Hamilton Book Launch

Date: November 8
Time: 7pm
Location: Room 1010, Michael G. DeGroote Centre for Learning (MDCL), McMaster University, 1280 Main Street West, Hamilton, Ontario

Join author and activist Scott Neigh for a talk and book signing as he launches two new books published by Fernwood Publishing: Gender and Sexuality: Canadian History Through the Stories of Activists and Resisting the State: Canadian History Through the Stories of Activists. Hear about some of the many struggles that have shaped the Canada of today, and talk about new ways of relating to the past as we struggle for a transformed tomorrow.

To learn more about the books and the project of which they are a part, and to read and hear excerpts from the interviews around which the books are organized, visit here. To find out about ways to purchase the books if you can’t make it to the launch, click here.

From the book jackets:

We usually learn our history from the perspective of our rulers — from the top down. In these books we learn about our history from the perspectives of ordinary people — from the bottom up. Whatever liberty and justice that communities, workplaces and individuals in Canada enjoy are due to the many struggles and social movements in our country’s history. Yet the stories and histories of those movements to overcome racism, sexism, and poverty, for example, remain largely untold, thanks to the single, simplistic national story taught to us in school. Deftly combining history with accounts from participants in social movements, Neigh introduces us to the untold histories of activists, histories that encourage all of us to engage in struggles that will shape our shared tomorrow.

Gender and Sexuality unearths a diverse spectrum of struggle through the accounts of longstanding social movement participants. From indigenous women working against colonization and Christian women trying to end sexism and homophobia in their churches, to gay men opposing sexual oppression and women fighting against hostile employers and violence, this book reveals the ways that oppressions based on gender and sexuality — and the struggles against them — have shaped our society.

In Resisting the State, Neigh details the histories of a broad range of social movements and provides readers with a richer understanding of the Canadian state and why so many people — including military draftees, welfare recipients, workers, indigenous people, psychiatric survivors, immigrants and refugees — have struggled, and continue to struggle, for equality and justice for all members of society.

What people are saying about Gender and Sexuality and Resisting the State:

“Never doubt that a few committed people can change Canada (and the world) for the better. Scott Neigh’s oral histories show not only the power of committed idealism, but also how the history of our whole country has been shaped by brave Canadians who refuse to accept the misery and injustice that surrounds us. Read these books to learn how the history of social change organizing is indeed the history of Canada — and then go out and start making your own history.” — Jim Stanford, union economist and peace activist

“This work is a treasure that provides a portal to Canadian history, bringing it alive and urgent through the voices and profound insights of veteran social justice activists, an indispensable guide for present and future generations to carry on these struggles.” — Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, veteran activist and author

And even more.

Scott Neigh is a writer, parent, and activist currently based in Sudbury, Ontario. He lived in Hamilton, Ontario, from 1993 until 2004, where he was active in student, anti-poverty, anti-racism, environmental, and other social justice organizing, including as a board member of OPIRG McMaster. He blogs regularly on political topics at A Canadian Lefty in Occupied Land. You can learn more about these books and the project of which they are a part at the Talking Radical site, and more about Scott here.

This event is sponsored by OPIRG McMaster, Bryan Prince Bookseller, and Fernwood Publishing.

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Radio — Opposing militarism outside Canada’s largest arms fair

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Ria Heynen, Jo Wood and Matthew Behrens. They are long-time peace and social justice activists in eastern Ontario, and they talk with me about an action taking place on May 27 in Ottawa to protest CANSEC, Canada’s largest trade show for weapons systems and technologies of repression.

As today’s guests discuss, there’s hardly a community in Canada that doesn’t benefit from making some sort of product that goes into the weapons and technology that enable military, policing and national security state institutions around the world to kill, repress and afflict. Every year, Canada’s biggest gathering of vendors of these products and technologies with the institutions that purchase them — and use them from Baltimore to Bahrain; from Elsipogtog, New Brunswick, to occupied Palestine — is the CANSEC arms fair in Ottawa. And since back when it was called ArmEx in the late 1980s, every time this event has been held, ordinary people have gathered — sometimes in their dozens, sometimes in their thousands — to show their opposition to the event and to the oppressive violence it helps to propagate, and to show their solidarity with those who ultimately bear its consequences.

This year’s action against the trade show is called “Ten Hours Against Terrorism,” which will be a festive gathering outside the gates of the arms fair. The intent is for people to share poems and songs and art and street theatre, as well as moments of solemnity, as they celebrate life in repudiation of the facilitation of death being carried out within. We spoke about the long history of organizing against arms fairs in Ottawa, the reasons to oppose CANSEC, this year’s organizing and action, and ways for people across the country to act as well.

To learn more about the organizing and the May 27 action, 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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Radio — Histories of women in the labour movement

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Joey Hartman, the president of the Vancouver and District Labour Council. She talks about the history of women in the labour movement and about the importance of people who are active in movements and communities learning, talking about, and doing grassroots historical work.

The history that most of us have a chance to learn in school and from the media mostly erases the role of struggle in shaping our world, and tells us tales that are supportive of an oppressive status quo and of elites. To quote Gary Kinsman, who has done important work on history-from-below around queer struggles and struggles related to national security in the Canadian context, we face the “social organization of forgetting,” and we must respond with the “resistance of remembering.” Not only that, it is important that we engage actively with history in our communities and movements, and that we learn and tell the stories of the struggles that have brought us to where we are today so we might better navigate the struggles that are currently shaping tomorrow.

When Hartman became president of the labour council in Vancouver, she was the first woman to hold that position in its 122-year history. In the early 1980s, she was a daycare worker and a union member who was swept into labour activism by a lengthy strike. After a chance encounter with labour history at a conference, she avidly began to learn more, and soon was regularly doing talks and presentations about labour history both within and beyond the movement. Importantly, her feminist commitments have led her to learn as much as she can about the rich but not always easy history of women in the labour movement and to a commitment to doing what she can to share that history with younger generations of workers, particularly young women workers. She talks with me about that work, and about the history of women in the labour movement in Vancouver and beyond.

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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Radio — Working While Black in Nova Scotia

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Folami Jones, Matthew Byard, and Ben Sichel about the Working While Black in Nova Scotia project. It is a response to anti-Black racism in workplaces in the province, and it is organized around a website where people may anonymously share their experiences.

Amidst accounts of direct actions and demonstrations and strikes, it can be easy to forget the profound interconnection between stories and questions of power and justice. Harm and violence to so many are made to seem normal and legitimate through stories – stories that tell us in a million different ways “That’s just how things are” or “That’s just what those people are like” or “They deserved it.” Yet stories are also inevitably woven through efforts to challenge such unjust harm. The act of telling stories that name the violence, name the injustice – the act of refusing to be silent, refusing to accept all those other, dominant stories that legitimize injustice and harm – are crucial. Through stories, we build the relationships, the solidarity, the support, the collectivity that can be vital in surviving such unjust harms, and in finding ways to challenge and change them.

For all that a lot of white folks try to deny it, there is a centuries-long and ongoing legacy of stories that support the range of indignities, disadvantages, and outright harms that people of African descent on this continent continue have to navigate, including in workplace contexts. Working While Black in Nova Scotia, on the other hand, aims to collect, affirm, and mobilize people’s stories of anti-Black racism in the workplace in the service of justice and change. The project brings together three organizations – Ujaama, an organization that advocates on behalf of the Black community in Nova Soctia; The Kwacha House Cafe, a cafe and community space focused on addressing social inequities in general and with an emphasis on the African Nova Scotian community; and Solidarity Halifax, a non-sectarian, multi-issue, anti-capitalist organization. Emerging from some community dialogue sessions held by Ujaama, the project, its website, and the anonymously submited stories of anti-Black racism in the workplace that it collects, document important aspects of everyday experience for African Nova Scotians. They have the potential to be a basis for mutual support among people who have these experiences, and for public anti-racist education among those who do not, as well as for being turned into tools for use in future community dialogues and change-processes. Jones, Byard, and Sichel talk with me about the past and present of anti-Black racism in Nova Scotia, about the origins of the project, about the stories they’ve collected so far, and about their hopes for what the project can accomplish.

To learn more about Working While Black in Nova Scotia, 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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Radio — More than just a building: Friends of the Khyber defend a community resource

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Rebecca Rose and Susan Wolfe of Friends of the Khyber about their efforts to preserve an important community and grassroots space in downtown Halifax, the historic Khyber Building.

Usually when we talk about privatization, we focus on the transfer of government services and assets to the private sector. We less often think about it in terms of space. Yet even a cursory glance at history shows the shifting of space from common or public hands into private hands was central to how our current world has come to exist — it took one form in Europe, with peasant communities getting kicked off the land in centuries past so big landowners could take over, and another form — a colonial form — in the Americas. And it still happens, not just in the ongoing struggles between Indigenous land defenders and resource extraction industries, but in a different way in cities. However else you understand them, the shopping mall replacing the public square, the suburban becoming the dominant built form rather than the urban, then more recently the gentrified urban replacing the what and displacing the who that still remains in many urban environments, are all examples of privatization of space. Access to public or common space is restricted in a way that forces us, increasingly, to access space, community, and the broader spectrum of things we need to live our lives via the highly limiting logics of the market.

A recent example in Halifax of struggle over community-grounding public space has focused on a particular building — the Khyber building. From its beginnings as a Church of England property in 1888, this elegant three-story structure has become a beloved community space in downtown Halifax. The combination of low rents and an amazing location have meant that, particularly from the 1960s onwards, and in a different way after the City of Halifax bought it in 1994, the Khyber Building has housed an astounding range of community spaces, arts groups, musical venues, queer endeavours, businesses and services grounded in immigrant communities, offices for community groups, and much more. Yet after years of deferred maintenance and ongoing uncertainty around governance and use of the building, on January 13, 2014 the city abruptly ordered all tenants of the building out and closed it down. At the end of July of last year, city staff recommended that the building be declared surplus and sold. And in response, an intense grassroots campaign emerged with the goal not only of saving the building but of finding a way to make it a sustainable and accessible hub for a diverse range of community endeavours well into the future. Rose and Wolf are both active members of Friends of the Khyber, and they talk with me about the history of the building, their successful initial push to fend off the city’s attempts to sell it, and their ongoing work to find a lasting way to preserve this important public space.

To learn more about Friends of the Khyber, 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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Radio — Ideas on the move: Radical publishing & reading groups

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Bhaskar Sunkara and Eden Haythornthwaite about one set of practices through which ideas for transformative social change get circulated – radical publishing (as with Sunkara’s Jacobin magazine) done in relation with radical reading groups (as with Haythornthwaite’s group in small-town British Columbia).

In an era characterized by a veritable flood of information, including much that we can send skittering around the planet with a few swipes of a finger, it may sound peculiar to wonder about how ideas circulate. It becomes much more interesting and, indeed, urgent when you think specifically about ideas of struggle, of resistance, of social transformation. Because while there are sometimes ways we can usefully hitch a ride on the great vortex of information that is driven by the immense amounts of energy and labour directed in the service of the capitalist impulse to profit, very often the circulation of radical ideas happens only because people deliberately and actively choose to do the work to make it possible. And this kind of circulation matters because – well, Talking Radical Radio itself is in part premised on the conviction that creating opportunities to share experiences, ideas, and practices of struggle across various kinds of difference has the potential to contribute, at least in a small way, to our movements and our communities-in-struggle.

On today’s show, we talk about one concrete example of how that can happen. Eden Haythornthwaite is a long-time activist who lives in the small community of Cowichan, British Columbia, on Vancouver Island. Bhaskar Sunkara is the founder, editor, and publisher of Jacobin, a still relatively young print and online publication that is based in New York City and that has rapidly become one of the leading sources of left analysis and ideas in the United States. It is not a publication that follows a single political line, but rather it houses a range of left analyses of and debates on politics, economics, and culture. In the last year, Haythornthwaite has been involved in a monthly reading-group in Cowichan, where a range of people with backgrounds in various sorts of social justice work get together and collectively discuss recent Jacobin articles, taking up what is useful and applicable to them, discussing it all in the context of their own political circumstances and struggles, and moving forward with new tools, new ideas, and new possibilities. Through the labour of Sunkara and the many others who produce Jacobin, and through the work of Haythornthwaite, the others in the reading group in Cowichan, and the other 70+ Jacobin reading groups in North America and around the world, a rich menu of non-sectarian left ideas is circulated. And this is not just as passive content for passive consumption, but as part of active uptake and reflection and application to local circumstances that are as divergent as New York City and Cowichan, BC. We talk about the publication and the reading group, and about the circulation of radical ideas.

To learn more more about Jacobin, click here. To learn more about the reading groups associated with the publication, 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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Radio — Pro-worker, anti-racist: The Asian Canadian Labour Alliance

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Anna Liu and Patricia Chong. They are both long-time labour activists and members of the Asian Canadian Labour Alliance (ACLA), a network of Asian-Canadian labour and community activists with chapters in Ontario and British Columbia.

It’s a well-worn labour movement slogan: “An injury to one is an injury to all.” It’s an expression of unity, of solidarity, of shared burden. But of course the labour movement is constituted by human beings, and it is not separate from our broader social world that is so painfully riven with oppressions, marginalizations, and exclusions, so sometimes that slogan of determined unity is more aspirational than actual, or is at least incomplete in its realization — some injuries get treated as less important or nonexistent, and some people are excluded from or marginalized within the “all”. To name just one axis along which this sometimes occurs, though decades of anti-racist struggle within and beyond the labour movement have won important victories to reduce barriers, there is still the need for further work to ensure that racialized workers and the issues of racialized communities are at the centre of labour’s agenda.

In one instance of how this work has been and continues to be pushed forward, a handful of Asian-Canadian trade union activists in the late 1990s decided that they needed to create a more formal network bringing together worker-activists of East Asian, Southeast Asian, South Asian, and West Asian heritage as a way to push for a more thorough-going realization of that slogan in a number of different senses. And still today, ACLA works to strengthen an Asian-Canadian labour identity and labour presence in Asian communities; to raise the profile of Asian-Canadian labour issues; to fight for social, economic, and political justice for all; to foster Asian-Canadians in leadership roles in the labour movement and in the broader society; and to challenge racism in the labour movement. Anna Liu and Patricia Chong talk with me about the origins of the group and about the important pro-worker and anti-racist work that it does within the labour movement and in the broader community.

To learn more about the Asian Canadian Labour Alliance, 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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Radio — Seeking justice for Jermaine Carby, a Black man killed by Ontario police

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with La Tanya Grant. She is the chair of Justice for Jermaine Carby, a committee that came together in the aftermath of the killing of her cousin by police in Brampton, Ontario, in September of 2014.

Black people have been facing disproportionate violence and death at the hands of the police in North America for a long, long time. For just as long, Black communities have been working to challenge that violence and transform the racist social relations that underlie it. And in 2014, a new wave of struggle against police brutality and racist police violence led by Black youth swept the continent under the banner of Black Lives Matter.

In Canada, in the face of all of this, there is a tendency — particularly among those of us who are white — to tut disapprovingly and shake our heads, and then dismiss it all as a U.S. problem that surely doesn’t happen here. Which is false and ridiculous, of course; it very much does happen here. Black Lives Matter organizing has been happening here — you can check out the relevant Talking Radical Radio episode from December to get a sense of what some of that has been like in the Toronto context — and there is a long, long history of African-Canadians facing violence at the hands of the police.

On September 24, 2014, Jermaine Carby was in a car being driven by a friend in Brampton, Ontario. They were pulled over by officers of the Peel Regional Police. And a few minutes later, Carby was shot and killed by one of the officers moments after getting out of the vehicle. Devastated but well aware of the history, La Tanya Grant very quickly decided that there had to be a committee working to seek justice in the aftermath of the shooting, and she began putting together Justice for Jermaine Carby. Especially since the police and the Special Investigations Unit (or SIU) that is looking into the shooting have so far kept many important details about exactly what happened from the family, she and the rest of the committee have been doing their own investigation. And they have been putting pressure on the SIU and the police both around this case in particular and around the question of racist police violence more generally. Grant talks with me about the tragic events of that night, the work done by the committee, and the ongoing struggle against racist police violence in Canada.

To learn more about Justice for Jermaine Carby, go here and 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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