Category Archives for Journalism

Unapologetically Canadian Episode 15: Rishad Quazi Helps Non-profits use Technology

Listien to Unapologetically Canadian Episode 15 Rishad Quazi

What happens when a software specialist starts working for a non-profit organization that runs seniors homes?

If he’s Rishad Quazi, you get a clean website with Google analytics despite a few hassles setting it up plus a new board member and volunteer who serves lunches and dinners at resident events and during holidays.

Quazi has specialized in fitting-in to new environments ever since he and his mom escaped war-torn East Pakistan when he was only a-year-and-a-half years old. Since then, he’s lived in Scotland, Malaysia, Singapore, New York, Toronto, Seattle, San Francisco and Vancouver and elsewhere. Each time he moves to a new local, he makes friends, learns to fit into the community, and makes a home.

For years, he specialized in helping large companies use technology to build relationships among team members and with their clients. Now, he’s taking his expertise to the non-profit sector with his company He helps them with whatever technology they need, which most often consists of a website and Facebook.

Facebook Strategy

I particularly tend to focus on Facebook just because of the sheer volume of users that are on the system across the demographic board,” he says. “I know certain campaigns tend to focus on different media such as YouTube or Twitter. Those types of things I’ve just found personally that most of my clients and most of their audience tends to visit Facebook the most.

First he trains them how the system works. He helps them decide the best way to present themselves on Facebook.

Do they want to be a personality? Do they want to represent themselves as a group or do they want to do both? I personally would recommend both.”

Minimalist Webpages

Each page on a website needs to be clear to ensure that users know what to do.

My personal approach to most design work is minimalism not too minimalistic but enough to get the user engaged, involved and make things stupidly obvious. That’s the neatest way I can put it. I see a lot of websites that are just way too busy. Yeah. Way too many things going on way too many little distractions and if it gives me a headache I tend to just shut it down right away.”


Quazi says that nonprofits need to respond to each and every query and ensure to filter out bad content or inappropriate posts and keep their page active.

Be Consistent

I think I was saying before, the most important thing that I try to convey to my clients is that they need to be consistent regardless of which platform they choose to communicate via. So in other words posting if not every day at least a couple of times a week. Post things that are focused and targeted towards your ideal audience or who your perspective leads might be.”

Welcoming Nature of Canadians Impresses Him

One thing that’s always impressed me most about Canada is the welcoming nature of the people. It is comprised of people from all walks of life from all different ethnicities and stories just like mine who’ve lived all over the world or have ties to places all over the world and you get a much richer sense of that in Canada versus my experiences living in different parts of the US. As you just walk down the street, you see people from everywhere whereas you may not see the same elsewhere.

For a person like me who’s grown up all over the world, that makes me feel comfortable. It makes me feel like I fit in like I’m not you know sticking out like a sore thumb. And even if I did, I’ve lived in places where I stick out. But you’re just a regular person. You are just treated like a regular person. You have the same rights as anybody else. Quite honestly when I travel abroad with my Canadian passport it just gets me a different level of acknowledgement and respect from people. And that’s a good feeling.”

Visit Rishad Quazi at his website.

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Honouring the slave who raised him

Due to an unfortunate health problem, Pulitzer prize–winning reporter Alex Tizon died three months before “My Family’s Slave,” his incredible tale about Eudocia Tomas Pulido, appeared on the cover of the June issue of the Atlantic Magazine.

We called her Lola,” wrote Tizon. “She was 4 foot 11, with mocha-brown skin and almond eyes that I can still see looking into mine—my first memory. She was 18 years old when my grandfather gave her to my mother as a gift, and when my family moved to the United States, we brought her with us. No other word but slave encompassed the life she lived. Her days began before everyone else woke and ended after we went to bed. She prepared three meals a day, cleaned the house, waited on my parents, and took care of my four siblings and me. My parents never paid her, and they scolded her constantly. She wasn’t kept in leg irons, but she might as well have been. So many nights, on my way to the bathroom, I’d spot her sleeping in a corner, slumped against a mound of laundry, her fingers clutching a garment she was in the middle of folding.”

Had he lived to tour and answer questions about his experience, Tizon might have prompted an even bigger discussion about modern slavery in North American than his article set off.

A Story of Mutual Dependence and Love

“My Family’s Slave” details Tizon’s complicated relationship with his nanny and household maid. Initially, Lola was trapped due to decisions made by his mother and grandfather. After Alex became responsible for Lola, he tried to free her, but by then, she didn’t have anywhere else to go. He paid to send her back home to the Philippines, but she returned to his household soon after saying she no longer fit in with the few people still alive in her hometown.

It’s hard not to wonder how many similar situations exist across North America.

When he came to us with the enthralling, vexing story of his immigrant family and its terrible secret, we recognized that this was the sort of journalism The Atlantic has practiced since its inception,” wrote editor Jeffrey Goldberg, in a companion article to the piece. “The magazine was founded in 1857 by a group of New England abolitionists eager to advance the cause of universal freedom. When I first read a draft of Alex’s piece, I imagined that the founders—people like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Harriet Beecher Stowe—would not have believed that 154 years after Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, humans would still be enslaving other humans, in America and across the planet. The eradication of all forms of slavery remains an unfinished goal of civilization, and of this magazine, and stories like Alex’s help us understand slavery’s awful persistence.”

A structure that weaves through time and place

Tizon’s story follows a complicated structure that weaves four storylines together. One storyline follows the author’s journey as he carries Lola’s ashes to her birthplace outside of Manilla, told in the order in which it took place in narrative fashion, complete with flashbacks to previous visits to the region. A second storyline outlines the history of slavery as an institution from modern times dating back to some time prior to the 1500s. Another storyline highlights the history of the Tarlac Province and Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines. The main storyline connects each of the other three by describing Lola’s service to Tizon’s family, highlighting key moments of connection, cruelty and turmoil.

We landed in Los Angeles on May 12, 1964, all our belongings in cardboard boxes tied with rope. Lola had been with my mother for 21 years by then. In many ways, she was more of a parent to me than either my mother or my father. Hers was the first face I saw in the morning and the last one I saw at night. As a baby, I uttered Lola’s name (which I first pronounced “Oh-ah”) long before I learned to say “Mom” or “Dad.” As a toddler, I refused to go to sleep unless Lola was holding me, or at least nearby.”

Classic Feature Style

Like most of the stories in The Atlantic, “my family’s slave” represents exquisite long-form journalism. No errors appear in the text and each sentence flows easily from the one it follows.

I highly recommend My Family’s Slave by Alex Tizon , The Atlantic, May 15, 2017,  accessed April 2, 2018.

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Unapologetically Episode 4: Sherry Simon’s quest to show how language shifts identity

Meeting Sherry Simon

McGill’s Centre for Interdisciplinary Research on Montreal began 2018 with a bilingual lunchtime discussion about power struggles in multilingual cities.

Journalists, translators and writers packed the room. Among them were students and professors from the universities of Concordia, McGill, UQAM and Sherbrooke. Late-comers pulled up chairs in the hallway.

We all came to hear keynote speaker Sherry Simon, a woman long known for challenging community identity.

Simon simultaneously lives within multiple communities based on gender identity, religious upbringing and personal conviction. She works in French at Concordia, an English University. She grew up in an Anglophone family, yet argues strenuously in favour of a French-first Montreal.

Speaking Memory

The presentation stemmed from a controversial book Simon edited called “Speaking Memory: How Translation Shapes City Life.”

Simon began her talk by describing how much the book carries her sentiments even though others wrote most of it.

Even though this book is a collective, it is a result of my obsession with Montreal and with Montreal-like cities which I’ve studied over the last ten or more years,” said Simon. “It all started in the early 1990s in my neighbourhood, which is Mile-End, when I became aware that the day-to-day life in my neighbourhood, the way languages were handled, the way people thought, the way identities were construed were diametrically opposed to what I was hearing on the radio and what I was reading in the newspapers. That was a shock.”

Pivot from Literature to Social Studies

The resulting shock combined with reflections about her neighbourhood to inspire Simon to pivot her research away from Quebecois literature. She began studying language and translation as a conduit for exploring the social and cultural history of Montreal instead.

Eventually, her work took her going Montreal’s borders to examine similar multilingual cities around the world, such as Barcelona.

As she studies different places, her analysis reflects a deep understanding of how it feels to have basic assumptions about identity questioned. She says her background growing up in a minority culture enables her to see patterns others miss.

Watching English Lose Status in Montreal

I remember that very existential sense that I had as a kid, when I took the bus across town and felt unwelcome,” she said. “When I grew up, Anglophones thought we were the dominant culture in the city. Then we found out it wasn’t true.”

That shift [in dominance from English to French] happened between the 60s and the 80s. I think that shift is so foundational for me that it allows me to understand so many other contexts around the world where those kinds of shifts happen, where communities re-examine their relationships to their cities, to their countries. If you look at the situation in Catalonia today, for example, that’s what that’s about. The shift in power about who thinks they’re up and who thinks they’re down. How do the languages realign themselves?”

Publishing History

Simon’s history questioning how languages realign links the many facets of her career.  As a result, she has books in multiple disciplines.

Her study of Quebec literature led her to publish two books about the subject in 1989 and 1994.

Then she studied feminist writings and presented her research in a book called “Gender in Translation” two years later.

Then she turned her eye towards the history of cities. Two additional books followed. She published Translating Montreal: Episodes in the Life of a Divided City in 2006. In 2011, she came out with Cities in Translation, in which she examines language patterns in cities around the world.

Translating Montreal

Simon says that Translating Montreal is her favourite work so far.

I think that the fact that this work was grounded in my personal experience of living between languages,” she said. Exploiting the potential discomfort of such a situation made it more of an organic quest. All these issues are things that I feel personally. As a citizen of a city like Montreal, we are always aware of the uncertainties of our situation. What some people see as a disadvantage I turned into an advantage.”

Living Between Communities

A lifetime of living between communities and her desire to shed identities has given Simon a cross-cultural existence.

To be a Montrealer means I have some affiliation to the historic Anglo community, even though for a very long time I wanted to give up my membership in that community. I felt more drawn to a Francophone identity. I wanted to be part of that identity. I’m also Jewish. So those three identities are important to me in various ways at various times and with various intensities.”

I found myself fascinated as she described the positive impacts of Montreal’s fundamental shit from English to French between 1940 and 1980.

People don’t realize that what was happening on the French side of town was exciting to a whole group of Anglos at the time,” said Simon. “My favourite character of that time was Malcolm Reid, a journalist in the 70’s who wrote about Francophone Montreal. He wrote this wonderful book about the Shouting Sign Painters. It’s a fabulous book about how the poets and songwriters were transferring the identity of the city and how exciting that was for English Montrealers to watch.”

Three Identities

Integrating her multiple identities has led Simon to approach research with a perspective that opens up unusual insights. She has closely examined Yiddish, French and English literary movements in Montreal during the early 1940s, for instance. That study made her realize that assumptions about Montreal as a land of two-solitudes is not correct.

Her work landed her the André-Laurendeau prize for the promotion of Québecois literature and culture in 2010.

I highly recommend watching Simon’s bilingual acceptance speech called “The Flow of Languages, the Grace of Cultures.”

Simon plans to continue investigating language’s influence on identity. Her next book will focus on polyglot places around the globe.


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Manon Barbe Profile on Page 1

My profile of longtime LaSalle borough mayor Manon Barbe appears on page 1 of yesterday’s (March 14) City Edition of the Suburban.

Barbe is a great example of a successful political leader who has broken many glass ceilings over the years through dedicated service, gumption and persistence. I don’t agree with all the positions she holds on issues, but her ability to make decisions and stand by them is admirable. She also works hard. I’ve seen her personally wait tables to serve veterans their lunch at LaSalle Legion events.


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