Letter from the orga collective

Let’s start with our story: some of us found ourselves in the middle of a grassroots activist meeting collecting topics for discussion and grouping these topics with tiny pieces of paper on the floor. We observed as the others quickly collected their “serious” and “pragmatic” topics and formed clearly-divided and task-oriented working groups, leaving behind the topics most dear to us! We swept up the remaining sheets of paper and spent quite a bit of time just looking at them, trying to name the common thread, trying to understand what kind of group would emerge. We soon realised that we’d been left with the deep water: all the emotional topics that people prefer to avoid, all the complex oppressions and privileges we constantly try to reflect on, all the darker sides of how struggles affect our collective and person well-being…

Rewind to so many months and years before when some of us have found ourselves so overwhelmed by the personal support we’ve been offering to our comrades, to when we’ve been disappointed in lack of support structures in our communities, to when some of us grew into our collectivity and our political analysis through feminist consciousness-raising in our groups, to when we built solidarity amongst ourselves by developing practices of collective care, to when some of us were called ‘hippies’ for speaking out about our emotions and ridiculed for taking care of ourselves, to when some of us experienced such intense break-downs we weren’t sure what to do or if we would make it to the next day, to when some of us had positive experiences with professional mental health care, to when some of us took breaks from activism to recover from lots of pain, to those moments when we felt helpless in supporting each other, to those other moments when we were unsure if it’s ever even possible to be radical and happy, and to those moments when we discovered new boundaries and new strategies and we were learning new ways to support each other without burning out…

Fast forward to now. We’ve chosen to dive into this deep water together. we’re swimming around, exploring the dark edges, and coming to terms with the ways lack and access and pain are dictated by capitalist structures and how entangled that all is with our mutual support, healing, and survival.

We don’t have a common understanding of all the things we want to discuss, process, do together. We are ok with holding this tension. We come from different contexts, grew up speaking different languages, and have different experiences that have affected us emotionally, psychologically, and materially. For us, it is important to keep this in mind in our communication with one another and with everyone else. Our aim is not to educate, but to give space for sharing. We want it to be ok to describe ourselves as crazy if we want to, or to talk about mental health or distress or well-being or to talk about darkness. We refuse to allow medical terminology to be imposed on us, yet we retain the right to use it when and if it feels empowering for us. There are multiple reasons for our varied use of terminology, not exclusively related to empowerment, but related to access, socialization, and a lack of words. We want everyone to be able to choose how they want to describe their experiences. Acknowledging that the words that empower me may differ from the words that empower you, we choose to hold this tension as well.

We do have a common desire to create space for empowering exchanges and skill-shares. We want to pull the taboo topics out of the depths and find ways to build relationships, cultivate DIY creativity, and highlight self- and collective-care as forms of resistance.

We remain critical of some discourses on self-care as well as some healing practices, particularly those that are overly individualistic, not contextualised enough, or encouraging consumerism. We’re open to talk about these important criticisms, understanding that some methods are helpful to some people and not to others. And let’s be honest, there are often some fine lines between liberation and appropriation or between innovation and elitism. But we do want to make it clear that we will support any claims made from an anti-oppression standpoint. And we will make adjustments, if needed, to programming, audience, or format in an attempt to make the space safer for all (which does not mean that we want people in privileged positions to be ‘safe’ from criticism/call-out… on the contrary).

We want the event space to be a safer space. To achieve that we will provide some practical guidelines here, however safer spaces are best held by everyone together. We are in an ongoing process of shaping how the safer spaces team can be more aware and/or more present with the specifics that may or may not arise from this event’s subject matter. And we look forward to input on this ongoing, collectively-shaped process.

Apart from that, we aim to shape our interactions based on these principles.

With Love and Solidarity,