Reading and Discussion Group!

undoing_border_imperialism 2This 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.

The first meeting will be held at the Ringcross Community Centre, 60 Lough Road, London N7 8RH, on Tuesday 5th February, 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 broadly 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 and  not be guaranteed to be fragrance free.

If you need further specific information please contact us!

There is no childcare provided but kids are welcome!

This month we will be reading Harsha Walia’s Undoing Border Imperialism. 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.

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!

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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 Sidewaystimes  facilitated a workshop with rashné and Lani (the person writing this post)    at the Our Bodies Know event, hosted by Archeries. 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.

Some wheelchair accessible venues in London for meetings and events

If you want to find an accessible venue in London, Access Able (previously Disabled Go) is a good place to start – https://www.accessable.co.uk/.  They do fairly comprehensive audits of particular venues, and you can search by location, type and name of venue (type the name of the venue in the box labelled ‘I’m looking for…’) and filter by accessibility requirement, venue type and distance. Another way is to type that venue and Access Able into a search engine and you will find the venue’s audit if they have done one.

Here I will collect a list of accessible venmeeting-space-office-reception-1058604ues. However, not all may have had a full access audit so it is advisable always to check with the venue first.  Or look to see if there is an Access Able audit.

If you have any comments or information to add, please contact us. It would be great to keep this list expanding – both in and outside London!

If you would like to do your own audit you could use this one – https://radicalaccessiblecommunities.wordpress.com/the-radical-access-mapping-project/radical-access-mapping-project-vancouver/  – please credit Radical Mapping Project Vancouver.

Sisters of Frida have also produced a toolkit for practical, physical access to events – http://www.sisofrida.org/resources/sisters-of-fridas-accessibility-guide-to-meetings-and-events-a-toolkit/

London

Central London

  • Waterloo Action Centre – wheelchair accessible but not free. For bigger events and meetings.
  • The Cut, 106 the Cut – community room, wheelchair accessible and low cost.
  • Fitzrovia Community Centre (not free)
  • Somers Town Community Association (not free)
  • Holborn Community Association (not free) – https://www.holborncommunity.co.uk/
  • Marchmont Community Centre (not free) – http://www.kcbna.org.uk/aboutus/hire/

North London

East London

  • Whitechapel Ideas Store – not free but is wheelchair accessible – https://www.accessable.co.uk/venues/idea-store-whitechapel
  • Canvas Cafe – community space that’s free – wheelchair accessible but no disabled toilet facilities.
  • Tindlemanor- relatively low cost and is wheelchair accessible.
  • Latin American Women’s Aid – wheelchair accessible – not sure if free.
  • St Luke’s Community Centre – wheelchair accessible but not free

South London

 

Thank you to Sisters Uncut – http://www.sistersuncut.org/ – for providing some venues that they use.

 

To Be Grateful

Gratitude is a practice; it is a practice which can make someone feel alive and heard in the world, and one which can make someone feel small, unwanted and worse. Perhaps here I’m talking about two different kinds of gratitude.

For a long time I resisted the idea of cultivating a gratitude practice mainly because I saw the expectation to be grateful as a way which oppression manifests itself in the society in which I live. Children are often told to be grateful for what they have as a remedy for either seeing injustice or directly experiencing injustice. In the Protestant tradition, as far as I can see, being grateful became a virtue which was put onto others. The poor should be grateful for what they have; those people over there should be grateful that we came to civilise them; the disabled people should be grateful that we have not left them to die. It is wrapped up with charity and toleration of your circumstances rather than a window to liberation. The way that expectations of gratitude are structured and repeated become a tool to disconnect and separate people.

Used in this way gratitude is a way of indoctrinating people, telling them that their ways of life are not the right ways. Expecting and telling people to be grateful as a way of infantilising them. When I use the word infantilising it implies that a child is less than fully human. In my mind this brings us straight back to the

gratitude jarstripping of humanness that structures of gratitude do in the world. The practice of expecting gratitude has been and continues to be a tool of oppression. One function of this is to stem anger about injustice. This adds weight to the sense that anger is not a good thing, and it is not easily tolerated. But part of working towards liberation is to make space for anger, to take up space with our anger. This is a form of resistance.

There are of course many types of gratitude practice, and of manifesting gratitude, not all of which operate to stem anger, infantilise, or oppress. Appreciation for what is now, for the good things in life, for small things; appreciation for the work you do, how you survive and for your skills and strengths; for the fact that you are here and that you are enough, no matter what. This kind of appreciation cultivates a sense of belonging and a sense of groundedness.

This kind of gratitude practice, appreciating the small things that you are grateful for, is about connection rather than disconnection. Connection to what is happening now, to humanness, nature, the world and your place in it, to the beauty in the universe and to the people around you. Being grateful for the small things makes it easier for me to be grounded in what is happening now.

But then what about the place of anger?  The difference here is between something that is given to you that you should be grateful for and something that is innate, your innate human connection. Perhaps we should refuse to be grateful for the things we are ‘given’, and refuse to honour the expectation of gratitude which keeps silence, allows smallness and diminishes everyone. Instead, we should work to honour our innate right to follow a life of joy, love and anger, using a practice of being grateful for it all.

by Lani Parker

Food is politics

Dee Woods and Leslie Barson talk to Lani Parker of Sideways Times about their experiences of working in the award-winning Granville Community Kitchen.

Food is politics. Every time we eat something or we go to a shop and we decide to buy say chocolate versus locally made bread, we are making a political choice that impacts on someone somewhere in the world.

Listen to the podcast

Read the transcript 

Lani: Welcome to Sideways Times; a UK based podcast in which we talk about the politics of disability and disability justice. Through this podcast I hope to have many conversations which broaden, deepen and challenge our understandings of how to work against ableism and how this connects to other struggles. I am Lani Parker and in this edition I talk to Dee Woods and Leslie Barson about their work in Granville Community Kitchen. We talk about themes such as community infrastructure, food sovereignty and gentrification. You’ll hear more at the very beginning of the podcast. Relax and enjoy this round the table discussion.

Yeah so if you want to introduce yourself… We’re laughing because I – we had some of this conversation and I thought I was recording it and I wasn’t so now take two.

Leslie: Take two.

Lani: Yeah.

Dee: [Laughs] This is not live radio! thank goodness yeah.

Leslie: Er. Right I’m Leslie Barson and I’ve helped – I’ve been working in the Granville Community Centre for a long time on South Guildford estate and I, along with my friend, helped to found an organisation called Granville Community Kitchen, which is about – for me it’s very much about community and community building through food issues or community issues too, around…

Dee: Yeah.

Leslie: Yeah, yeah.

Dee: And I’m Leslie’s friend. [They laugh] Dee Woods, I’ve been involved with the Granville Community Centre, which has gone through various iterations and sort of co-founded Granville Community Kitchen, which is now an award-winning –

Lani: Ooh.

Dee: – yeah, project was recently named as one of London’s fifty Urban Food Heroes.

Lani: Yeah, yeah. Very proud. So yeah, it’s made me feel slightly stilted again now because [laughs] we’ve had like a twenty minute conversation already. But, as you might know, my name’s Lani Parker. This is Sideways Times and I’ve brought these two wonderful people around the table because I think the work they’re doing is brilliant and I like them both very much –

Dee: Thank you. [Laughs]

Lani: – and I wanted to have some conversations with them about food and community and infrastructure, what we need for survival and how we get to actually build what we need and in the context of the UK as a colonial nation at a time of Brexit and all of those sort of things. So I just wanted to, yeah have this conversation. So I hope you enjoy it; the people who are listening.

Dee: How long do we have?

[They laugh]

Lani: We have however long we like –

Dee: OK.

Lani: – but about forty-five minutes [laughs]. So yeah… tell us a bit more about whatever you want to tell us for a bit.

Dee: Granville Community Kitchen was set up to sort of meet the needs of a community that was in sort of deprivation; long-term and entrenched deprivation. So our sort of tag-line or whatever is empowering community through food and within that we saw that we have a community – a very diverse community and people who have skills, knowledge, especially coming from various countries, that they could pass on with regards to food and food growing and cooking. But you know as Leslie just said, it was also about community building because the area has been under regeneration again. We saw that the community was being divided and we wanted a way to bring community back and to build those bonds again and yeah, just sort of community resilience, basically using food as a way to build that.

Continue reading “Food is politics”

Being and building otherwise: a conversation between rashné and Lani – Part 2

This is a continuation of the conversation we began, using Harsha Walia’s Undoing Border Imperialism, to explore organising spaces, interdependence and relationship building.  

Part 2 picks up on the theme of slowness and preparedness in organising, as well as the necessity of centering relationship-building in a world of scarcity and precarity.

This is not a “polished piece.” And, of course, it doesn’t reach some kind of end point but we hope that it can serve as a something to continue from…

Lani

I really love what you said and made me think a lot things I hope that some of it makes sense.

Slowness and responsiveness also relates to building as well as being: the current system forces us to be reactive because it is full of scarcity and fear. We are built to be both reactive and responsive, I think, but the responsiveness is the element which allows us to build. What does it look like to really build together?

One of the principles of disability justice that came out of a group of disabled people of colour in the States emphasises collective liberation: what does it really mean to move together, to be responsive together, and not be simply reactive? I feel there are a lot of times when I’m trying to organise with people that I feel, and probably am, slower than others. I can be both slower and faster – perhaps we all can be.

Sometimes I think that it doesn’t look like much to be slow, that you can’t really “see it” – perhaps it is more of a feeling. I know that for me access is more of a feeling; it’s not so much about whether I can get into a building but how people react, how people are flexible, how people see me. Like you said, if you slow down, you can often see better. Learning to really see each other seems to be part of the work. Being doesn’t always mean being slow and I often really don’t know how to be collective about that. I guess it’s about holding each other. But how does that look? It doesn’t always look like waiting. It would mean grappling with deep-seated feelings of loneliness and grief and also fear. I think that both disability justice and healing justice work can see some of this.

I hear what you’re saying for yourself in terms of being selfish and needing to find people who nourish you and to let go of those who don’t…. And the fact that this is lonely work. It made me think about how much it is possible for me to create those spaces by being different. Not necessarily letting go but holding gently, giving space. How much do I have the resources to not get sucked in by negative energies or situations (as I do have a lot of resources in this power structure!)? Perhaps this is about the ways that we are connected.

From the moment we are born we are betrayed – born into a world that does not meet our expectations, even when we are born into the arms of people who truly love us we are disappointed by them and betrayed by them in small ways which are painful and enormous ways which are painful. This conversation is also making me think about the way that we learn and unlearn patterns of behaviour and intergenerational trauma. There is a lot of talk about the importance of vulnerability, about how we do not know how to be loved, about how we cannot bear it and that the only way we can do it is to actually show that vulnerability.

 

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rashné

Our conversation makes me think, on the one hand, of something obvious – that to be in community is to be in relationship. And we often do describe organising spaces as community. On the other hand, precisely because to be in relationship requires a certain kind of work – of building intimacy, of making oneself vulnerable, of holding some form of responsibility to one another – we may actually tend to place a separation between this organising community and other relationships, i.e. relationships outside and beyond organising ‘communities’. I know I have been guilty of this for certain. And of course, in the context of facilitation and mediation, we see that there’s various groups needing support around “accountability”. But isn’t this all about learning how to be in relationship?

As you say, this is possibly because we are constantly living within a dynamic of scarcity. There’s too little time, too little energy. And so what we have we use on cultivating (hopefully) nourishing private lives. In a previous blog post I wrote: “Precarity, then, is a concerted strategy to disallow collectivity and solidarity. In this circumstance, the fight against precarity must be the fight to create and maintain the conditions for solidarity.”

This brings us back, of course, to capitalism. And to lies, too, maybe. But if scarcity and precarity is what disallows us from forming organising communities as relationship – not just as places of action, of work – then surely a critical political task is to do precisely that, i.e. build organising spaces as relationship?

This is what I mean when I talk about the misuse of decoloniality. Oftentimes in organising spaces we talk about being in community, building community. But if we were to actually try to practice this, it would require a radical – “decolonial” – rethinking of what politics is, of what our work is. But I’m not sure we do that. We take up ideas without really thinking through what it is to practise them. So, perhaps we are building our own “alternate” web of lies?

I think all of this is quite related to disability justice – please correct me if I am wrong. The way I understand it is, disability is constructed around these very notions of scarcity, precarity, of a certain kind of lack (and speed/slowness being an aspect of that lack). I don’t want to make some kind of simple comparison between those that identify as disabled and those that don’t, but I do think it is necessary to ask ourselves about all the ways in which we have been disabled by colonialism and capitalism. What kinds of sense of wholeness – or fullness may be a better word – have we been denied? And do we refuse to recognise, because to do so would be too dangerous?

 

This post has also been published on rashne.li.

Thanks for reading this far – hope you liked it. We’re hoping to keep the conversation going so we’d love to hear your thoughts too; if you want to pick up on any of the themes, feel free!

 

being and building otherwise: a conversation between Lani and rashné, part 1′.

Over the past few years we have been having various conversations with various awesome people in our lives about organising and the sustainability of movements in the current climate. Thinking about questions like: what is it that we need? How do we envision ways of being that do not rely on the colonial capitalist logics that are so normalised in our everyday. How can we be, now, in ourselves and with each other, the ways we would want to be in other imagined worlds?

Many people have said  and written numerous useful things on these topics. Our initial conversations were deeply influenced Harsha Walia’s Undoing Border Imperialism and led to a “collaborative correspondence on issues like the form of organising spaces, on the possibility of building different kinds of relationships, and the meaning of emotional justice and community care.

Below is a bit of this conversation – it is split into two blog posts. Part 1 starts off the conversation by looking at being and doing, reacting and responding, and grief and loss.

This is not a “polished piece.” And, of course, it doesn’t reach some kind of end point but we hope that it can serve as a something to continue from…

 

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Lani

We are human beings not human doings! Today I held a small baby who I love very much and was reminded of this as she cried and sat and looked into my eyes and smiled playing with her hands, interested in everything.

The system of colonial capital relations has stolen the being from us and made them into something else, into a fiction, a figment of our imagination, to strive towards something that doesn’t make any sense at all. Not only has it stolen the being, it has distorted and stolen the human. Continue reading “being and building otherwise: a conversation between Lani and rashné, part 1′.”