Join us in celebrating the tremendously successful sHell No! Paddle in Seattle Flotilla. Check out some of the amazing photos from the day and the massive amount of positive international and national media coverage we earned. Help us seize the momen...
Join us in celebrating the tremendously successful sHell No! Paddle in Seattle Flotilla. Check out some of the amazing photos from the day and the massive amount of positive international and national media coverage we earned. Help us seize the momentum of our collective people & paddle-powered pivot away from dirty fossil fuels to a sustainable renewable energy-powered future!
On August 17th in downtown Seattle passersby were invited to take part in a public interactive art installation to expose racism as the “elephant in the room.” The event was organized by activists from the pacific northwest and around the country who participated in Backbone Campaign's annual week-long Localize This! Action Camp.
About a week prior in the same location white progressives attending an event where Bernie Sanders was speaking were challenged by activists identifying themselves as part of #BlackLivesMatter. The Elephant in the Room action was a response to the request by people of color for white people to educate themselves to see racism and white privilege and then take actions to end racism.
See the bottom of the page for a brief summary of a lesson that we've learned that at least in part spurred the creation of this action and resources.
People of color are asking, inviting, and demanding that white progressives move beyond defensiveness and denial. It is time for us to instead listen deeply and confront the disease of racism that infects all of us and seeps into the structures of our society. It is time to work with others to acknowledge our privilege and spend it to dismantle systems of oppression.
At this year's Localize This! Action Camp participants stepped forward into their discomfort and grappled with how we as progressives and people of privilege can act as allies to communities of color. Participants at camp yearn to manifest our shared aspirations for racial justice and collective liberation. We listened to the requests of people of color - that we work with white people to educate them about systemic racism and commit to dismantling structural racism and white supremacy. Moreover, we sought the leadership and guidance of people of color in formulating the final action. Localize This! participants went beyond their week-long training and discussions around anti-oppression work to then take these difficult conversations into the streets and creatively and authentically engage with the public.
Elephant in the Room During the bustling lunch hour in downtown Seattle, masses of the public were surprised to find a 12 foot inflatable elephant in the room. Many people wearing white privilege blindfolds (literally) were unaware of and not addressing the epidemic of racism (the elephant in the room).
Destory Cantastoria We invited passersby to watch a Cantastoria. We told racism DESTORYS (play on words intended) using murals depicting how racism seeps into the structures of our society manifesting as police brutality, the poisoning of communities of people of color, and the school to prison pipeline. Read and download the Cantastoria script HERE
Living Room Conversations Then, the public was invited to continue conversations on white privilege, racism and allyship in the living room we set up in the park. The comments made by people of color who stopped by affirmed and validated the need for this type of work and their appreciation that camp participants were organizing it. They hoped that other communities would do the same.
Commitments to Racial Justice Before the public left we encouraged them to get their picture taken holding an oversize speech bubble where they wrote one public commitment towards racial justice work they would make. Some of the commitments people made were:
"I commit to speak up, stand up, and show up."
"I commit to disrupting the status quo in order to share power and privilege to all"
"I commit to recognizing other peoples' emotions are valid"
"I commit to taking more personal risk in standing up and speaking up for racial justice."
"I commit to educating my family and community about racism"
"I commit to having the conversations with other white people when it would be easier to say nothing."
Public Engagement We distributed 500 copies of a flier detailing commitments people can make to work towards racial justice and ways they can identify their privilege not afforded to many people of color. In addition to two television stations showing up, the social media efforts garnered 271 tweets using #BeyondDenial and earned 476 retweets from the hashtag #ICommit2 reaching 566,758 people and has been seen 2,206,291 times (# of impressions).
Memorial For Those Killed By Police The public who didn't engage with the installation walked a sidewalk lined on both sides with a memorial to the 1,200+ people who have been killed by police since the murder of Mike Brown. While we hope no more names will be added to that list, we hope that other communities will add to the memorial so it honestly reflects the staggering numbers who have fallen victim to police brutality. Each of the current ~200 placards have an black and white stenciled outline of a victim and heart in the middle with the persons name written on it.
The discomfort of these conversations and the work of dismantling the systems that elevate whites with more power and privilege all pales in comparison to the hardship and systemic violence experienced first hand by people of color. White progressives have a responsibility to at least educate ourselves and learn how to ACT as better allies. Allyship is not a merit badge or a title, it's an ongoing struggle to act in solidarity with marginalized groups of people. Only together can we dismantle racism and oppression and strive for collective liberation.
Please share the following conversation starter with your friends and family: What the #BlackLivesMatter movement has accomplished in the year since Mike Brown's murder is nothing short of impressive. If you needed proof just look at the fact that in Ferguson, MO sweeping changes to the city's court systems were announced including the withdrawal of all arrest warrants before December 31st 2014, citing the epidemic of racism throughout the (in)justice system.
Many progressives are inspired by the work of people of color, but don't know how engage authentically as an ally. What is worse, many uncomfortable with the type of tone or tactics of some actions become defensive or distance themselves in a manner that inflames divisions and hurts the movements for collective liberation. Dismantling the deeply embedded systems of oppression is inherently agitational and necessitates the strategic escalation of conflict. The tone and tactics of people of color will likely look different than those employed by people who have been shielded from the violence of racism by their privilege. People of color deserve to be honored and respected to organize actions as they see fit that are authentic to and represent the shared lived experiences of their communities. Otherwise, progressives risk doing the work of the oppressors for them. Progressives risk reenacting the divide and conquer tactics that plague our movements for justice. Progressives should not police the organizing of people of color for what they perceive as respectability, especially when the war on their communities, fueled by racism, looks like 1,200+ people killed by police since Mike Brown's murder. The action at the conclusion of Localize This! Action Camp sought to highlight and model what active allyship could look like. We sought to both educate and drive people to commit to take action practicing true allyship. Will YOU do the same?
****** NEW DATES ***** 7th Annual Localize This! Action Camp August 11-17, 2015 (stay until the 18th, if you can.)
The below is info from last camp but will give you an idea what to look forward to. REGISTER HERE
Vashon Island, WA (short ferry ride from W. Seattle)
Localize This! is where we get inspired, recharge our batteries, and reflect, and cross-pollinate ideas alongside friends, allies, and some of the most effective change agents from across the U.S. It's the NW's dynamic Cross-Movement, Artful Activism, Strategy, Creative Tactics & Community Organizing Intensive Training Camp!
Tips for Crowd-Funding your camp participation- HERE
Friends Don't Let Friends Miss Localize This! Action Camp -Bring your action buddy or your whole affinity group
All year long, the Backbone team appears in our region and across the country, but only one time per year does the country come to us. For the past six years this gathering has been at the cusp of movement innovation, a source of numerous collaborations, and a spark for countless creative actions from viral Flash Mobs to Giant floating buttocks. Our giant 1% arrows banner and light projections preceded Occupy. 2012's camp lifted up Eviction Protection in the Seattle area and now our allies are celebrating a victorious Eviction Blockade. Our first camp even helped save an island!
Vashon Island, WA (We encourage people to arrive the night before and leave on the morning after final action and closing celebration.) Cost: Sliding scale $200-$500 for week(No one will be turned away for lack of funds*) Per day $30-$75 (suggested)
All Camping, Trainings, and Delicious Locally-Sourced Food are included!
Bring a sleeping bag if you have one. Sign up to ATTEND TODAY!
* FYI - Please consider helping cover the cost of scholarships for participants from impacted communities by increasing your payment to $400 or more. The real cost of camp for Backbone is over $350 per person.
Who's Coming To Camp?- Build Connections & Train Alongside Allies Working on:
Coal Trains/Coal Ports/Tar Sands/Fracking and Fossil Fuel Extraction Resistance.
Please Join them in supporting this movement building work.Donate TODAY toward scholarships for deserving emerging activist leaders from impacted communities. There are people from around the country who need your support to attend camp and we will not turn anyone away for lack of funds.
There is nothing the Backbone Campaign does that is more crucial to preparing progressive change agents or weaving connections between them than our annual Localize This! Action Camp. Enable Change Agents from across the country and from diverse backgrounds and struggles to participate by pitching-in today!