On this week's episode of Talking Radical Radio, I talk with Robert Massoud about Beit Zatoun, a cultural centre and grassroots space in Toronto. It emerged from a project focused on supporting Palestine to become a multi-issue space, hub and infrastructural node used by many grassroots initiatives focued on many different issues -- while still constantly returning to the importance of Palestinian struggle.
In 2004, Massoud founded an organization called Zatoun, which is the Arabic word for "olive." Since that time, Zatoun has imported fair trade olive oil from Palestine and sold it through grassroots networks and select independent businesses in North America. Massoud, who is Palestinian-Canadian, has been active in a number of ways in supporting a just peace in Palestine, and this sale of olive oil is a way of supporting Palestinian farmers and building material connections between sympathetic people on Turtle Island and the lives and realities of people in Palestine.
This episode is not about Zatoun, however, but about a space and an organization that emerged from it in 2009 -- Beit Zatoun, it's called, which means "house of olive." It is a name familiar to anyone involved in grassroots work in Toronto, where the organization managed to secure central, beautiful, and highly affordable space, and established itself as a cultural centre, a gallery, and a meeting and event space for people from a broad range of communities, organizations, and movements. Beit Zatoun quickly became a piece of widely used infrastructure for all sorts of grassroots work in the city. With no government or foundation funding, they have survived based on olive oil sales, space rentals, admission fees, and of course the hard work of volunteers, and have hosted more than 650 events in the last fives years, including cultural events, arts events, films, meetings, book launches, teach-ins, debates, discussions, and many other sorts of grassroots educational endeavours. Though Palestine is never far from the goings-on at the centre, its work is informed by a vision of offering broad solidarity to diverse efforts to create a better world. Though the space is now threatened by gentrification, and will have to move within the next two years, it remains an inspiring example of how determined effort can reestablish what Toronto-based organizer and scholar Alan Sears calls "the infrastructure of dissent."
To learn more about Beit Zatoun, click here.
Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada. We give you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show in general, visit its website here. You can learn about suggesting topics for future shows here.
Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Sudbury, Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.
Thank you for reading this story…
More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.
rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.
So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.
And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.