Dear all of the wonderful people who came to the launch of Unsettling Activisms on Saturday October 27th, and also to those who could not make it but sent us good wishes.
Thank you! What a beautiful afternoon it was. What to say? A few days have passed and I am still feeling that beauty. Feeling so many things! We did not anticipate packing that room the way we did, nor did we expect so many familiar faces andso many new relationships to come from it. I am extremely grateful to every one of you who took two hours out of your Saturday to come be with us, to support local performers, and to keep up the work of building connections.
I want to take a moment to send a special thank you to Elder Shirley Williams, whose opening blessings and smudge (carried by Jenn Cole), allowed us to come together is such a good way, and certainly sent our book off into the world with goodness and hope. I also want to thank talented performers and poets, Jenn Cole, Ziy von B, Keara Lightning, Niambi Leigh, and the Raging Grannies. Your words, songs, and reflections are what made that event so special – thank you for sharing with us your love, rage, thoughtfulness, humour, and overall brilliance. It was lovely too to have so many past (and present!) students and researchers in the room, and friends, family, colleagues, young ones, old ones, and middle ones too. And to be among other book contributors, including my amazing co-editors Melissa Baldwin and Pat Evans, as well as Nadine Changfoot, Andrea Dodsworth, Mary Anne Ansley, Maddy Macnab, Jean Koning, Gillian Sandeman, and Jesse Whattam. Working, gathering, and celebrating with each of you is such a joy!
And… although I did not know this at the time we were all together, our event coincided with the massacre that took place at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh Saturday morning. So, for many of us, the day also became punctuated with sadness, grief, rage, and even fear. We were left thinking about the planned neo-Nazi rally in our community last fall, countered with the incredible resistance mounted through Solidarity Weekend; and about the mass killing at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec in 2017, and the fire-bombing of the Masjid Al-Salaam Mosque here just two years before that; about the mass killing of LGBTQ2 community members at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando; about the incessant police brutality targeting communities of colour; and about the painful injustices continuously upheld in our courts, perpetuating colonial violence and devaluing of the lives of First Peoples across this continent. The newsfeed has been relentless, cumulative, traumatic – a global increase in fascism and white supremacy. And it is as clear as ever that none of us will live with freedom and safety until we all do. We do really need each other.
I have been struggling to think of what to say, and whether to say anything in this context, given the real joy and gratitude I felt Saturday. But I am also sitting with the reality that, while we were preparing to gather, eleven Jews were killed while they gathered in a place of worship for their weekly Shabbat service and to welcome two new babies into their community. Theirs was a gathering that also brought together small babies, children, and adults of all ages, including people who had lived for more than nine decades! They were targeted not only because of our faith/ancestry, but also because they had, as a community, been connected to the work of supporting migrants and refugees – practicing activisms in their ways, working against a system that is violently rooted in white supremacy and colonialism.
If I had known, I am not sure what I would have said or how we might have held that space together, but I know for certain I would not have been silent. In hindsight, I also know that I am so grateful for all of you because, in your own ways, I recognize you as the ones in this community who are working to denounce injustice and build bridges. I also truly believe that, in our togetherness on Saturday, we contributed to this important work, which is always unfinished. We listened to and cared for one another, across all of our differences. That is the radical work of our day; that honours the lives taken by hate.
This quote from the Talmud has long resonated with me. It has been circulating a lot the last few days. So I am offering this as a gentle antidote to your newsfeeds: “Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but nor are you free to abandon it.”
Huge love and thanks to all of you,
Photos by Ziysah von Bieberstein and Maddy Macnab.