99 years of Wisdom in 99 seconds

A quote from the times when I still walked the earth. Recent events have left me dizzy – not from the fast-paced changes we are going through, but from constantly rolling in my grave. In this year of the confederation of Canada, I am now 54 years dead. If I still lived, I would be 99 years old – older than most of my audience, save you, Mr. Issac Brock, and perhaps a few others.

If you have never listened to me before, now is the time to change your ways. What I am about to say has no effect on me, in the Spirit World, but every effect on you and the growing nation of Canada. Let us put aside our past disputes for a moment.

Canada is a land of many resources. You have no doubt discovered this. The mining by Trois-Rivieres and the coal deposits show as much. The logging of the eastern forests show as much. The crushed rock and mineral debris leaching into the delta shows as much. If you continue this, the land will not be full of resources forever. This is an early warning. You are at the start of your nation, and have it in your power to build a country that protects not only its people, but its land from being destroyed.

Some would say I have been defeated, now that the Pan-Aboriginal Confederation has been shot down. But I am a warrior, and a warrior is never defeated. I once said, “Prepare a noble death song for the day you go over the Great Divide”. Well, this is my death song, and I hope it echoes for years after I am gone.

I thought only the Aboriginals could take care of this land. Prove me wrong! Mr, MacDonald, I have never wanted to be wrong more than this. I must fulfill my duty to my people, this land…and I suppose, our nation. European Canadians – do not let this new land die in your hands. By forming this nation, you have taken responsibility for the country. You most of all, Mr.MacDonald. Make good on your promises. Provide not just equality but fairness to the Canadian people! Aboriginals were once the majority race here. One day, the English may become a minority as well. We cannot afford to misuse our resources, be it governmental power or precious minerals.

Find alternative ways to develop your technology. Return everything back to the way you found it, instead of leaving tailings in the river. Talk to the Aboriginals, who know this land and all its secrets. Work with them, and follow their advice to look after it. I want to see this country prosper, and become great. Please do what I could not in my lifetime, and protect the land you have.

These are my last words before I leave on the great journey, to the land in the stars. No more will I speak with you, as I do in this temporary spirit state. I go to join my ancestors. Heed my advice, or pay the price – the choice is left to you. Remember me, and learn from the mistakes I suffered. Live to be proud of your deeds even after you have died, and my life will not have been in vain.

Mapping Out (British North) America

I really like historical maps. Especially the one that Fiona added to the resource library, where you can click on different dates to see the changes in state or country boundary lines.

Courtesy of Canadian Historical Maps
Courtesy of Canadian Historical Maps

 “After the war of 1812, immigration to British North America led to a more diversified economy, with lumbering, farming and shipbuilding growing in both the Maritimes and in the Canadas. But by the 1830s there was a great deal of unrest, partly because of economic distress, partly because of the cultural prejudice against the French-speaking Canadiens in Lower Canada, and partly due to the system of government, which gave relatively little power to the elected assembly. In November 1837, Louis-Joseph Papineau and his radical Parti Patriote led a rebellion against this unfair government structure, but the rebels were not well organized and were readily defeated by British forces. Similarly, in Upper Canada, William Lyon Mackenzie, a newspaper editor and member of the elected assembly, led a rebellion that was also quashed. But two uprisings made British officials realize they had to reform the government system.”

– Canadian Geographic: Historical Maps

I chose this map/timeline to blog about because it gives a great visual representation of what exactly is going in Canada from 1700 – 1999. We can see how our country changed from being basically two European colonies in the east to the structured provinces we have now. When viewing the Canadian geographical map/timeline, it’s amazing to see how young our country really is. Canada is still evolving and “growing up” so to speak. Our last edit to our geography was making Nunavut a territory, and happened in 1999. That’s sixteen years ago! Not long at all, compared to other places. For example, the United Kingdom’s last change in borders was in 1922, when Southern Ireland gained independence.

To me, it seems that as Europeans explored westward, they discovered all the different resources Canada had to offer. Growing, harvesting, and exporting wheat from the prairies gave Canada’s economy a boost, enabling people to explore further. When the government encouraged Canadians to explore further, offering “…free land to anyone who would clear and work it.” (Canadian Geographic: Historical Maps). In Alberta, BC, and the Yukon they  found precious minerals and oil. Remember the Klondike gold rush? Caused by the exploration of European settlers. The Aboriginals didn’t really need the gold for any reason other than decoration or ceremony – but I think they should have gotten a say in what happened (remember, it was their land) before a bunch of people bring up their pickaxes and gold pans to set up roads, supply routes, and buildings. Once the gold is gone, the deserted remains of the town make the land unsuitable for farming or animal life, so the land has to be left to be reclaimed by nature, which can take many years. Worse yet, mines that are no longer operating can still pollute the surrounding environment.

There are several differences in how Europeans mapped out this country in comparison to the indigenous people, the First Nations. The First Nations people had many different groups spread throughout Canada, with not much visual or text records of their land. Other than knowing where different language groups generally lived, most knowledge about the land was passed down through oral tradition. The whole idea of “your land” and “my land” didn’t really exist with the First Nations, which lead to problems when Europeans colonized Canada.

Map of First Nations populations and languages. Data used for this map is from 1996. Image taken from “Canada’s First Peoples” website.

The current 50 languages of Canada’s indigenous peoples belong to 11 major language families – ten First Nations and Inuktitut. Canada’s Aboriginal languages are many and diverse, and their importance to indigenous people immense. This map shows the major aboriginal language families by community in Canada for the year 1996.”

Canada’s First Peoples

My personal interests lie in First Nations rights and fairness, so it is eye-opening to see how the land originally inhabited by the First Nations people was signed away (or just outright taken, as is the case in the majority of BC) to the European settlers. “Because the Royal Proclamation of 1763 stated that the Crown must negotiate and sign treaties with the indigenous people before land could be ceded to a colony, the Numbered Treaties were negotiated in most parts of the Prairie Provinces. The Government of the Colony of British Columbia, however, failed to negotiate many treaties and as a result, most of the province’s land is not covered by treaties.” (Wikipedia, British Columbia Treaty Process). In BC, we currently have a six-step plan that First Nations groups can take to try to settle the issue of land rights.

  1. Statement of Intent to Negotiate: A First Nation submits a Statement Of Intent (SOI) stating among other things who is claiming, proof that the negotiating party is supported by the community and where the claim will be made.
  2. Readiness To Negotiate: Within 45 days of submitting the SOI the parties must sit down and show that all parties have the will and resources to negotiate a treaty.
  3. Negotiation Of a Framework Agreement: The “table of contents” of a comprehensive treaty. The three parties agree on the subjects to be negotiated and an estimated time frame for stage four agreement-in-principle negotiations.
  4. Negotiation Of An Agreement In Principle: The negotiating parties examine in detail the elements outlined in their framework agreement with the goal of solving the all problems and creating a working treaty.
  5. Negotiation to Finalize a Treaty: The treaty for all intents and purposes is finished at this stage the treaty has to be approved by all parties of the negotiating team.
  6. Implementation of the Treaty: Applying and running the First Nation as set out by the treaty.

However, I’m not entirely sure if this is fair to the First Nations peoples. For example, in July 2007, the Tsawwassen First Nation members voted in favour of their treaty. The treaty more than doubles the size of the Tsawwassen reserve, and has several financial compensations:  a one-time capital transfer of $13.9 million, $2 million for relinquishing mineral rights under English bluff, $13.5 million for startup and transition costs, $7.3 million for resource management and economic development, and $2.6 annually for ongoing programs and services. It also reserves a portion of the Fraser River salmon catch to the Tsawwassen. In return, the Tsawwassen will abandon other land claims and will eventually pay taxes. (Wikipedia, British Columbia Treaty Process)But can we really translate the First Nations way of thinking, where the people belong to the land, not the other way around, into numbers like area and money? It’s like comparing apples to oranges.

Whichever way our treaty system works, the First nations will never end up being able to fully reclaim their land, because then the other 96% of Canadians would have nowhere else to live. In fact, when negotiating, only crown-owned land is even on the table for the First Nations to regain. Any land that is owned by private companies is unavailable unless the owners are willing to sell it. Instead, it’s a very tricky process of trying to re-compensate the First Nations for something we will never be able to give back to them. It makes it worse that in the past, signing a treaty was analogous to signing away the rest of your rights as an Aboriginal, and losing rights to your culture, land, and traditions except for what was explicitly stated in the treaty. Although now treaties try to modify and define Aboriginal rights instead of “cede, release, and surrender” your rights, some people think it still limits the rights of Aboriginals even more than not having a treaty. For more information, check out: http://indigenousfoundations.arts.ubc.ca/home/land-rights/aboriginal-rights.html

Some of the prescribed learning outcomes this covers are:

  • Interactions between Aboriginal peoples and Europeans
  • Canada’s physiographic regions
  • Geographical factors in the development of Canada
  • Resource development in BC and Canada
  • Western Expansion
  • Technological development and settlement
  • Contributions to the development of Canada

On a brighter note, Happy 1st of March!

In -Depth Week 3: The Search Continues

So, in my previous post, I stated that I wanted to have a mentor by, well, last Sunday. Today and yesterday,I got emails back from the two people I had contacted about a week an a half ago. Unfortunately,the artist I emailed is in the process of moving houses, and the other person I emailed was part of an organization that may be able to help me find artists. As part of my plan, I went to a local drop-in class about recycled art; however, not only did I find there was no there who could mentor me, I also found that I was the only one who showed up! What a weird experience I had, standing alone in a huge, open art hall making a mason-jar lantern. I’m going to a leadership clinic in February, whee I may have the chance to talk to a recycled artist doing a presentation. So, I’m going to follow up with the emails and keep searching for artists. However, I’m thinking of asking one of my friends if their parents could help me out, because I know someone who dabbles in jewelry.

Because of the above reasons, it’s a little difficult for me to answer our on how to agree, how to disagree, and how to differ. These questions will be answered more in-depth when I’m able to speak with my mentor (or really, any recycled artist). For now, I will answer as much as possible. I cannot say anything of how I have disagreed , agreed or differed with my mentor, but I can speculate that the most challenging part of this process will be to find a balance between my ideas and what is within my ability to do. For example, I have many metal objects that I would like to use in my work, but I currently don’t have the tools or knowledge to shape and work with this material. Thus, I probably will not be agreeing or disagreeing with my mentor about much, but rather trying to intake as much new knowledge as possible. I think my questions would mostly be how-to questions, which, though open-ended fishing questions, are still rather specific. The most important part will be communicating to my mentor exactly what I want to do. For this, I’ll need to have a solidly thought-out idea in my mind, and be very descriptive of what I want the end product to be like. Another important thing to consider is suggestions from my mentor. I will not agree blindly with everything my mentor suggests, but I may ask questions to understand why they are making the suggestion, and better understand what they mean. However, seeing as my mentor will be more experienced and able than I am, I will consider all of my possibilities before coming to a decision with my mentor. This should make it easier to work with my mentor, and certainly easier to communicate effectively. Now I just need to find a mentor!

Below are some pictures of the stuff I’ve gathered over the past two weeks for this project. It’s mostly come from my own house, although there are several materials that the TALONS program allowed me to use from previous years of Kinetic Art. When taking stock of what I had, I put a couple pieces together just to see what it would look like, and came up with a couple of ideas. Maybe I can develop them into full-fledged works of art over the next month.

The man in the moon. (showerhead piece and misc. plactic circle) I don’t really know what I’m doing here… maybe this can become something about space junk?
This looks kind of like an owl… if you squint. Medium: Plastic casing, pop can, and face of a lock.
A…vase? made from a wine bottle? And old electric plugs? I think it was mostly just cool to see the translucent nature of the wine bottle.
This photo came out a lot better than expected, it’s basically just a bunch of lids in a metal container, but because the lids aren’t perfectly centered inside each other, it looks kinda cool.
The full extent of my haul – I will be using the above materials over the next few months. This stuff will be saved from the landfills!

Leadership 11: Myth Bustin’!

Questions from John C. Maxwell’s “360 Degree Leader”

1. Discuss if people need to possess the top title in order to achieve results and help others become productive.

People definitely don’t need to possess the top title in order to achieve results and help others become productive. For example, in my band class, I don’t have an authoritative position (heck, I’m not even one of the best flute players), but I help out my section by making sure the people near me know what piece we’re about to play, or what the proper fingering for a trill is. By doing this, I help others become more productive and achieve the result of a better-sounding flute section. There’s a saying that goes, “No one can do everything, but everyone can do something”, and it relates to this because even if you’re not at the top level, doing the little something you have to offer can make a big difference to the group!


2. How can you reshape your thinking and habits to better display the characteristics of a leader?

Becoming a better leader isn’t really something you can just pick up on the side, and call into play whenever you need it. To be a leader, you have to display the characteristics and think like a leader all the time, until it becomes part of you and you are a leader, whether you are required to be or not.
I would like to change my thinking to be more critical, and more open. Whenever I am planning something, I need to ask myself “Is there another way to do this? What are the challenges that I might face, and how could my group and I meet them?” I also need to let go of the control-freak side of me. I sometimes try to take on too much of a project on myself, and forget that I can ask for help, and let other people take ownership for parts of a project. I need to reshape my thinking from, “I need to do this” to “We need to do this” and then make a decision with my group about how to divide up our task. Some habits I would like to form are:

  • Take initiative
  • Involve other people
  • Communicate clearly and effectively
  • Empower other people and give leadership opportunities to people in my group
  • Help and encourage others and build relationships with the people
  • “Question the Quo” by bringing relevant but fresh perspectives and ideas to the table. Always ask – is there another way to do this?
  • Be proactive
  • Ask for group opinions and perspectives
  • Check in with group members

3. What prompts you to follow someone else?

I follow people that I trust. If I trust someone’s judgement, and I have faith in their ability to distinguish the best course of action, I am inclined to follow them. Secondly, the person’s character plays a role in whether or not I would follow them. Their values and morals define to what extent I would be willing to follow them. Third, after getting to know the leader, their ideas and opinions and how much I agree them would affect whether or not I continued to follow them. In addition to this would be seeing how the leader responds under pressure or in the face of a challenge. If they are able to maintain the main focus of the group without sacrificing their values/morals, I will be able to make a judgement on whether or not I will keep following and supporting them in the future. The better I get to know the leader, the clearer it will become whether I will follow them or have to re-discuss the leadership of the group.


4. What factors should chairs of a committee take into consideration before making a decision?

Before making a decision, committee chair need to take into account the resources we currently have, the schedules of the class members and facilitators, the needs of the class and facilitators (such as allergies or injuries), other committees, and whether or not the decision fits into the big picture and forwards the class’ goals.
For example, in the practice committee, when setting up practice hikes last year, we considered that we had first aid kits and people would bring their own hiking shoes and packs. W considered the schedules of MS. Mulder and our hike leaders when planning the dates of the hikes. We made note of the people with health concerns and made sure that they were prepared to deal with whatever might happen. We discussed with the program committee what intensity the trip hikes would be, and thus what we needed to work up to in practice. Lastly, we made sure that these practices would help us perform well on the adventure trip.


5. To whom do the chairs in the committee answer?

The chairs answer to their group members, because they need to lead them fairly and listen to their opinions. They answer to their co-chair, because they each need to do their part and make sure the other is on track. They answer to the rest of the class, for taking care of the part they chose to do and keeping in mind what is best for the class. Lastly, the chairs have to answer to themselves. Have you done your best? Is this something you can be proud of? The chairs have a responsibility to themselves for their personal fulfillment and development.


6. What are you capable of achieving? What would reaching your potential look like?

I think each person has a limitless potential, constrained by the amount of time we have until we die. Strangely enough, we don’t know how long we’ll live, so I don’t think we ever really know the true limits of our potential. Right now, I’m capable of being a middle leader and finishing grade ten and many other things, but in the future, perhaps I will be capable of bringing about world peace! Or the model plan for an entirely sustainable city that could be implemented with little cost, or maybe do something as simple as instate unisex bathrooms in schools to improve conditions for people who don’t fall into the categories of “male” or “female”, or may not look like the “norm” for the gender they identify as.
To be a little less vague, I think I am capable of becoming capable of anything I want, and to me, reaching my potential would be leaving the world a little better than it was when I came into it.


7. The reality for most people is that they will never be the CEO. Does that mean they should just give up leading altogether? Discuss.

Just because you’re not CEO, doesn’t mean you can’t lead in your job. By leading from the middle, you can influence people (including higher-ups) without needing to be the top level person. Plus, you can always lead in other aspects of your life! For example, you could lead in a volunteer group, or start a local club. There are so many ways to lead and exert influence on people to fix problems, streamline processes, and bring your goals into fruition.

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Rising to meet the Eminent Speech

Eminent Speech Evaluation

Almost without fail, the Eminent Person Speech reigns supreme as the element of the annual project that produces – in the estimation of teachers, peers, and self-assessment – the highest quality work. While there are inevitably remarkable pieces of work contributed to various aspects of the study, whether in Night of the Notables learning centers, interview coups, or blogged representations of learning, or in grade nine or ten, the Eminent Speech reigns supreme.

This year, when polled on the During which assignment do you feel you created your best work?aspect of the study during which they produced their best work, a full 60% of respondents (at the time of this writing, constituting about 85% of the two classes) highlighted their efforts to craft their speech.

Added to this insight, a follow up question asks the TALONS to “describe the process that led to the success highlighted in the previous question,” allowing the process leading to this highly successful aspect of the study to come more clearly into light.

A surprise finding? The best work is the result of tireless effort.


Prepare, prepare, prepare

A grade ten describes their preparations:

I made sure to write my speech early on so that I had plenty of time to practice it. I practiced it until I knew it inside and out, so that I could recite it no matter what was going on. And having done that, when it was finally my turn to present, I wasn’t nervous at all.

Another thing that really helped was that a lot of the other tens took time to read my speech and help me edit it in the early stages. They guided me to what lines were a little awkward and how to fix my body motions.

Another ten offers the following:

First of all, this year I wrote my speech draft much earlier than the due date compared to last year. Due to this fact, I was able to receive a lot of great feedback from my peers during the writing process, which then allowed me to improve my speech even further. Once my draft was written, I was lucky that I had a lot of time to rehearse my speech. One step that led my speech to success during this stage was that I didn’t just rehearse the words, I also rehearsed body language and movement, and the use of the stage.

A grade nine dissects their drafting process further:

When I was writing, I didn’t limit my thoughts, writing down everything I wanted to include in the speech. By doing this, my speech originally was actually fifteen minutes long. I then took the time, with the help of my mom, to cut down the speech, take out details that weren’t needed, and rephrase events. I think that by writing down every single thought and event that occurred within the period of time the speech was focusing on, I was able to make the speech more thorough and interesting.

As does this one:

I believe it was the drafting process that led me to success on my eminent speech. I did a drafting process where I started writing, then got a better idea of what I wanted to say, and then I would start over. I did this until I didn’t quite start over, but edited previous parts until I was satisfied by the whole thing.

While this grade nine shares the evolution at the heart of his character’s metamorphosis:

During the process of writing the speech, I made a list of points that I wanted to include. After the first draft, I was struck with the idea of the extended metaphor of the caterpillar. I then wrote the second draft, taking the components of the first and smoothing it out. Finally, I edited and revised my speech to create more fluidity.


Overcoming Fear

For many TALONS, the prospect of delivering an eminent address, whether in the classroom as the grade nines are asked, or on stage with the grade tens on Night of the Notables, is a daunting challenge. As Jerry Seinfeld humourously notes, for many of us public speaking is more popularly feared than death, meaning that “to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than giving the eulogy.”

A grade nine offers this reflection on overcoming a longstanding fear:

I believe my speech was my best work because it was the one I exceeded my own expectations the most in. I used to be quite an abhorrent public speaker, always getting overly nervous, shaking, mumbling, and having a monotone; but in this speech I was able to overcome my nervousness and actually deliver it satisfactorily.

The key to overcoming this anxiety? Revision, feedback, and support:

“I think my speech content was pretty good, considering that it went through six drafts and many, many people gave me feedback.”


In another question, the same TALONS learner reflects on the contributions of a patient parent:

“My dad, along with giving me feedback on many of speech drafts, put up with me reciting my speech over and over in the days leading up to November 24th. Without his patience with me, giving me feedback and listening intently during the many, many times I recited my speech to him, I wouldn’t have had nearly as good a speech as I did. He gave me important pointers, such as where I started rushing, and he gave me confidence. With that confidence, I was able to deliver my speech well.”

A grade ten reflects on the input of a sibling:

“My brother contributed with helping me write my speech. Before I had written a draft that I was happy with I had written about five different speeches. But I hated them all because I didn’t think I was getting my main message across to the audience, namely that we shouldn’t stop because something is hard to do, that we should keep going until it becomes easy to do.

“One day I went to talk with my brother about my speech and how I wanted the audience to feel, and he suggested that I go for something powerful and try to address what [my eminent person] goes through as daily obstacles. This advice really helped me take a second look at how I was writing my speech and which side of [them] I wanted to show. Without my brother I wouldn’t have been able to re-think my speech and really focus on what was imported.”


Another deals with overcoming a primal fear:

“Probably everyone out there knows that I do not like speeches, so even the fact that I did mine made me extremely happy.

“The writing process was extremely difficult. After changing perspectives three times and either going way over or way under the time limit, I was close to admitting defeat. Finally, I was happy with a fifth draft of my third perspective change. I was very happy with my written speech, but then came the delivery.

“Presenting my speech was probably the most nerve wracking five minutes of my life, but with the help of my friends, I managed to get through it. Before my speech started, I gave myself some goals and guidelines to follow. I reminded myself that, having not done many speeches in my life, this was not going to turn out perfect, so instead of worrying about that, I would focus on eye contact and pacing.

“My biggest goal was to come off as confident and though I’m sure more people knew how nervous I was, I believe that I was able to reach this goal (well, at least to some extent). While I’m still not ready to perform speeches without any hesitation, I’m glad I got this opportunity to face my fears.”

In responding to another question, a grade ten offers a similar account of working through the fear of performing at Night of the Notables:

What will you (or do you want to) remember about this project? 

“I want to, and will remember the fact that I was able to manage my anxiety regarding the presentation of my speech on the Night of the Notables. I have never liked drama and performing arts, which is somewhat contradictory when you take my commitment and love of [competitive] piping into account. I can will myself to march calmly towards thousands of spectators, flashing cameras and judges at the world championships. Yet, when I have to deliver a two-minute speech to a hundred supportive and encouraging people I’m a wreck. When I perform with my band, I have a safety net; I have never needed it but I know it’s there. When I speak or play by myself, even if it’s exponentially easier than what I do with my band I doubt myself.

“I don’t give speeches in front of large audiences often, but I compete in solo piping competitions often and I have come to recognize the progression and stages of my anxiety. I have been working on becoming more comfortable in these situations for over a year and I think the Eminent Address was an important milestone for me. I was extremely nervous a few days before the night, but I was able to tell myself, ‘You always feel this way before something like this,’ and ‘Imagine how you will feel on December 4th’ and I was able to control my anxiety and give a speech I was happy with.”

Together, we are strong

Perhaps the theme running beneath all of this wild success though is the support and community that is taking shape in the TALONS room by late November, where each member of the class is learning that they are here to test themselves, and hold one another up above their prior expectations. Parents who get to see what the program is ‘all about’ for the first time at Night of the Notables often remark at how exceptional the grade ten addresses are – “I feel totally inadequate now,” the parent of an alumni told me this year – and wonder how it is their children and their peers have been so transformed.


What they don’t know, or what cannot be seen, is what is often taking place behind the curtain, in those moments before the show, when greatness waits out on the stage under the lights to be seized.

Reflecting on this moment, a grade ten shares a glimpse of what community looks like:

“There was one moment when we were behind the stage, floating around and whispering encouragement to our peers. The atmosphere had become quiet and focused, as it was a couple of minutes until showtime. I was learning against a wall, breathing deeply.

“Our first speaker looked a bit nervous and was sitting against the wall next to the curtains. Someone, I can’t remember who, whispered something about the Superman pose, and how it was supposed to increase confidence and make you less stressed. So the majority of our class assumed this pose, and stood there in silence for about a minute. I remember looking at us and thinking that we were superheroes. Not just our first speaker, who looked relieved to have something to take his mind off the upcoming stress, but everyone standing there.

“We shared that moment behind the stage, trusting one another to make the night wonderful, and feeling that trust back in the tight, long-held hugs and the same emotions on everyone’s face. It was a really special experience.”

Annotated Biblography


This was my starting point for Angela Davis. It’s rather short, but it covers most of the events Angela Davis was well known for, such as her imprisonment. It also covers the basic facts of age, occupation, etc. The most useful part of this website, however, can be found in the bottom of the article, under Angela Davis – Elsewhere on the Web. Here, I found two links to other information about Angela Davis, and a whole bunch of books that she’d written. I’d recommend this source for a quick look at Angela Davis, but for an in-depth biography Wikipedia would be your best bet.


Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie


This page has some of the most comprehensive information about prisoners in the US, but unfortunately it focuses on why people are being put in jail (what they’re being charged for, essentially) rather than how factors like race and gender affect incarceration. This was still a very useful page, and is very informative and eye-opening about the prison system and the definitions and caveats that make it hard to gather data about incarceration.


Incarceration is not an equal opportunity punishment


This page has some information about how race and gender affect incarceration rates; in fact, it’s a very good source compared to the rest of what the internet has to offer. However, it focuses in on males and those between 25-29 years of age, excluding the role race plays in women and in older or younger populations. It still gives a general idea of those topics, but doesn’t show any statistics or numbers. I would still recommend this as a source because the data is recent (2010) and legitimate (Taken from the US Bureau of Justice Statistics and US Census).


Breaking Down Mass Incarceration in the 2010 Census: State-by-State Incarceration Rates by Race/Ethnicity


This page is somewhat short, but offers a look at incarceration rates per state and notes some of the discrepancies in data, such as whether or not statistics include people are on parole or probation. This is a good place to look in depth at the different states, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you have a lot of time.


Incarceration in the United States


Wikipedia, as always, offers a wealth of information. However, some of the data about race, gender, age etc. is in the form of fraction and percentages that can’t be properly compared with each other; for example, there may be a percentage of blacks in prison per 100,000 US residents, and then a percentage of what proportion of all incarcerated people are white. That makes it really hard to make my own inferences and calculations. But overall, this was a good place to check facts and had one of the largest compilations of US prison information I could find.


The Meaning of Freedom: and Other Difficult Dialogues

This is one of Angela Davis’s most recent books. It discusses her views on the Prison-Industrial Complex and Abolition Democracy, as well as race, gender and sexuality in the prison system after 9/11. She ends by speaking about social change and civil engagement. I found this to be a good source to help me understand the extent of her ideas, and figure out where she was coming from. However, this is a 200 or so page book, with quite dense text. I found myself reading only the chapters I was most interested in because of time constraints. On that note, if you would rather watch a YouTube video than read a book, many of Angela Davis’s presentations and speeches are online and are definitely worth a look.


Who is Angela Davis? (The Biography of a Revolutionary)

This is a book written in 1972 by someone who knew Angela Davis. It was quite a different perspective from the book above, because it was written by a different person forty years ago. This book was really rich with stories and examples of Angela’s childhood, her high school and college years, and her early teaching career. It tells about the formation of her ideas, and how her travels and experienced affected her. For example, in Angela’s high school, the students would frequently go to protests and rallies, and the principal would make announcements about what to do if you were arrested. Again, because this is a book, you’ll need a little time to read through it. However, I found that the time passed quickly because of the engaging stories and vivid pictures portrayed throughout the book.

Night of the Notables Reflection

The Night of the Notables began the moment I walked through Gleneagle’s front entry way at 8:15 am, laden with learning center supplies.

I will never be able to forget the moment when the locker hall fell silent as everyone realized my hair had been transformed into an Afro within minutes.

Or when we began running speeches and I just took a moment to watch from the back of the room as all the tens tried to practice onstage at the same time, like a kaleidoscope on steroids.


Courtesy of TALONS flickr

Or the feeling of trust that was welling up inside of me, the pride in my classmates’ work, the honor I felt to be performing with them. I felt like, even if I messed up, even if I fell short, my peers would catch me and bring me with them. I believed we would do well. How could I not, when even after hearing it time and again in practice, the speeches always impressed me, moved me, and filled me up with gratitude to know that these were my friends, my classmates, and I was sharing in the experience right along with them.

Or when I sat down cross legged at the edge of the stage, scuffed and worn from the performers who had traversed on it before me, and stared up into the stage lights. The seats were empty; snowflake decorations hung and diffused the light. A spotlight was shining dead center, on me as I took in the peace, the stillness of the theater and the surreal feeling of something beginning to be over before it has begun. It was nostalgic. I was full, full up to the very top with this feeling of home, of this is it, this is us, we are here, and I felt it well up until it was tugging at the seams whenever I took a breath.

Courtesy of TALONS flickr

And the moment when we all went in for a group hug, not needing to tell each other what we wanted.

And then behind the curtains, as we hugged and bro-fisted and joked and practiced and gave each other tips and spent a full minute standing like a superhero to give ourselves confidence.

And waiting in the wings, watching the person before you, trusting them wholeheartedly to set a scene you could walk into without a second thought.

Then the stark contrast of onstage, of the speech. Black on white and blinding lights, and trying to articulate the words, pouring yourself into the speech and hearing your voice crack ever so slightly. Buzzing with the energy of the crowd, of the sets of eyes trained on you, of the pauses broken by a voice that is so familiar, but enstranged with some rare emotion.

And a heartbeat later, off of the stage, high on the feeling that’s over, you did it, you only made one mistake and no one noticed. Being hugged backstage by the people who make you laugh and smile and aspire to be always something more. The heady relief and the sense of practical caution, that someone else is doing their speech right now, and the moment is yours, but it is theirs as well.

Courtesy of TALONS flickr

Of course Eminent wasn’t all dramatic emotional stuff though. It was nerve-wracking! We joked about everyone’s hilarious hair, and how people didn’t recognize me in the hallway, and how the chocolate mousse tasted good, but looked like cat food and ground beef, and how we were all dying for a sip of water halfway through our learning centers. We had silly pictures and sword fights with moustaches and discussions about police officers being tried for crime, and US President Obama’s promises of action. And then we went back to silly pictures and sparkling grape juice.

Courtesy of TALONS flickr

Lastly, I’d like to thank the teachers and the other tens for being simply amazing with everything they did, especially the feedback and tips provided. However, this thank you has got to be dedicated to the nines. Without you, Eminent Night is nothing! Thanks for ordering us dinner, calling up the alumni, welcoming the guests, setting up the learning centers, providing the food tables and making the whole night a success. You niners are stars.

Final Speech Draft (Document of Learning)

So, as many of the tens know by now, the speech you present is constantly shifting and evolving up until the moment you finally present it onstage. After three days of memorization, and slight changes, and adding parts because “it felt right”, I ended up presenting a slightly different version of my last Eminent Person speech in TALONS onstage last night.

Okay. Close your eyes and imagine you’re sitting in a squeaky red folding chair. In front of you is a stage, lit in the center with a spotlight. Around you are parents, teachers and students in similar red creaky folding chairs that are really quite uncomfortable after a while. Then someone dashes on stage from behind the curtain, sporting a large afro. And they speak:

“They’re coming for me.
The FBI’s “Wanted” posters read “Angela Davis”, but sometimes the picture is another black woman, unrelated to me except for our common oppressor. And what does this tell me? I’m just a stock photo that can be swapped out for the hundreds of others like me.
They don’t see me as a person. They see me as a problem. Well, the real problem is much bigger than me.
My hometown was bombed because of its black residents, my neighbours were beaten and stabbed for sending their black kids to a white public school. America may have abolished slavery, but racism still persists.
Oh, America: (Pause) the land of the free and the brave. We sure as hell aren’t free, but we are brave. Brave enough to see that this justice system is wrong. It discriminates anyone who isn’t white, straight and well-off.
And prison isn’t helping. We are locking up the problem somewhere we can’t see it. We need to rehabilitate these prisoners, not push them under the rug to be forgotten. Those with substance abuse problems, the illiterate, the homeless, the unemployed: these are people too, not just problems.
I’ve been accused of kidnapping and murder. Neither of these charges are true. What I’m really being charged for is my battle to abolish prisons, my struggle to end oppression. I’m being hunted for trying to liberate America.
Until now, I’ve only dared to move at night, going to whichever house will hide me. But I don’t want to run anymore. I have nothing to hide. I’m proud of who I am and what I am trying to do. Yes, I am black! I am a woman! I am a radical thinker! I am Angela Davis, and I am not afraid!”


Looking back at my goals for this project, I learned a lot more about the world from looking into the issues Angela Davis was interested in. As I said in my introductory post, I try to stay updated with the news and current events, but this project brought to light a whole other side of civil rights I had never really explored. I think, because racism and slavery are so old, they are often though as overdone or outdated topics. However, racial profiling and discrimination is still a huge problem in the justice system today, even in Canada, and it’s not being talked about! It really surprised me that, as we all have to learn about different government systems and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in school, I’ve heard nothing about prisoner’s rights and how law enforcement is supposed to be done.  As there is very little research done about incarceration by race, I needed to go to many different websites to verify and collect all the information I needed for my display piece. That display piece is now the most comprehensive piece of data I have about American incarceration by race, which is cool because it has more information than the Wikipedia article section!

So I feel like I met or exceeded my goals for research/synthesizing information and discovering new interests. Similarly, I ended up talking to my classmates about their people and opinions, which was very engaging. Each person had so much to offer about their passions, ideas, and personalities. As we got closer and closer to Eminent night, I also think the grade tens grew closer and closer to each other, in a network of mutual support and trust. As a result, we lead and guided each other to that stage last night, where our Eminent people came to life once more. Being a part of the Eminent experience, and working alongside my peers to make the most of the night, I worked towards my IEP goal of leadership.

And now Eminent is coming to a close. We are reflecting, and blogging, and doing self-assessments. Am I going to come to Night of the Notables next year? I wouldn’t miss it for anything. Now I am excited to see what the grade nines will do, and how they will carry forth this TALONS tradition. Seeing the grade 11s at NotN reminded me that, even though Eminent is over for this year, I can come back time and again to see it continue on.

SFU Library Post

My purpose for the trip to the SFU Library was to get some more information about me eminent person, contemplate my post-secondary options and have some bonding time with my classmates.

    “The library is a temple of learning, and learning has liberated more people than all the wars in history.”  – Carl T. Rowan

It always amazes me to see the vast amount of knowledge and perspectives in libraries, especially biographies: Just think about how many people could be preserved in the word-filled pages, how many lives there might be compressed into plain text format. All the other memories and thoughts might be long gone, but the perspectives and facts that were certain at the time of publishing still persist on, even if (in the case of many science books) the ideas have changed, or been proven wrong – these books provide a quick glimpse, a porthole into what once was. I wanted to find some more information about how Angela was viewed in the 1970s, when she was just starting to make headlines. What was the reaction to this activist back then? What was this issue like? I found this lovely book, published in 1972, as an autobiography of Angela’s life so far that speaks about her childhood and influences, which is valuable information, as what I’ve been finding on the web is mostly the more recent articles about her and her work, which is also really interesting, but more abundant, in this digital age. My one struggle with information so far has been finding good synopsises (synopsisis?)about Angela’s books: she’s written several to date, and I’d like to get an idea of them before progressing into the interviews, so that I can ask questions that haven’t already been answered in her books.


The SFU library was on SFU campus, so it was a good chance to reflect on what I’m currently (not) doing with my life, and where I want it to go with my post-secondary plans.

That’s right. I’m talking about post-secondary plans.

I most likely will go straight into university after high school. Which university, I’m still a little unsure. I’d like to go to UBC for the environmental engineering program, but I live quite far away from West Vancouver, and residence at UBC is expensive! The nearby option is SFU, but it doesn’t have the program I want to go into, or some of the other courses I’m interested in. So I’m in a bit of a dilemma there, but I’ll figure something out over the next two years. University is really right around the corner! During the solitude spot, I noticed that the students in SFU seemed much closer to my own age than I anticipated. I also noticed the atmosphere of SFU; it was quiet, but busy. The overflowing notice boards certainly indicated an active student body! No matter which university I go to, I would like to become involved in some clubs – what better way to meet all sorts of cool people? Hopefully, I’ll keep my connections from TALONS too, once I’m out of the program. Speaking of staying involved, thanks to Katie and Zoey for showing us around SFU!


Bonding with classmates: I really enjoyed the afternoon/morning TALONS mixup during the informal tour, though. Have some pictures: these are a pretty accurate representation of the trip. It’s never a dull moment with the TALONS kids!


Fun times on the TALONS bus
The invasion begins
Getting a little lost…
Between the wooden walls that seemed to crumble away, and the light poles (that look like log supporting beams), it felt like we were in a longhouse at the SFU museum.


The local scenery.


I happened upon a whole bunch of researching students while in the library… say cheese!IMG_4917


There was a lot of photo recording on this trip!
Getting back from the trip.

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The French Resolution

Fall 1793

It appears that these tumultuous times are drawing to a close – at least for now. Louis-Auguste has been executed, and rumours are circulating that Marie-Antoinette has been doing some horrible deeds: it is almost certain she will be executed. This effectively puts an end to the near-absolute power held by the nobles, royals and clergy. It is up to the Jacobins now to channel the general will into a suitable form of government: whether that is a monarchy, aristocracy, democracy or what have you does not matter to me.

All that I wish is that the people will make the choice together, and it will be a fair vote that is carried out as the people need. This revolution has shown the French that a group of united people can topple even the oldest monarchies, and I hope they continue to practice what they have learned and all take part in being active citizens in France, taking part in the decision making and hard work alike, so that they may all reap equal benefits as part of the country.  We need to have no trickery, or inner alliances but an open, honest country that serves its people. If everyone can do this, France will prosper and become a role model for the rest of the world.

I have been dead for 15 years now, and I am pleasantly surprised that people have read my writings, and some, like the Jacobins, even look to them as a guide. I should like to think of myself as that, a guide: holding a lantern in the night so that those who wish to follow my ideals may walk in my light and be guided to wherever they want to go safely. I do not expect everyone to have such silly fantasies as me, though! I simply hope to be remembered as the man who lived for the collective. Even if they do not remember my name, I hope they remember my thoughts about equality of authority, and the good of the general will. And finally, just as the guide does after the traveller is in his home, I shall extinguish my light here and move on to another place in the night – perhaps to another traveller who needs guidance, or perhaps to the place where no living man has ever been. I do not know yet; I venture out, and I will know when I arrive.


       Courtesy of Wikipedia

Courtesy of Wikipedia


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