Kindradical's Blog

December 22, 2016

Drifting on a Christmas Eve

Filed under: Uncategorized — Christine Renaud @ 6:01 pm

This is a short story I wrote a few years ago about a time when I lived in Toronto. For the past three years, it’s been told on 99.3 County FM radio as part of their seasonal stories broadcast. I edited it slightly since then and thought I should put it down in writing somewhere to share.

Jwaye Nwel and/or warmest winter wishes,
Christine

Drifting on a Christmas Eve
toronto The rooming house has expelled all of the familiar comings and goings, all the voices and footsteps of its inhabitants and their yuletide pursuits. The homesick college students, the old artist, and the part time bartender and sometime busker have all skipped town like thieves in the night. There is only me and the room breathing in time to the blinking of the Christmas lights in my window.

I have a small tree keeping me company. It is an evergreen that smells of the forest and defies the rule about real trees forbidden in the house. On the window ledge, I have reassuring holiday greetings in cards from far away family and friends. The room is otherwise stingy with its comfort. The heat has been intermittent today as so often happens. I put on extra socks and pad downstairs to the kitchen for tea. The cat, small and grey, sleeps on his favourite paint splattered chair.

Snow is falling outside, spotlighted by yellow glow of the back porch bulb. As I stir my tea, I think that maybe I will go to my new city friend’s Christmas Eve party after all.

I take the subway and a streetcar to her place following detailed handwritten directions she’d given me at work. I bring a little something for her tree. It is a Christmas ball that I shaped from neatly cut strips of a recycled card. Glittery gold and red, and wrapped in tissue, it fits in my pocket where I cradle it like an egg in the warmth of my mitt.

My friend lives in a tall building. There is a doorman, also tall. The foyer is a replica of a  decorating magazine cover and smells faintly of perfume and leather from the sleek sofa. Towering in the corner, a majestic white Christmas tree stands sentry. The doorman walks to the glass topped reception desk and buzzes my friend’s apartment, announcing my arrival on the intercom. He smiles weakly at me and goes back to reading the open pages of his Toronto Sun newspaper.

On the 12th floor, I find a peephole on the door of #1204 that is partially concealed by a wreath made of pink feathers. It reminds me of a hat in an old Hollywood movie.

My friend greets me before I knock. She is all sparkles and smiles. I am introduced. Someone takes my coat. I venture tentatively into the festivities. I eat savory spreads on oblong crackers and kalamata olives. I drink wine the colour of the hostess’s dress while rootless conversations drift around the room. Words skim the breathtaking view of the city, black and glittering as a starlet’s sequined dress. The sentences weave and dip into the apartment’s arched alcoves, through to the dining room and into the gleaming kitchen where they meet voices and laughter that mingle with ice cubes clattering in half empty glasses.

There is a polished grand piano, but no one plays. Jazz standards and Christmas carols by crooners underlie conversations. An older man drinks too much and an embarrassed woman steers him down the long hallway. A cocktail is spilled and my friend rushes with a tea towel and club soda to save the rug. There is a solitary young girl at the party. She looks about 6 years old and is wearing a lime green party dress with matching tights. Curled in a chair, she is already dreaming. An hour after I arrive, I leave.

Downstairs the doorman is wrapping a scarf around his neck preparing for the end of his shift. We leave at the same time and walk together to the streetcar stop, leaning into the unforgiving wind. After the usual exchange of banalities about the weather, he tells me that he is anxious to get home to his wife and daughter. His little girl has decorated their flat, and she has strung the longest green and red paper chain he’s ever seen he says, chuckling. It is an especially joyful night because his mother has just arrived from Haiti. A shared midnight supper is planned after decorating the tree.

The streetcar rattles on and squeals on the tracks as it makes its way. My stop is next. I withdraw my tissue wrapped decoration, still intact in my pocket, and give it to him. I wish I knew how to say Merry Christmas in Haitian Creole.

Back in my room, snow is falling outside my window. The cat walks on the window ledge and knocks over my cards. I reach out and lift the little ball of fur into my arms and we curl up for a sleep together. The room is still breathing. Tomorrow I go home.

 

November 2, 2015

Feeding Groups for Change – Workshop in Toronto

Filed under: Uncategorized — Christine Renaud @ 8:20 pm

Laura Severinac is a great new friend thanks to an introduction from our mutual friend, Hri. It all started when Greenpeace held a strategising session in Prince Edward County this past summer and Laura, who worked with the NGO, needed local, vegan, gluten-free catering for the group. Hri connected us and I happily provided that! That led Laura to invite me to host a workshop on feeding large groups for Tools for Change, based on my catering and involvement with Food Not Bombs.

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I was thrilled for the invitation! I love feeding people, cooking, and sharing my passion for food, especially in relation to social justice work and movement building. Laura and I share that passion.
Despite the fact that we chose November 1st, the day after Halloween to hold the workshop, and we had to “fall back” with the time change (note to self, check calendar carefully when choosing dates), people came out and we all had a great event at the United Steelworkers Hall in Toronto.
In addition to discussing the importance of food to our social movements, we talked about community building, sustenance, caring for each other and self care as we work. We came up with menus, talked about challenges, and we made and ate delicious food together.
In talking about the great donations our Food Not Bombs collective often receives, we touched on what to do with a ton of bread, and my recipe for savoury vegan bread pudding came up. People were interested and asked for it. It’s here.

We also had fun making fresh spring rolls – an excellent choice when feeding a crowd for a number of reasons: rice paper wrappers are inexpensive / you can make use of small donations that are not enough to feed a crowd but could be split up a bit in each roll / they can be filled with all types of fillings / gluten-free / you can make them ahead and keep fresh under a damp towel (or get people involved in making them) / and you don’t need plates or forks to eat them!
A Thai peanut sauce for dipping is essential with these, in my opinion. The group thought so, too, so I’ve included the dipping sauce recipe here. It’s also delicious in rice bowls.

Of course, I learned a lot at the workshop as well. My take-away was not about recipes or logistics of food preparation, though. It was the further evidence that we have a lot of work to do in relation to food justice. When, for example, a worker is expected to run an after school program to feed 40 children with $25, but the powers that control this assert that all the food has to come only from a specific grocery store chain and that no homemade food can be brought in, we need to organize to change that. When government social services don’t give people enough money to feed themselves properly, when food banks require people to justify their need for food and show ID and financial information to access food, and when children are going to school undernourished while grocery stores are full of food – not to mention throwing out perfectly good food – these are systemic problems that we need to organize around and change.

Food is a right, not a privilege. Feeding ourselves, feeding others, feeding our communities, both with food and with the caring intentions these acts bring – can be life changing. I look forward to more opportunities to share collective knowledge, experiences and, of course, delicious food!

A heartfelt thank you to Laura and Tools for Change for inviting me to do this, and to everyone who came out.

Yours in struggle for food justice,
Christine

June 20, 2015

Macdonald statue a gift?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Christine Renaud @ 2:12 pm

The Sir John A. Macdonald statue being unveiled on Canada Day 2015 on Picton’s Main Street is said to be a gift to Prince Edward County. Whether one thinks so or not, we will see it everyday as we walk downtown. My only hope is that it will be a reminder of more than intended.
I hope it sheds light on Macdonald’s racism and colonialism, and provides an opportunity to reflect on the tragic truth. I hope it is a reminder of the inhumane treatment of indigenous people under Macdonald and his government, the results of which live on to this day.
Many say that John A. was simply a man of his time, when racism was common (as it tragically remains today), but I’m not willing to allow this excuse to gloss over the atrocities. While it’s important to examine both good and bad in the past, I reject venerating the man largely responsible for this darkest part of our history. History, in fact, that has been recognized by the recently released Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report as cultural genocide.
The TRC report provides horrific evidence that the legacy of residential schools, under Macdonald as Minister of Indian Affairs, was a key element in the government-led genocide.
In Clearing the Plains – Disease, Politics of Starvation and the loss of Aboriginal Life, the award-winning and meticulously researched book by Charles Daschuk, we learn that Macdonald was responsible for the systematic starving of indigenous people to advance his vision of Canada. “The strategy was cruel but effective,” writes Daschuk. “The government was unapologetic for its use of starvation to complete the occupation of reserves…”
When indigenous people of the Plains dared to resist, punishment by Macdonald’s government was swift. Hangings were made public and John A. “acknowledged the political importance of the executions, which,” Daschuk writes, quoting Macdonald, “ought to convince the Red Man that the White Man governs.” Residential school students were brought to witness the hangings to drive the point home.
Macdonald’s white supremacist stance extended to his exploitation of the over 17,000 Chinese people whose labour built the railways. Macdonald justified taking their right to vote from them or anyone “of Mongolian or Chinese race” in the Electoral Franchise Act, a move he later called “my greatest achievement.”
Prize winning historian and University of Ottawa professor Timothy J. Stanley wrote that Macdonald believed, “Chinese exclusion was necessary…” and that if they could vote, “they might enforce those Asiatic principles, those immoralities . . . the eccentricities which are abhorrent to the Aryan race and Aryan principles, on this House.” Yes, he said Aryan race.
For all the political successes credited to him, Macdonald remains far too flawed to be celebrated, much less honoured with a statue. Power and money rule, however, and a statue we will have. My hope is that we can at least use it to present and learn from historical realities as we strive to build a better world.

May 13, 2015

Dig New Ground to Uproot Hunger

Filed under: Uncategorized — Christine Renaud @ 11:49 pm
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So much good work and sincere effort goes into trying to alleviate food insecurity and other social conditions that result in living precarious lives, yet attacking the root of the problem seems lost in our unending efforts and good intentions.

Food banks, food drives, community suppers, temporary shelters, social assistance – these can be helpful and even lifesaving for people, but they are unfortunately bandaid solutions that will be permanent fixtures until we deal with why people are in need. For the most part, the answer is actually pretty simple. It’s because people do not have enough money.

This denial of financial security, and the resulting lack of access to healthy food and adequate housing, not to mention impeding one’s opportunities, will continue as surely as death if we allow the very economic system that creates poverty to prevail. This is why I believe we need to target the root of the problem.

And how might we do that?

First, let’s face facts. Unequal distribution of wealth is a created reality, not a natural one. There are, in fact, enough resources for everyone. When stores and restaurants are full of food, no one should be hungry. When properties are vacant, no one should be without a home or sleeping on the street.

Some solutions are maddeningly evident if the will were there to implement them. Within the existing system – as imperfect as it is – would be a guaranteed income for all. Realistically though, this could come and go, as do political promises and many government programs (as happened with Mincom, a successful GI program in the 1970s that ended with a change of government). Another solution would be to raise the minimum wage to a living one. Another would be raising Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Payments, rates which we know are so low that they keep people in poverty.

I contend, however, that we need to expand our thinking beyond these and the current paradigm, including a shift of power to workers and creating different economic systems and relations. This is the only way long-term social change can happen – by organizing society differently.

Dismantling for-profit corporations and halting the increasing commodification of almost every need and interaction in our lives, as well as ending the financialization of the commons, would be good starting points. Creating worker managed and operated businesses, fostering cooperation rather than competition, focusing on providing needs-based products, free sharing of resources and exchange of services – these are all ideas that could help break the endless cycles of poverty and inequality. We could do that in our community.

Platitudes about equality, democracy, and justice are just that if we continue with what we are doing. If we are serious about creating a better world, we can’t accept working within systems of oppressive power and inequality just because we try to do it with as much decency as possible. Those systems need to be confronted and dismantled while we build alternatives.

November 15, 2014

New issue of Upfront Alternatives for November

Filed under: Uncategorized — Christine Renaud @ 4:05 am

Here’s the re-edited version of the November 2014 Upfront Alternatives upfront newsletter nov 3

Hope you enjoy it and please write if you have any comments.

Christine

September 28, 2014

Last meal in the Park….moving to the Picton Town Hall

Filed under: Uncategorized — Christine Renaud @ 2:49 pm

 

IMG_1614Summer like weather was the backdrop for our last free Food Not Bombs Meal in Benson Park for this year, but never fear! The meals and other FNB community fun continues as we   move inside to the Picton Town Hall until it’s warm enough to get back outside.
Come celebrate the first free tasty meal at the hall, above the Picton Firehall on Wednesday, October 15 from 5:30 to 7p.m.  We should have some free food to take away, too.
firehallAnd one week later, on Wednesday, October 22nd at the same time, it’s the first FNB Clothes Swap! Bring some stuff to swap or just come take some new-to-you clothes home. We’re hoping people with kids will bring stuff to share…winter’s just around the corner, so snowsuits and such would be great.

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Until then, if you want to contact us, e-mail: pec.foodnotbombs@gmail.com or join the FNB group on facebook  https://www.facebook.com/groups/705361676201850/ and like the FNB community page  https://www.facebook.com/groups/705361676201850/

You can follow this blog, too, for photos of events and news, including an announcement for a fundraiser…stay tuned!

July 19, 2014

More radical reading – Upfront alternatives July/Aug

Filed under: Uncategorized — Christine Renaud @ 2:43 am

Thanks to everyone for the encouragement to keep writing. Here’s issue #2 of Upfront Alternatives.  Hope you enjoy it.

Christine upfront newsletter july

June 2, 2014

1st issue of Upfront Alternatives newsletter!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Christine Renaud @ 1:01 am

Upfront Alternatives 1st issue: here’s the downloadable pdf version upfront newsletter 2 If you would like a printed copy, let me know by leaving a comment. Thanks. upfront-newsletter-2-1 upfront-newsletter-2-2

September 23, 2013

And that’s why we do it!

heart tomato webI was surprised to learn recently that Prince Edward and Hastings Counties consistently have the highest and second highest levels of food insecurity in Ontario according to the 2013 Children & Youth Services Network Report. Crazy when we’re surrounded by fields of plenty and store shelves stacked with food, right? Food insecurity is defined as “the inability to obtain sufficient, nutritious, personally acceptable food through normal food channels or the uncertainty that one will be able to do so.” More directly, people are hungry and they can’t afford good food, or they’re worried about being able to afford it. That’s why County Food Not Bombs held another of its free community meals and free food markets this past Sunday in Picton’s Benson Park, and what a fun ‘community growing’ event it was, too!

Plates were heaped with panzanella - a bread and tomato, garlic, onion and basil salad - and couscous with squash, and plum cobbler!

Under a cool autumn sky, people heaped plates with healthy panzanella – bread and tomato salad – couscous and squash, and plum cobbler.

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We bagged carrots and potatoes, and there were squash, tomatoes, and pears for people to take away with them, too.

Thanks so much to everyone who came, those who dropped off food or made it available including Paul at Cherryvale, Catherine Reilly, Vicki’s Veggies, Penny of Penny’s Pantry, Tamara Segal, Pierrette, Bethany’s Dad, Keri & Lenny, and many others who shared the bounty. The mutual aid and concept of FNB feeds my hope for change!
Food Not Bombs is a movement, not a charity, and differs from most food programs in that it shares free food in public spaces with everyone, is  non-hierarchical (there are chapters around the world but no leaders or headquarters and work is organized through consensus), the food is vegan/vegetarian (in keeping with its non-violent action philosophy and also because serving plant-based foods lessens risk of food spoilage) and most importantly, Food Not Bombs works towards social change through direct action.

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Friends came out, but people I’d never met, too, and some who seemed especially hungry and happy about the free food.

If you’d like to get involved, we’re serving up our next meal this Wednesday, September 25th in front of the Armoury on Main Street in Picton from 12 noon to 1p.m. Come on down for a tasty lunch. Bring a plate and cutlery if you can. We’ll be distributing fresh food, too, so a bag would be useful. And please pass on the invitation to others.

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Hugs to the FNB crew, and a special shout out to Hri Neil and Michael Barstow for the tunes – the perfect groove for the day!

Hope to see you then,
Christine

August 11, 2013

A beautiful thing happened today at Benson Park in Picton

Filed under: Food Not Bombs — Christine Renaud @ 10:05 am

The first Food Not Bombs “free food for all” community meal took place Aug. 11, 2013.Image

As I looked on and the day unfolded, it brought to mind the Wobblies’ saying, “building a new world in the shell of the old.”

The Food Not Bombs crew arrived early and got to work.

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No one was in charge (FNB is a non-hierarchical, consensus based group) and everyone just figured things out together. By noon we began to serve local corn, delicious bread (Penny of Penny’s Pantry and Jacqui of the Carriage House) with roasted garlic (Owl Farms) – wow, that was particularly awesome! – quinoa (Jacqui) and chard salad (Vicki’s Veggies), cucumber salad (Jennifer W), watermelon (?) and peaches (Jennifer W). All was donated except for the corn, and everything was, of course, free to everyone.

People also showed up with excess stuff from their gardens to share, and others took it away to enjoy back at home.

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We had a literature table and a “Really Really Free Market” that Jennifer S. suggested should be re-named “The Really Free, Free Market”. That does sound better, I think.

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It was an awesome feast, but it was more than that.

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The day brought together all kinds of people who didn’t know each other and they ate, talked and got to know one another.

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Hri Neil of Ombudsman Sound, Michael Barstow -AKA Dj Channa, and Calum McRae -AKA Dusty Needles (who donated the garlic) were spinning tunes, and little girls – and a few older ones – danced.  

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It was especially encouraging to speak to people, some I knew and many new people, too, who “got it”, that is, that understood that there is actually enough food for everyone and no one should have to go without access to good, healthy food. How society is structured is why some people have food to eat and others don’t.

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I can’t begin to name all the people who contributed to the meal and the day (in fact, I’m not even going to try because I’m worried that I‘ll miss someone). Those who did know who they are, and if you were there, you know their names were widely mentioned and they were thanked wholeheartedly.

With our first meal now served, banners painted

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and the logistics ironed out a bit, we’re ready for our next meal. This one will be a bit simpler, but just as tasty and free.

We’ll be on Main Street in Picton from 12 noon until 1 p.m. – or until we run out of food – this coming Wednesday, August 14. If you want to get involved in any way, let us know. The e-mail is: pec.foodnotbombs@gmail.com or visit our facebook page https://www.facebook.com/FoodNotBombsPec

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