Feb 24: Ginny Sullivan and cycling along the Underground Railroad route; Abayomi Azikiwe on the meaning of Black History Month; Rockin’ Robbie in studio singing the Blues…

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MARCH 2 UPDATE: Here’s an article of interests related to this entry:

Beyond the Underground Railroad


Technical assistance: Moses Frimpong:

Listen to entire program here:

February is Black History month and in recognition of this we heard about a new way to get up close and personal with the Underground Railroad thanks to an initiative by the Adventure Cycling Association. The association bills itself as the “…premier bicycle-travel organization in North America with over 43, 500 members.” The organization seeks to “… inspire people of all ages to travel by bicycle.” Also, the organization has mapped 41, 399 miles in the Adventure Cycling Route Network and “…gives cyclists the tools and confidence to create their own bike-travel adventures.”  Five years ago, the Missoula, Montana based organization opened up its 2,000 mile Underground railroad Bicycle Route, and this week representatives were in Detroit to unveil the 518 mile Detroit Alternative route which gives cyclists the ability to access sites of interest between Oberlin, Ohio and Owen Sound, Ontario.

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This initiative seems to allow people to merge a passion for cycling with the lived experiences of African Americans who traveled the same routes at great risk for freedom.

On the phone from Missoula, Montana was Ginny Sullivan, Special Projects Director at the Adventure Cycling Association. She “manages two major projects for Adventure Cycling – the U.S. Bicycle Route System and the Underground Railroad Bicycle Route.”

Ginny Sullivan (Click image for more on Adventure Cycling)

Ginny Sullivan on the development of routes along the UGRR. In this clip she mentions the song Follow the Drinking Gourd :

Sullivan also commented on the success of working with cycling enthusiasts in Windsor and Detroit, while also seeming to challenge Windsorites to do more to make our history come alive by building more cycling infrastructure:

The New Center for Health Equity was an important partner with Adventure Cycling, both in terms of bridging the geographical distance between Montana, where the association is based, and the people and history of the states and provinces where the UGRR is:


In the second half hour, I spoke with Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan African Newswire on the meaning of Black History Month.

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He described how the concept was formed and implemented and what he was involved in during the month:

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Rockin’ Robbie performed in the studio and picked out a couple of songs honouring Black musicians:

Rockin' Robbie

Weak Brain Narrow Mind:

On the Dock of the Bay:

Other Music:

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Feb. 10: Heather Gingerich on ending fluoridation of drinking water

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Technical Assistance: Moses Frimpong

On February 6, I sat with Heather Gingerich, Medical Geologist and Fluoride Toxicity Expert, and Director of  Canadian Chapter of the International Medical Geology Association to discuss the hazards of adding fluoride to our water supply.

Gingerich: What is a medical geologist?:

Click image for more info at Fluoride Free Windsor

She was in Windsor that day to alert people to the dangers of fluoride toxicity as a guest of   Fluoride Free Windsor, and to help appeal to Amherstburg town council to end fluoridation of drinking water.

Heather Gingerich

Gingerich on Fluoride:

Over the past few years talk of fluoride in our water as a measure to prevent tooth decay has become a hot topic. We have taken for granted that adding fluoride to our water made sense, was safe, and has allowed us to experience better dental health than generations before us. However, evidence has continued to mount that citizens have been consistently misled about what exactly is being added to our water and the true effects of this practice.

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Mike Darnell on the Fire the Liars campaign and our political situation in Canada

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Technical assistance: Moses Frimpong

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Mike Darnell, left, with Elizabeth May, Green Party leader and MP, with Fire the Liars activists Ken Lewenza, Ken Townsend, and Rob McGuffin

The campaign, Fire the Liars,  is underway across Canada, which is meant to draw attention to the lack of accountability with several members of Parliament. However, with the Harper government enjoying an absolute majority in Parliament, expect to see more cases of consequence-free activity from this regime.

Mike Darnell on the campaign:

The ministers in question highlighted in the campaign are Peter Mackay, Bev Oda, Tony Clement, and Peter Van Loan. From running federal money through a minister’s office and lying about it, to cutting funding from Kairos and lying about authorizing it, to joy-riding in military helicopters and lying about the reasons, to mounting a disinformation campaign against another MP and calling it a right of free speech, it’s time Canadians took a sober look at the situation we are allowing to brew in Parliament.

A drift into a Canadian totalitarian state is apparent: besides charges of contempt of Parliament and the handing over of Afghan detainees to certain torture while a minority government,  Mr Harper makes an announcement in Davos, Switzerland on changes to Old Age Security, and talks of another free trade deal with China, without debate or respect for the fact the Harper is in power because of a flawed electoral system giving him a majority with only 39.6% of the vote in the last election.

Electoral reform, bandied about for decades but never acted on, is crucial today. We have multiple parties in the country, yet remain only one of three countries with a First Past the Post electoral system.  (See a Leadnow survey on electoral change here, and more on Canadian democracy at Project Democracy.)

On the state of the Canadian state, Darnell spoke on the importance of the labour movement, and more than that, on the importance of  the working class in general to become better organized in the face of  a Harper majority that does not respect workers, nor in fact, dissent in general.

Darnell on unions:

Mr Harper is a global technocrat and his trip to Davos was in fact a trip to report to his real constituents: the global financiers who commodity people and nature itself for the greater maximization of profit. Mr Harper calls for less government spending on the redistributive side of the equation even as he spends more on the military, harsh sentencing leading to more prisons, guts regulations, and moves toward the criminalization of dissent.

The Fire the Liars campaign has, according to Darnell, attracted a coalition of labour, social justice organizations, and professional groups. They are continuing to mobilize and gaining momentum will take time. We have three years to figure out how to deny power to a minority coalition, which is in fact what the Harper government is.

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Feb. 3: Ron Scott, The Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership; Jaimie Philip, ROC Michigan and organizing restaurant workers in Detroit.

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Listen to entire program here:

Technical assistance: Moses Frimpong

On the program last week (Jan. 27th) we spoke to Joe Mancini, director of the Working Centre in Kitchener. The centre provides work and services to people from transitional housing to a cafe, as well as a community kitchen and bicycle repair shop. It’s a place where the workers serve those they are in solidarity with. In Windsor, perhaps because of the major impact of manufacturing and auto assembly, the civic mindset is one of having a large corporate presence providing high wage jobs. As we experience deindustrialization and the dismantlement of the Fordist system are we as a community having a tough time adjusting and failing to see that large scale industrial jobs may never come back, and even if they did technology will mean fewer jobs provided? It’s been this theme we have been exploring over the last few months by looking at places like the Working Centre and worker co-operatives. A deindustrialized community seems to mean we need to work more cooperatively and in solidarity with each other and need to break down barriers between workers – barriers like waged and unwaged as opposed to working and unemployed. The capitalist system relies on a percentage of surplus labour to exist in order to control wages – we become a managed commodity rather then active agents able to shape our own destinies.

So today we look to Detroit, perhaps the global poster child of deindustrialization, and we look there past the ruins of the city – ruins created by the flight of capital – to how Detroiters are resurrecting the city and rebuilding a sense of community. The James and Grace Lee Boggs Centre to Nurture Community Leadership, exists to “…nurture the transformational leadership capacities of individuals and organizations committed to creating productive, sustainable, ecologically responsible, and just communities.”

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Grace Lee and James Boggs are legendary social activists. James passed away in 1993 and Grace Lee Boggs, now 96, still takes part in some aspects of the Center. Ron Scott is a board member of the Boggs Center with a long history of community and civil rights organizing.

Click image for a story involving Scott's work to end police brutality in Detroit

He was a co-founder of the Detroit branch of the Black Panther Party in the 1960’s and more recently founded the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality. He also writes on the political blog, Detroit News.

Scott spoke of the challenge to develop a spirit of sacrifice and service and here is an excerpt:

In 1963 a conference came together in Detroit – the Grassroots Conference – assisted by Grace Lee and James Boggs:

In the second half hour I spoke with Jaimie Philip, an organizer with Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC)- Michigan, about efforts to not only organize restaurant workers but also to work together to create social enterprises like the newly opened Colors restaurant in Detroit.

Jaimie Philip

Jaimie was in Windsor on February 4 to speak at a fundraiser for the Windsor Workers’ Action Centre where she described the organizing efforts of ROC Michigan. Here she describes the formation of ROC:

Click logo image for info on Colors Detroit Restaurant


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