A Brief History of an Activist

Amelia Curran shares 'Watershed' video and talks mental health in essay

It may not surprise you to learn that I was a youth activist. Following the well laid footpath of my sister, who followed the well laid footpath of our father, who followed his heart, and a community-driven sense of social justice.

I was happily swept from the Community Services Council, to Oxfam, to Youth For Social Justice, to the NDP Party, to rallies and protests and camps and sit-ins and shove-outs. Youth activism, our sense of empowerment and our ownership of the role — became a fad. We shopped at thrift stores but spent hundreds on Doc Martin boots. We ostracized anyone who claimed to love Nevermind but had never heard of Bleach. Posers, and their threat to our own authenticity, became the single most offensive injustice of life. (Ah, the Nineties in Newfoundland. Before Friends. After OJ.)

My sister, academic phenom and true to life warrior, went to law school. I plumb disappeared and became no one.

I was no one for over a decade. Sometimes I was someone else. When I was twenty, I was a 30-year-old French tourist named Jacquie (True story.)

My own sense of empowerment as a youth failed quickly and devastatingly because I was easy to ignore. Depression at that time was quite trendy, though we may not like to say so, and my opaque dreariness that loved company in 1995, left me segregated by 1996. I was that girl. Needy and poor and outrageous, full of stories and piss and vinegar. We didn’t talk then like we talk now. Depression was only a mood, a sadness, a colour. You shake it off or get out of the way. I couldn’t do it. I invented things and then believed them and they formed barbed wire around me and everything bled out.

This is a small part of a much larger story of course, but the story is known to you. Girl goes crazy, girl sings, community tolerates girl, girl gets better. That old classic yarn. Diagnosed, medicated, educated, and mindful, I have returned. And everything I learned about fighting for social justice back when I was following my sister around – all that is still there.

Your move.

Change does not occur without people. Including those who are easy to ignore. Homeless people, who are people. Mentally ill people, who are one in five of every kind of people. And young people, who are more powerful than nature.

One person, dreaming of changing the world, is never alone.

St. John’s, Newfoundland native Amelia Curran followed-up her 2014 JUNO Award and Polaris Prize-nominated record, They Promised You Mercy, with Watershed in March, via Six Shooter Records. Indie88 is please to premiere the latest video from the songwriter, activist, and mental health advocate. “Watershed” is the title track from Curran’s eighth studio album.

In addition to her work as a songwriter, Curran also helps run It’s Mental, a “grassroots not for profit organization working to inspire real change within our mental healthcare system, and rallying a mandate of education, services, and support.” Curran lent her writing abilities to Indie88 to pen a short essay titled “A Brief History of an Activist,” detailing her experience growing up in Newfoundland and insight on navigating the uncertain waters of mental wellness.

Check out Curran’s acoustic performance video for “Watershed” below.