Weather: Warm and bright and pleasant
Number of people: 8 stoppers, 2 walkbys
Number of hecklers: 0!
Pages of notes: 10.5
People who got the Peanuts reference: 1
Pictures taken without permission: 1
Dogs seen: 5
Dogs pet: 1
Money raised for Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island: $3.30
I sat facing east today, and it did seem like more people were walking westward than eastward. Both food trucks were also parked on the westward side, screening me from view for people who were walking eastward. I had my lowest number of conversations to date at this site in this season. This highly scientific comparison is thus far inconclusive.
Nonhuman animals present and visible: grackles, sparrows, pigeons, starlings. The grackles made a nice sound.
One of the people I spoke with brought up the method of agenda:hacking as a tool for organizers. I don’t know anything about it other than what that link says and haven’t (knowingly) been involved in any meetings that used it, but I thought I’d pass it on. This same speaker, as you’ll see, spoke a lot about their involvement with post-Trump organizing here in our state: I know that you all know I get permission to post what I post here, but I want to make it especially clear that I did get their permission, since they’re talking about their interactions with specific organizations.
I seeded the map with “Great Salt Pond.”
I get anxious when things are supposed to happen. Like about seeing certain people—my kids, my girlfriend.
Before or during?
Before, sometimes during.
Do you have anything you do about it that you already know works?
Smoke weed. Most of the time it works.
It sounds like you already have a way of dealing with the anxiety, but is your goal to not ever get to the point where you feel it?
Yeah, I’d say that’s the goal. Music helps a lot—playing it and listening to it. I do music, that’s therapy for me.
I think one form my anxiety takes is the pervasive feeling that it’s too late in many ways. I’m thinking about the gross scale—individual communities do more or less great jobs trying to address this, but often people who are super passionate about the “environment,” or just the state of the world—how more intersection can be invited, how to network groups of people who are working on different aspects of the same thing. Supporting more mindful agricultural practices used by Black and Indigenous farmers, combining that with permaculture—how do people continue to meet each other? I guess that’s not an anxiety, it’s a curiosity about organizing and how can socializing be a deeper part of organizing?
A related anxiety is: post-Trump-election, how do people become aware of the fact that organizing is ongoing? A lot of people seemed eager to create something new and massive that is reiterative on a lot of issues–[I’m thinking of] the Working Families Party and Resist Hate Rhode Island, who have … a lot of very well-intentioned organizing around issues that could be described as “environmental” issues, but it’s not anti-racist or anti-oppressive, and when you try to get it to be, there’s pushback from white centers of power. Then you get people saying things like, “We don’t have any power, we’re volunteers,” when sitting on a steering committee [for an organization] confers power, at least in decision-making processes! How do people who come from a variety of relationships to work and labor—not just from corporate or even nonprofit structures—how do we learn to make decisions together more collectively?
Is that part of the “too late” feeling? Like, “If we can’t even do this…”
I feel like that sometimes. … I’ve been looking at the history of the ebb and flow of the orientation of separatism. I’ve had elder mentors who were in that space, and I used to not get it, but now I’m like, Damn, do we just need to go over here and do our thing? It’s not insurmountable, but it bogs people down, and it’s confusing because we are all oriented toward the same goal, of making a world that’s not only habitable but better than the one we know now. I’ve been thinking about this question of sustainability—maybe that’s not what we want to do, to sustain, but to refigure or to dismantle some things.
Working in PVD Fest as an artist, I’m noticing what is more or less profitable to talk about as an artist in such a space. … Cultural influencers in this city could take a lot more stake and stock in what they put their name on—like what just happened at Local 121 with House Party Vibes, these overlapping spaces of parties and social events to [in this case] benefit relief efforts in Puerto Rico. But of course it’s based on what is captivating people’s attention currently, so we see “a crisis” rather than one moment in an ongoing crisis in occupied territory How do we connect dots, how do we show that crisis is not exceptional but sustained? The government has a knack for introducing people to crises as discrete.
After the election, there was this outpouring of empathy, and not like I want to say empathy is a bad thing, but it has to be coupled with intimacy … so that when truth is spoken in a space, you hear it. A lot of people of color who do organizing, or not, a lot of queer people are asking straight people, various generations are asking: how do people just gather their own and then emerge into community and relationship with each other? Difference in identity and experience is a blockage—that’s nothing to be ashamed about. We need people to gather and have the same kinds of rigorous conversations, and do this useful or necessary pulling apart before coming back together.
Do you have any experience with that kind of dismantlement, someplace you’ve seen it work well?
The thing is, I have more examples of the other thing. With Resist Hate, there was harm being done in meat and digital spaces. Specific and explicit harms were named and action asked for—really specific suggestions about how governance could be changed, base-building and decision-making. But the steering committee was unwilling to change their course. Power in these situations is extremely real and completely imagined. … I’ve seen continually that people don’t know how to organize without engaging shame and punishment. It seems like [Resist Hate RI] couldn’t get away from that model of punishing and shaming each other into action or into modifying behavior, and I think we need less carceral approaches, more de-escalation.
Why do you think that happens?
The issues are too large, too confounding. People want rules instead of thinking about practices, instead of engaging the heart and mind or asking, “What is a way that I can approach with care?” … I think it has to do with agency and modes of control, seeking to control the situation, and to receive affirmation—it can be such a blow to be told, “That’s great, and you should also consider this whole bunch of other things,” or, “We’re just wondering how this approach is going to include racial justice.” It seemed like it was more important to them always that momentum be maintained than correcting course. Slowing down has so many potential impacts, creating the ability to organize, making sure people are seen and acknowledged.
… I feel anxiety too about—my pathway to learning better ways of organizing has a great deal to do with my own personal access, both to types of education but also just—I’ve been talking to my parents about situations that are real in the world, and their response has been like, “Well, we don’t live in New York,” or, “Well, we don’t live that lifestyle.” Like, “The way we live is so utterly different from the way you do it that we just don’t have any frame of reference.”… One of the people I’ve been really influenced by recently is adrienne maree brown–I’ve been loving her challenge to reconsider things that are deeply entrenched in my mind or entrenched culturally. How in whatever situation do you apply the ways that you think about it, the set of practices that you think about? There’s something rich in this set of values because it’s so literally about adaptation. I want to approach all things with so much more inquiry. A lot of my practice is rooted in teaching: you learn about something, then you want other people to know about it and experience it, so you try to deliver that experience, and that’s not maybe as successful as inquiry and invitation.
[These two came up together.]
Person 1: Climate change makes me anxious. The denial of climate change in everyday practice, feeling abstracted from the land. I think the immediate consequences of it, we’re insulated from by infrastructure. I try to push myself to think about it but most of the time I kind of push it out of my head. I think about it, but I don’t feel much about it.
Why do you think that is?
It’s too big. The feelings available are, like, despair, which feels like a bad reaction, or hope, which doesn’t feel like it has much efficacy. I don’t feel like I have a third way that makes sense, or makes common sense. So in everyday life, my coping mechanism is refusing those two options, and that doesn’t do much.
Do you talk about it with other people?
Yeah. That tends to be more like, “This is exciting,” like how they’re making artificial reefs out of the Tappan Zee Bridge.
Person 2: They do that with old subway cars, too. They’ve been doing that for a while now.