On January 19th and 20th we were required to attend some sessions of the Apathy in Action conference put on by RPIRG at the University of Regina. I was only able to attend Fridays’ sessions. I found most of the sessions very informative in content and I learned a great deal about how different activism looks.
Each talk I listened to, went about their activism for their chosen cause in different ways. Bernadette Wagner gave an author talk about her book about uranium and the impact the Saskatchewan uranium industry has had through out history. She said her activism comes in the form of her writing and in her performances with the Sacred Web group. Next Michelle Stewart and Prescott Demas representing Colonialism No More, shared their experiences with activism. Their group pitched tents in spring and summer outside the Indigenous and Northern Affairs office, in response to a call to action from the youth Atawascape to bring attention and action to the conditions youth and children are facing on some of the reserves. Michelle and Prescott also shared that their group also helps others set up demonstrations. They also pointed out that you don’t have to be on the front lines to be active in a cause, there are many background jobs. Finally, Mia Bell spoke about Fat Feminism. Her message to me was that another take on activism is to be aware of how we move about in spaces and the words we choose to use. For example, she challenged those with thinner bodies to think about when they sat in the lecture theaters at the University of Regina (U of R) how would someone living in a fat body(her words), find those seating options. She said and I agree that for larger people the lecture theaters, especially in the Classroom building are very discriminatory. Larger people simply do not fit well and the little fold over desks simply aren’t an option for large people. This affects class choices for many students at the U of R. She then shared a few other examples to be aware of. These examples also tie in very nicely with Robin Kimmerer’s ideas in her chapter Maple Nation. Where she tells us that a prominent teacher in town and Kimmerer’s own parents share the sentiment that you can’t complain about the way things are if you don’t do something, as the teacher in the story says “attend a damn meeting”. So where does my new found knowledge leave me. What am I going to do?
I do strongly believe in Kimmerer’s statement that you can’t complain if you don’t do something. However, I am a mom, a wife and full time mature university student. Right now, those are my main priorities in that order and when I am done attending to those things, there is very little of me left to give. In thinking about the various ways that activism looks like, I maybe able to do a couple of small things. Like next time I see a camp and my boys ask what its about, rather than saying I don’t know, I could make the time to either stop or go back at another time and talk to the group with my boys. Or I could write that letter to the president of the U of R like I thought about when I entered the lecture theater in the classroom building and found my body doesn’t fit so well and there is no other option for me or my other classmates in the same situation. They are just little things but for now, they will have to do.