Friday, October 14, 2011 was a cold night. I remember meeting up with a girl that evening before we departed and went on our separate ways. She was off to a student group party, and I went to welcome travellers from Washington D.C. That evening would become the start of an unexpected journey…
They weren’t just any regular American visitors. They came to Toronto with the goal of educating and mobilizing youth to take part in a greater movement. “Hi, I’m here with the PBC group. There is supposed to be a table booked for us under the name CL, could you show me to it?” I asked the waiter. “I’m sorry but there is no table booked under a ‘CL’. Actually, we have no more tables available, the evening has been very busy sir”. WTF?! Son of a *****, I thought to myself, but was able to prevent the words from rolling off my tongue…
“Ugh, okay”, was the only response I could give the waiter. I stood there looking dumbfounded and was thinking of ways I could troll MT. I’ll troll CL too. And NA while I’m at it. Son of a….wait, there are Vietnamese-looking people at the bar…hmm. I approach the Vietnamese-looking people. They look democratic…
“Hi, are you all here for some sort of PBC event?”, I asked.
“Yes! Hi! We’re from Washington D.C., we just arrived, and you’re the first Torontonian from the group that we’ve met!”
“Ugh…really? Because I’m actually not a member, I’m just here to learn more about this group and I registered for the digiactivism seminar this weekend. Nice to meet you all, and welcome to Toronto.” I took a seat at the bar and surveyed the pub. I’ve been here a few times before, and each time I left with slurred speech, an uncalibrated centre of gravity, and would just be brimming with so much hope for the world…I didn’t expect any different this evening. But this evening was different. For starters, this was the first time I was going to be here with Vietnamese people. This was also the first time I was here – or at any pub – to discuss matters of democracy and freedom in general, and for Vietnam in particular. Actually, this felt exhilarating, for I always knew I was capable of creating a dent in history (I was blessed with many talents and gifts), and maybe it’ll just be a small mark, but I wanted to leave behind something for all of posterity…the pleasant ambient lighting settled me in for some beer…ahh, maybe I’ll let MT off the hook this time…
A little later that night other registrees of the weekend seminar arrived, and the party started. But more important work was to come in the following two days…
Saturday October 15, 2011
location: York University, student centre
Everyone arrived eager to learn about the tools of digi-activism. The speakers were members of Viet Tan from Washington D.C. The first speaker gave a presentation about the pillars of a dictatorship regime, and how non-violence can be a powerful tool to undermine the regime.
The second presenter spoke about the tools activists use to promote democracy and address human rights issues, such as blogs (!), twitter, Facebook and mobile devices to organize and gather individual activists.
The third speaker gave an introduction about the Viet Tan reform party, its history, goals and future directions.
In between the presentations we had group activities encouraging us to brain storm ways in which to promote democracy, justice and human rights. It was a very interactive experience and this allowed the participants to get to know each other better. Finally, after all the presentations and group activities, we all left and gathered at a restaurant for dinner. Our minds were crammed with information and facts, and it was time to cram our stomachs with food. Tomorrow was going to be another big day.
Sunday October 16, 2011
location: York University, student centre
Today was going to be a half-day seminar, yesterday’s seminar lasting from morning to late afternoon. After reviewing the previous day’s talks, we went on to generate ideas for a digi-activism project, which would be spearheaded by the Toronto digi-activism group. Many great ideas surfaced, but we settled on a video project inspired by will.i.am’s “Yes We Can” video. The goals were the following:
1) raise awareness about the 15 Vietnamese Catholic youth activists detained in Vietnam
2) the script for the video would come from the writings of one of the detained activist, Paulus Le Son
3) gather as many participants for the video from as many places in the world as we can
The video project got launched that Digi-activism seminar weekend, and this is the result:
GO DIGI-ACTIVISM TORONTO!
– Anh Nhật
Photos courtesy of members of PBC and VT (Kev, CL, Lan).