Rachel Crouse's blog post
Hello! My name is Rachel Crouse, and I have been tuning into this course from Dundas, Ontario, which has been built on the traditional territory of a number of different Nations, and is part of the Dish With One Spoon Wampum Belt Covenant between the Haudenosaunee and the Anishinaabe Nations, to take care of and share this area and its resources (Nandogikendan, 2020). This land was home to the Neutral / Attiwonderonk Confederacy, headed by the Erie Nation, after which it was home to the Haudenosaunee Nation, and then the Mississaugas, who were pushed out of this area by encroaching settler development and consumption of resources (Mulkewich, 2003). As a white settler on this land I want to recognize and give thanks to the Indigenous People who were stewards of this land, long before my existence. I also want to recognize 1492 Land Back Lane, the current struggle for sovereignty, recognition and reclamation of traditional land, very nearby to here, on Haudenosaunee territory. Thanks to Angela Connors, I now better understand the importance of beginning with this land acknowledgement (Connors, Angela, personal communication, White Fragility Workshop, March 6, 2021). I am a queer, cisgender female and am also a mama of two amazing tiny people!
My focus in this blog post is mainly just to reflect on where I am at after participating in the Activists and Activisms course. I wanted to approach this blog post in this way because this felt the most authentic in terms of where I am currently at. There are a lot of social justice issues I care about, but as of right now, and for the last 11 years, I have not been doing a whole lot of active work to support positive social change in the world. I have attended some protests, made some donations and written a few letters, but it’s been minimal. Taking part in this course has simultaneously made me realize how much more I could be doing, while also showing me that every small step counts. This course, and the workshops I have participated in alongside this course, have inspired me in a healthy way that I have never experienced before.
I have a 10-year-old and a 4-year-old, and I find parenting really hard. It has pretty much consumed me for the last 11 years. I left university 12 years ago caring about a lot of different things, but also feeling completely overwhelmed and powerless. Nowadays, with my kids, I get apocalyptic anxiety almost every day because I am genuinely concerned about what their future will look like. I care about the health and well-being of this earth, its many ecosystems, lifeforms and, humans. And yet I don’t feel that I do a lot of ‘activism’. In class we have dissected the word activism, and its definition for me has absolutely been broadened. In our first virtual class we discussed how the word activist or activism may not resonate with everyone who is participating in creating social change (Chazan, May, and classmates, personal communication, Class Discussion Wednesday, January, 20th, 2021). We began to see that there are many types of activism(s) and that activism doesn’t always have to be loud and performative (Chazan, May, and classmates, personal communication, Class Discussion Wednesday, January, 20th, 2021). We learned that activism doesn’t always have to be fighting against something, but can also be about building (Chazan, May, personal communication, Class Discussion Wednesday, January, 20th, 2021). I like thinking about activism in this way when it comes to myself, because I am now looking at the internal work I am doing to build my knowledge base, inform and educate myself, as a tiny act towards social change. About a month ago, I listened to Amah Harris and Sandra Whiting speak during a ‘Lunch and Learn’ about Art and Activism, hosted by the Institute for Change Leaders. During this, Amah Harris said that, to her “activism means change” (Harris, Amah, personal communication, Art and Activism! An ICL Lunch and Learn, March 2, 2021). I really liked this simple definition because this is now how I see activism. May Chazan often uses the term “social change work” and I think for me, this defines what I strive to support and participate in. Even though my definitions of activism and social change work have been broadened, I still don’t think I am doing as much as I could to actively work for the change I would like to see in the world.
In our syllabus May outlined some possible approaches we could take for this final project. My goal with this blogpost was to participate in an online activist or social change webinar or anti-oppressive training and then make a creative piece about what I learned. I knew I wanted to participate in at least one webinar or training session because I know I have a lot to learn. I was also excited and open to further opportunities to learn and grow. I learned a lot from the different workshops I participated in. I learned how, in order to address my own internalized white supremacy, I will need to continually be taking small steps towards learning, acknowledging, and recognizing how this manifests in my actions and expressions (Connors, Angela, personal communication, White Fragility Workshop, March 6, 2021). I now understand that I will always be needing to continue to do the work to address this in myself if I want to be a supportive ally working for social change (Morris, 2017).
In the White Fragility workshop with Angela Connors and Rhea Shahe, Angela explained how important these small steps towards change are and to consider ourselves as a pebble, and when a pebble hits water it creates ripples that flow outward (Connors, Angela, personal communication, White Fragility Workshop, March 6, 2021). She was exemplifying how important internal work towards change is, because it will inevitably ripple outward as it is expressed by you to those around you. The theme of smaller acts creating larger ripples of change was carried throughout the whole course and many of the workshops I have attended over the last couple months. This started with our first video we were assigned, listening to Angela Davis speak. The beginning of this video resonated and therefore stuck with me because, in talking about dismantling systemic segregation, Angela Davis carefully outlines how “ordinary people” knew that there was a better, less harmful way to live:
“ordinary people became collectively aware of themselves as potential agents of social change; as holding within their collective hands a power to create a new world…ordinary people learned how to adopt a critical stance in the way they perceived their relationship to reality…a collective consciousness emerged within the context of social struggles” (Davis, 2006)
She is showing the power of how the small act of just thinking about social change added up when people came together with the same thought to actionize change. Even a tiny pebble hitting water creates change in the water. Apply this to humans and even tiny internal work, or small steps you are taking towards change in yourself, add up and ripple outward creating change in the world you might not even see.
I think the reason small steps and the pebble creating ripples resonated so much for me is because this is exactly where I am at. I wanted to center this blog post around this because I am, one hundred percent, currently in the process of taking these small steps, to try to strengthen myself, educate myself, and inform myself. I am kind of waking up after a long lull (I don’t want to give a false impression of parenthood, because it is by no means dull). I have been putting a lot of my energy into caring for my children, and can now begin to spread some of this energy into other areas of my life. I need to work on myself first which I have always hated saying because I associated it with an excuse for inaction. Now I genuinely realize the work I need to do on myself in order to be able to be a solid ally and safely and effectively work towards the change I would like to see in the world (Morris, 2017).
I have realized so much of my “fear” of acting or “not knowing what to do” is actually quite tied to my hesitancy to give up my comfort.
I see a similarity between my relationship with art and my relationship with activism. I am learning the same thing about being an activist as I am about art. I now feel that both art and activism are more about slowly building. They are about the everyday practice and the exploration. They are more of a process than one final, grandiose act or piece of artwork. In our class led by Jenn Cole I had planned to ask her how she overcomes fear to be able to do art, because this is something I struggle with the most. It is rooted in fear of not being good enough, and really perfectionism. But then Jenn Cole really took us through an artistic process in small steps and showed me through this process that being an artist is about expressing oneself creatively, not about what the final piece looks like. It is more about the small steps and the process of creative exploration. In class we spoke about both activism and solidarity as processes (Chazan, May, personal communication, class discussion March 17&24, 2021). Both being an artist and working towards social change are more about the smaller expressions of constant everyday practice.
This parallel between art and activism also connects to the ways we dissected the word activism in class. In class, Professor May said “we need to understand that sometimes our language and/or concepts fall short, that words fail to resonate in different value systems and ways of knowing” (Chazan, May, personal communication, class discussion, February 3, 2021). May was explaining to us how the word activist or activism might not resonate with everyone, but I think this speaks to the importance of the connection between art and activism as well. I find that the words in the English language so often trivialize or minimize the expression of ideas. I have always struggled with words. I have trouble organizing my thoughts and translating all of the thoughts, feelings and learning I am doing into words. Maybe this is just how my brain works, but I think this is why art is such an effective vessel to communicate through. I feel that art speaks a language outside of words, and this way it can reach a greater audience. This is why it was important to me to create a piece of art for this blogpost.
The animation I created for this final project really ended up bringing together so much that I have learned. I created this animation of two hands dropping a pebble and this creating ripples in the water and it was hard. It was many small steps and long hours of drawing almost the same thing over and over again. I couldn’t help but smile as I realized even the process of creating this animation felt like exactly what I wanted to write this blog post about. That now to me, I see social change work as more of a long, slow, process and continual effort.
I am now thinking of myself as a little pebble and my experiences on this earth as the water. This little pebble is also getting shaped by the water as it sits by the water’s edge, it is getting smoothed and formed and polished. Similarly, I am now just working on trying to build up strength, informing, learning and growing the little pebble that is me, so that I can try my best to make sure the ripples I send out are healthy and not harming to the water.
I am now thinking of my parenting to be like dropping pebbles in water as well, the pebbles being love and care and the water being my children. I have always felt that it is important to take care as a parent because you are at least partially responsible for your child’s experience of the world, as well as their effect on the world. It will be my greatest achievement if my children grow up to be strong, content, caring and thoughtful human beings. These kind of people/pebbles have so much to offer the world©
I do care so much about this earth and the health and well-being of all of its inhabitants. This course has deeply inspired me and reminded me that I need to be more active if I am going to claim to have this care. It has also shown me how little decisions, choices, and actions all add up over time.
After this course I am committing to continue to do the self-exploration and self-work needed, with continued readings and upcoming workshops, to work towards being a safe, available and reliable ally. I am committed to holding present that this work will never be done, and that I will continue to take the small steps to do this work, always.
I just want to conclude with a big thank you to May Chazan for how she has so wonderfully organized this course and so eloquently taught us every week. I want to thank Melissa Baldwin for assisting May throughout this course, sharing with us at our Activist’s Roundtable discussion, and doing the work to set up this blog post for all of us, saving us students from that extra technical work, which I know I personally would have struggled with! And I want to thank all of our guest lecturers and speakers we had in the course, Jenn Cole, Angela Connors, Shannon Culkeen, Mehrangiz Monsef, and Ziysah. I truly learned so much from all of you and will be forever grateful for what you shared with us!
“All activism is speculative fiction because we are daring to dream of another world” – Syrus Marcus Ware during his public talk, All That You Touch, You Change: Black Trans Leadership in the Time of Abolition, March 1, 2021.
If anyone wants to continue to discuss these things, connect more and / or continue to share with each other you can reach out to me at any time! My email is Rachelecrouse@gmail.com.
I just want to further recognize the on-going struggle to reclaim traditional land on Haudenosaunee territory, by drawing attention to some links below:
We can donate $$ to the land protectors who have been occupying traditional Haudenosaunee territory at the 1492 Land Back Lane camp for the last 9 months here: firstname.lastname@example.org
We can learn more and get regular updates about 1492 Land Back Lane here:https://www.facebook.com/1492LandBackLane/
We can donate to support protectors facing legal costs at the 1492 Land Back Lane GoFundMe legal fund page: https://www.gofundme.com/f/legal-fund-1492-land-back-lane
My oldest kiddo, Emerald, wanted to add something to my blog post so the fox animation on here is her work!©