North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney, and Cumberland Mayor Leslie Baird are among the “authors” featured at the Living Library Project, Feb. 16 at the Courtenay Library. File photos

Blaney, Baird among ‘authors’ at upcoming Living Library in Courtenay

Powerful stories, inspiring lives – The Living Library Project

A life lived is a story waiting to be told. And the Living Library Project has seven stories ready to be heard.

Instead of a hard-cover, printed book, this project will install seven people in the Courtenay Library and you can “check” them out for a conversation about their lives and what they’ve been doing.

Wedlidi Speck will share his work in preserving Indigenous culture here, and in many other communities under the title “Living with the Cannibal: My role as a Hamatsa Dancer in Preserving Indigenous Culture.” He can share what it means to him to be involved in that work.

Wendy Kotilla can explain how getting youth out into nature can transform both the youth and the environment. Her work with the Youth & Ecological Restoration Project has been a quietly successful approach to re-connecting youth with the world in which they live and is helping to restore habitats for endangered populations. Her work transforms both the environment and the youth.

Being active and engaged in your world is the theme of several other “books” available for a conversation. Sheldon Falk is a highly engaged and successful gay activist in North Island College and his story can talk about becoming proud of who you are and what it takes to step out to create the welcoming space in which all may be included.

Rachel Blaney, MP for North Island – Powell River tells the story of the political activism that called her to service as an MP. Her dedication to community and to representing those values in the House of Commons is a story of passion and commitment to her work.

Andrew Stringfellow was born the son of a black Alabama sharecropper who made it to Berkely in time for the beginning of the black power movement and subsequently came to Canada and became a counsellor and family therapist. But his passion for racial justice has continued since his youth and he has worked to support the black community in the Comox Valley for many years.

Evelyn Gillespie has been an activist since her university days, first in student residence life, then as a “campus politico” with colleagues like former NDP MP Svend Robinson. She then took on roles as a community leader in Toronto and as president of a large and engaged community association in Calgary. When she moved to the Comox Valley in the 1980s, she entered formal political life as part of the Comox Valley Health Council, then as MLA for the Comox Valley. After her life as a provincial politician, she carried on sustaining the “Third Space” of a community bookstore which is a hub of creativity and thought in downtown Courtenay.

Mayor Leslie Baird of Cumberland is another woman politician with a story of strong perseverance – she’s been an elected councilor of Cumberland for 28 years and has just entered her third term as mayor. She has witnessed the huge changes in her village and overcome many obstacles in her path to build a strong community.

The Living Library will be open from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 16 at the Vancouver Island Library at Sixth Street and Duncan Avenue in Courtenay. You may reserve a 20-minute conversation with any (or all) of the books, in the Library branch or by phone 250-334-3369. Or, you can sign up on the day for any available session.

The Living Library is a project of the Community Justice Centre, in partnership with the Vancouver Island Regional Library Courtenay Branch and is funded by a grant from the federal government through the New Horizons for Senior program.

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