Tuesday, December 25, 2012
Monday, December 03, 2012
Thursday, November 29, 2012
Monday, November 26, 2012
Sunday, November 25, 2012
Monday, November 19, 2012
Independent Jewish Voices has chapters in eight cities across the country and consists of Canadian Jews from diverse backgrounds who share a strong commitment to social justice and universal human rights, to reclaim the tradition of Jewish support for universal freedoms, human rights, and social justice. In fact, we believe that the broad spectrum of opinion amongst the Jewish population of this country is not reflected by institutions that claim to represent Jewish communities as a whole. We believe that individuals and groups should feel free to express their views on any issue of public concern without incurring accusations of disloyalty and we are compelled to speak out because of the lessons we have learned from our own history. As such, Independent Jewish Voices condemns Israel’s latest attack on the Palestinians trapped in Gaza by Israel’s illegal blockade. Israel has euphemistically dubbed the operation “Pillar of Defense” (alternately Pillar of Cloud). However, as one IJV Steering Committee member, Dylan Penner, has pointed out, “Israel’s latest attack on Gaza is not a ‘Pillar of Defense.’ It’s a Pillar of War Crimes, which we have a moral obligation to oppose.” He also goes on to say that, “This latest atrocity is compounded by the fact that, thanks to Israel’s illegal and inhumane blockade, for the people who live in Gaza there is no escape.” Just look at recent history - four years ago, Israel launched its “Operation Cast Lead” on the Gaza Strip. Over 1400 Palestinians were killed — over a third of whom were innocent women and children. Israel claimed moral righteousness while committing this massacre, but the United Nations later found that Israel committed war crimes and possible crimes against humanity and that “the assault was designed to humiliate and terrorize a civilian population.” Amnesty International concluded that Israel’s aggression amounted to “22 days of death and destruction.” I am a Canadian-born Jewish woman who believes strongly in the Jewish value of tikkun olam, which means healing or repairing the world. When I see the devastating and inhumane and illegal treatment of the Palestinian people by a government and military supposedly representing my religion and culture, it is with a deeply broken heart. The actions of the Israeli government and military is antithetical to the true values of Judaism which include compassion, reason, and social justice. It is for these reasons that I cannot support such actions. I find it horribly offensive for any of the brutality in Palestine to be attributed to being in my name – it is not in my name. It tarnishes my religion and culture. I encourage other Jewish people to really look at the situation objectively and not through the idealized notions of Israel with which many of us were raised. To blindly support a nation and its government because of misplaced nationalistic fervour or perceived ownership based on selective Biblical interpretation is illogical. Zionism and Judaism are not the same thing. Historically Zionism was opposed by almost all organized branches of Judaism. Even today, not all Jews are Zionists. Actually, Zionism’s strongest cheerleaders today are Christians. So, accusations that anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism are very much unfounded and merely a way of stirring up trouble towards those people who are critics of Israel. In fact, there are many Jewish voices from within Israel and around the world who are opposed to the Israeli colonial settlement policy in the Occupied Territories and those voices are getting stronger. Thank you. The Side of Peace I’ve marched in Gaza rallies
And sung for Arab crowds
Though some of my relations
Think I should not be allowed.
I’m asked why do I do it?
Or if I’m scared at the very least;
The only answer that I have,
Is I’m on the side of Peace. I always say I’m Jewish,
It’s part of who I am.
So is speaking out
For human rights as best I can.
This conflict is immoral
I want it all to cease
And that is why I take a stand
On the side of Peace. When innocent civilians
Are killed day after day
By military massacres
I have the right to say
Collective punishment is wrong
As the death tolls increase.
The only way to save lives
Is on the side of Peace. Unlike so many others
I can’t support a nation
When it’s so horrific towards
Part of the population
Yes, the leaders are not innocent
But the children are, indeed
So are all the others who
Are on the side of Peace. It’s easy to be silent
Or toe the party line
Complicity is for cowards
Who are part of the crime.
I will never be accused
Of groveling on my knees
I stand with my conscience
On the side of Peace. © 2009 Paula E. Kirman
Thursday, November 08, 2012
On November 6, 2012 I received the Salvos Prelorentzos Peace Award from Project Ploughshares at City Hall. In its 17th year, the award is given annually to someone in Edmonton who has worked towards the goals of peace and social justice but who has not yet been formally recognized for their work. I was chosen for my pioneering efforts in documenting the local activist scene and using social media and other online tools to share and connect. This is my acceptance speech. For a full set of photos, click here. For all of the videos, here is the playlist.
Social Media and Social Responsibility
Salvos Prelorentzos Award Acceptance Speech
November 6, 2012
When Jim Gurnett called me back in January to inform me that I had been chosen as this year’s recipient, I was at a loss for words – and for someone like myself who makes a living with words, that is indeed very rare. Then, I found myself in a similar situation when I sat down to write my words of acceptance.
So, let me begin by giving thanks. Thank you to Project Ploughshares for making this event possible. Thank you to the award’s organizing committee for selecting me, especially to Alison Scott-Prelorentzos for honouring her late husband in this manner. Thank you to David Climenhaga for speaking tonight, and to Terry Morrison for gracing us with her wonderful music. Congratulations to Mr. Kalia for his lifetime service award. And thank you to all of you for coming out this evening. It really does mean a lot to me, more than I could express.
I am very honoured and humbled to have been chosen as this year’s recipient, especially when I reflect upon the incredible people and organizations who stood up here in past years, many of whom I am privileged to call my friends and my brothers and sisters in our common struggle to bring about a world of peace and justice.
Now, I will tell you a bit about myself. As a child, I made an impassioned plea to my parents for two things: a camera and a guitar. I am fortunate that my parents indulged me, although I have to admit that the guitar took a little more convincing.
Communication is what I do professionally, and there is a need for communication about peace and matters of social justice between organizations, individuals, and the world. We have the technology at our fingertips to do this. I am fortunate to be part of a generation to embrace social media as well as the technological gadgets that make archiving and sharing possible.
Then, it was just a matter of connecting with the local peace community – something I did not know existed until I purposely went about looking for it. When I found it, I showed up at a peace rally with a digital camera and started taking pictures. At that time, I was really the only person taking pictures at these sorts of events, and then the first to get the images online to be shared.
When I saw the possibilities to really show the rest of Edmonton and beyond that the city really does have an active, engaged peace community, this expanded into acquiring a video camera, learning to edit film footage, as well as increasing the number of social networks upon which I share my work while getting into more sophisticated forms of blogging and website design.
I am now so enthusiastic to see others showing up to events with cameras and getting online and sharing and commenting. Those of us who are privileged enough to be able to access and use technology have a choice to use developments like social media for the good of society. It gives us the opportunity to become independent citizen journalists and present our perspectives in a widely public forum but in a way that is very real with a human element.
Equally important to presenting and showcasing the city’s activist movement is sustaining it. In order to make sure the city has a peace movement that stays active, it has to stay relevant and attract younger people. Love it or hate it, the so-called “new media” is how to make this happen. When I do things like get Project Ploughshares onto Facebook and reviving the website for the Edmonton Coalition Against War and Racism it is with a sense of excitement for the future.
Now, about that guitar - when I got involved in the local peace movement, it was a natural transition to write songs with social meaning. I was, after all, raised on a steady diet of Joan Baez and Bob Dylan. It was also a way of being more directly involved with events rather than always just standing on the sidelines with a camera. And again, thanks to social media, I’ve been able to reach an audience far beyond just the people who show up at the events.
At the same time, thanks to social media, my activism has been very public and that is not without its challenges, personally and professionally. But like I said earlier, we have the tools at our fingertips to share and build our movement. It comes down to a matter of choice, and I have considered working towards peace to be a personal responsibility.
And on that note, I will end with the chorus of the song I wrote about choosing to stand up for peace in the face of resistance, called “Walls”:
I can’t sit on the fence anymore
When I have to choose between peace and war
And object to oppression where it arises
No matter what else it is disguised as
I hope that we can all make similar choices in our lives. Thank you.
Thursday, October 18, 2012
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Saturday, October 13, 2012
Friday, October 12, 2012
Tuesday, October 09, 2012
Monday, October 08, 2012
Sunday, September 30, 2012
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Saturday, September 08, 2012
Friday, September 07, 2012
Sunday, August 19, 2012
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Dog walkers and cyclists need to cooperate. The future of the Buena Vista off leash area is at stake.
I have often enjoyed riding my bike around Sir Wilfrid Laurier Park and attending picnics there. Other than maybe some road upgrades and modernization of the washroom facilities, I don't really have any complaints.
I do have some concerns with the plans for the Buena Vista area. They include adding lots of parking stalls, paving trails, and building fences to separate dog walkers and cyclists.
Buena Vista is one of the few areas of natural green space in the city. There are some places where you can stand amongst the trees and bushes, and it literally feels like you are out in the countryside. Adding a plethora of parking will diminish this green space. As Joni MItchell sings, they plan to "pave paradise and put up a parking lot."
Paving the trails and building separation boundaries seems to favour cyclists. I personally enjoy riding on the gravel trails - again, it makes me feel like I am somewhere else. I can ride on paved roads almost anywhere else in the city.
What the area needs is more cooperation between the dog walkers and cyclists. As a cyclist, it pains me to say that there are many irresponsible people on two wheels riding through Buena Vista. They speed through there with little regard for anyone else, and paving the trails will only encourage this behaviour.
Instead of separations, education and communication aimed at sharing the area is needed. The City should not be trying to change something that is already wonderful - I am also a dog walker, and most of the people I have spoken to down there are not in favour of the changes at all.
The one change I support are adding washrooms to the Buena Vista off leash area. There are a couple of porta potties here and there, which are not sufficient for a park of that size and usage.
The City should better use its planners and funds to improve the road leading down to Buena Vista, Sir Wilfried Laurier Park, and the Valley Zoo. It is in terrible condition and is an embarassment to the City, that people heading to one of Edmonton's main attractions should have to experience it. As a cyclist, I find all of the potholes and unevenness dangerous.
The City is asking stakeholders to complete a survey by August 3. Dog walkers and those otherwise not in favour of what could potentially happen are being encouraged to support Concept 1 (more off leash to the north) and oppose Concepts 2 and 3. Be sure to fill out the comments and explain why dramatically changing the face of Buena Vista is a bad idea.
Friday, June 01, 2012
Sunday, March 25, 2012
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
The horse-drawn wagon depicted above is winding its way through Church Street. To the left is Queen of Martyrs Vietnamese Catholic Church, and on the right is Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples.
Church Street is one of Edmonton's most valuable historic resources. Although not officially called that - yet - Church Street is located along and around 96 Street in the McCauley neighbourhood, part of the inner city which is currently undergoing revitalization efforts.
Friends of Church Street is a new organization seeking to promote the historical significance of the area. It all started in the fall of 2010 when I was a Community Animator for McCauley with Action for Healthy Communities. Part of my job was to encourage and facilitate residents in grassroots community initiatives. One such initiative was the McCauley Connects Coffeehouse, which regularly features local talent.
The other initiative came from a woman named Colleen Chapman, who also happens to share Volunteer Coordinator duties with me at Boyle McCauley News. Church Street was in the process of being honoured by the Edmonton Historical Society and Colleen thought it would be great to have a Church Street Fair in the summer of 2011.
Planning an event of this magnitude proved to be too much for just a few months, so the event ended up getting pushed ahead to 2013. However, in the meantime, Colleen gathered together a group of community members and boosters to form Friends of Church Street. I am the Communications Director, and in addition to planning the Fair, we seek to raise awareness of and attention towards the history, architecture, and importance of Church Street.
The City of Edmonton is indeed taking notice of just how important the area is. This article, published in the February 27 issue of the Edmonton Journal, reveals that the City may very well make the name Church Street official.
Church Street is a boost to both McCauley's revitalization and the City in general. There is a rich history behind many of the churches, and the architecture is spectacular. In fact, Church Street has put Edmonton in the Guinness Book of World Records - 96 Street still holds the record for the highest concentration of churches within the few blocks it spans.
We launched our website today and are also on Facebook and Twitter (@ChurchStreet96).
What are some of your ideas concerning Church Street? Any suggestions for the fair? Walking tours? Souvenirs? Contact us and get involved!