June 14, 2014
I have written about this before but it is worth writing about again and again: as a writer, I will always be proud of the fact that I was involved in the creation of West Central Streets . Here is how it happened and why I am proud that I had something to do with its existence:
West Central STREETS
The start of STREETS
by Tanya Lester
West Central Streets is a wonderful example of how the process of communication can empower and connect the people living in a community.
I am very proud to have been a so-called midwife as its birth ten years ago. In fact as someone who spent many years as a Winnipeg writer, feminist and social activist living at 394 Simcoe St., I believe this community newspaper is one of the best tools for social change that I have ever been associated with. Time and time again, it has served as a catalyst to bring people, who might fear and even hate each other, closer together in an inner-city environment that often appears to be very ‘rough around the edges’.
My memory of how it began was when I received a phone call from Erika Wiebe. She asked if I wanted to meet concerning the possibility of a newspaper for the West Central area. The meeting happened in the St. Matthews – Maryland Community Center basement. There were only three of us. Tammy, who worked for the center, was the third.
I came up with the idea that the newspaper should be called STREETS. I talked about how it would be impossible to cover all of the area’s concerns in a bi-monthly newspaper. But we could zoom in on one street each issue that in some ways might represent what would be happenings in every part of the West Central area.
Money is always a dilemma when it comes to producing a newspaper for and of the people. Wealthy advertisers are not usually interested in supporting something geared towards economically poor — the the most part, people who do not have the money to buy the products in the advertisements.
Like the good community worker that she is, Erika had that all sorted out. She knew a wealthy philanthropist. His money has been the paper’s main source of funding right from the beginning. Not one to boast about his contributions, for a long time Bill Loewen did not want his name mentioned anywhere as a financial supporter.
I want to hasten to add that it is not as costly as one might think to put out this kind of publication. For instance, Erika did some research and found out that it was much less expensive to have paper printed by the Brandon Sun than in Winnipeg.
The other thing that really made West Central STREETS take off very quickly is that it was begun by a very small group. I remember rumbles from every left-leaning organization in the city when they got wind that we were starting a community newspaper. Everyone wanted to be on the board.
From my long years of activist experience, I knew that numbers would ‘bog down’ the process because the more people you get on a board, the more difficult it is to move forward. “We need to get the newspaper up and running and them all of these group representatives and everyone else in the community can be a part of it by writing articles,” I remember saying.
And I think EVERYONE has contributed to West Central STREETS. Yes!! We did it!!!
For earlier posts in this blog, please go to http://www.writingsmall.wordpress.com
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To buy a copy of Confessions of a Tea Leaf Reader by Tanya Lester, you can purchase it directly from her or go to amazon.com to read the first few pages and/or order it.