Sideways Times – Reading and Discussion group – Stairs and Whispers D/deaf and Disabled Poets Write Back

Having only scratched the surface of this, we thought we’d discuss this collection again!

Stairs and Whispers: D/deaf and Disabled Poets Write Back, edited by Sandra Alland, Khairani Barokka and Daniel Sluman.

Stairs and Whispers - D/deaf and Disabled Poets Write Back. Edited by Sandra Alland, Khairani Barokka and Daniel Sluman

THE BOOK: The book is a ground-breaking anthology examining UK disabled and D/deaf poetics. The publishers write: “Packed with fierce poetry, essays, photos and links to accessible online videos and audio recordings, it showcases a diversity of opinions and survival strategies for an ableist world.”

To accompany the book, the poets also produced some audio and video content. You do not have to read the book to participate in the discussion. If you would like to borrow a copy, please email us at sidewaystimespodcast@gmail.com

There is also more information about the book here:

  • selection of pull quotes from the book’s reviews
  • an analysis of the reviews it received and the biases they contain
  • a Sideways Times podcast with Khairani Barokka (Okka), one of the editors, about her work as an artist and writer.

WHEN: Tuesday July 9th, 6.30pm-8.30pm

WHERE: Ringcross Community Centre, 60 Lough Rd, N7 8RH

FOOD: There will be vegetarian food available, probably three-bean chilli (vegan).

TRANSPORT, ACCESSIBILITY, CHILDREN: The nearest Tube station is Caledonian Road (this is wheelchair accessible) and the nearest Overground station is Caledonian Road and Barnsbury (also wheelchair accessible), both about 5 minute walk away. Nearby buses include 153, 259, 17, and 91.

The venue is broadly wheelchair accessible; the toilets are not the best but you can use them with a wheelchair. The toilets will be gender neutral. There is no childcare provided but kids are welcome!

If you are unable to make it to the venue, but would like to join in remotely, please get in touch as we should be able to arrange this (e.g. via googlechat). Email: sidewaystimespodcast@gmail.com

Rethinking Hate Crime Laws, Misogyny and Disability

by Lani Parker

UK Hate Crime law is currently being reviewed by the Law Commission, and civil society groups will be invited to respond to the consultation. The aim is to assess whether to treat crimes motivated by or demonstrating hostility or prejudice against women (i.e. misogyny) or hatred of older people as hate crimes. The Law Commission is therefore surveying the scale of these problems in order to decide whether to award higher sentences for such offences. The police trialled treating misogyny as a hate crime in Nottingham last year, which revealed that offences targeting women were ‘highly prevalent’.

prison

It’s not difficult to agree that directing violence and abuse at someone because of who they are, because of their identity, should be stopped. It’s also not difficult to see what a devastating impact acts of violence like this have on individuals, families and communities. So it is completely understandable that organisations that represent marginalised people might want to have these incidents recognised as specific acts of violence that target people for who they are. When I worked within the disability sector supporting survivors of hate crime, I saw the trauma that constant harassment causes and I also saw the impact of violence. When people did come forward to report their experiences to the police, which was quite rare, they wanted to feel safe in their neighbourhoods. They wanted justice to be done and they wanted to be heard and not dismissed by the authorities, or anyone else.

In my experience, the reporting of a hate crime, whether it be related to disability, race or sexual orientation, started off a process where the survivor had to recount incidences and document if and how it continued. The reporting in itself could sometimes give a feeling of being listened to by the authorities, but this was often short-lived as the process for proving that harassment is a hate crime is long and drawn out. Reporting at a police station can be re-traumatising for many people, particularly those who have experienced police brutality, and the reporting itself certainly doesn’t necessarily stop harassment if it is ongoing.

There is an understanding amongst disabled people’s organisations that experience of ableism, misogyny, racism and homophobia do not happen in a vacuum – they are part of the everyday oppression of disabled people. Here, I want to address this bigger system, and specifically the use of prisons and punishment within it, in order to raise concerns about advocating for increased sentences or police powers of criminalisation, even when it appears to be on the side of those experiencing violence, in this case hate crime.

What are prisons really for?

Whenever we are dealing with the criminal justice system, and incarceration in particular, we need to understand the wider network of surveillance and criminalisation it relies upon – namely the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC). Empty Cages defines the PIC as: “the overlapping interests of government and industry that use surveillance, policing and imprisonment as solutions to economic, social and political problems… the mutually reinforcing web of relationships, between and not limited to, for example, prisons, the probation service, the police, the courts, all the companies that profit from transporting, feeding and exploiting prisoners, and so forth”. This definition is a starting point to understanding how the PIC works as a tool of control, particularly targeting people of colour, other working-class people and disabled people.

We can see this in particular ways. For example, recent statistics show that black women are more than twice as likely to be arrested as white women in England and Wales. We can also see this in increasing state powers such as Prevent and immigration powers to criminalise migrants. This control is necessary to ensure that marginalised groups do not rebel as easily, and are deterred from doing so – it’s a tool of segregation, as were workhouses, and as psychiatric hospitals and segregated schools still are. All serve to define, segregate and incarcerate.

The British state and other states, particularly settler-colonial ones, have used prisons as a tool of control as part of their imperial projects, going as far back as the colonisation of Australia as a penal colony. Later on, directly following the Indian Rebellion of Independence in 1857, the British set up a penal colony in the remote Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean. They went on to build a massive prison there based on Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon design, in which every inmate knew that in any moment they could be watched from a central guard point in the centre. The rise of prisons was part of European capitalist imperial expansion, and the creation of the concept of the individual upon which capitalism relied: As Angela Davis points out, “Before, the acceptance of the sanctity of individual rights, imprisonment could not have been understood as punishment.”[1]

Today, prison sentences are disproportionately given, and disproportionately long, according to ethnicity. A 2011 study by The Guardian of over 1 million court records found “black offenders 44% more likely than white offenders to be sentenced to prison for driving offences, 38% more likely to be imprisoned for public disorder or possession of a weapon and 27% more likely for drugs possession.”

There are high proportions of people with learning difficulties in particular incarcerated or caught up in the legal system. According to a recent report by the Prison Reform Trust, 7% of people in contact with the criminal justice system have a learning disability compared with only 2% of the general population. We also know that a high proportion of prisoners experience mental health issues, although the government has no recent statistics. In 2009, the Prison Reform Trust estimated that 70% of prison inmates had two or more diagnosed mental health illnesses.

Systemic change, not punishment

Abolitionists understand violence as systemic, rather than as occurring in a vacuum outside of the wider context. There is an understanding that violence is produced by society and is a product of racism, patriarchy and classism. For instance, recently in the UK the government has implemented policies which have exacerbated racism and ableism, including the hostile environment policy for migrants and austerity policies which have hit women of colour and disabled people the hardest. In 2016 the Women’s Budget Group and the Runnymede Trust calculated that by 2020 black and Asian women will have lost nearly double the amount of money to white men, as a result of tax, benefit and public service changes since 2010.

We therefore need a radical, structural approach which is based on accountability, not segregation and punishment, and which produces systemic change, not more violence.

What might this look like? It’s clear that when people experience hate crime they want justice. They want the violence to stop, or for it to never have happened, and for the person or people causing harm to be held accountable for what they did. I did have one person say to me that they wanted the person causing them harm to be locked up and to ‘throw away the key’. But even when we look at it on an individual level, in general, accountability and justice does not look like punishment through prison. It looks like changing the conditions that produce the harmful behaviours. For instance, the Nottingham trial’s evaluation concluded that the solution most favoured among those who had experienced offences categorised as misogynistic was not criminal remedy, but rather education to ensure that people know such behaviour is not acceptable.

Responses to violence need to be built by communities; we cannot rely on the state, as it plays a big part in producing this violence. Abolitionists work to shrink the surveillance powers of the state and the state’s ability to criminalise people. Because if we see it as a whole system, each new law adds to the ways in which the state can control people. Abolitionists also work for good housing, healthcare, and education as a remedy for poverty, discrimination and violence. They aim for ‘non-reformist reforms’; in other words, reforms that are not about developing or expanding the PIC, but rather about shrinking it and replacing it with what we need to build a world without oppression and structural violence.

The consequences of advocating for more laws which punish more people for violence caused by systemic, structural factors, risks further criminalising and controlling individuals and communities. Thus, making misogyny a hate crime would not be a non-reformist reform, one which shrinks state power, but would expand the power of the state to control us. In addition, I would suggest that these efforts also often unintentionally take away energy from challenging the causes and consequences of oppression. Although we can argue that changing laws helps educate people about what is and is not acceptable, it would be better to put our energies into education projects and creating survivor-centred ways of keeping people safe, and fighting for the resources we need in our communities. Misogyny is about the hatred of women. How we so often grow up feeling smaller than we are, being constantly undermined, frozen out of spaces we should be in. Expected to do the work, often dangerous work, and for most of that work to be unrecognised as valuable. Misogyny is ingrained into society. It is in the ways we are denied resources, the ways we are violated, objectified, imprisoned, and the ways we are killed. This is part of the system and so is the PIC. Let’s trust that we can create alternatives to violence that do not create further systemic violence.

[1] Davis, ‘Are Prisons Obsolete’ in Ethics: Theory and Contemporary Issues, 2003, p.46. For more detail, I’d recommend Angela Davis’ book, Are Prisons Obsolete?

Stairs and Whispers D/deaf and Disabled Poets Write Back – reading and discussion group – Tues 4th June

This month we thought we would discuss a poetry collection – Stairs and Whispers: D/deaf and Disabled Poets Write Back, edited by Sandra Alland, Khairani Barokka and Daniel Sluman.

Stairs and Whispers - D/deaf and Disabled Poets Write Back. Edited by Sandra Alland, Khairani Barokka and Daniel Sluman

THE BOOK: The book is a ground-breaking anthology examining UK disabled and D/deaf poetics. The publishers write: “Packed with fierce poetry, essays, photos and links to accessible online videos and audio recordings, it showcases a diversity of opinions and survival strategies for an ableist world. With contributions that span Vispo to Surrealism, and range from hard-hitting political commentary to intimate lyrical pieces, these poets refuse to perform or inspire according to tired old narratives.”

To accompany the book, the poets also produced some audio and video content. You do not have to read the book to participate in the discussion. If you would like to borrow a copy, please email us at sidewaystimespodcast@gmail.com.

There is also more information about the book here:

  • a selection of pull quotes from the book’s reviews
  • an analysis of the reviews it received and the biases they contain
  • a Sideways Times podcast with Khairani Barokka (Okka), one of the editors, about her work as an artist and writer.

We expect to talk about :

  • which poems resonated with us
  • how poetry and art supports our lives and liberation?
  • does this poetry collection deepen our understanding of ableism and how it connects to other struggles?

WHEN: Tuesday June 4th, 6.30pm-8.30pm

WHERE: Ringcross Community Centre, 60 Lough Rd, N7 8RH

FOOD: There will be vegetarian food available, probably three-bean chilli (vegan).

TRANSPORT, ACCESSIBILITY, CHILDREN: The nearest Tube station is Caledonian Road (this is wheelchair accessible) and the nearest Overground station is Caledonian Road and Barnsbury (also wheelchair accessible), both about 5 minute walk away. Nearby buses include 153, 259, 17, and 91.

The venue is broadly wheelchair accessible; the toilets are not the best but you can use them with a wheelchair. The toilets will be gender neutral. There is no childcare provided but kids are welcome!

If you are unable to make it to the venue, but would like to join in remotely, please get in touch as we should be able to arrange this (e.g. via googlechat). Email: sidewaystimespodcast@gmail.com

Reading/discussion group – Emergent Strategy (again!) – Tues May 7th

Please join Sideways Times for some dinner and discussion…emegent strategy cover

This is a space to talk about the politics and practice of building sustainable movements that build a different society — one which is not based on structures of white supremacism, ableism and capitalism — within a UK-context.

For the second month running we will be discussing Emergent Strategy by adrienne maree brown, as there’s so much to explore in it!

THE BOOK: In the tradition of Octavia Butler, Emergent Strategy is radical self-help, society-help, and planet-help designed to shape the futures we want to live. Change is constant. The world is in a continual state of flux. It is a stream of ever-mutating, emergent patterns. Rather than steel ourselves against such change, this book teaches us to map, assess, and learn from the swirling structures around us in order to better understand and influence them as they happen. This is a resolutely materialist “spirituality” based equally on science and science fiction, a feminist and afro-futurist incantation to transform that which ultimately transforms us.

THE AUTHOR: adrienne maree brown is the author of Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good and co-editor of Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction from Social Justice Movements. She is also a social justice facilitator, healer, doula, and pleasure activist living in Detroit. scarf-gold-lips-300x200

ALTERNATIVES TO READING THE BOOK: If you don’t have access to a copy of the book or don’t have time to read it, here’s some other suggestions for you to pick from:

DISCUSSION: We’ll share what we found interesting and useful from the book or other materials and discuss if and how we might apply the ideas in our own lives.

Some questions to guide our discussion:

  • In what spaces can this work be used and how?
  • Is it possible for non-black people to take this work up without reinforcing anti-blackness?
  • In what ways could the book be taken up by more mainstream/liberal politics and would this necessarily be a bad thing?

WHEN: Tuesday May 7th, 6.30pm-8.30pm

WHERE: Ringcross Community Centre, 60 Lough Rd, N7 8RH

FOOD: There will be vegetarian food available, probably three-bean chilli (vegan).

TRANSPORT, ACCESSIBILITY, CHILDREN: The nearest Tube station is Caledonian Road (this is wheelchair accessible) and the nearest Overground station is Caledonian Road and Barnsbury (also wheelchair accessible), both about 5 minute walk away. Nearby buses include 153, 259, 17, and 91.

The venue is broadly wheelchair accessible; the toilets are not the best but you can use them with a wheelchair. The toilets will be gender neutral. There is no childcare provided but kids are welcome!

If you are unable to make it to the venue, but would like to join in remotely, please get in touch as we should be able to arrange this (e.g. via googlechat). Email: sidewaystimespodcast@gmail.com.

Emergent Strategy by Adrienne Maree Brown – discussion group with food Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Join Sideways Times, in collaboration with Arteries, for some dinner and discussion…

This is a space to talk about the politics and practice of building sustainable movements that build a different society — one which is not based on structures of white supremacism, ableism and capitalism — within a UK-context.

THE BOOK: In the tradition of Octavia Butler, Emergent Strategy is radical self-help, society-help, and planet-help designed to shape the futures we want to live. Change is constant. The world is in a continual state of flux. It is a stream of ever-mutating, emergent patterns. Rather than steel ourselves against such change, this book teaches us to map, assess, and learn from the swirling structures around us in order to better understand and influence them as they happen. This is a resolutely materialist “spirituality” based equally on science and science fiction, a feminist and afro-futurist incantation to transform that which ultimately transforms us.

scarf-gold-lips-300x200
photo of adrienne maree brown

THE AUTHOR: adrienne maree brown is the author of Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good and co-editor of Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction from Social Justice Movements. She is also a social justice facilitator, healer, doula, and pleasure activist living in Detroit.

ALTERNATIVES TO READING THE BOOK: If you don’t have access to a copy of the book or don’t have time to read it, here’s some other suggestions for you to pick from…

DISCUSSION: We’ll share what we found interesting and useful from the book or other materials and discuss if and how we might apply the ideas in our own lives.

FOOD: There will be vegetarian food available, probably three-bean chilli (vegan).

WHERE: Ringcross Community Centre, 60 Lough Rd, N7 8RH

WHEN:  6.30-8.30 PM

TRANSPORT, ACCESSIBILITY, CHILDREN: The nearest Tube station is Caledonian Road (this is wheelchair accessible) and the nearest Overground station is Caledonian Road and Barnsbury (also wheelchair accessible), both about 5 minute walk away. Nearby buses include 153, 259, 17, and 91.

It also might be possible to join us virtually – please contact to discuss.

The venue is broadly wheelchair accessible; the toilets are not the best but you can use them with a wheelchair. The toilets will be gender neutral. There is no childcare provided but kids are welcome!

WHO WE ARE:

Sideways Times is a UK-based platform for conversations which in different ways link together struggles against ableism, white supremacy, capitalism and heteropatriarchy. It aims to connect theory and practice and contribute towards a culture of learning and creative thinking within our movements.

Arteries: transdisciplinary re-search + design kitchen seeding worlds where wisdom & knowledge – across times, disciplines & cultures – weave together to grow healthy, happy societies.

Reading and Discussion Group – Next Meeting – 5th March

nobordersThis is a space to talk about the politics and practice of building sustainable movements that build a different society – one which is not based on structures of white supremacism, ableism and capitalism – within a UK-context. This is the first meeting of this group and so we’ll talk about how it might be developed in this meeting.

Sideways Times is a UK-based platform for conversations which in different ways link together struggles against ableism, white supremacy, capitalism and heteropatriarchy. It aims to connect theory and practice and contribute towards a culture of learning and creative thinking within our movements.

This month we will again be discussing Harsha Walia’s Undoing Border Imperialism. There’s lots to discuss here, so thought we could look at the themes in more detail, and bring other perspectives in. The book’s blurb describes it in this way:

Drawing on the author’s experiences in No One Is Illegal, this work offers relevant insights for all social movement organizers on effective strategies to overcome the barriers and borders within movements in order to cultivate fierce, loving, and sustainable communities of resistance striving toward liberation. The author grounds the book in collective vision, with short contributions from over twenty organizers and writers from across North America.

Although this book is written from a North American perspective, some things we could discuss are whether and how it is relevant to the UK and building transnational movements. Possible topics for discussion include:

  • What is useful about the book for thinking about sustainability and growth for social movements?
  • How is it relevant to building a liberation politics that has a disability justice focus
  • Does it connect with you at a personal and/or collective level?

Obviously you are not expected to read the whole book, or read the book at all! We’ll just use it as a starting point so it doesn’t matter if you only read one or half a chapter. You can also read these short blog posts, or just come along with your ideas:
Part One and Part Two. There is also an interview with Harsha Walia in the Feminist Wire in which she talks about some of the issues addressed in the book.

This meeting will be held at the Ringcross Community Centre, 60 Lough Road, London N7 8RH, on Tuesday 5th March, from 6.30pm – 8.30pm.

The nearest Tube station is Caledonian Road (this is wheelchair accessible) and the nearest Overground station is Caledonian Road and Barnsbury (also wheelchair accessible). Nearby buses include 153, 259, 17, and 91. There will be vegetarian food available – probably three-bean chilli (vegan).

The venue is wheelchair accessible. There are two sets of toilets which will be gender neutral for the evening.  One set of toilets has three urinals and two cubicles one of which is wheelchair accessible.

The other set of toilets has three cubicles one of which is wheelchair accessible there are grab rails around the toilet and sink with a lowered sink and also an emergency pull cord and mirror! There is also a handle on the door of the accessible cubicle which could make it easier to pull closed.  The door to enter the toilet block is not automatic.

Unfortunately the venue cannot be guaranteed to be fragrance free.

If you need further specific information please contact us!

There is no childcare provided but kids are welcome!

Please let us know if you have any questions, and if you are intending to come, either by using our contact form or by emailing sidewaystimespodcast@gmail.com.

Hope to see you there!

Growing like trees

Trees in temperDSC_0563ate climates grow outwards; they cannot grow indefinitely upwards because the roots would not be able to transport the nutrients needed for the top of the tree if the tree is too tall. Even Redwood trees have a limit. Trees grow by concentrating cells in one place, for example at the edge of branches, so that they can grow outwards unlike humans where cell growth takes place everywhere. Roots grow downwards and outwards. The system of roots can be as deep as the tree is tall. Roots provide structural architecture; they can harvest enormous quantities of water and mineral resources. The stems divide into nodes which are points at which the leaves are attached, and internodes, the length of stem between the nodes. Shoots can be separated into long and short shoots on the basis of the distance between buds. Some buds can lie dormant, ready to re-grow when conditions allow.

On 2 December 2018 Sideways Times facilitated a workshop with rashné and Lani (the person writing this post) at the Our Bodies Know event, hosted by Arteries. In designing the workshop, we wanted to find ways in which we could look at movements for change and learn from other ways that change is made. We applied the way that trees grow and sustain themselves that I outlined above to thinking through ways in which change happens and how we see ourselves in that process.

We looked at the tree and found some important similarities, in particular the way they exist as a system. When you are in a particular place it’s difficult to see that there is a bigger system of change that you are part of.  In my experience, this is one of the elements that can leave people feeling isolated and burned out. In looking at the tree we can notice that everything is connected – each part communicates with the others, and are in tight mutually reinforcing relationship. Through seeing this, the  workshop gave space to talk about our own positions at the moment, and encouraged a non-judgemental approach. The idea of dormant buds seemed to be particularly powerful. As the buds only grow when conditions are right, waiting in a dormant state until they are, we can recognise that our own dormancy allows us to gather resources, and acknowledge that the conditions may not be right for us. The acknowledgement in itself provides us with power.

Dormant buds also connect to the cycles of growth that the trees go through, in response to external conditions, and also internal conditions, for example if there are not enough nutrients, or it is too cold, the tree will die-back and then start growing again when conditions change. Expansion and growth then is not a continual process, but goes in cycles which include dormancy and recuperation. So in terms of social change, dormancy can be a signal that there are not enough internal resources, and/or that we are reacting to external conditions. Leaves also fall off the tree when they have given all they can at that time, and so become nutrients for the soil. Applying this, we talked about how for people this is also often to do with conditions not being right for them and burning out, as well as lack of support. We discussed this ‘falling off’ as a powerful process which could communicate something important to the system, and also could allow for a different role to be taken up of becoming nourishment for the system.

One of the things that I loved about thinking about how trees grow is that realisation that growing outwards is an effective way of growing. For me again, it focuses my attention on making connections and expansion, with an openness to the world. This connection is grounded by communication – the different elements all talk to and support each other, giving the growth strength. So while it can appear as though the new leaf or new shoot is fragile and out on its own, it is actually held up by another part of the system that is far away.

The way that trees grow seemed to really connect with people and the metaphor opened up conversations about our relationships to movements for change. For me I came to appreciate exactly where I was and appreciate more deeply others’ positions and work. I saw in a new way how important it is to support each other and communicate to strengthen our relationships and understand how we connect.