Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Accordian Player Speaks, And Speaks Profoundly.


A couple of excerpts from former Times-Colonist columnist, and accordian player/busker, Jody Paterson's acceptance speech when she received an honorary doctoral degree at UVIC yesterday.

"...It took me a while to accept that I was becoming a social activist. Journalists are supposed to be dispassionate observers of the world, after all. But life just kept on pushing me in that direction, until one day I realized that I didn't just want to write about the things that were going wrong for people, I wanted to do something about them.

The shift came in 1996, the year I met an intense young woman named Cherry Kingsley, who made me realize I had much to learn about the maligned, mistreated and profoundly judged people who work in the sex trade.

A year later, I spent an amazing two weeks travelling down the Island with the Tribal Journeys/Vision Quest paddlers and experienced an emotional transformation in my view of aboriginal culture.

In 2001, a group of impoverished people with severe addictions who called the Holiday Court Motel home welcomed me into their lives, and suddenly I started seeing human beings instead of "junkies."

In 2002, a two-month strike at the Times Colonist pushed me as close as I've ever come to a nervous breakdown, but at the same time showed me that I could live very comfortably on much less money - something that would ultimately free me up to make some very different decisions in my life.

In 2004, I came up to the University of Victoria on a whim to hear Stephen Lewis speak, and he asked the audience what WE were doing to make a difference. I thought, "What AM I doing?"

A few months later I quit my very comfortable, wellpaid job as a full-time columnist and started work with PEERS Victoria, which led to three of the most powerful, enlightening, demanding, heartbreaking, character-building, hopeinducing, world-viewchanging years of my life..."

{snippety doo-dah}

"...There's nothing saintly or special about social justice - it's just work. It's just rolling up your sleeves and taking a little bit of the time you spend on your own pursuits to put toward the interests of somebody who needs an ally. You don't need any special training - so many of us underestimate the tremendous skill set we have just by way of growing up middle-class Canadians in loving families.

You don't need to be a miracle-worker. You just need to be the kind of person who shows up..."

It's pretty inspiring, not to mention practical, stuff for folks that want to do something. And I'm pretty sure it helped inspire a goodly number of the kids in the commencement crowd who were getting their degrees yesterday afternoon.

There's also an important bit in there about how the proMedia can still work to do the right thing.

You can read all about it here.


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