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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Empowering girls and young women in Nova Scotia

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, Scott Neigh speaks with Susan Brigham and Cassandra McDonald. They are involved in organizing the Girls 2017 Conference, which will be happening in early March at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

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Being a girl or a young woman in North America today isn’t easy. Exactly how that plays out depends a lot on who you are, of course — are you a trans girl, are you a Black girl, are you a girl living in poverty, and so on — but it includes facing the possibility of a lot of different kinds of violence; it includes intense pressures to act in certain ways and not others; it includes being targeted with a lot of hate and a lot of shaming directed at your body; and it includes having a lot of the great things that you and other girls and young women like you do in schools and communities across the country ignored, erased, devalued, or sometimes even ridiculed.

A lot of different feminists have a lot of different answers for how to respond to all of that, with the more to-the-root end of the spectrum involving collective efforts to push for transformative change in the direction of gender justice, the end of white supremacy and settler colonialism, and a whole lot of other important stuff. On the path to those larger victories that we so badly need, though, there are a lot of questions about what we should be doing right now. And one of those questions is, perhaps, what can be done to mobilize the resources that exist in important institutions like universities in ways that support and empower girls and young women, both as individuals and in their efforts to work together to make their communities more just places?

Brigham and McDonald have one possible answer to that question. Brigham is a professor in the faculty of education at Mount Saint Vincent, while McDonald is a graduate student there. Both are involved in the university’s Alexa McDonough Institute for Women, Gender, and Social Justice, which is putting on the Girls 2017 Conference. The conference will bring somewhere between 200 and 300 girls and young women from around Nova Scotia to talk about everything from self-esteem to getting involved in politics, from missing and murdered Indigenous women to non-traditional careers, from activism 101 to social media, from sexuality to learning how to tell your own story.

Brigham and McDonald speak with me about the challenges faced by girls and young women today, about the history and organizing of the annual Girls Conference, and about the exciting things that will be happening at Girls 2017.

To learn more about the Girls 2017 Conference, 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 check out its website here. You can also follow us on FaceBook or Twitter, or contact scottneigh@talkingradical.ca to join our weekly email update list.

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

The image that was modified for use in this post is the logo of the Girls 2017 Conference.

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Radio — Public transit advocacy in a smaller city

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, Scott Neigh speaks with Mairi Anderson and Cam McMillan. They are members of Bus Riders of Saskatoon, an advocacy group made up of people who use public transit. They aim to make the transit system in their city “a viable transportation choice for all and a basic right of residency.”

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Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, is a relatively small city — about 220,000 people. It has, of course, a public transit system. But like the transit systems in many smaller cities, Saskatoon’s has often not had the capacity to offer the kind of geographical reach, frequency, and speed that might most effectively meet the needs of existing and potential riders. As well, according to today’s guests, the city has always had a very car-centric culture, and has not historically had any organized advocacy on behalf of people who use transit.

That changed two years ago, with the founding of the Bus Riders of Saskatoon. Both their regular meetings and their social media presence provide a way for bus riders to talk about the transit system in the city, to articulate their complaints and concerns, and to propose ideas for improving the system. They meet regularly with Saskatoon Transit management to communicate these concerns and ideas as well as to develop a better sense of how the system works, and they have regularly communicated the needs of bus riders to Saskatoon city council as well. The group has also taken part in various public events around transit, both those they have planned themselves and as part of broader initiatives.

Though much work remains to be done, the group has been very encouraged by the progress over the last couple of years. Saskatoon Transit has shown a willingness to promptly address small issues (such as inadequate signage at specific bus stops) and has taken some initial steps to make larger scale improvements to the system — this includes implementing the city’s first high speed corridor along a major street, with plans to implement other such routes over the next few years. Though the group largely avoided direct involvement in the longstanding labour dispute between bus drivers and the city, the riders are happy that a contract has at long last been finalized. And media coverage of transit issues, and of the perspective of riders in particular, has been relatively plentiful in the last couple of years, including during the city’s recent elections, and as a result Bus Riders of Saskatoon has seen a steady flow of new participants both on social media and at their meetings and events.

Mairi Anderson began to regularly use transit when she moved to Saskatoon several years ago as a student, and currently cycles most of the year and is a regular bus rider in the winter. Cam McMillan has epilepsy and is unable to drive, so he depends on transit year round. Both are active members of Bus Riders of Saskatoon, and they talk with me about the group, the city and the transit system, and the work that they’re doing to make it better.

To learn more about the work of Bus Riders of Saskatoon, 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 check out its website here. You can also follow us on FaceBook or Twitter, or contact scottneigh@talkingradical.ca to join our weekly email update list.

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

The image that was modified for use in this post was taken from the Facebook page of Bus Riders of Saskatoon.

Like this podcast? rabble is reader-supported journalism.

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Radio — Engaging men in the fight against sexual violence

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, Scott Neigh speaks with Danielle Aubry and Joe McGuire. Aubry is the CEO of Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse and McGuire is a sexual assault educator with that organization. They talk about their work to engage men in the long, multi-faceted struggle to end sexual violence.

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The overall effort to combat sexual violence tends to incorporate many different strands of work, in recognition of how tragically many ways our institutions, our social relations, and our practices as individuals enable, legitimize, and encourage sexual violence. Some efforts focus on changing how institutions respond after sexual violence has occurred, whether that is healthcare institutions, social services, employers, or police and courts. Other efforts are more grounded in preventing sexual violence, whether that is through challenging how schools and the media are complicit, through addressing broad gendered inequalities that lay much of the groundwork for sexual violence, or through directly challenging the ways in which state institutions are complicit in sexual violence (particularly as it impacts the lives of Indigenous women, Black women, sex workers, homeless women, and many differently situated trans people). Still others focus on building grassroots relationships among women and other gender oppressed people as a way of both fostering healing and of building collective power to work against sexual violence and for gender justice.

Another strand of work, however, begins from the reality that, even though sexual violence can be and is perpetrated by people of all different genders, the vast majority of it is perpetrated by cisgender men. This line of thinking argues that — within the broad spectrum of other ways we need to be challenging sexual violence, the rape culture that enables it, and the gendered inequality that underlies it — we should equip a core of sympathetic men to be able to intervene in everyday ways with their peers. Such men are ideally situated to challenge rape culture and toxic masculinity, and to have difficult conversations with other men about gender, sexuality, violence, and justice. And not only that, fostering a pro-feminist understanding of such things can help men recognize and navigate the much more limited but nonetheless still painful ways in which toxic masculinity and patriarchy can be harmful to men as well.

The “ManEnough?” program is an eight-module course that engages men in challenging conversations about things like masculinity, sexuality, male privilege, male violence, rape culture, and ways that men can take action around these things in our everyday lives. Aubry and McGuire speak with me about the organization, the program, and the importance of engaging men in efforts to challenge sexual violence and rape culture.

To learn more about Calgary Communities Against Sexual Assault’s “ManEnough?” program, 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 check out its website here. You can also follow us on FaceBook or Twitter, or contact scottneigh@talkingradical.ca to join our weekly email update list.

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

The image that was modified for use in this post was taken from the website of Calgary Communites Against Sexual Assault.

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Radio — Rebroadcast: Social movements and how they make, learn, and teach ideas

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On this episode of Talking Radical Radio (which was originally broadcast and posted in the week of January 18, 2016), Scott Neigh speaks with Aziz Choudry, a long-time activist, a scholar of social movements, and the author of the new book Learning Activism: The Intellectual Life of Contemporary Social Movements.

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When we think about social movements, often what we think about is action — petitions signed, banners unfurled, meetings disrupted, strikes waged, land reclaimed, and so on. When we think about knowledge, teaching, learning, and research — about the various components of knowledge production and circulation, and of intellectual life — we aren’t likely to automatically jump to thinking about movements, and certainly for most of us they won’t bring to mind sit-ins or marches or blockades or anything like that. But today’s guest argues that all of those things do go together.

Aziz Choudry has been involved in social movements for around thirty years. Though he grew up in England, his political involvement began when he lived in Aotearoa/New Zealand in the context of struggles that would later be given labels like “anti-globalization” and “global justice,” particularly in parts of that movement that were shaped early and strongly by anti-colonial influences. Choudry’s involvement has continued ever since, in a range of movements and places, and much more recently he decided to take his politics into the academy. He is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Integrated Studies in Education at McGill University in Montreal, and a Visiting Professor at the University of Johannesburg in South Africa.

In Learning Activism, Choudry discusses in detail how doing research, teaching people, learning things, and collectively articulating new ideas about the world are absolutely integral to social movements and the actions that they take. Unlike a lot of scholarly work about movements, this is a book firmly grounded in the needs of movements themselves, and it strongly articulates the importance of learning from movements and movement participants not just about their experiences, not just about their actions, but about their analysis — their ideas, their knowledge, their theory — of the social world.

He talks with me about his own involvement in activism and organizing, about his new book, and about the ways in which teaching, learning, research, and the production of new ideas are woven tightly through the everyday activities of social movements.

To learn more about Learning Activism: The Intellectual Life of Contemporary Social Movements, 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 Hamilton (formerly Sudbury), Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

Like this podcast? rabble is reader-supported journalism.

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Radio — Connecting and radicalizing struggles across low-income communities

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, Scott Neigh speaks with Herb Varley and Ivan Drury. They are organizers with the Alliance Against Displacement, a British Columbia group that is bringing together struggles across multiple low-income and Indigenous communities in the province, with the aim of helping them become stronger, less isolated, more able to support each other, and more firmly grounded politically.

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Vancouver’s Downtown East Side is one of the poorest urban neighbourhoods in the country, and also one of most politically vibrant. Several years ago, a group of community organizers in that neighbourhood initiated a province-wide alliance dealing with social housing issues. Though it did some good work, after a few years they became frustrated that it had not achieved the impacts that low-income communities in the province so urgently need, and a number of those involved engaged in a sustained period of collective reflection to figure out how to move forward. This took the form of a series of strategy meetings as well as more informal conversations that eventually resulted in a decision to start a new provincial formation: the Alliance Against Displacement.

The Alliance, as it has developed over the last couple of years, is working hard to address a number of the key weaknesses that have been limiting the ability of movements and communities, not just in B.C. but across the country, to actually win things. The group is a deliberate move beyond the fleeting single-issue campaign that is so often the basis of what we understand as grassroots politics. It is committed not only to mobilizing but also to organizing, and it is not allowing the rhythm of its activities to be set by chasing elections. It is building sustained presence and organization in communities, thereby building community power. It is challenging both the politically unhelpful stigma that poverty is only an issue in the Downtown East Side and the way that so many struggles remain isolated within local communities, by building relationships within, between, and among low-income and Indigenous communities already engaged in a range of struggles in a range of different places in B.C. against things like homelessness, gentrification, and colonial violence.

Moreover, the Alliance has a commitment to sustained, ongoing political development and political education that is integrated into its on-the-ground organizing in a way that allows all involved to strengthen their analyses and their alliances. Recognizing the twin importance of capitalism and class struggle on the one hand, and colonialism and anti-colonial struggle on the other, is central to the Alliance’s orientation.

Herb Varley traces his heritage to a number of West coast Indigenous nations, and has been involved in political organizing in the Downtown East Side and beyond for the last half dozen years. Ivan Drury is a settler who has been involved in radical organizing of various sorts for about two decades. Both are deeply involved in the Alliance Against Displacement. They speak with me about the origins of the Alliance, its work supporting and building militant struggles in a range of low-income communities in B.C., and the radical political vision underlying it.

To learn more about the Alliance Against Displacement, 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 check out its website here. You can also follow us on FaceBook or Twitter, or contact scottneigh@talkingradical.ca to join our weekly email update list.

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

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Radio — Black workers building links, fighting back

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, Scott Neigh speaks with Mark Brown about the work of the Canadian chapter of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU). The CBTU brings together Black workers from across the labour movement and across the country to fight against racism and all of the other forms of oppression with which it intersects, both within the labour movement and in the broader society.

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It is a truism but worth noting nonetheless: human institutions are always a product of the society in which they exist. Where the fabric of that society is woven through with particular kinds of injustices and oppressions, so too is the functioning of institutions within that society.

So for all that they are important vehicles for working people to collectively struggle to meet their needs and exert power over their conditions, this is no less true of unions than of any other kind of institution. Just as there are long histories of Black people, Indigenous people, people of colour, disabled people, women, queer people, trans people, and people at the various intersections of those identities being marginalized in the context of Canadian society as a whole, so there are also histories of them experiencing marginalization within the labour movement.

To respond to this reality, groups of workers who share some form of marginalization beyond simply their status as workers have for a long time now come together, formally or informally, to challenge that marginalization and to work for justice.

Take, for instance, Black workers in Canada. In the more distant past, they were completely prevented from joining unions. In more recent decades, they and other racialized workers have been members of many unions in many places, but they have been un- or underrepresented in leadership roles, and their experiences and struggles have not always been reflected in labour’s practices, priorities, and demands. Organizing by Black workers and other workers of colour has accomplished a lot over the decades to challenge and change this, but there is much work still to do.

One important vehicle through which that organizing by Black workers has happened has been the Canadian chapter of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists. The CBTU has existed in the United States since the 1970s, and the network of Black union members that later became the CBTU chapter in Canada has been active since at least the 1980s, though the roots of Black labour activism go back many more decades than that.

The group is active in challenging anti-Black racism, along with all of the other experiences of oppression with which it intersects, both within the labour movement itself and, in conjunction with community groups like Black Lives Matter, in the broader community. They also do things like run a children’s camp, provide scholarships, mobilize Black voters during elections, publicly commemorate past victories against slavery and racism, and regularly bring Black workers together to discuss issues and to plan political action.

Mark Brown is a member of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, the chair of the Equity Committee of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council, and the social media officer of the CBTU in Canada. He speaks with me about some of the history of organizing within the labour movement by Black workers, about the role and work of the CBTU, and about the important political challenges facing Black trade unionists today.

For more information on the work of the Canadian chapter of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, 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 check out its website here. You can also follow us on FaceBook or Twitter, or contact scottneigh@talkingradical.ca to join our weekly email update list.

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

Like this podcast? rabble is reader and listener-supported journalism.

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Radio — Grassroots learning and education beyond school

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, Scott Neigh speaks with Jade Nasogaluak Carpenter and Liam O’Neill Gordon. They are involved in the Calgary School of Informal Education (CSIE), a new initiative that is creating opportunities for people to share skills and knowledge of all sorts in an inclusive, accessible, and affordable grassroots community setting with an orientation towards justice.

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Even before the wave of changes to education systems forced upon us in the last few decades under the banner of “neoliberalism,” schools and postsecondary institutions were never exactly the havens of free thought and meaningful learning that a certain strand of nostalgia for “the good old days” would have us believe. However, the neoliberal shift has sharply narrowed mainstream imaginings of education and educational institutions, such that our current dominant commonsense treats as inevitable and even desirable things like hierarchical classrooms, standardized testing, intrusive managerial interference in pedagogy, high fees (at the postsecondary level), and the orientation of the entire enterprise towards training, a credential, and (hopefully) a job rather than anything more liberatory or more grounded in any sort of vision of the common good.

Along with various efforts to push back against this vision of education in more formal settings, there is also a growing trend in many communities towards increasingly organized grassroots initiatives to share skills and knowledge. These don’t tend to result in a credential, they probably won’t help you get a job, but they generally reflect a vision of learning that is about sharing skills that are practically useful, coming to shared understandings of shared problems, and building relationships and community — all while prioritizing, in one way or another, a vision of justice.

Jade Nasogaluak Carpenter is an artist who has experience in organizing community-based initiatives in the context of an arist-run centre, while Liam O’Neill Gordon got his start organizing all-ages punk shows. The School was originally Liam’s idea — he had been involved in the music scene for a long time and decided he needed a change, and the direction of that change ended up being towards a growing interest in creating opportunities for grassroots teaching and learning. He did a lot reading about things like anarchist experimental schools, about the liberatory pedagogy of Paulo Freire, and about the Food Not Bombs freeschool in the United States, and he decided he wanted to try something like that in Calgary. He knew lots of folks involved in arts, music, and academic things in the city — including Jade — and he had no trouble getting the bike co-op where he was working to rent him their space for events. Pretty soon, the CSIE was ready to organize events.

The workshops and classes organized by the School over its first eight months have been a quirky mix largely determined by those who have come forward with skills to share — from knitting to garlic, from Japanese language to embroidery. Under the umbrella of the CSIE, a queer zine-making group and the new Treaty 7 Indigenous Filmmakers Collective have begun meeting regularly. And in the coming year, Liam and Jade expect more classes based on crafts, more opportunities to hear people with diverse lived experiences share their knowledge of the world, and more explicitly political workshops.

Though much of the organizing has been informal so far, the School is well on its way to putting together a formal board, and will be applying for small grants in the near future, with the goal of paying all teachers at living-wage rates and making all classes free for participants. Jade and Liam speak with me about the philosophy, the goals, and the nuts-and-bolts work of the Calgary School of Informal Education.

To learn more about the Calgary School of Informal Education, 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 check out its website here. You can also follow us on FaceBook or Twitter, or contact scottneigh@talkingradical.ca to join our weekly email update list.

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

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