Recently there has been a lot of media attention that has been coming to the village which has resulted in an increase in helpers. In terms of attention, the Bell Tower family won the 2015 Manitoba Human Rights Award recently; myself, Lenard and Althea were listed as Winnipeg’s favourite activists by The Uniter (& I was favourite young achiever under 30); Then there was Time Magazine and Buzzfeed. I have tried to emphasize that the huge increase in helpers and attention is correlating with the increase in work we need to do in the variety of areas where we need to be working as helpers. In my role as a public speaker I am constantly inviting people to events which means I also get a lot of messages from people apologizing for not coming because they have family commitments or are working on themselves. But when you skip a rally to spend time with your children or to rest, you are taking care of a member of the village and making our whole community stronger.
We have been working
This attention being generated is related to our solution oriented constructive partnership based approach in the village that is gift focussed and not money focussed. Our Bell Towers have been growing in numbers into the hundreds at times including many diverse communities and partner organizations. Many other successful initiatives continue their work in the village including Drag The Red, Got Bannock?, Bear Clan, Politix Brain Storms, Land Defenders MB & so many more. New initiatives like Our Summit are yielding tangible results like the 13 Fires Conversation Series on racial inclusion that was recently launched in partnership with the City of Winnipeg Citizen’s Equity Committee. Initiatives like Fearless R2W are working to build system literacy and create helpers and advocates within parents and community animators. Red Rising Magazine is working to create a platform to highlight indigenous content and provide an unfiltered chance for youth and allies to speak. Diverse partnerships are resulting in areas of faith, health, justice, post secondary, traditional culture, child welfare and advocacy that are focussing on institutional solutions. The Thunderbird House is beginning to come alive again with the help and love of our community members.
AYO is proud to be a part of the village in Winnipeg and at every turn we will use the attention we generate to shine a light on all the helpers who make all these events possible. We are trying to build a movement, encouraging people to help share their gift in their community to help build this village everywhere. We also acknowledge that with this increased attention comes increased responsibility. We know we have to work on ourselves and that we are going to make mistakes but we will learn from them and continue healing through community organizing.
It has been especially important with all this attention to emphasize out loud the roles that family has had in building the strong movement in Winnipeg that is led by our indigenous women and includes people of all ages, abilities and nations. We work together not because we are paid to but because we recognize that it is not until all of us make it, none of us have made it (Dr Rose Mary Brown). We treat one another in our activism as relatives because we are trying our best to listen to the elders and apply the teachings to this 2015 existence. We become a family and so we work to be present in good times and bad times, support each other, tease each other, laugh, cry and dream together. We have to make room in the spot light for our families. Why do I believe it is all of our responsibility to take care of all of the children all of the time? Maybe part of it is because the Champagnes took me in and fostered over 300 kids in the 80s. I was one of the last fostered and they adopted me. They raised me as their son and continue to be a big part of my life today. In all of the attention and in all of the celebrations, I am forever grateful for the example they set for me when I was growing up. And I’m thankful that they continue to be a part of my life as I grow, make mistakes and try new things. I wouldn’t be anywhere if it wasn’t for my family.
So Ekosi to all of our relatives for standing together and who were building the movement long before the media headlines and for continuing to work whether there’s cameras or not. It’s working; our children, families and communities are getting stronger. The world is beginning to pay attention. Being a good relative to your family members is also part of your work, so when you skip the rally to take care of your children or see your parents, don’t apologize or feel guilty because you are still helping to make the village stronger and you are appreciated for it.