Image: Tattoo art by Vegas.
Hi readers! My name is Alexandria Beck, I am a straight cis-white woman from a low income household. As I write this, having returned home from work and am sitting on my couch, fresh air blowing in from a cracked window. I feel so grateful, especially for the land I am fortunate to call home. I would like to respectfully acknowledge that I am on the traditional territory of the Mississauga Anishinaabeg. I offer my gratitude to the First Nations for their care for, and teachings about, our earth and our relations. May I honour those teachings. (OPIRG, 2020)
This land acknowledgment is one I have heard often; During the 2020-2021 school year I was fortunate enough to work with the Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) in Nogojiwanong (Peterborough). OPIRG is a non-profit organization that works with the Trent and Nogojiwanong communities to challenge all forms of oppression through research, education and action on social justice and environmental issues. My opportunities at OPIRG, the lessons in May Chazan’s Activists and Activisms course and the current political climate has taught me an infinite amount about what it means to be an activist. I hope to share some of that knowledge with you all today in this blog post.
Though I still struggle with this identification I am an activist and I have been for a long time. I have grown up around ableism, racism and misogyny but I am fortunate to have a sibling who is an activist. They were constantly teaching me and always encouraged me to stand in solidarity with people who are oppressed. I remember being young and being slightly embarrassed of my sibling the “Social Justice Warrior'' as conservatives co-opted that term in order to belittle and insult activists. My sibling is a queer trans person with a disablity, growing up with them I was able to clearly see the privilege I was afforded as a straight cis-woman. As an adult, I no longer rely on my sibling for teaching. We are able to share a space equitably, with me sitting in my privilege and holding space for my sibling.
Activism to me means staying as informed as possible, teaching others and standing in solidarity. I perform the majority of my activism through social media and in my personal life. In an effort to stay informed I have made an effort to follow other activists on social media, particularly black and indigenious people, people who are chubby, people who are disabled and members of the lgbtq+ community. I often share valuable information with family, friends and on my social media platforms. My work being heavily based in social media presents challenges as I must work hard to stay mindful and not just mindlessly repost information. However, social media allows me to credit my sources and highlight the powerful work of activists that inspire me.
To conclude, I would like to pay tribute to two activists who I am currently learning a lot from the first is a Black, queer tattoo artist from Toronto who goes by the name Vegas. She is constantly working to educate others, especially members of the tattoo community. Her work is focused on “Black radical unity” and she can sometimes make me uncomfortable. I use this discomfort as an opportunity for growth and work to understand her point of view. The second activist is a woman named Raven. She is a member of the Mi'kmaq Indigenous community who I began following at the height of the Mi’kmaq fishing conflict in the fall of 2020. She is a powerful activist in the Mi’kmaq community; Supporting the fishermen in the community, helping to provide and advocate for her dad, who struggles with addiction and working to disband a sexual exploitation ring in her community has targeted women and underaged girls. The work these activists have done and are doing inspires me to broaden my work as an activist. They constantly teach and inspire me and I have linked their instagram accounts below in the hopes that they will do the same for you.
“About Us – OPIRG Peterborough.” OPIRG Peterborough, 2020, opirgptbo.ca/colibri-wp/about-opirg