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 — Project Slut: Young women challenging rape culture, slut shaming, and high school dress codes

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Andy Villanueva and Kerin Bethel-John. They are members of Project Slut, a collective of young women who set out to abolish the dress code in their high school and won, and who now have their sights set on transforming school dress codes across the entire Toronto District School Board.

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It is no surprise to anyone who pays close attention to the voices of young women that high schools are, generally speaking, hotbeds of rape culture and slut shaming (where “rape culture” points towards a diverse collection of practices endemic to everyday life and the social world more broadly in North America that condone, facilitate, excuse, and tolerate sexual violence; and “slut shaming” is the practice of demeaning and attacking women for their presumed or actual sexual activity, or for aspects of their appearance or behaviour that are treated as somehow linked to sexual activity). When they were Grade 10 students, Villenueva, Bethel-John, and another friend got together to form Project Slut to challenge rape culture and slut shaming in their school. They faced hostility, dismissal, and resistance. But not only did they persist in their efforts, they underwent an inspiring example of the kind of learning that comes from taking action — learning about the systems they were facing; learning about strategy and tactics; learning based on acting, reflecting, and acting again.

In their later years in high school, their organizing focused on efforts to get their school to abolish its dress code. The code restricted the clothing choices of young women much more than those of young men, and it created institutional space in which teachers publicly shamed young women about their appearance, and thereby facilitated a broader environment of slut shaming and rape culture. Moreover, the dress code not only facilitated the policing and shaming of women, but also was used to target gender non-conforming students, young Black men, and other students as well.

And Project Slut not only challenged the dress code in their school; they defeated it. Now Villanueva and Bethel-John are attending post-secondary institutions, but they are committed to taking the campaign school board-wide in Toronto, and are ramping up to begin that fight in the fall.

To learn more about Project Slut, click here. Also, check out their new video and petition for their campaign focused on the school board.

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 — Activists meeting, learning, and recharging in rural Nova Scotia

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Hillary Lindsay and Omri Haiven. They speak with me about a project called the Tatamagouche Summer Free School, which brings together activists at the end of August each year to learn from each other and to recharge for a new season of involvement in struggles for social change.

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The free school is held on Waldegrave Farm, a community land trust — that is, collectively held land stewarded for the benefit of the community — located near Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia, on that province’s north shore. The land gets used in many other ways for the rest of the year, but at the end of the summer, up to 100 people gather for several days to be a part of what the event’s web page describes as “a radical education space that offers people tools to create a more just, sustainable and joyful world.” They come from as near as the local village and as far as Montreal, though most come from various parts of Nova Scotia. Many but not all are involved in social change work of one kind or another in their everyday lives. They come together to encounter people involved in social change work different from their own, to engage in political and practical learning in a wide range of areas, and to recharge and reinvigorate themselves through celebration and social togetherness.

Hillary Lindsay has been involved in organizing the Tatamagouche Summer Free School since its inception. Omri Haiven has been a regular attendee in recent years, and this year is on the school’s programming committee. They talk with me about the setting, the preparations, the event, and the breadth of the radical learning that happens there.

To learn more about the Tatamagouche Summer Free School, 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 — A new grassroots resource for settlers to learn about Canada’s colonial present and past

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Monique Woroniak and Liz Carlson. They are two participants in a small group of women from Winnipeg who have taken seriously the admonition that white settler folks must work with other white settler folks in pushing anti-racist and decolonizing politics. To that end they have, in tight consultation with diversely located Indigenous people in Winnipeg, produced a website to allow settlers who are questioning the received wisdom about Canada to educate ourselves with respect to the country’s colonial present and past.

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Most of us who are not ourselves Indigenous to this continent know very little about Indigenous peoples, their histories, and their present-day realities. And, of course, saying that is equivalent to saying that most non-Indigenous people on this continent — most settlers, particularly most of us who are white — don’t really know much about ourselves, about the histories that formed us, about the present-day social order that produces us and sustains the lives, experiences, and expectations that we take for granted. We live in and are products of a deeply colonial reality that we often remain largely oblivious to.

Being exposed to more and better information about that history and that contemporary reality will not, in and of itself, produce changes in consciousness among settlers, or social change. But access to good information can be one element, and in some cases quite a crucial one, of broader processes of change. Indigenous resistance is constant and ongoing, but in those moments when it breaks through to mainstream consciousness, one of the ways that some settlers react is to ask questions — to recognize that things are not as we had been led to believe, and to try to figure out what’s actually going on. It can therefore be an important contribution to larger struggles to invest effort in making sure there are accessible resources that non-Indigenous people can seek out to find answers, and that those resources tell the accurate but difficult truths about this country that cannot be escaped when you refuse to erase the voices and experiences of Indigenous peoples and the harsh realities of ongoing colonization and resistance to it.

The website that Woroniak, Carlson, and others have produced can be found at groundworkforchange.org. It provides basic information about context, background, and issues, and links to many further resources. It foregrounds its commitment to working towards transformed relationships between non-Indigenous and Indigenous peoples that are rooted in justice and solidarity. It is largely constructed from material that has been written by Indigenous people themselves. And it is targeted to answer the many questions to which settlers from across Canada so often grow up not knowing the answers, to filling in the blanks that colonial education and media systems have left in our consciousness, to providing a resource for learning — and, based on that learning, for acting in solidarity. Woroniak and Carlson talk with me about the issues, the project, the site, and what they hope that it can accomplish.

To learn more about groundworkforchange.org, 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 — Fighting for a $15/hr minimum wage in British Columbia

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Irene Lanzinger. She is the president of the British Columbia Federation of Labour, which is spearheading the BC version of the Fight for $15 campaign to raise the minimum wage that is sweeping across North America.

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It has been a long time since a good job with a good wage for everyone who wants one was a default mainstream public policy goal. Under the camouflage of euphemisms like “labour market flexibility,” the consistent direction under governments of all (mainstream) political stripes, in all corners of the developed world, has for many years now been away from full employment as a goal and towards policies that mean that more and more of the jobs that do exist are not good ones. These kinds of changes, which have meant that an increasing proportion of the work that makes our society function happens under low-wage and precarious conditions, are part of the neoliberal shift that has increased inequality, enriched the rich, and further impoverished working people over the last three decades or so.

Yet however tight the grip of neoliberal thinking on elites in North America, including many of those who dress in progressive garb, the idea that working a full-time job should be enough to assure that you don’t live in poverty still has broad resonance among ordinary people. This is the basis for the rapid spread of the “Fight for 15″ as a slogan and as a set of parallel, on-the-ground campaigns. From its beginning among workers in the fast food sector in parts of the United States, these efforts to lift minimum wage to $15/hr have spread far and wide. Not only that, they have been winning victories, from partial gains like a very modest increase in the federal minimum wage in the United States, to full achievement of the $15/hr goal in cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle.

In British Columbia, that province’s Federation of Labour plus a coalition of allied organizations in the community have taken on a central role in the fight to raise the minimum wage there from $10.25 to $15. Lanzinger talks with me about the need to raise the minum wage, the details of the campaign in BC, the reasons why unions – most of whose members make more than that anyway – see this as an important goal, and why scaremongering arguments against the increase coming from the business lobby just don’t add up.

To learn more about the Fight for $15 in BC, 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 — From bookstore to community organizing space & activist infrastructure

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Bonnie Heilman and Peter Garden. They are members of the Treaty 6 Justice Collective, a group that is attempting to address the urgent need in our communities for infrastructure to support organizing and activism. They began from a decade-old independent bookstore in Saksatoon, Saskatchewan, called Turning the Tide, and from that beginning they have launched an exciting new experiment called The Stand Community Organizing Centre

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There are a number of reasons why we have a general lack of infrastructure to support movements and communities-in-struggle in North America. Though the issues involved aren’t identical, I think questions of movement infrastructure really do get caught up in our society’s broader devaluation and erasure of reproductive labour — that is, the million little, mostly-unpaid, mostly-unrecognized tasks of reproduction and caring and everyday life that fall disproportionately on women, and that keep most families and communities (as well as, let’s face it, capitalism as a whole, and almost any social movement you can name) functioning. As well, work on movement infrastructure – keeping a grassroots meeting space from closing down, say, or compiling a listing of social justice-related events each week – can be kind of boring in comparison to the more directly fight-the-power-ish elements of struggles for social change. There’s also a history of such infrastructure being attacked and co-opted by those who oppose struggles for justice and liberation.

In addition to all of those things, however, our lack of movement infrastructure both results in and is a product of a lack of models for doing it well – models that are embedded in community, autonomous from the limitations placed by state and foundation funding, and yet somehow able to sustain themselves through the downs as well as the ups of movement momentum.

There are, thankfully, some interesting experiments in communities around the country that are trying to solve the movement infrastructure problem. Peter Garden is a long-time activist who got his start in the punk scene, Food Not Bombs, and the global justice movement. He has run Turning the Tide — a social justice-focused, community-engaged, independent bookstore in Saskatoon — for over a decade. Last year, the store engaged in some community consultations as part of making decisions about its future. And what it heard back was that, yes, people wanted it to remain a bookstore, but also they wanted it to become something more. To enact that vision, a number of people, including both Garden and Bonnie Heilman – an activist who was energized by the Occupy movement – came together to form the Treaty 6 Justice Collective. Their role is to govern The Stand Community Organizing Centre, a new hub for activist infrastructure that includes the bookstore but goes far beyond – it’s a move from being a place to get information related to social change, to a place to find information, space, resources, opportunities to build skills, and much more. It’s a move that brings together a small business and a non-profit, two existing organizational forms that movements quite rightfully tend to be wary of, but does so in a way that may point towards at least one approach to addressing the urgent lack of infrastructure to support activism, organizing, movements, and communities-in-struggle in North America.

To learn more about Turning the Tide Bookstore and The Stand Community Organizing Centre, click 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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Radio — Not yet Canada’s Syriza, but a small step in that direction

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Kyle Buott. He is the president of the Halifax-Dartmouth and District Labour Council and a member of Solidarity Halifax. He talks with me about a recent gathering: 14 anti-austerity and anti-capitalist groups from across the country were hosted by Solidarity Halifax at a Congress of the Radical Left, to discuss building relationships and possibilities for pluralist, non-sectarian collaboration in the struggle for transformative social change.

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Here are two hard facts of life. Number one: Although Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King’s quip that Canada has “too much geography and not enough history” is about as colonial a statement as you can find, its first half also captures the sad truth of a challenge that social movements in this country have yet to solve — our efforts are fragmented by the vast distances across which we are spread.

And number two: There are lots of people around who don’t really like the general direction of change that this country, much like the rest of the world, has taken over the last few decades. They don’t like the increasing poverty, the environmental destruction, the erosion of a sense of collective compassion and responsibility, and all the other toxic outcomes that we tag with labels like “neoliberalism” and “austerity.” But for all this simmering sentiment, there are few to no existing organizational options for us to give our time and energy if we want to resolutely commit to reversing these problems — not mitigating, but reversing. Even the political parties that draw on the energies of these dissatisfactions offer only quite mild opposition, and while that can have some real (if limited) impacts in terms of people’s lives, it still amounts to a softer version of the same.

So what’s a person to do?

There is no single answer to that, but one possibility lies in a new kind of organizing that has popped up in a number of cities across the country — a sort of open, engaged, multi-issue organization committed to pluralist anti-austerity or anti-capitalist politics that are given expression in concrete, grounded campaigns, and that are also committed to refusing the kind of divisive sectarianism that so destructively marked earlier generations of the left. Over the last couple of years, Talking Radical Radio has profiled a few of these — Solidarity Halifax, We Are Oshawa, and Ottawa’s Solidarity Against Austerity spring to mind. Only time will tell whether these tentative local experiments can follow the explosive growth of somewhat analogous projects in Europe, like Spain’s Podemos or Greece’s Syriza (notwithstanding the complicated turn of recent events in that country), or even the much more modest success of Quebec Solidaire. But the recent Congress of the Radical Left in Halifax was a small first step to effective collaboration against austerity and capitalism, across political and geographical differences in the Canadian context.

Buott talks about the origins and basis of this recent gathering, about the conversations that happened there, and about the very modest but still exciting steps that emerged from it.

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 — ACSEXE+: Talking disability and sexuality in Montreal

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Aimee Louw and Charli Lessard. They are involved with the ACSEXE+ project, an initiative based in Montreal that works to create opportunities for disabled people to talk, share, and learn about sexuality and the wide spectrum of issues with which it intersects.

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It’s a still-tempting oversimplification that has long been dispelled to regard the landscape for communicating about sexuality as a blanket of uniform silence that can only be resisted by speaking. Sexuality of a certain narrow sort is, after all, everywhere in our media, and it’s quite common for people to have to navigate many different kinds of social situations that are not themselves sexual encounters but in which, in what we say about ourselves and in how we act, there is a social compulsion to talk sexuality or signal sexuality. So there is no uniform blanket of silence and repression. Yet in its mix of what is compelled, what is permitted, and what is erased or forbidden or silenced, this landscape is highly uneven and complex.

There is a dizzying array of different ways that it works for differently situated people, but one important group for whom mandatory silence and sexual erasure is, in fact, very strong in mainstream contexts is disabled people. The potential of many disabled people to have and to want sexual lives as vibrant and varied as everyone else is, by and large, erased and denied in mainstream contexts – many disabled people are read as inherently not-sexual, and are given no space, in conversation or in practice, to be otherwise. And though it varies considerably and is in the process of changing, many spaces organized around disabled identities and/or politics, particularly the more mainstream among such spaces, are largely silent about sexuality too.

Aimee Louw and Charli Lessard want to change this. Louw is a writer and media-maker, and an experienced activist on multiple issues, including around questions of disability and accessibility. Lessard is a doula, a long-time sexuality educator, and an activist around reproductive and sexual rights. Both are currently working for the Fédération du Québec pour le planning des naissances, a small but well-established organization in Montreal, on the ACSEXE+ project. It is an intiative committed to a feminist, queer-positive, and sex-positive approach, and it has involved public events, a regularly updated blog and social media presence, the production of a number of videos, and more.

To learn more about the ACSEXE+ project, and about disability and sexuality, 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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