On Monday, we had a conversation cafe. The topic was “No money. No power. No status. Must be women’s work.” Many things were discussed – too many ideas to capture them all here with any depth. I did walk away with a question in my head – Are we ready for a revolution?
I understand that we all get tired. Hell, I am tired most every day when I wake up but what is really stopping me from getting angry enough to take action. What is stopping the masses from rising up and demanding change?
One of the things that was shared during the conversation is that some of us don’t want to be seen as angry, bra burning, man hating feminists. Some of us are not even sure we are feminists. Some of us want to feel safe and at home in a community and to work collectively for amicable change. I wonder if those with power, status, and money will ever be willing to give up enough so that we all have equal chance for living our best lives. I wonder if in fact we have to take it from them.
All of this wondering reminded me of an article by Bernice Johnson Reagon called “Coalition Politics: Turning the Century“. In this article Reagon reminds us that in coalition we are not comfortable, we are not safe, we are not at home – in fact we are at war. We would not be outside of the safety of our own little lives if it were not a matter of urgency for us to be together.
I think about people like Gandhi and Mother Teresa who could envision a different way of protest that did not see us wrestling things from the hands of the oppressors. Mother Teresa said she would not march in an anti war demonstration but if ever there was a march for peace she would be there. I have felt that way myself. When I get riled up with anger, my energy is not peaceful. Neither are my thoughts or actions.
That is one of the reasons my friends and I took our daughters to Ottawa for a women’s peace march. While there we were assaulted by a group of men playing touch football. In front of our children, one of us was thrown to the ground and kicked repeatedly. When we turned to the RCMP for support, we were told “We had a safe route to be on and we had left it.” My response was to circle the wagons and stay at home. Hmm. Oversimplified retelling of a story but I feel sad about it just the same.
Today on facebook I received an invite to a group protesting the deadly beating of youth by police and an update about the rounding up of the so called illegal immigrants from local malls. Two big wake up calls that my city is not at peace. Many people are not as comfortable as I am. They have the war of greed, poverty, and discrimination in their faces every day. I am asking myself, “Am I ready for a revolution?”
Historically women have received less pay for the work that they do and any work that is considered nurturing work is left to women.
Is that why we see so much community organizing being done by women?
What roles are women taking and being given in community building?
10 May 2010
Seneca College at Yorkgate Mall
GUEST SPEAKER: Tonika Morgan
Former youth activist, community worker, first manager of “Women Moving Forward” (Jane-Finch), and now a manager at Toronto Housing
MODERATOR: Deborah Konecny
Please RSVP by phone to: (416) 231-5499 or by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
þ Light meal will be provided þ Child care available — by reservation only
I was chatting by email with my friend and colleague chris cavanagh about the new ways we are connecting with each other in our modern world. We are using technology and its programs/applications to reach out to each other for learning, support, companionship, and community building. But to what end?
I know that I have friends who inspire me in person. Their approach to life helps me to see different perspectives on issues and different responses to challenges. They are thoughtful and innovative. Their presence in a room always shifts the energy – okay maybe I can’t say that but it does shift my energy to a place of being more open and settled in myself. But online, it is way different. They lurk. They join groups, follow blogs, read articles, search for wisdom and truth but are noticeably silent.
When I shared this observation with chris, he replied, “Yes, the lurking population is, i agree, huge. But that’s the digital divide: lots of spectators and not so many spect-ACTORS (as Boal called them).
With a quick trip to google, I found more than enough information about Augusta Boal and Theatre of the Oppressed to get me started. (I bookmarked the sites that caught my attention to visit later as I continue in my never ending quest to learn it ALL.)
I have copied a paragraph from the Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed website to share with you here.
Birth of the Spect-Actor
“Prior to his experimentation, and following tradition, audiences were invited to discuss a play at the end of the performance. In so doing, according to Boal, they remained viewers and “reactors” to the action before them. In the 1960′s Boal developed a process whereby audience members could stop a performance and suggest different actions for the character experiencing oppression, and the actor playing that character would then carry out the audience suggestions. But in a now legendary development, a woman in the audience once was so outraged the actor could not understand her suggestion that she came onto the stage and showed what she meant. For Boal this was the birth of the spect-actor (not spectator) and his theatre was transformed. He began inviting audience members with suggestions for change onto the stage to demonstrate their ideas. In so doing, he discovered that through this participation the audience members became empowered not only to imagine change but to actually practice that change, reflect collectively on the suggestion, and thereby become empowered to generate social action. Theatre became a practical vehicle for grass-roots activism.”
Thanks to Richard for sharing this list with us all. A request had come from the TCDI facebook group so I thought I would share it here as well.
Starting from Nina: The Politics of Learning. Directed by Rosemary Donegan, Anita Shilton-Martin, D’Arcy Martin. Toronto: Development Education Centre/Osterried Productions (1978). The Latin American educationalist Paulo Freire tells an anecdote about a man who had learned to write his wife’s name, and the emotional effect this achievement had on him. Shows the wide applications of Freire’s ideas for those involved in education. (25 min.)
Moses Coady: Beyond the Mountain. Produced by CBC History Television (2002), A biography of the life and exploits of Dr. Moses Coady. It follows his beginnings in Cape Breton, through seminary to his career at St. FX, highlighting his love of people and his drive for social progress that would be felt throughout the world. The film includes interviews with his colleagues at the Extension Department who participated in the Antigonish Movement. (44 min.)
The Man from Margaree: Moses Coady. NFB (1974), The story of Rev. Dr. Moses Coady of St. Francis Xavier University and the Antigonish movement. (1 hr.)
The Telling Takes Me Home. This video tells the story of activists and folk singers Guy and Candie Carawan. The filmmaker, daughter Heather Carawan, reflects on growing up in a musical and political time with her parents’ views on race relations, community organizing, and the power of song. The documentary includes footage from the Highlander Research and Education Center. (28:26 min.)
You Got to Move. A movie by Lucy Massie Phenix about a group of southern activists going through a course at the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee, founded by Myles Horton, and leading in the education of workers’ rights, social justice, and democracy-building activists since 1932. (80 min.)
Adventures of a Radical Hillbilly. Film by Bill Moyers, interviewing Myles Horton at Highlander Center, and detailing some of the history of this community-based institution that influenced generations of unions, civil rights activists (including M. L. King, Jr. and Rosa Parks), environmentalists, immigrant rights fighters, gay-lesbian rights activists, youth, and more. (2 hrs.)
Myles Horton, Paulo Freire, and Friends Gather at Highlander. Highlander Research and Education Center. (1987) This tape presents an informal meeting at the Highlander Folk School on Dec. 5 1987, when Brazilian educator Paulo Freire and Highlander founder Myles Horton met with local students and adult education workers to discuss adult education and related topics. (1 hr., 43 min.)
Highlander Research and Education Center. Various short films on Highlander and its 75th anniversary of working for a new world starting from Appalachia in the southern U.S. made recently. (20 min.)
I was at a friend’s place reading through some of the wealth of materials that he has amassed for the Catalyst Centre Library when I stumbled across an article by bell hooks reflecting on the influence Paulo Freire. In it, she talks of the impact her encounter with Freire had on her life as a young academic and black feminist. I wept reading the article. It was honest and truthful – particularily in recounting how transformative it is to engage with someone who welcomes criticism of one’s works and one’s flaws. hooks had been initially excluded from an address Freire was making as the powers that be thought she would be too confrontative about the inherent sexism in Freire language in his works. Freire did not back away from her questions, rather he embraced them.
The tone of her voice as she discussed how her relationship with Freire and his works impacted her own work was delicious. It reminded me of how I felt to be learning about feminism as a young woman – and in particular it reminded me of two guest lecturers I had the pleasure of studying with: Nourbese Philip and Lee Maracle. Both of these women pushed me beyond my own comfort zone and demanded that I pushed hard to learn complex thoughts and critically analysize how I was in the world. I still carry them with me today and remember them often when I find myself yearning and striving for my place in this complex world. I still want to do great things. I still want to read great pieces. I still want to sit in a room filled with people hungry for the same kind of change and expectant of the success we will feel when we get there.
I want to be challenged to always remember that any process I am a part of comes with the responsibility of ensuring there is protected space for dissenting views, critical thought, and action. I want to know if you will ask me provocative questions about whether I am walking the walk or just talking the talk.
(The article I am referring to is called “bell hooks speaking about Paulo Freire – the man, his work”, 1993. In Paulo Freire: A Critical Encounter (McLaren, Peter & Peter Leonard, eds.) New York: Routledge pp 146-154. She later included these thoughts in a book called Talking Back: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black.)