Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Earth Day Talk: Activism, Slacktivism, and Clicktivism

I am often asked to either sing or speak at events, but rarely am I asked to do both. This was precisely what I did at the Edmonton Earth Day Week Kickoff 2014 that took place on April 21 at the Alberta Avenue Community League. Organized by the local Green Party, I was asked to sing a couple of songs and also give a short talk discussing the differences between activism, slacktivism, and clicktivism. I have posted my notes here for others to learn whatever they would like to take away from such a discussion, as well as the actual video of my talk (and the song I chose to follow it up with).

Activism vs. "Slacktivism" vs. "Clicktivism"

A. Definitions

  • The Internet/modern technology has opened up new possibilities in activism.

    1. Clicktivism: online surveys, petitions, forwarding Facebook statuses, posting links on Twitter
  • Does not require much effort and can create inflated sense of accomplishment

    2. Slacktivism: Term started a few years ago when wearing the yellow "Livestrong" bracelets became popular
  • Wearing something with a message, possibly just because it is trendy. Che Guevara t-shirt joke (picture of him, underneath: "I don't even know who this is.")
  • All activists have t-shirts etc. with messages. Can be discussion starters.

    B. Criticism

  • I don't like these terms.
  • Lateral violence: criticising each other's methods and intentions when we should be working together towards common goals.
  • We need to respect each others' contributions to making a better world.
  • I am into rallies and marches: some people think they are ineffective. But they can raise awareness of others who see them, and get into media.
  • We can't always judge the effectiveness of methods.
  • Can be barriers to taking part in certain activities: sitting at the computer and doing things online may be all someone can do.

    C. Activism

  • I discovered activism online while looking for groups to connect with.
  • Activism = active.
  • Requires commitment, lifestyle changes, working towards systemic changes on underlying issues.

    D. Bottom Line

  • Avoid lateral violence.
  • Support each others' efforts.
  • Get involved in issues that speak to you.

  • Friday, April 11, 2014

    Community Journalism: Workshop Notes

    I recently gave a workshop on community journalism for a writing group in the McCauley neighbourhood. I thought I would share my notes here to try to encourage people to take part in community journalism and to inspire creative thoughts.

    A. What is Community Journalism?
  • It is hyper-local as opposed to just local
  • Geographically limited in scope (such as a neighbourhood newspaper)
  • Often produced by non-professional writers/photographers (citizen media)
  • Can go into depths of community events/news/opinions overlooked by other media
  • Gives a voice to the marginalized
  • Media can include newspapers, blogs, social media
  • Value of substance over style, because it is mostly being produced by non-professionals

    B. Why Community Journalism?
  • Cover topics/events ignored by mainstream, larger media
  • To give community members a voice
  • With regards to community newspapers, to present the reality of life in a specific neighbourhood (for example, in the inner city, the good is often overlooked by other media)
  • A good place to start building a portfolio because it is easier to get published; less competitive

    C. News Versus Opinion
  • One of the most misunderstood aspects of journalism
  • News: non-personal, fact-based, written in the third person. An article or column.
  • Opinion: Personal, feelings-based, written in the first person. Editorial or letter to the editor.

    D. Assignments
  • Five minutes each; share afterwards:

    1) List a choice of themes, and ask participants to write something on that theme.
    2) Write a short news piece on something going on in your community.
    3) Write an opinion on something in the community, such as a social issue or recent happening.
  • Wednesday, April 09, 2014

    Goddess Activism: Workshop Notes

    I was asked to give a talk about the connections between Goddess spirituality and activism at the Alberta Goddess Conference in the fall of 2013. Unfortunately, due to various logistical problems the conference did not happen. However, since I spent time researching and writing on this topic, which has opened up a world of interest in this particular spiritual viewpoint, I have decided to share my workshop notes here. As well, I would be available to give this workshop in Edmonton to interested groups.

    Welcome (is everyone okay with this being videoed?)
    Go around and introduce ourselves, and speak briefly as to why we’re here.

    Introduce myself
     - Freelance writer/editor/photographer involved with community and independent media. I document the local activist scene through my website Radical Citizen Media and am also an organizer with the Edmonton Coalition Against War & Racism, and a founder of the Daughters Day initiative, which celebrates the lives and achievements of women and girls while raising awareness of human rights abuses. I’m also a musician (a “protest singer”) and in 2012 I received the Salvos Prelorentzos Peace Award from Project Ploughshares, a peace organization.
    - I come from a traditional Jewish home, spent a while involved with a group that is essentially an Evangelical church that uses Jewish forms of worship and symbols, and am now exploring earth-based religion and seeing some natural connections between it and the religion of my origin. But today, I am here to talk about activism and Goddess spirituality.

    About Activism
    Part of spirituality is to celebrate our senses
    Activism = sense-itivity to the world around us
    Activism and spirituality are connected, regardless of which spirituality or religion one follows, activism are the actions that back up or support our beliefs, meditations, prayer, rituals. In Christianity, faith without works is dead, and there are similar sayings in other religions too.

    Activism involves a cause we believe deeply in. We often think of it as a global or large issue (foreign policy, peace, the environment,) but it can also be something small and affecting our lives locally (getting a traffic light installed in a busy intersection).

    Activism and Goddess spiritually most naturally and historically connects with feminism, and the modern Goddess movement is linked with feminism through celebrating our innate power as women. Alternately, feminism is a modern activist movement. But Goddess activism is not just limited to causes affecting those who identify as women. In the activist community, most people are known for favouring a specific cause, so to be an activist you just have to find a cause that resonates with you. Then, connect with others who share those values. Things have changed a lot in this regard – I had to get online and really dig around, but it’s easier now with social media like Facebook and Twitter being so prevalent.

    Empowerment of women is only one reason why Goddess or Earth-based spirituality in general is attractive to a growing number of people. Because there is no dogma, no central authority, no official leaders, and really no hard and set rules, Wicca and neo-Paganism can attract left-learning, anti-authoritarian kinds of people like anti-capitalists and anti-globalization activists.

    Being a Goddess activist has challenges. Some of these challenges are the same for all activists, but they can affect us as women in different ways. These include:
    Lateral violence: (gossip, backstabbing amongst other activists, rising from jealousy and other issues);
    Sexism: (for example, men hold the “leadership” positions but it’s actually the women doing all of the work. I read a stat a while back that 90% of volunteer work in churches and non-profits was done by women).
    Activist burn out: we have lives apart from activism, families, lovers, other interests, careers. Self care is important. The personal is political: if we are a bunch of burned out, unhappy people in our personal lives, we’re not going to be as effective as activists, as most importantly, be physically and emotionally healthy as people. This where our spirituality is important, as giving us a foundation and energy release.

    To discuss how Goddess spirituality can be applied to activism, I am picking two major activist themes that directly relate:

    A. Environment
    - In most writings about Goddess spirituality, Wicca, and Paganism, nature is considered sacred. Just read Starhawk, or any other major author that writes about this faith tradition.
    - Goddess spirituality is part of Earth-based religion. We are part of nature, we are guardians of nature, and we have to respect nature.

    B.  Peace
     - Just like nature is sacred, life is sacred. Cyclical: We are also part of nature. Spiritually and physically – regardless of one’s views of the afterlife, our physical bodies return to the earth one way or the other.
    - Our bodies are sacred space – how we treat each other is essential to peace. Behaviours like yelling and gossip are a form a personal violence. We will never be able to stop violence on a broader scale if we don’t treat each other with respect.
    - Threefold Law of return: Every action has a threefold return. So, activism is something that should be a regular part of our lives, because we’re sending out positivity and good vibes with our actions.
    - Activism does not always have to involve big, grand actions. Words have power. Making affirmations is important and can have a positive effect in changing the world.

    C. Animal Rights
    - Humans are sacred, but no more sacred than anything else on Earth. Humans and animals are equal. This is why Earth-based spiritual practitioners are often animal rights activists and vegetarians/vegans.

    Activism and Earth-based Goddess spirituality are interconnected. Not every activist is a Pagan or Wiccan, but a large proportion of Pagans and Wiccans are activists because of the connections between the sacred and the earth and our bodies.