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

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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 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.  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 the template developed by the Radical Mapping Project Vancouver (please credit them).

Sisters of Frida have also produced a toolkit for practical, physical access to events.

London

Central London

North London

East London

South London

  • New Cross Gate Trust – wheelchair accessible and free for community groups to use some evenings.
  • Deptford Lounge – not free but is wheelchair accessible.
  • The Café at The Albany (for smaller meetings) – they don’t make you buy anything and it is wheelchair accessible, although not private obviously as it’s a public café.
  • Peckham Library – not free but is wheelchair accessible.
  • Bermondsey Village Hall – not free but wheelchair accessible.

Thank you to Sisters Uncut 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