On Wreaths and Graffiti: Reading Defacement and Nostalgia at Ottawa Monuments

Active History is proud to present a video each week from New Directions in Active History. The conference took place at Huron University College on October 2-4, 2015 and brought together scholars, students, professionals and community members to discuss a wide range of topics pertaining to active history.

This week’s video marks the last video post from the 2015 Active History Conference. Tonya Davidson, a sociologist of public memory at Ryerson Univeristy, researches the ambivalent feelings Canadians have towards monuments. She explains that although monuments are often dismissed as being “ideological tools of the state”, when something happens at the monument, or to the monument, public attention tends to be “aroused”.  She explains that part of the reason for the public outcry is that we view monuments on the one hand as, “dynamic, live witnesses…to the past”, but we also see monuments as “very active” in the present as well. Davidson goes on to speak about the defacement done to two sculptures on the Parliament buildings by peace protesters in 1985 and explains how the restoration of the vandalism can make us think about the ways in which we can grapple with monuments and multiple histories. Davidson then analyzes two other monuments in Ottawa, the Samuel De Champlain statue at Nepean Point and the Human Rights Monument located at the corner of Lisgar and Elgin. Using these two examples, Davidson explains how monuments can serve as problematic representations of nostalgia and also how they can be political statements with contemporary resonance.

Simulating History: The Use of Historical and Political Simulations in the History Classroom

Active History is proud to present a video each week from New Directions in Active History. The conference took place at Huron University College on October 2-4, 2015 and brought together scholars, students, professionals and community members to discuss a wide range of topics pertaining to active history.

In this week’s video, we continue the discussion on active and engaged learning in public school classrooms. Brent Pavey, Head of History at Waterloo Collegiate Institute, shares his vision of how to engage students in political and historical debates. He explains numerous simulations which he has implemented in the classroom from mock UN Security Council meetings to Confederation debates. Pavey explains that the goal of these projects is to “engage students so they can imagine fulfilling the shoes of political and historical figures.” He hopes that these types of projects not only allow students to learn the material in an interesting way, but also introduce students to historical debates with which Canada continues to grapple. Pavey also offers advice to educators about outcomes that are either unrealistic or historically inaccurate. He urges educators that debriefing with students is important because during reflection, learning will often occur.

Activehistory.ca repost – “When People Eat Chocolate, They Are Eating My Flesh”: Slavery and the Dark Side of Chocolate

As part of Black History Month every Friday in February we’re featuring some of our most popular posts and podcasts on Black History.

The following post was originally featured on June 30, 2010

By Karlee Sapoznik

656px-ChocolateWhether it’s a Mars, Cadbury, Hershey, Nestle or Snickers chocolate bar, most of us relish biting into one of life’s most tasty, cheap indulgences: chocolate.

While the cocoa industry has profited from the use of forced labour in West Africa since the early nineteenth century, over the past decade more and more alarming reports of child slavery in the cocoa industry have come to the fore. Amadou, previously one of the over 200,000 estimated children to be enslaved in cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast alone, told Free the Slaves that “When people eat chocolate, they are eating my flesh.”

The Ivory Coast produces roughly half of the world’s cocoa today. In his recent documentary, entitled The Dark Side of Chocolate , Danish journalist Miki Mistrati seeks to answer the following question: “Is the chocolate we eat produced with the use of child labor and trafficked children?”

In effect, the question is really not whether the chocolate we eat is produced using child labour or trafficked children. Rather, it is twofold: where exactly is this happening and in what numbers? Further, how do we take further measures

Drissa’s scars from being beat after trying to escape

Drissa’s scars from being beat after trying to escape

beyond what is already being done under the law, by the International Cocoa Initiative, the chocolate companies, local law enforcement, activists, the general public and grass roots organizations to truly end this?

The link between slavery and commodities is certainly not new. In the late eighteenth century, the British, like many other countries, directly profited from the slave trade and slavery as they took their tea or used slave-produced products on a daily basis. However, little by little, the London Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade succeeded in rallying popular sentiment against slavery and slave-produced commodities.

Click here to continue reading.

Activehistory.ca repost – Black History Podcasts and Talks

As part of Black History Month every Friday in February we’re featuring some of our most popular posts and podcasts on Black History.

Today we’re featuring some of our favourite podcasts and recorded talks on Black History from the past few years.

History Slam Podcasts:

  • Episode Twenty-Six: The Black Panthers in Saskatchewan
    In this episode of the History Slam podcast, Sean Graham talks with Dawn Flood of Campion College at the University of Regina about Black Panther Fred Hampton and his visit to Saskatchewan. They chat about racial discrimination in Chicago, the reputation of the Black Panthers, the reason for coming to Saskatchewan, and Fred Hampton’s death.
  • Episode Forty-One: Race, Identity, and Newfoundland Culture in Robert Chafe’s Oil and Water  On February 18, 1942 off the coast of St. Lawrence, Newfoundland, the USS Truxton and the USS Pollux ran aground in the midst of a harsh winter storm. Of the 389 sailors on both ships, only 186 survived. Of those, one stood out: Lanier Phillips. After being rescued by a group of locals, Phillips became the first African American in St. Lawrence, an experience that forever changed him and the community.  The transformation of Phillip’s life is the focus of playwright Robert Chafe’s Oil and Water.  In this episode of History Slam Sean Graham speaks with Robert Chafe about his play, Lanier Phillips’ legacy and the challenges of representing a true story on stage.
  • Episode Fifty-Eight: African Canadians in the US Civil War
    Sean Graham and Richard Ried discuss the challenges of researching African Canadians in the Civil War, the tasks given to black regiments, and the domestic policies that shaped British North Americans’ participation in the conflict.  They also examine the legacy of African Canadians fighting in the war and the historical oddity of Civil War pensions being paid into the 21st century.(Sean Graham and Richard Ried)

Recorded Talks:

  • The Drake “Smoke Screen” Phenomenon: Canadian Hip Hop History
    A conversation Francesca D’Amico hosted with award-winning journalist, radio and TV broadcaster, Dalton Higgins.  Higgins and D’Amico engaged in a discussion intended to use the life and music of Drake as a lens by which to discuss broader issues such as: the history of urban music in Toronto; class and authenticity in urban music; and race, ethnicity, identity and notions of multiculturalism and acceptance in Canada.

 

Activehistory.ca repost – Why “I Used to Love H.E.R,” Why I Still Love H.E.R: Hip Hop THEN, Hip Hop NOW

As part of Black History Month every Friday in February we’re featuring some of our most popular posts and podcasts on Black History.

The following post was originally featured on March 14, 2011.

An impromptu performance held at the Hub (the area around 3rd Avenue and 156th Street) by The Mean Machine. One of the benefits of institutional neglect was that public concerts like this, common to the early days of Hip Hop, allowed artists to express themselves freely without the need for formal compliance.

By Francesca D’Amico

Chicago’s Cominskey Park on July 12th, 1979 was a scene like no other. Disco Demolition Night was a promotional event meant to protest the shift in radio programming from rock to an all-disco format. In exchange for admission, fans were asked to bring an unwanted disco LP. Following the first of a double-header game, a large crate of the collected records was detonated in center field. Against chants of “disco sucks,” 59,000 fans swarmed and vandalized the field. As the scoreboard flashed, “please return to your seats,” police in riot gear cleared the field and eventually cancelled the second game. This was the night Disco died and made way for Hip Hop.

Hip Hop had been developing in the boroughs of New York City since 1973. Black and Puerto Rican youth who had long been denied access to Disco clubs created their own recreational spaces in response. Party organizers would steal city electricity from the street lamps to connect their equipment and perform in accessible venues such as community parks and apartment recreation rooms. Borrowing from the Jamaican traditions of the soundsystem and toasting, Deejays used turntables to create new sounds, while graffiti artists used subway trains as canvas and breakdancing battles evolved from gang confrontation.

To continue reading click here.

Activehistory.ca repost – Slavery in Canada? I Never Learned That!

As part of Black History Month every Friday in February we’re featuring some of our most popular posts and podcasts on Black History.

The following post was originally featured on October 23, 2013.

Slavery advertisement from Upper Canada Gazette, 10 February 1806.

Slavery advertisement from Upper Canada Gazette, 10 February 1806.

By Natasha Henry

The highly anticipated soon-to-be-released film, 12 Years a Slave, has garnered lots of attention following its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. The film provides a shocking but realistic depiction of American slavery. It is based on the life of Solomon Northrup, a free man, who was kidnapped from his hometown in New York and sold south into slavery. Northup is able to regain his freedom after Canadian Samuel Bass, a carpenter from Prescott, Upper Canada, writes several letters to authorities in New York on his behalf. No doubt, Canadians are proud of the usual portrayal of us as crusaders against American slavery and wear the badge of “Canadians as abolitionists” with honour. Canadians readily embrace the notion of Canada as a haven for American freedom-seekers, who were escaping the same conditions that Solomon Northup endured. Once he was freed, Northrup himself helped fugitives flee to Canada, the “Promised Land.”

But what about Canadian slavery?

Click here to read more.

 

Setting an agenda for new directions in Active History

ActiveHistory.ca Editor Krista McCracken introduces the concluding roundtable at New Directions in Active History

ActiveHistory.ca Editor Krista McCracken introduces the concluding roundtable at New Directions in Active History

It has been four months since New Directions in Active History: Institutions, Communication, and Technologies concluded. The event left many of us rejuvenated and excited for the future possibilities for this project and related projects shared during the conference. In fact, both the new exhibits and features sections were developed out of ideas initially addressed at the event. We’ve also heard from many of our readers regretting their inability to attend and present their research and projects.

Over the coming months, we are planning to create a dedicated section of the site where visitors will find short blog posts of ideas presented at the conference, videos recorded during the event (which we are posting every Saturday until April), and other ideas that might not have been presented in October but fit well with the conference themes. With this announcement we’d like to put out a call for short 800-1200 word blog posts that either reflect on the conference, propose new directions for ActiveHistory.ca, or challenge our readers to critically engage with the broader ideas of active history. Submissions or inquiries can be sent to activehistory2015@gmail.com.

Christopher Moore delivering the keynote address during the pre-conference for high school and undergraduate students

Christopher Moore delivering the keynote address during the pre-conference for high school and undergraduate students

If you presented a paper or poster at the conference, we have already been in touch (or will be shortly), but we’d also like this resource to expand on these discussions by including perspectives that might not have been present in October. To get a better sense of what took place at the conference, take a look at the following blog posts:

New Paper: Truth, Reconciliation, and the Politics of the Body in Indian Residential School History

ActiveHistory.ca is pleased to announce the publication of Evan Habkirk and Janice Forsyth’s paper Truth, Reconciliation, and the Politics of the Body in Indian Residential School History


Students playing hockey at school, Circa. 1951, “Pelican Lake Indian Residential School: Photo Album,” File. no. 130, Shelf location 2010-007-001, Algoma University Archives

Students playing hockey at school, Circa. 1951, “Pelican Lake Indian Residential School: Photo Album,” File. no. 130, Shelf location 2010-007-001, Algoma University Archives

In March 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada completed its six-year investigation into the experiences of Indian residential school students who had survived years of neglect, abuse, and trauma at these institutions. More than 6,000 witnesses testified at hearings held throughout the country. The purpose of the Commission was to collect and document the history of these schools from the perspectives of former students, bringing a voice to a group of people whose issues and concerns had long been neglected by the federal government and religious organizations, the two main institutions responsible for the establishment and maintenance of the schools. The 527-page Executive Summary was clear in its aim to help Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians move forward from a traumatic past by starting another, somewhat different, conversation: “Now that we know about residential schools and their legacies, what do we do about it?”[1]

From our perspective, as researchers who study the physically active body at Indian residential schools, the Executive Summary brought much needed attention to sport and recreation as important elements of the residential school experience, as well as the reconciliation process. Indeed, sport and recreation are discussed in three distinct sections of the Summary: “Sports and culture: It was a relief”; “Public memory: Dialogue, the arts, and commemoration”; and “Sport: Inspiring lives, healthy communities.” Each section makes it clear that attempts to address the legacies of the school system must include detailed examinations of the different types of sport and recreation opportunities that were provided at specific institutions, as well as how former students understood those opportunities. It was exciting to see an official document acknowledge the significance of this part of Indian residential school history – a history that has affected the lives of so many, across multiple generations.

But having said this, we also found the discussion somewhat inadequate. Our concern stems primarily from the lack of a theoretical approach to understanding the role of physical activity culture in the residential school system. [Read More]


Editors Note: This is the final essay published as part of our Papers Section. We will continue to run longer form essays as part of our new “Features Section.” This section shares many similarities with the former Papers Section (including hosting all of the papers we’ve published over the years) while accommodating additional resources such as our series and theme weeks.

Community Engaged History

Active history is proud to present a video each week from New Directions in Active History. The conference took place at Huron University College on October 2-4, 2015 and brought together scholars, students, professionals and community members to discuss a wide range of topics pertaining to active history.

Completing the opening presentations is Keith Carlson, professor of History and Research Chair in Aboriginal Community- engaged History at the University of Saskatchewan. In this video, Carlson explores the meaning of “community engaged history” by carefully probing each term. He begins by expanding upon Peter Sexias’ ten principals or benchmarks of history. Carlson stresses the negative impact that “bad history” has on people’s lives and asserts that historians have the power to give voice to the oppressed through community engaged scholarship and projects. He explains that successful community projects occur when the activity, community needs and involvement, and benefits all inform one and other. Lastly, he confronts critics who argue that community engagement of any kind is inherently colonial in nature because it is predicated on the process of “othering” a peoples. Carlson argues that humility and knowing that histories are always incomplete and can always be made better in the future is what allows for the historian and a community to build trust.