Mad Pride rises locally, soars globally

As Toronto Mad Pride organizers close the Mad Pride 2007 season with finale event Psychiatric Survivor Pride Weekend, Mad Pride Organizers in Belgium accelerate their efforts for a scheduled Mad Pride Parade to march the streets of Brussels on Saturday October 6th 2007.

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Toronto - Psychiatric Survivor Pride Weekend In Review

* On Friday September 28th 2007 at 5:30pm, Toronto Mad Pride Organizers opened the doors of Parkdale Library Auditorium, at 1303 Queen Street West, to welcome and educate the community within and throughout Psychiatric Survivor Pride Weekend.

* It is fitting Now, Who’s Crazy Now?, a one woman play, (on tour from Vancouver), by Elly Litvak which chronicles the author’s journey from mental illness to wellness and recovery, was the weekend’s first presentation because in 1985, Elly Litvak founded Puzzle Factory Theatre, Toronto’s first Psychiatric Survivor acting troupe. Puzzle Factory was a theatre, which recognized and nurtured the bud of creativity in survivors, many of whom were in the audience of this presentation! The play, Now, Who’s Crazy Now? is structured in the form of a lively monologue. Litvak’s performance skills, combined with personal experience, provide the right mix for this testimonial theatre piece.

* It is easy to understand why Elly Litvak insists that performances of Now, Who’s Crazy Now?, be followed by audience-performer discussion, as through out the presentation her work encourages people to talk, specifically to talk about the journey from illness to recovery and what that means to them.

* Now, Who’s Crazy Now? audience members, approximately 75 in attendance, left the auditorium, enriched and motivated by Elly Litvak’s creative example.

* On Saturday September 29th 2007 Mad Pride Organizers worked with individuals and groups transforming Parkdale Library Auditorium, into a ‘Mad Market’ of activity. Three of the auditorium’s walls boasted information, arts and crafts from PSAT (Psychiatric Survivor Archives Toronto), Greenspiration, Artist and Poet Helen Posno, A-Way Express, PAVE (Park dale Anti Violence Education), Edite Pine’s Evolving Stories Project, Soundtimes Art Group, T-Shirt Artist James Smith, Arts and Crafts by TK Workman. The fourth wall of the auditorium was dedicated to presentation. Audience chairs sat in the centre, creating a space where community was literally surrounded by the fabulous and strong grass roots of arts and activism, so - indeed, many thanks to the artists and educators who supported the event in this way.

* Talented singer-songwriter Tim Maxwell, topped the morning with a prelude of songs which included a lovely and moving rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Halleluiah.

* At 11am, Mad Pride Organizers opened the programming day with a cheer introducing internationally renowned folk singer Honey Novick, who graced the ceremony with her heavenly voice by sharing a prayer of peace and unity, Gord Perks, City Councillor for Parkdale High Park, energized us with his words which complimented our community building work and boosted our confidence by recognizing our achievements. The Friendly Spike of Activism, the annual award, which is actually a hand carved and engraved wooden railway spike which works a pen, created by Toronto artisan Ruth Arnold, and presented to someone who uses words to make a positive difference in the lives of Psychiatric Survivors, was presented by Archivist, Activist and Artist Mel Starkman to Carla McKague, Ontario’s first mental health lawyer, and founder of the contentious anti psychiatry magazine Phoenix Rising. Don Weitz, whom some refer to as the father of Canada’s anti psychiatry movement accepted the award, by reading an eloquent speech prepared by Carla McKague especially for this occasion. Indeed, we were as honoured by Carla McKague’s recognition as she was by ours. The awards ceremony was completed by a bit of self recognition as each Mad Pride organizer was presented with a framed certificate of appreciation for a job well done!.

* Next, Erick Fabris’ delivered an important lecture based on his research of CTO’s (Community Treatment Orders). Many individuals within the audience are at high risk of having CTO’s issued against them. Erick’s presentation provided vital education, in a down to earth and friendly fashion. By the end of his ‘talk’ about ‘CTO’S’ everyone was 'talking' about ‘CTO’s’, and continued the jag well into lunch.

* And what a lunch it was! -a delicious assortment of sandwiches, subs and wraps, cold vegetables w.dip, lots of fresh fruit and goodies galore all generously provided by The Raging Spoon, Voices from the Street and Houselink Community Kitchen.

* Mad Pride Organizers resumed their cheer at 1 o’clock by introducing Lulu Presents an original clown work created by Linda Carter and directed by well known theatre artist Mark Christmann. Definitely, the audience will treasure the memory of Linda Carter’s huge and generous talent demonstrated within her sure-to-be- a- hit play.

* Next was Ninety Minutes, an arts and education cabaret hosted by artists Naomi Laufer and Paul Cote who warmly welcomed presenters; Susanne, Christine, and Miriam from Soundtimes, Carol Allain from PAVE (Parkdale Anti Violence Education), Poet Helen Posno, Activist and Writer Angela Biscoff, Singer-Songwriter Tim Maxwell, and others!.

* Although, we were truly excited about presenting Crazy Diamond a short film by Lavarius, at 3pm, our anticipation was quelled by a technical glitch, which made it impossible to show the work. Fortunately, film maker Lavarius was in the audience and was able to invite everyone to a screening of his new work (one of which is of mutual interest), The Toronto Mad Pride Bed Push, debuting at the Gladstone Hotel, that evening as part of Nuit Blanche.

* Closing the Parkdale Library Auditorium presentation on this Psychiatric Survivor Pride Day of Days was a scene from The Edmond Yu Project. Briefly, The Edmond Yu Project is a tribute to the memory of Edmond Yu, a psychiatric survivor ruthlessly killed by Toronto police in 1997. The multi media play, written by some of Toronto’s leading human rights activists (Mel Starkman, Don Weitz and Ken Innes to name a few), is a sweeping condemnation of how society views and treats psychiatric survivors, the homeless and the impoverished. It also sheds light on another terrifying and escalating problem – that of police brutality directed at this vulnerable sector of society. In the case of Edmond Yu, the behavior of the police was abominable and inexcusable yet they were exonerated.

Within the text of The Edmond Yu Project the play achieves, at least some, justice, albeit poetic justice, as a theatre troupe of psychiatric survivors (inspired by Puzzle Factory Theatre!), liberates itself from the clutches of an oppressor, and pledges itself to give voice to their community and their cause. Indeed, The Edmond Yu Project served its true calling, a catalyst for justice, during this presentation.

* The day at Parkdale Library Auditorium was now over, however the event, most certainly was not.

* At 6pm we gathered on the front patio of CAMH (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health) 1001 Queen Street West for the Patient Built Wall Tour, guided by Historian Geoffrey Reaume. The purpose of this tour is to remember the contributions of the men and women who lived, worked, and died in the Toronto Hospital for the Insane. This is represented by the boundary walls they built which stand as enduring testament to their abilities and a monument to their endurance. We hold up this past symbol to challenge discrimination that is experienced today by people who have a psychiatric history.

Geoffrey Reaume is a caring, eloquent, kind and respectful guide and guardian of this symbol of our collective past. It is here, at the wall, where we are reminded of our strength and our dignity, reminded of why we celebrate our individual and our collective pride, that our day’s journey is done.


On Sunday September 30th, people paid their respects at the burial grounds of 1151 former patients of Lakeshore Psychiatric Hosptiatl during the LACP (Lakeshore Asylum Cemetery Project) Fall Commemoration event at the cemetery at Evans and Horner Avenue in South Etobicoke.