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 — Seeking justice for Ottawa’s janitors

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, organizers Christine Bro and Doug Nesbitt talk about the “Justice for Janitors” campaign in Ottawa.

Far too often, the most basic, central kinds of work that enable us to live our lives and to do the many other things that we do are among the least recognized, the least respected, and the least rewarded. Perhaps the biggest example of this is work that happens in our homes, which is mostly unpaid and is rarely seen as actual work — and also happens to fall disproportionately on women. But the same tendency appears in more public, waged work as well. In many cities, janitorial workers in large buildings — workers whose labour is foundational for so much else that happens in these cities — make minimum wage or only a tiny bit more, and have to navigate truly lousy conditions. This work tends to be disproportionately borne by immigrants and people of colour.

Since the 1980s, an innovative, sector-wide approach to organizing has been used in city after city across North America to allow janitors to win small but very real and meaningful gains. Ottawa is one of the more recent centres to see this sort of “Justice for Janitors” campaign. Though it’s only a few years old, the majority of janitorial workers in the city are now union members and they have a city-wide collective agreement. Yet the resistance from some employers remains fierce, and much work remains to be done to win the kinds of concrete gains that janitors in other cities have been able to win. Bro and Nesbitt are organizers with the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, and they talk with me about the Justice for Janitors campaign in Ottawa, the current focal points of struggle, and the crucial lessons they’ve learned doing this work.

To learn more about the Justice for Janitors campaign as it is happening in Ottawa and other Canadian cities, 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 the 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 — Feminist summer camp in Saskatoon

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On this week’s Talking Radical Radio, Tanya Andrusieczko talks about her process of dreaming up the first feminist summer camp in Saskatoon, and then working to make it a reality this year.

None of us would evolve politically without opportunities to encounter new, critical ideas about the world — such encounters may not be sufficient for political growth, but they are necessary. And even better than merely encountering new ideas is having opportunities to work through them with other people — to discuss, to debate, to mutually self-educate, and to make meaning together in ways much more likely to allow the ideas to seep into our choices and actions. And more than just being about individual growth, such encounter and dialogue are central to how movements happen and grow. Yet for all of that, movements in North America today don’t tend to be all that intentional about creating spaces where such encounter and dialgogue can happen. Sure, there will be sporadic teach-ins about the issue of the moment, and planning meetings and public events are often informally spaces for such learning-together. But given its importance, we’re not usually all that deliberate about it.

Andruscieczko’s most recent project suggests one way that movements might do just that. She felt the need for a space to have deliberate, serious, sustained conversation about feminist ideas, and she also wanted to find a way to become politically involved in what is still a relatively new-to-her community in Saskatoon. So she decided she would organize a Feminist Summer Camp. The same 20 participants are getting together one night a week for ten weeks to cover a wide range of feminist topics. They are hearing speakers, they are discussing ideas, they are building skills. And Andruscieczko hopes they will all leave the camp better able to intervene in feminist ways in their own everyday lives, and perhaps some will be inspired to new collective feminist activity as well. I spoke with her about her path to this work, about the format of the camp, and about what she hopes it will achieve.

To learn more about Saskatoon’s feminist summer camp, 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 the recently revamped 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 — The perils of NGOization for Canadian social movements

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, organizer and author Dru Oja Jay talks about how the pressures to address important issues via funded non-governmental organizations (NGOs) can be a barrier to the kinds of organizing and collective empowerment that will be necessary to truly address those issues.

Over the last few decades, NGOs have come to hold a pretty central place in many of our efforts to respond to important social issues. From international issues to the environment, from poverty to violence against women, a huge proportion of the work that attempts to respond to these massive problems comes from NGOs. Some meet needs directly. Some do research and public education and advocacy and policy development. Some do a mix of all of these things. Sounds good, right?

Today’s guest argues that maybe that isn’t such a good thing. Jay recently published a piece (building on his many years of organizing as well as past writing) arguing that for all of the good work that people in NGOs do, the predominance of NGOs in how we respond to these incredibly crucial issues has ended up depoliticizing a significant proportion of activism that happens in Canada, and drastically limiting our ability to build, or even to imagine, the kinds of movements and organizations that might actually be able to get at the roots of these problems. For all of the breadth of their activities and diversity of their organizational cultures, Jay points out that what NGOs have in common is that they depend on the government or on foundations for funding, and that severely limits the kinds of questions they can raise and the kinds of actions they can take, and exerts profound pressures against building efforts for change that are democratic, participatory, and focused on mobilizing ordinary people. Jay talks about his own experiences as an organizer as well as research he has done as a writer, about the ways in which NGOs (for all of the good work that happens in some) limit and co-opt our attempts to create social change, and about how we can start addressing that crucial barrier to creating the movements that we and the planet so urgently need.

To read the article that inspired this conversation, go 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 the recently revamped 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 — Fighting a pipeline and toxic colonialism

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, Vanessa Gray talks about taking action against toxic colonialism. She is a 21 year-old university student from Aamjiwnaang First Nation in southwestern Ontario, located near the city of Sarnia and what is colloquially referred to as Chemical Valley. The community is surrounded by mulitple toxin-producing industries. It is further threatened by the efforts of the oil company Enbridge to re-purpose its four decade old Line 9 pipeline to carry a different kind of oil in the opposite direction, as part of ongoing efforts to export oil from the environmentally and colonially devastating tar sands in Alberta. Gray works with youth in Aamjiwnaang, with a coalition of activists from both Aamjiwnaang and Sarnia, and with allies in cities and front line communities far and wide. She’s working to raise awareness about the dangers posed by Line 9, about the multiple sources of toxins imposed on her community, and about intertwined environmental and sovereignty issues more broadly. She talks with me about her community and her involvement in struggles to defend it.

To learn more about the struggle at Aamjiwnaang, 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 the recently revamped 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 — Radical arts, radical memory

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, Stefan Christoff talks about the work with multiple cultural and artistic forms by the Howl! Arts Collective in Montreal as part of broader movements for radical social change.

We want, without question, for our movements to win stuff — with so much harm and violence organized into so many people’s experiences, we absolutely need concrete victories, big and small, that make lives more liveable. Yet with the compulsion of such necessity, it can be easy to fall into a narrow, deadening idea of what movements and communities-in-struggle are and what they have to be. It is easy to forget that movement are also — inevitably and always — about knowing, feeling, making meaning, remembering, communicating. And that is always so because because it is just how groups of human beings work. It is precisely those kinds of seemingly effemeral practices that are so important in turning a mass of individuals into a socially meaningful collective, from the scale of the tiniest affinity group to the larger social world that we’re trying to intervene in and change.

Stefan Christoff is a member of the Howl! Arts Collective in Montreal. They are firm believers that culture and arts and creativity and creation are always integral to movements. To demonstrate that, not only do they point to pretty much every movement of the past that has had any lasting impact, but they also point out that — particularly given the scorn and dismissal that movements so often face from mainstream meaning-makers — that such work is really the only way that movements can know and be known by the world; can remember and help build histories of struggle; can allow us to truly feel, deep in our bones, what it means to dream of and to deserve something better. Christoff talks with me about the collective, and about radical arts, movements, and memory.

To learn more about the work of the Howl! Arts Collective, 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 the recently revamped 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 — Against gentrification in Vancouver

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, Jean Swanson and Phoenix talk about their work against the gentrification of the Downtown Eastside neighbourhood in Vancouver.

Gentrification is the process in which neighbourhoods get remade, rebuilt, reshaped in ways that destroy existing community and push out low-income residents, replacing them with wealthier (and often whiter) residents and new housing, businesses, and services that cater to them. It is often framed as “improvement,” because the influx of investment capital makes things shiny and new. But beneath that — and obscured by the expensive restaurants, the dog grooming services, the high-rise condos, and the fancy coffee — is inevitably destroyed community and displaced people. Gentrification’s slogan might be, “Out with the poor, in with the upper-middle-class and wealthy.”

The downtown east side in Vancouver is one of Canada’s poorest urban neighbourhods, but the gentrifying pressures on it have, for years, been enormous. And for years, the community has been resisting. In a smaller and less politically vibrant city, there might be one group dealing with the issue and one dominant mode of resistance, but Vancouver being what it is, there are a range. Jean Swanson has been involved in taking action against poverty in British Columbia for decades, and Phoenix was herself homeless on the streets of the Downtown Eastside, and both are involved in one of the organizations that work against gentrification: the Carnegie Community Action Project, or C-CAP. They talk with me about their neighbourhood, about gentrification, about some (though by no means all) of the broader local context of resistance to it, and about the particular contribution that C-CAP has been making.

To learn more about the Carnegie Community Action Project, click here.

Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada through in-depth interviews that concentrate not on current events or the crisis of the moment, but on giving people involved in a broad range of social change work a chance to take a longer view as they talk about what they do, how they do it, and why they do it. To learn more about the show in general, click here.

You can also learn more about ways to listen or go to the show’s page on rabble.ca. To learn more about suggesting grassroots groups and organizations for future shows, click here. For details on the show’s theme music, click 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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