative of the Boyle Street and McCauley area, through my work with Boyle McCauley News. There are issues concerning poverty and homelessness emerging in the Stony Plain Road area that are comparable to the inner city. And, as someone who walks between the worlds of downtown and the west end (my family home is not far from Stony Plain Road, I shop in that area often, and I used to edit another community newspaper in that area), the members of Weicop thought I would have some ideas about how to deal with thee situations effectively as citizens and with their churches.

In particular, I spoke of the need to educate and inform people about the inner city, to see the many wonderful events, attractions, and people who live here, as opposed to the way the area is often portrayed, focusing on crime, panhandlers, and negative stereotypes. By encouraging people to visit the area and spend time there, these perceptions and fears can be changed.

I was also asked about my recent work with Action for Healthy Communities as a Community Animator in McCauley, as well as the initiatives of the McCauley Connects Coffeehouse and Church Street Fair that were developed as a result.

The people at Weicop were dedicated, concerned, and compassionate Edmontonians who truly care about what is going on in their community. Many of them support organizations that deal with poverty and housing issues financially and with resources such as donating clothing or bringing in groups from their churches and preparing meals. These are all important actions that provide immediate relief to those suffering on the streets.

However, alone these actions are not enough. I implored them to go further and investigate the underlying reasons why social problems are becoming more prevalent in their area, as money alone cannot solve the issues.

Here is exactly what I said. “Giving money to a problem is a Band-Aid. You’ve got to look at the underlying causes as to why it is happening, and deal with it on that level,” she said. “Band-Aids stop the bleeding, but they don’t heal the wound. Do what you can as an individual, as a church, and as a city to deal with these causes.”

The bottom line is, when it comes to charity, give not only of your money and resources, but give of yourselves. Strive to find those underlying social causes to whatever issue you are confronting, and engage in activism to make it better. It isn't easy, but it is the only way to truly catalyse change.

Rallies and Elections

Lots has been going on in the activist community over the past month. I helped organize and performed at the National Day of Action on April 9, to call for an end to Canada's involvement in all wars. A federal election is on the horizon, and we were calling for an end to the Conservative government, as we feel little will change if Stephen Harper remains in power. Here are photos.

The week prior, there was a Friends of Medicare rally, calling for a public inquiry into the shutting up of whistleblowers in the healthcare system.

The upheavals in the Middle East has promted a large number of rallies locally, as members of the local Syrian, Bahrainian, and Libyan communities have been rallying weekly for Canada to support their kinsmen in these respective countries. In fact, this past Saturday, there were two rallies going on simultaneously in Churchill Square! This was a first for me, and it was rather surreal. Here is a look at the rally for Libya and for Bahrain

I am really not sure why these communities are so fragmented - to me, it would make more sense to have one rally supporting all of the countries in the Middle East experiencing upheavals, like this one from late March to support Libya, Bahrain, Syria, Yemen, and Jordan.

Besides playing at the National Day of Action, I also performed at two eco-events. Water for Life was on March 25 and dealt with access to clean water for children around the world. Living Green 101 was yesterday at Beacon Heights, and was an alternative to Earth Day celebrations which were cancelled in Edmonton this year. I was a musical guest of Music is a Weapon, and the power for the amplification was generated by riding stationary bicycles. One of my Facebook friends suggested my music now be referred to as "heavy pedal!"

YOu can check out videos from these and other events at my YouTube channel (activism) and my other YOuTube channel (music).