Cathy Crowe (1952 – )


#3 “Inspiration for Activism”

  • Canadian nursing activist
  • Appointed as a Member of the Order of Canada (1998) for her tireless work in advocating for adequate and affordable housing and in its absence, advocacy for safe and sufficient shelters for homeless people
  • Co-founded (1998) with other social justice advocates, the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee (TDRC), which equated homeless, a social disaster, with natural disasters
  • Co-founder of Nurses for Social Responsibility and co-editor of its magazine “Towards Justice in Health”
  • Wrote 2 books and participated in numerous documentary films about homelessness
  • Put forward a number of resolutions to professional nursing organizations, urging them to take action on a variety of social injustices witnessed by nurses who care for homeless and disenfranchised people
  • Speaks truth to power – policy makers, newsmakers

Visit Cathy’s website more information

Sojourner Truth (1797-1883)


# 1 “Inspiration for Activism”

  • Born into slavery as Isabella Baumfree, known by her self-given name ofSoujourner Truth - 1.jpg Sojourner Truth.
  • Abolitionist and women’s rights activist.
  • Best known for her “Ain’t *I a woman” speech, demanding equal human rights for women as well as for black people.
  • Strove to improve cleanliness and quality of care at Freedman’s Relief Association in Washington, D.C.
  • Advocated for formal nursing education, even though she herself never had that opportunity.

 

For more information click here and here                        Sojourner Truth                     

The Personal is Political


As difficult as it is for me to believe, I only became aware of this slogan early in the 1990s, when I was already in my late 40s! At that time graduate work led me to the exploration of oppressed group theories and specifically feminist theories under that broader umbrella. At that time, and for some time afterward, I associated the “Personal is Political”, correctly or not, with the feminist movement and most specifically with women’s reproductive rights. It was then and certainly is now true on a much broader basis.

 

“Political” seems to have such a negative connotation for so many people who immediately associate it with partisanship, which in itself implies having to “choose sides” or offending friends and should therefore be avoided at all costs. I so often have heard the disclaimer, “I’m not political” when discussing an issue; I’ve seen Facebook friends offer an apology for posting something that others might construe as political (and making excuses that it is worth reading in spite of seeming political) and for announcing they are blocking political posts. And yet, politics can simply refer to relationships within a group and/or activities to gain advantage and/or power within that group, e.g., office politics . Students in my leadership class were challenged to embrace political activism as necessary to the pursuit of social justice. When they protested that they were “not political” I reminded them that if they had ever negotiated for extensions or marks on assignments, they were being political!!!

 

But in its larger sense, i.e, activities related to governance of a specific political entity, such as a town, city, state, country, etc., the personal most certainly must be political; democracy requires it. The freedoms we so easily take for granted – to speak out, to meet, to worship as we choose, etc. have been enshrined in constitutions and charters but are threatened by complacency and/or ignorance. Timothy Snyder, a Yale professor argues that Americans have a year or less to defend American democracy. In a lengthy interview, but one well worth the read, he draws comparisons between Europe in the 1930s and the current time in the U.S. and urges that we learn from history. He makes the point that regardless of the differences between the personalities that may be involved, the conditions and even more importantly the warning signs were there then as they are now -that a change in regime was the intent of those seeking power. And by change of regime, he means a change from democracy to an authoritarian state.

 

For the last number of years, I have travelled to Europe at least once a year, usually on a tour. I love the educational nature of the tours and through them have learned much about European history . Speaking with people who have lived through the Nazi and/or Communist regimes or both, I’ve come to appreciate more fully the cost at which their current freedom has come. Their personal certainly was political. My own parents escaped the Soviet Union a year after Stalin came to power. Many of us have similar stories and for me, it would be a dishonor to the sacrifices they made to dissociate from the political because it has become distasteful!

 

Last year, the tour I took was to England. It was in September, a few months before the American presidential election and a few months after the Brexit vote. I was very aware of being the only Canadian on the tour and wondered if the upcoming election would become a topic of conversation, which, of course, it did! I tried to simply listen but at one point a fellow passenger asked me what I thought. I replied that my fear was that if a certain candidate were elected, it would be the last American election. I was quickly reassured that was not possible because the Constitution and institutions put in place by the Founding Fathers were in essence a guarantee of continued democracy. I hope she’s right; yet recent assaults on the press and judiciary suggest otherwise.

 

The interview with Dr. Snyder referred to above was in response to his Facebook post on “20 Lessons from the 20th Century”). Those lessons contain many political actions that are not visible to others, such as not obeying in advance, believing in truth, and investigating. Others, like “standing out” are more visible, may be more uncomfortable, but are equally important to protecting our freedoms and democracy. He warns that even worse than taking freedom for granted is learning to take unfreedom for granted without realizing that it is our choice and our actions which can make the difference.

Peace as a Prerequisite for Health


My thanks to Peggy Chinn for reviewing this post and making such helpful suggestions.

I’ve been reminded this week on a very personal level of how precious life is. All life, although I acknowledge that to some that may seem disrespectful. It is not meant to be. Black Lives Matter is an important movement that arose in response to the disproportionate number of Black men killed by police. I applaud it for that. Slogans play an important role in raising public awareness but sometimes it is easy to forget their intent and use them for one’s own purposes. I have some concerns that, like any meme, it can and has been misconstrued and used to justify violence against others.

Recently, Toronto’s pride parade was stopped by a Black Lives Matter group because they insisted a police float in the parade be removed. I am concerned that recent shootings of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge may be a violent aberration of the intent of the movement. Others seem to share that concern. Some Black Lives Matter leaders have called for peace and an end to violence. I have seen no more poignant call for peace than by the mother of Alton Sterling’s son this past week. And I have seen no more courageous action to demonstrate peaceful resistance than that by a nurse, Lesha Evans, captured in what has quickly become an iconic photograph epitomizing peace in action (Downloaded from http://www.amateurphotographer.co.uk/latest/photo-news/black-lives-matter-protest-photo-goes-viral-86659).

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the first International Conference on Health Promotion. The Ottawa Charter that resulted from that meeting identified a number of prerequisites to health. Although there is no indication that they are listed in order of any importance, the first among them is peace. The last are social justice and equity. The list was a precursor for what have since been described and researched as social determinants of health. Many of the others listed, such as food, income, education, and shelter many of us are privileged to take for granted; yet many cannot and they experience the increased morbidity and mortality that results when the prerequisites are absent. Lesha Evans wwalked the walk of promoting peace at great risk to herself and it applaud her actions as a Black person, a woman, and a nurse.

But I think of others who haven’t formed such a visible movement as Black Lives Matter but who are disenfranchised and often systematically treated poorly and unjustly – I think of Aboriginal people, homeless people, refugees, those with mental illness, those who we make “the other” whether because of race, color, gender, religion, sexual orientation or who find themselves at a place where two or more of these factors intersect. There could be a long list of “______ lives matter.” In thinking of them, I would like to say Black lives matter AND all lives matter.