In a post-colonial context, what does freedom of expression really mean, and under what conditions is it possible? Wherever human rights have been trampled, this question is alive, and intellectual freedom is inevitably intertwined with artistic expression.

The question isn’t new – Franz Fanon, W.E.B. Dubois, Angela Davis, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw and many more thinkers have laid strong foundations of thought on how this plays out in for black people in post-slavery North America. Indigenous thinkers have been working on this, too, as the displaced Indigenous people of Turtle Island (North America). Thomas King, Richard Wagamese, Pam Palmater, and Lee Maracle are a few among the resonant Indigenous voices sounding out in Canada.

Foundations

In 2008, UNESCO published the long-awaited United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). It was a watershed moment across the globe in addressing deep wrongs by European colonizers across several continents. Indigenous peoples from Canada had been involved in drafting UNDRIP since the 1970s. Initially, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States refused to become signatories. But one by one, several governments signed on. In 2010, the Government of Canada made its formal commitment to respecting the principles laid out in UNDRIP, with the right to self-determination topping the list. 

So how does self-determination play out for young people in the current Canadian context? A group of young Indigenous intellectuals in Winnipeg, Manitoba (Canada) have been working hard on this question, and have opted to build a contemporary self-published, high-quality zine with Indigenous content funded through grass-roots community support.

Red Rising Magazine: Unfiltered Indigenous Voices

Founded by a new generation of young Indigenous artists, thinkers, writers, and leaders in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Red Rising Magazine describes itself as “a volunteer run collective who work together with the goal of creating an unfiltered platform for Indigenous youth to share their gifts.” The goal? To shape the narrative on Indigeneity on their own terms.

Anchored in Autonomy

Self-funded, the collective has now published more than eight issues of the magazine. The zine goes to press twice a year. With no formal website, the publication is live online at low to no cost on several social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. This is where calls for submissions, calls for volunteers, and projects for Red Rising get announced. Drawing on collective talents, they are expanding into education, documentaries, podcasts, and live entertainment. Red Rising is self-reliant, funded partly through crowdfunding on Patreon and supplemented by Laughter is Medicine – a comedy showcase fundraiser which has sold out two years running. These initiatives replenish the coffers enough to ensure that Red Rising can continue, which bodes well for a stable, continuing platform for autonomous free expression – and all of us benefit.

Education: filling the curriculum void

Red Rising Magazine also sometimes finds itself filling a curriculum vacuum in the education system. While working in Winnipeg, I attended a workshop hosted by Red Rising staff for educators at a local high school – and sales were swift on the magazine’s back issues. Each issue features contributors across several arts disciplines, some little known, from across Turtle Island and beyond – and some prominent, such as Pam Palmater, Katherena Vermette, and artist Dayna Danger. Several teachers – Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike – were clearly keen to learn about Indigenous pedagogy and teaching Indigenous content in an Indigenous way, building lesson plans where Indigenous youth can see themselves reflected back in the images, stories, poems, and narratives. This is a positive development which, if done respectfully and with the hard work necessary to collaborate harmoniously local Indigenous communities, will mean that both Indigenous and settler students have access to a more balanced grasp of what our colonial history really means. 

Related links about Red Rising Magazine:

https://mindyourmind.ca/interviews/red-rising-magazine

https://j-source.ca/article/red-rising-magazine-elevating-voices-indigenous-youth/

https://j-source.ca/article/red-rising-magazine-elevating-voices-indigenous-youth/ 

https://winnipeg.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=1632669

http://uniter.ca/view/laughter-is-medicine-mixes-culture-and-comedy

Akoulina Connell
akoulinaconnell.com

Akoulina is an experienced executive and arts advocate who catalyzes systems transformation through co-creation and data innovation strategies to increase agility, transparency, and public engagement. She has worked in both the public and private sectors; she has led two provincial funding agencies, was managing editor of a literary press, worked in the IT sector, and has held communications roles for Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, Statistics Canada, Service Canada, and Transport Canada.