Radio — The Occupy-inspired grassroots revitalization of a marginalized neighbourhood

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, TJ Travis talks about The Bloomfield House, an unfunded, grassroots, and highly successful revitalization and community empowerment project inspired by the Occupy movement that is making a major impact in the marginalized Sandwich Town neighbourhood of Windsor, Ontario.

Though it doesn’t get nearly the same attention as its flashier and more confrontational cousins like “direct action” or “demonstration” or “strike” or “protest,” one element in the repertoire of popular movements has always been “mutual aid” — marginalized people coming together to collectively support each other and meet each others needs, in the face of uncaring elites and dominant institutions.

TJ Travis grew up in Sandwich Town. It’s a very poor neighbourhood and many of its residents are marginalized in other ways as well. An artist, musician, and poet, Travis has also trained as a social worker, but was feeling dissatisfied with what conventional social work practice could actually do for communities. Instead, he and others took inspiration from their experience of the Occupy movement, and decided to bring the grassroots spirit of co-operation and mutual aid that Occupy encampents represented for so many to addressing marginalization and poverty in Sandiwch Town. They got access to a building in the neighbourhood — it’s Travis’ aunt that owns it — fixed it up, opened the space to the community, and waited to see what would happen.

And the community has responded with enthusiasm. With no major external funding, in less than two years they now have multiple locations in the neighbourhood, a community clean-up initiative, a food-share program, programming for children, a weekly community drum circle and potluck, rich arts-based programming for people of all ages, a soon-to-open arts-focused free school, and lots more. I talk with Travis about The Bloomfield House, where it came from, how it works, and the amazing mutual aid and grassroots community empowerment that it’s helping to catalyze in Sandwich Town.

To learn more about The Bloomfield House, click here.

Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada. We give you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show in general, visit its website here. You can learn about suggesting topics for future shows here.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Sudbury, Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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