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Monday, July 4, 2022

How Powerful Sounds of Protest Amplify Resistance – Podcast

When you think of the protest that fills the streets, do you remember the visuals of what you saw? Impressive images are often circulated in the media, such as the one we used for this article.

But can you also close your eyes and remember the sounds that surrounded you?

For me, the sound has always resonated – sometimes that’s what I remember, long after the streets were empty and quiet again.

Maybe it’s the sound of “No justice, no peace” or “I can’t breathe” at a Black Lives Matter protest. Or theater shaking from stomp their feet after a speech by a brown gay rights activist. I still hear it. I also remember Toronto police horses clattering on concrete during a protest against police brutality in 1992.

Everyday sounds are important too. The usual sounds of a Saturday: music from a fruit stand, neighbors shouting “hello” to each other, the rumble of a Q train in Brooklyn. These sounds can define the surroundings. And if you do not pay attention to them, as life changes, sounds can disappear.

In this 2020 photo, protesters in Winnipeg sing in support of the Wet’suwet’en people’s protest to keep pipeline workers out of traditional British Columbia First Nations territory.

In today’s issue Don’t call me persistentI’ve talked to two people in sound research who think that sound is an element of resistance. They explain why, in our hyper-visualized age of perfect Instagram photos, sound is so compelling and why soundscapes can help amplify the voices of resistance.

Nimalan Yoganathan is a PhD candidate at Concordia University. He studies protest tactics and looks at how various practicing sound engineers have contributed to the anti-racism movement.

I also spoke to Norman W. Long, who was born and raised on the south side of Chicago. Norman is a sound artist, designer and composer who documents and records the daily reality of his community. He holds degrees in landscape architecture from Cornell University and in fine arts from the Art Institute of San Francisco.

Both of our guests talk about the importance of listening to the sounds around us to engage critically with our communities, help navigate our deep divisions, and pay attention to the forces of power in our surroundings. They say that anyone, even a child, can learn to listen carefully.

As Long invites insiders and outsiders alike to listen to his community’s sonic walks, he begins with a short breathing exercise. He said:

“The breathing practice took me back to COVID-19 and the murder of George Floyd. In both of these cases, African Americans are more vulnerable to contracting the virus and more likely to be killed by police. There is also the fact that most areas with high levels of air pollution and toxins are predominantly poor and African American. When we breathe, we are aware of our mind-body connection, our connection to each other, and our connection to those who cannot breathe. We can breathe for them and listen to the street, the noise and the riots, and join the chorus that demands justice for black and brown people all over the world.”

This is a different type of episode: instead of our usual interview style, we let the sound guide us. I encourage you to listen and follow our conversation and playlist.

“Staying Alive” by Mustafa.


ICMYI’s Talk


Follow and listen

You can listen or follow Don’t call me persistent on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts. We’d love to hear from you, including any ideas for future episodes. Join the conversation on TwitterFacebook, Instagram and TikTok and use #DontCallMeResilient.

Don’t call me persistent Produced and hosted by Vinita Srivastava. This episode was co-produced by Ligia Navarro. Hayley Lewis is the co-producer of the series and Vaishnavi Dandekar is the assistant producer. Jennifer Frost is our consulting producer. Lisa Varano is our Audience Development Editor and Scott White is the CEO of Conversation Canada. Don’t call me persistent is a production Conversation Canada. This podcast was created with a journalism innovation grant from the Social and Human Research Council of Canada.


Unedited transcript

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