MARG member Sharmeen Khan was recently interviewed by Toronto journal Upping the Anti about her work as an activist and her 10 year journey as one of the founding editors of the journal.
Sharmeen Khan is a South Asian feminist and socialist with more than two decades of experience in movements and activist media. She organizes with No One Is Illegal-Toronto and has been active in community radio for 15 years. She currently works at CUPE 3903 and is a Research Assistant at the Media Action Research Group through Lakehead University. She lives in Toronto.
How did you initially become involved in radical politics and movement media?
I first got involved in radical politics as a teenager when I was living in Regina. I came through the Regina punk scene, Food Not Bombs, and animal rights organizing, which I think is a beginning for a lot of radicals. But then I found socialist politics, and I began branching out into various issues around uranium mining in Saskatchewan, Indigenous sovereignty, and Cuban solidarity work.
I didn’t have a concept of “movement media” then. I saw media as an objective medium and I didn’t see activists having an integral part in it. My goal as an activist was to get favourable coverage by mainstream journalists. But during that time, I started writing for an alternative weekly called Prairie Dog Magazine, and they introduced me to folks at Briarpatch where I joined the board. I was really lucky to be in such a small city and have two really good options to do alternative print media. I also did zines and was part of zine culture. For me, those were two different interests; there was overlap, but I didn’t know the concept of “media activist.”
This was when the anti-globalization movement was starting. I was getting involved with organizing against free trade initiatives such as the Multilateral Agreement on Investment and the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). I went to my first protest convergence at the APEC summit in Vancouver in 1997. Media was really integral to that. During that time, I began to actively integrate media with radical activism – through print and radio.