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activist

Activism

Activist Parenthood- discovering hope and practicing peace

5 February, 2013

I took Ramona on her first protest march when she was a couple of months old. It was a rally calling for alternatives to the proposed government cuts.

She was snuggled up in the sling, complete with a sign that said “These cuts suck!” (Get it? Hehe.) Despite being behind a huge brass band from one of the Unions who honkytonked the whole way round the route Ramona managed to sleep through the nearly the whole thing!

I really believe that marching, speaking out, writing letters and occupying can bring about change. In fact, I am fairly sure it is the only thing that ever has. The frustrating thing is that the change so rarely comes as an instant response, but often many years later, very slowly, as all these form of protest take on an accumulative effect. We are where we are now in this country – with equal opportunities for women, employee standards, child rights, only because there has always been a faction of society calling for a better, fairer world.

We held family fun days at Occupy with arts and crafts and  a bouncy castle

So, as an activist, it was inevitable I was going to be an activist mum…

I spent a good couple of months of my maternity leave at the Occupy protest at St Pauls cathedral. We cycled up almost every day and met a few other parents and tots there. We had a huge toy box and the kids would play and we would talk about the society we dreamed of, and felt was possible.

Ramona even learnt to walk in that beautiful space, lumbering towards the manky pigeons and attempting to ascend that huge staircase.

I am sure it was a place where all the kids learnt something. They learnt hope – that whole crowds believe in an alternative to injustice. They witnessed zeal – that some people are prepared to seem foolish in order to hound these ideals. They discovered diversity and democracy, as people clung to new systems of decision making. There was a joy there, a happiness that can only be found in collective vision chasing, and also a raw anger, a peaceful kind of hunger for something different.

The Kids corner at Occupy- Tots with a Cause teehee!

These are things that are so often present in activist spaces. I felt them intensely at Occupy but experience them also when sewing with the Craftivist Collective or campaigning with the IF movement against hunger. I choose to bring her along and have her involved in these things and I am sure this is all shaping Ramona’s view of the world, helping her sense of “Can Do” and hope.

Recently I have been captured by the idea of parenting as being a potential spot for social justice and world change in itself. That bringing children up gently and respectfully can have a HUMONGOUS impact on society and global systems. Robin Grille charts this in his fascinating book “Parenting for a Peaceful World” – revealing just how exactly the correlation between peaceful child nurturing and peaceful society is – and the reverse, that the bloodiest times in history sit perfectly next to our most violent parenting practices.

I’m convinced these days that every time I opt for love and freedom and respect with Ramona, I am also making a choice about the world I want to live in. I can nurture peace-lovers or war-mongers! Fortunately, I think we are moving towards a place where parents are increasingly allowing their children to bloom and grow in absolute love. Hooray!

Bringing up our kids can be so vital for the future of a fair and beautiful society. But it doesn’t need to be a burden, this idea.“Ah, maaan?! Now I need to try and not bring up a violent dictator as well as making sure she gets Five a Day?” I hope instead it can be liberating- the sense of immense value put on our day to day lives; we are doing a job equal to that of the Prime Minister. (It IS a shame that the only thanks we get are in the form of snotty-nosed snuggles and the only pay is in the form of raisins tucked in to our bras.)

I am heading off on to my second round of maternity leave in a few weeks, with a Spring baby due, and I’m looking forward to having time to devote to even more activisty things with the little ones, confident that they will be learning about justice and hope. But for each day I am not campaigning on something I will reassure myself that my peaceful parenting is equally as important. Now I just need to dot some placards and a honkytonk brass band around the house to keep me motivated… Parenthood and activism

Have you taken your kids on a protest? How do you feel about the potential of parenthood as activism?

PS I originally wrote this for Story of Mum, a creative online network who are focusing on activism this month- go check out their fabulousness.

PPS I’d hate for you to miss a post… enter your email to get them pinged into your inbox. I won’t be spamalot, promise!


Activism

Solidarity stitching and a jar full of hope

20 June, 2012

 An inner-city meadow, a three piece band, jam sandwiches, a strawberry patch,  fifty stitchers, a barn of animals and my little toddler rampaging around.  It was a weird wee scene; both very local (I’m sorry, but East London is crazy. Everyone wears such silly clothes but I KNOW they are clothes that we will all be wearing in two years time. *gah* Those hipsters) and hugely global.

We were crafting up lids to fit on to jam jars, jars that would eventually be filled with a scrumptious tomato jam – based on a recipe from a Kenyan farmer, Christine.

In a way Christine is your typical farmer – but what makes her typical is pretty surprising. She is a woman, for starters (women are responsible for most of the world’s food production). And she also doesn’t have quite enough food to eat (small scale farmers like Christine make up 50% of the undernourished and women make up 80% of the world’s poorest.)

 But Christine’s jam oozes with bold, sticky hope.

A few years ago Christine was destitute, her husband had died of Aids and with no rights or access to power, Christine and her two kids were reliant on the kindness of strangers. Now, however, she chairs a small female cooperative group who grow tomatoes (one of those mega crops that is resilient to livelihood upheavaling drought) and they make this jam to sell at the market. The jam is BEYOND delectable and is a right old hit with the customers.

That is quite a story for one little jar to contain, don’t you reckon?

A jar of hope

I guess it was in an act of solidarity that we came together in one of London’s city farms to eat said jam on sandwiches, and to let our creative juices pour out over needle and thread.  We talked about hunger, the parts of our global food system that are utterly broken, the ways people can do something, who we were going to give our jar of jam to.

Stitching my first jam lid. I had to unpick it as it was properly ugly

We have masses of tomato plants in the garden and I can’t wait for the glut to hit *probably announced a bit to hopefully* –  I am going to fill my little jar up, pop my stitched up lid on and give it to my MP, Harriet Harman.  I will ask her to stand up on behalf of small-scale farmers like Christine, to fight the powerful tentacles of huge food corporations, and to promote local food systems in our urban village of Camberwell.

Freedom from hunger. (Bit rubbish eh, but you can understand how bad my first one was if I kept this one!)

Needless to say, Sunday was probably my ideal kind of day. Dreaming together of a future where everyone has enough to eat, crafting up world changey messages and letting Ramona frolick with the farm beasts (check out this little video of her encountering a rooster) combined all the things I love.

And I think it is here,  taking what you love and doing it for a more beautiful world, where change lies.  Hope doesn’t thrive when limited to certain behaviours,  and activists fizzle out after the one millionth petition signature. But if people can marry the thing that gives them energy – be it sewing, blogging, gardening, writing poetry, being a hipster-  with their passion for justice and fairness, change will come.

Solidarity Jam:

 Makes 6 jars

 Ingredients:

● 5 cups peeled and quartered tomatoes.

● Strips of the tomato skin

● 5 cups of sugar

● 1 lemon, sliced thinly and seeded

● 2 tablespoons butter

Method

Put tomatoes, sugar and sliced lemon in large, heavy pot and bring to slow boil over medium high heat, stirring occasionally. When foam rises to surface, add butter and continue stirring and simmering until preserves thicken, about 45 minutes. (To test, stick a fork in. When preserves cling to tines of fork, it should be thick enough to can). Pour preserves into sterilized jars, seal and process in hot water bath for 15 minutes.

This is your world. Shape it, or someone else will! 

Read about Oxfam’s GROW campaign and join the movement of people who share a vision of EVERYONE thriving and NOT A SOUL going hungry

It isn’t too late to join in. Perhaps you want to host your own lid stich-in and get solidarity jam making in autumn?

To get the full low-down on this beautiful project have a peep at Craftivist Collective founder (and the wonderful person I job share with here at Oxfam) Sarah, explain it in this AMAZE vid:[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nd42D3_akyc&w=560&h=315]

Have you found a way to do the thing you love for good?

Activism, Parenting

Activist mummy

17 February, 2012

I have been blathering on about crafty shenanigans and vintage hauls for quite a few posts now. I would absolutely forgive you for thinking that I have forgotten that there are many ways to make the world a more beautiful place.

I get a feeling that when I post about political/socioeconomic/protest stuff readers roll their eyes and think “DULLLLLL”. They tend to be my least read and least commented posts. Is it because it is alienating? Or lacking creativity? Or bereft of cute Ramona photos and stories?

She lost a pompom. A pom?

Who knows. Let me try and remedy this by ticking ALL those boxes. Wish me luck!

This morning I woke up pretty stoked. We have had a brilliant few days having a sort out and beautifying our home with a few licks of paint (tick) and finally getting some of our lovely secondhand goodies on display (tick!) Ramona and I have been having so much fun chilling out together recently, her talking her little head off (it seems she tends to mostly talk about Gok Wan) me showing off all my moves as we crank the music and have dance parties, as we chase each other for HOURS around the living room, ending up rolling around in stitches.

The faces she pulls!

But as I tuned in to Twitter to find my timeline filled with the latest info on the UK’s corporate slave trade (Workfare in government lingo) and a link to a Suzanne Moore article about demonising poor people I became ANGRY. Like sweary angry.  Stomach crunchingly, teeth clenchingly mad.

What sort of a world are we putting up with? How can we be okay with increasing numbers of our neighbours being pushed further into poverty? Why is our government getting away with policies that consistently discriminate against vulnerable people? What am I going to do about it?

It has never been more easy for me to ignore these questions, to pat them down and say “Sit! … Stay..Stay” as if they are some persistent Jack Russel trying to get attention.  Being a mother is BUSY! It is physically exhausting all this running up and down the stairs, crawling around with a toddler clinging on, throwing a giggler into the air. But it is also meaningful. It is a wonderful and satisfying thing loving a new little person. It gives me a contentedness that makes my striving for other goodness in the world fade away just a little bit.

The truth is I do feel like being a loving parent is enough. I believe that children who have strong attachments and are loved and loved and loved are going to be the people who pour out more love later. By loving we create lovers. And the world definitely needs more lovers. We need lovers to run our countries, the IMF, the ECB. Lovers to paint and build. To organise our banks, to teach, and police the streets.

But still…

I do want Ramona to see me getting angry with the unfair status quo. I do want her to feel that individuals can be powerful, that action can change things. That letter writing, marching and tweeting can create a new mandate and a new story for our world.

I think I need to work on that balance, to make sure motherhood doesn’t ever blinker me to the reality of injustice and the power of fighting it.  Thank goodness for Twitter, where in those few chilled out moments as she drifts off to sleep I can get a little bit furious AND do something about it.