Guess Who Came To The Blacklisting Party?
by Franke James
Over 100 people from the arts, environmental groups, social justice, law, politics and media came. (And there was lively speculation as to who the ‘Idiot on the Hill’ might be.)
And Guess What They Said…
“So many complain, mostly to each other so that nothing gets heard, or done. It was great to party with people who take action, with Franke leading the charge against exclusion.” ~ Rosalind Ross, Neighbour
“That the current government wishes to silence you is an affront to most fair-minded Canadians. Whenever, I wear the ‘Idiot button’, I invariably get the same reaction: ‘Who are these people who gave this government a majority?'” Tom Sagar
“Back in 1950, President Truman wrote, “In a free country, we punish men for the crimes they commit, but never for the opinions they have.” I grew up secure in the idea I lived in such a country. The blacklisting of Franke James and other so-called dissenters shook this belief. But attending Franke’s party reminded me of the power of courage, conviction, and citizen action. Over 100 people came to celebrate and support Franke — and to let the Prime Minister know we will not go quietly into the night.” Melissa Shin
“Having met the friendly and open Franke and seen her clever and colourful work up close, I can scarcely believe that simply for exercising her democratic rights of political expression and free speech, for questioning Harper’s tar sands promotion, she is branded as “speaking against the Canadian government.” James is neither an insurgent nor a rebel inciting violence – she is merely a thought-provoking artist.”
~ Erich Jacoby-Hawkins, Shadow Cabinet, Green Party of Canada
“I really enjoyed your Blacklisting Party and was so thrilled to see a group of people coming together in solidarity to support you and freedom of speech in general. The vibe at the party was fun, but serious at the same time. This is a serious issue that we cannot and should not ignore. Kudos to Franke for making some noise and for wanting to find out Who The Idiot Was that Blacklisted her!!” ~ Kelly Drennan, Founder, Fashion Takes Action
“It was great to see so many courageous people coming out to the Blacklisting Party to support Franke, her environmental message, and her right to free speech.”
~ Chris Chopik, Evolution Green
“It was my first (so far) invitation to a blacklisting party. I thought it was a great opportunity to promote the cause and showcase your art, your passion and your position on the issue. It also made it very clear (at least in my mind) that the reaction (perhaps ‘overreaction’) on the part of the Government of Canada to actually ‘blacklist’ you and your work was indeed misdirected and a ‘silly’ reaction/decision as it really provided you with a new and more public platform from which to deliver your message. ~ Timothy
“Allow me to congratulate you… I will even consider thanking the Top Harpoon himself for drawing my attention to your wonderful work. In his laughable stab at censorship, Big-Eyes-Wide-Shut has honoured a comic tradition in which dour autocrats promote provocative art pro bono by trying in vain to suppress it. What fun we shall have watching His Stiffness try to wriggle out from under this one! It will also afford me great pleasure to draw attention to your work through my own personal channels. Your light-hearted touch in illustrating so deadly a topic brings credit to every good Canadian.” ~ Douglas Smith
Does Free Speech really matter in Canada?
In a strange twist of fate, James Coburn, the photographer I’d hired from the CIA showed up with a large Amnesty International petition asking if I could have guests sign it at the Blacklisting Party. At first I wondered how my blacklisting problem and a film director’s dilemma in Iran could be connected…
But I quickly learned… Jafar Panahi is an internationally celebrated film director convicted of “propaganda against the state” for having exercised his right to peaceful freedom of expression through his film-making and political activism. He has been sentenced to 6 years in prison, with a 20-year ban on all his artistic activities.
The tragedy of Panahi’s plight is shocking. He’s a storyteller for social justice. If I lived in Iran, that could be me. It certainly puts my blacklisting into perspective. (You can sign the Amnesty petition here.)
Governments all over the world are afraid of the power of art. Because artists can infiltrate the national psyche and change beliefs. Like Bob Dylan’s lyrics — “She’s an artist…. she can take the dark out the nighttime and paint the daytime black.” — Art can wake people up and motivate them to take action. A power that is beyond political control.
Speaking Up for Free Speech
“Franke James has a wonderful way of taking important numbers that give insight to our species’ impact on the planet and boiling them down to an image that resonates powerfully with people from the ages of 5 to 95. The Government of Canada’s apparent censoring of her work is a high mark of praise, indicating the power of her message and the Government’s relative insecurity, which stems from their increasingly tenuous anti-science positions.
As John F. Kennedy, once said: “We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.” ~ Toby Heaps
Jim Harris, author of “Blindsided” and former Leader of the Green Party of Canada, spoke about an absurd world…
“It used to be that the Canadian Government supported Canadian artists here and abroad. Today it’s clear that the Harper Government will only support Conservative artists.
“How many Conservative artists do you know? – Artists who create gentle, loving images of Stephen Harper in a sweater holding kittens? We need artists to show the reality of the Tar Sands on our future – as Franke James does.
“It’s unacceptable that the Canadian Government no longer supports Canadian artists – and now only support Conservative ones.” ~ Jim Harris, Strategic Advantage
“I always thought I lived in a free country where you were allowed — and encouraged — to speak your mind. This blacklisting is really shocking, not just for me, but for all Canadians who think differently than our current Prime Minister. In a true democracy multiple points of view are allowed. The Harper Government’s insistence on controlling the message — to the point where artists and scientists are silenced and blacklisted is a serious infringement on our rights in a so-called democratic country. That’s why I’m taking my art to the streets of Ottawa. I want to send a big, loud message to the Prime Minister: Stop Blacklisting Artists and Scientists!”
Franke James, author & artist, Bothered By My Green Conscience
“I have a soft spot for petite people who make a big noise and big change in this world. Perhaps because I too strive to do the same…
I have never met so many wonderfully intelligent, conscious, aware, and forward thinking individuals in a single evening. Spending time with like-minded people is inspiring unto itself — that we came together over the banning of ideas, values and intentions that we all share, made it all the more profound.
What I liked most of all though, was meeting Franke in person. I don’t know if it’s that she welcomed us into her home, that she was styling an awesome ensemble, that all the food served was organic, that the Canadian government wants to take this force down, that she turned her driveway into a garden, or the nature in which she communicates her message, but every time I look at her art work, I kind of want to give her a hug and say “You done good Franke. You done good!” ~ Meghan Telpner
“Thank you Franke for trying to wake up Canadians that this Prime Minister is against you — if you’re not with him! Your art speaks to truth –– Canada’s growing democracy deficit.” ~ Stan Kozak
“I was blown away by your art, thoroughly impressed by your initiatives to make the utmost of this bizarre situation, and thrilled to meet all your supporters and friends. Somehow I am quite sure that “the idiot” on the hill had not the slightest idea what he was in for.” Robert Mout
“It seems almost automatic that people respond to an injustice by gathering the support and validation of others. Where most will rally allies by demonizing their opponent and creating a divisive hatred between sides, the blacklisting party was an inspiring example of the difference a positive and forward looking reaction can make.
Not every idea shared was wrapped in a rainbow but overall the party was an uplifting, fun-filled and inspiring experience that brought light to the brilliant contributions of Franke James; potentially a heck of a lot more than if her opportunity not been inexplicably squashed in the first place.” ~ Randy Sa’d, Strategic Development, Harbourfront Centre
“Seeing Franke’s artwork in large size on display made me realize how very important her messages are. I can’t wait for her art billboard in Ottawa! Hopefully, her visual essays will reach an even larger audience due to the blacklisting publicity. I’ll be following Franke’s story with much anticipation!” ~ Christa Gampp
“Great party! It was wonderful to meet so many like minded people! That’s where I get my energy to keep working for change. I am so proud to be part of the ‘Blacklisted’ support group – if one can call it that? I really would like to help out more. If there is anything I can do please let me know.” ~ Carola Koitz
“Geoff and I loved the exhibit so much we bought one of Franke’s paintings. The Canadian Government needs to be held accountable and I’m so proud of her for taking them to task!”~ Joanne Mills
“Leave it to an artist to take the metaphorical batch of lemons and turn it into a deliciously refreshing pitcher of lemonade. Of course, I shouldn’t have been surprised. Ever since reading Franke’s “Paradise Unpaved” visual essay, I knew she was full of spunk! Her Blacklisting Party simply reaffirmed her incredible resolve to get her message heard regardless of the obstacles put in her path.
Whatever one may think of the progress of international climate change negotiations, the enthusiasm of the people who came out to support Franke demonstrated that at the individual and community level there continues to be intelligent and inspirational work being done to create more sustainable living options for Canadians. My goal in attending was to ensure Franke knows that her work and advocacy is appreciated regardless of what any bureaucrats may have decided.” ~ Rob Wakulat
Thanks to everyone who came to my Blacklisting Party and purchased artwork, books, posters and buttons! We raised over $2600 at the Blacklisting party. Next stop: Ottawa!
Thanks to our sponsors:
“Guess Who Came To The Blacklisting Party?” copyright 2011 Franke James
Photography by James Coburn, Central Image Agency, with the following exceptions: David Stevenson: photos of Jim Harris, Kelly Drennan, Douglas Smith; Franke James: photos of the Tom and Jane Sagar, WWF team, Google hangout, Jim and Carola, Erich the Green, Steam Whistle, Food.
Related Blacklisting Posts by Franke James:
September 10th: Blacklisted by Harper? Get out the Noise-Makers!
“Yes, because the best way to fight shadowy blacklisting is to get noisy, have fun, and tell lots of people. So, to help spread the word, I’m hosting a Blacklisting Party.”
August 17th: Blacklisting Makes News in Ottawa (And beyond)
“More than 20 articles have appeared in major media, blogs and environmental websites since news of my blacklisting broke on July 25th. See some of the news articles.”
August 2nd: Silenced in Europe, Franke Gets Loud in Ottawa!
“My European show is cancelled, thanks to interference from Canada’s Harper Govt — which makes me mad. But I’m not going to let them silence me… I’ve decided some grassroots, guerilla tactics are in order…”
July 25th: Canadian Government Tries to Silence Franke James
“Who was the idiot who approved an art show by that woman, Franke James?”
How do you get in the right headspace for hosting a Blacklisting Party?
Well, I went to a used book shop and lucked into buying a copy of George Orwell’s political satire NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR — the first (Canadian) edition — for a mere fifteen bucks. Orwell’s futuristic vision of how governments would rewrite history — and control messaging — is now eerily true. I wonder — if he were here today, what advice would he have for me?
But Orwell was so politically savvy, cloaking his disdain for the powers-that-be in satire, that he’d probably lambast me by saying, “Foolish woman – what were you thinking by openly criticizing your government? Don’t you know Big Brother hates that – and will stop at nothing to shut you down?”