Archive for the ‘ Social Justice Challenge ’ Category

Thursdays in Black: The Worst Form of Violence (Part II)

Thursdays in Black official logo

Why Wear Black?

It’s perfectly simple: for one day a week, wear black to show your support for survivors of discrimination and violence, and to work together for a world without brutality. In addition, I have decided to add a weekly feature to this blog, in which I will feature a specific Human Rights-related link, article, blog post or other media item and discussion, encouraging others to get involved. Read my first post here.

Link(s) of the Day:

Child Poverty Action Group
Save the Children
Starved for Attention

Why I Chose These Links:

Continuing last week’s theme, I’ve been digging up sites on Poverty to go with the Social Justice Challenge topic of the month. This week I chose to feature mostly Children’s Poverty. CPAG addresses children in need in my home country, while Oxfam is a more general charity, and Save the Children addresses children’s needs in the US and all over the world, as does the Starved for Attention campaign. Together, these sites are making a difference. From Save the Children:

Our mission is to create lasting, positive change in the lives of children in need in the U.S. and around the world.

Our priorities are to ensure that children in need grow up protected and safe, educated, healthy and well-nourished, and  able to thrive in economically secure households.

A collection of necessary links for anyone interested in stemming the tide of poverty.


REVIEW: “Sometimes in April” (film)

Sometimes in April

Directed by Raoul Peck

CHALLENGE(S): Social Justice Challenge

Since I haven’t been so great at keeping up with the books I’m supposed to read for the Social Justice Challenge, this month I chose to watch a film instead. In retrospect, perhaps this was a mistake. I spent a large amount of the time (over 2 hours) blinking back tears and wondering what the hell is wrong with humanity.

Sometimes in April is the story of two brothers whose lives are torn apart by the Rwanda genocide of 1994. The narrative skips between their life in the present – one on trial for war crimes, the other struggling to move on with his life after the death of his family – and the events that led to their current state. I will tell you right now that those events were horrific. They were not skimped on. This is a movie with bodies piled in the street, with authorities who stand by and do nothing as people die, with no mercy whatever for any of those who played a role in the tragedy or for the viewers who are watching it unfold.

I don’t know that I can necessarily recommend it as far as entertainment goes. It’s incredibly heartbreaking, and who wants to put themselves through that if they don’t have to? But it was well done, well acted, and thoroughly terrifying. If you truly want to know what it was like in Rwanda, or indeed in any similar situation, then this is the film to see.


Social Justice Challenge: ACTION! for Hunger

For this month’s activist-level Social Justice challenge, I have:

  1. Added a SocialVibe widget to my sidebar promoting a charity dedicated to eradicating hunger and poverty.
  2. Begun the novel Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie (to be completed).
  3. Learned about Kwashiokor from this video.
  4. Donated several hundred grains of rice through

What have you been doing?

REVIEW: “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker

The Color Purple

[WINNER OF THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD (among others), 1983]

Alice Walker
Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 2007

CHALLENGE(S): Banned Books Challenge, Book Awards Challenge, GLBT Challenge (mini), Read the Movie Challenge, Social Justice Challenge, Women Unbound Challenge, Year of the Historical Challenge

Finished 16 April 2010

I got an amazing amount of mileage out of this book. It won an Award (Book Awards Challenge), it is frequently banned (Banned Books Challenge), it features a lesbian relationship (GLBT Challenge) and domestic violence (Social Justice Challenge), was made into a movie (Books and Movies Challenge), it is deeply feminist (Women Unbound Challenge) and it’s set in the early 20th century (Year of the Historical Challenge). Whew!

On top of that, it is also a wonderful book that I highly recommend.

The story is told in epistolary style, as a series of letters from the main character – Celie – to God. When the book begins, Celie is being abused by her father, by whom she eventually has two children. Her mother is dead and the only person she can really rely on is her younger sister, Nettie, who is cleverer and prettier and her best friend in the world. When a man she refers to only as Mister ——- proposes to Nettie, however, Celie’s life takes a turn for the worse. Her father refuses to allow Nettie to leave, and offers Celie in her place; to their horror, Mister ——- agrees. Separated from her sister, Celie’s only consolation is her developing relationship with Shug Avery, a beautiful singer who is the mother of Mister’s children.

The storyline gets more complicated as the novel goes on, but I don’t want to spoil it for you so I’ll leave the synopsis there. I will say, however, that there is a lot of musing about God and the nature of love throughout the novel, which I very much enjoyed. It did tend to get a little philosophical towards the end of the book, which kind of jolted you out of the story a bit, and I agree with many other reviewers that the ending was just a little too neat for me to believe completely. However, these flaws aside, some of my favourite parts of the novel were when the characters started discussing the nature of God. For example:

God love all them feelings. That’s some of the best stuff God did. And when you know God loves ’em you enjoys ’em a lot more. You can just relax, go with everything that’s going, and praise God by liking what you like.

God don’t think it dirty? I ast.

Naw, she say. God made it. Listen, God love everything you love – and a mess of stuff you don’t. But more than anything else, God love admiration.

You saying God vain? I ast.

Naw, she say. Not vain, just wanting to share a good thing. I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.

What it do when it pissed off? I ast.

Oh, make something else. People think pleasing God is all God care about. But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back.

Yeah? I say.

Yeah, she say. It always making little surprises and springing them on us when us least expect.

— pp.176-177.

I really enjoyed the way the characters’ shifting affections and developing natures were used as a sounding board to illustrate the fluidity of love and its connection to God. I may not believe in God, but I did appreciate the warmth and strength with which Walker imbued the narrative, and her fantastic ability to give her characters a unique voice. Celie came across strongly throughout, as did her sister Nettie when we read some of her letters to her sister later in the novel. Even the secondary characters, from whom we do not hear directly, have a vibrant inner life that makes them leap off the page and into your imagination.

The book is also profoundly feminist. Its main theme is essentially humanity, both human beings and the quality of benevolence they show so infrequently towards one another, but it focuses particularly on the strength and resilience of the female characters, how they face the obstacles life places before them and deal with abuse from the men around them. That is not to say it is intrinsically “anti-male”, however; one of the most moving parts of the book, for me, is how Mister ——- and his son change and are changed by the strong women in their lives, eventually coming to see their true worth and nature beyond sex and domestic slavery. It is an optimistic book, at heart: it postulates that both sexes can, given time, come to a place of equality and respect, and love each other for who they are rather than who the world would have them be.

A deserving classic, and nowhere near as intimidating as I had originally imagined. If you haven’t read it yet, then I highly recommend that you do!


REVIEW: “The Woman Who Walked into Doors” by Roddy Doyle

The Woman Who Walked into Doors

Roddy Doyle
Penguin, 1997

CHALLENGE(S): Social Justice Challenge

Finished 15 April 2010

It took me a long time to finish this book, even though it’s only around 200 pages long, and there’s a good reason for it. It is not the sort of novel that you read for entertainment or enjoyment – it’s the sort of thing you read because you really want to know what it’s like to live with domestic violence.

The main story is about Paula Spencer, who grew up with an abusive father and married an abusive husband. We follow her as she meets Charlo, falls in love with him, and as their relationship gradually falls apart we feel every blow. And we experience Paula’s guilt and triumph as she finally gets the strength to kick him out and move on – sort of.

It was, I think, not what I would call a good book in the usual sense. It was well written, but not in a lyrical way: I have frequently described it to others as like crawling over glass because it’s so brutal, honest, unflinching and absolutely one of the most painful things I’ve ever read. I have seldom been so involved with a character’s emotions, so the author has to be doing something right. At the same time, the stylistic choices (e.g. the use of dashes instead of speech marks) and the unrelenting sadness of it all made it hard for me to read much at a time, and even harder for me to come back and persist with my reading.

Overall, I think it’s worth three stars. It’s not brilliant, but anything that can make you truly experience the character’s inner life in that manner deserves praise, and as a book on domestic violence it is invaluable for opening people’s eyes. Just not one I’d recommend if you want a light, enjoyable read!


Social Justice Challenge, Month 4: Hunger

While I am still completing last month’s novel, I thought I would go ahead and post the image for this month’s Social Justice Challenge on Hunger.

What do I think of when I hear the world “hunger”?

I think of World Vision advertisements. I think of children with sticks for limbs. I think of those people in Buddhist tradition said to be reincarnated as hungry ghosts (peta) with huge, distended bellies and tiny, insatiable mouths.

You may notice I have added a SocialVibe widget to the site. It says I “support” hunger and poverty (something of a poor choice of words) but what it really is is a means of donating food and money to those in need. I’d really appreciate it if you could take the time to do an activity or two.

Social Justice Challenge: ACTION! for Domestic Violence

For this month’s activist-level Social Justice challenge, I have:

  1. Begun participating in the international Thursdays in Black campaign against gender-related violence and discrimination.
  2. Decided to commit to posting a new Human Rights-related link, article or other media item every second Thursday, also in support of this campaign.
  3. Begun the novel The Woman Who Walked into Doors by Roddy Doyle (to be completed).
  4. Watched the preview of Power and Control, a documentary on domestic abuse in America. Unfortunately it has yet to be released, so I was unable to find a longer segment to view.
  5. Watched a number of short videos pertaining to domestic violence awareness, including these two by Patrick Stewart.
  6. Read this essay on surviving sexual abuse.
  7. Participated in Amnesty International’s campaigns against violence.
  8. Signed the petition at UNiTE and subscribed to their YouTube channel.
  9. Made a committment to speak to my counsellor about my own experiences with emotional abuse.
  10. Signed the petition at CARE and subscribed for updates.

What have you been doing?