That’s the idea behind CanRoots, a gathering of activists and organizers inspired by the New Organizing Institute’s annual RootsCamp. This weekend, NOW is proud to sponsor CanRoots East in Toronto—and if you’re in the neighbourhood, we’d love for you to join us.
Posts Tagged ‘activism’
My first real memories of political activism happened (repeatedly) in the BC Liquor store on Commercial Drive. I was 5, my sister 3. And our parents would place us strategically at the end of an aisle and give us a very important task: we were to be the lookouts, in charge of warning them about any staff who might be moving their way. So while we — seemingly innocently — stood watch, my parents plastered the labels of the South African wine bottles with anti-apartheid stickers.
You see, the fight against Apartheid was just part of my childhood. Our home was the BC mailing address for SACTU (the South African Congress of Trade Unions, an affiliated partner of the ANC). It was just the way things went at my house: my sister and I would sometimes give up our beds for fleeing or visiting political refugees. We thought it a treat to help sort and count the change gathered from all the fundraisers. And we knew every word and proudly belted “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAFrika” at any chance we got.
Many of the people cycling through our home became good family friends — for me, in particular, a wonderful man named Peter. They would make curry, we would make sweet coconut bread to dip in it, and we would all eat while the adults talked about political action, Nelson and the struggle. Once, Peter even agreed to let me take him to my school classroom — as an odd kind of ‘show and tell.’ And there, he patiently talked to a class full of suburban (primarily Caucasian and Asian) children about what his very different life had looked like. He talked about running out the back door of his house — in the middle of the night, without shoes on — because he heard police trying to break through the front door. He talked having to leave his family behind. And he talked about Nelson.
I grew up in North Surrey in the 80s, which means I attended North Surrey Secondary School. Everything you’d expect to see in a Surrey high school was there — big hair, neon accessories, stirrup pants. What might surprise you was that one of the more active school clubs was Spartans Against Apartheid (we are the North Surrey Spartans, after all). A remarkable team of activist teachers and a multicultural group of students was drawn to the cause of our time, ending apartheid in South Africa. And the imprisoned hero Nelson Mandela.
Together with students like Rupinder Kang we ran education workshops for other students to raise awareness about apartheid in South Africa, and put pressure on the Canadian government. We learned about the role of companies such as Shell. (I still can’t buy gas there.)
For teenagers it was a thrilling cause. The cause was so just. The music was awesome. The anthem was stirring. We went to workshops, watched films and wrote letters. We organized speakers to come to our school. I was once invited to a home in Coquitlam where the Canadian Ambassador from the African National Congress was staying. There I met a small Kristen Keighley-Wight, herself an activist, as her home was the Canadian headquarters of the South African Congress of Trade Unions.
It was 1989. I had an apartment and my first ‘real’ job – working for a member of Parliament. I was young, opinionated, making my own way in the world and loving it … when I decided to write a letter to the editor of the Vancouver Sun.
I wrote a letter because I had something to say about there being less conflict in the world if there were more women in decision-making positions. I honestly don’t remember what prompted me to write or the details of what I said. But I do remember what happened next.