Began writing a year ago…

March 09 2012

More are aware that unity is the answer to oppressive divide and rule colonialism.  In these days it’s good to ask tough questions. 

Are we successfully networking in each of our territories on behalf of each other’s work within our diverse social justice movements?  Are we making connections and linking up?  Neo conservatives are organized, networking, and move ahead on greedy plans of destruction.  Generation after generation we witness abusive systemic cycles regarding sexism, racism and poor bashing stigma’s to start with; we experience the consequences of media bashing of unions, the coop housing crisis, drastic cuts done to Social Housing over 20 years and it never sufficed at its peak, it’s never allowed to.  Currently Rich Coleman announced the BC Neo Liberals redefined “Social Housing”!  There are no plans for the ever-demanding Social Hosing needs.  Their answer is advocacy, another word for poverty pimping or poverty industry getting a boom and homeless numbers rising with police state at our heels.

Look to the failed health care system, continued occupation and colinisation of First Nations and all people from within colonised lands, the destruction of native lands thru oil and gas production, which are sadly just a few of the big ones.  Add to that this insane economic system we suffer unnecessarily over generation after generation?  Information was kept from us but not any more.  Censorship is coming to the Internet unless we can rise up before that happens.

First Nations like the Sinixt near Slocan, BC are currently leading in the fight against these neocon destructive practices and continued attacks on “the people, land, water and air”.

Again: If new people came to Lkwungen Territory aka Viktoria and went to any of our Social Justice  Community Building web sites, are we showing how connected we all are?  The answer is no.

I’ve made links on our web site since conception in 2012; I don’t have near the links ups.  From Ancestral Pride, Dandelion Society, Quaker Faith In Action types to our LGBT community and many more, there is work to do; I miss old skool feminist networking.  I have personally experienced: that we often are dis-enfranchised or: disassociated, insulated, exclusionary; marginalized, often traumatized, usually dealing with some form or another of oppressions and stigma based on race, class or ability (just for starters), usually running off the seat of our pants, many of us have no belts on those pants and mostly we are barely getting our own stuff done. Many of us are survivors of child abuse, sixty’s scoop and children of residential school survivors. What we all have in common is we’ve been oppressed by an unhealthy colonial system, consciously or otherwise, we all do things like avoid conflicts best we can rather than deal head on.  It’s what system drills into us.

Many show up and leaflet, march, protest, rally and go to meeting after meeting.  We really do pull together in a crisis, we are persistent, and we often keep coming back for more after short breaks for health sakes, some have those “breaks” in jail.  All of us have a place in the production of a healthy community from where ever we may be; we all have gifts we bring to our communities that no one else can bring based on each of our life’s experiences.  We don’t have anything in this colonial system telling us this.  We usually don’t have cheerleaders cheering us on in this work. Au contraire my friends, we are often judged, seen as wasting our time, seen as having “ego complex’s” and some of us do.  When we on the front line’s of anti poverty are offered actual “no hidden strings attached” support, you will often find a shocked look on our tired faces as we wonder, “I so want to believe you.  Is this sincere?  Is their some hook?”

Sadly, it’s the work.  Harsh?  Yes. So we kind of end up cheering for each other while exhausted emotionally, mentally and physically.  Many are often left standing alone and spiritually hungry in unknown social territories.  I believe we all know that we are in a great transition globally.  I know good things are coming.  Hard to know that on a constant battlefield of surviving and wanting to thrive, knowing it, seeing it right around the corner for us all and, feeling emotionally as messed as the rest of us who are like mindedly and actively in pursuit of justice.  

I don’t know about you but I often hear we are isolated and out of touch with each other.  I agree, don’t you?  Even in our best moments, like it or not, we can be patronizing like hell.  I get feedback.  I grow.  We move on.

Lets practice our unity thru continued accountability, understanding and then forgiveness, which builds trust; lets mention each other’s work at every opportunity. That is networking.  We are all learning.  Many are doing this and lead at every opportunity.  I do not judge myself when I forget something important, if I did I’d be fucked.  Its all good, I am learning and relearning the skill of slowing down, think about what I am putting out there, am I constantly rolling my eyes and, is that maybe a sign I am doing too much or not feeling heard?  Maybe we are impatient and fed up and its good we show it more?  We cab check each other and ourselves lovingly.  Take each other out for a walk or sit on a beach.  Know we are all doing the best we can and it can only get better.

Some facts to consider:

Committee To End Homelessness Victoria (ctehv) is where a lot of projects from many diverse organizations in this city have had its roots over many years now.  Since Rose Henry, Phil Lyons put out the call and folks like David Turner, David Tat, Paul Burnside, Alison Acker, Trudy Norman and many more helped keep it going and many stayed on thru thick and thin.  We have had hundreds of homeless help glean for organizational work or research which helps us move forward.  Many homeless family members I was honored to meet thru the ctehv have passed away.  I remember fondly when Silly came to Cracks in the Concrete Conference which was well supported. We worked hard together to get many folks to the rest of that great conference.  Especially the opening night whereby Harsh Walia and the DTES Power of Women group shared their experience strength and hope with us.  

Silly also helped me edit my ctehv, media net co sponsored film project with her dear friend Tami Turner.  Tami also helped with the film Taking The Fall and Rising.  Laurie F. helped the VIPIRG Out of Sight project gain access to many hard to house homeless family members thru her rapport.  VIPIRG came to ctehv and we helped hook up homeless for the interviews that occurred, they also connected with many other organisations who helped connect with our diverse homeless in order for the survey to be a success.  This project was a result of CTEHV and others announcing time and time again that our homeless were under constant attack by police and, the film Taking The Fall and Rising solidified this.

A lot of work has been and still is gleaned from many who still survive these streets: questions are asked of our family members and answers often found, help and advice easily shared and I am not sure that we are always respectfully or otherwise networked regarding being credited with this kind of work the CTEHV does in terms of our public spheres.  (We are of course aware of acknowledgements written regarding research). 

We receive no funding except what we get for specific actions/community building we do, like the Film Taking The Fall and Rising which asked homeless and housed alike: “How is the police state affecting you, what do you think the state of homelessness is and what are your solutions”: VIPIRG gave us the seed funding and stayed connected to meetings with us: they also gleaned a lot from us regarding the police state as well as the human rights issue of the red zones currently being used against victoria citizens for over 20 years now.   Media Net’s support since we formed is immeasurable and we are grateful, these two examples, not to mention the constant support we get from Raging Grannies are great examples of solidarity in action.   Respect builds as actively engaged allies keep putting one foot in front of the other and determinedly push forward while in emotional chaos over great loss homeless have suffered.

We have many homeless and near homeless over many years whom have shared their experience strength and hope that one day they’d be housed permanently or, be able to live freely in open air, a tent city or a condo from whence they came.  We have none of the above for far too many and the numbers build, more family members die homeless and fleeing police state: its disheartening work, and labors born of love.

Another Fact: The Greater Victoria Coalition To End Homelessness (GVCTEH) formed just after we did, that is called appropriation as far as using a similarly sounding handle.  Its an important fact to know that in colonialism this occurs a lot and its no accident, projects can easily get systemically co-opted and the CTEHV has worked hard to insure this never happens.  Systemically there are times we do not get supported yet information is still gleaned when needed, its how it works.

We have at times had the GVCTEH co sponsor an event, like how we invited them years ago when Rose Henry initiated the CTEHV to start the Homeless Vigil in December every year.  Every year we share our protocol; CTEHV process in regards to this vigil.   We insure best as possible that all energy is put to invite homeless family to come and speak, share about folks they lost, speak about their friends and family members, to sing, pray, what ever, drum.  The CTEHV attempts to insure the voices of the most marginalized are invited to speak and we do not invite politicians or executives or the like to be speakers, we invite them to witness and mourn with us.

We have had many city councilors come respectfully supporting.  We always appreciate their presence. Many members of CTEHV and members and some staff of GVCTEH speak as well and did a big job this last two years inviting homeless to this important vigil where unity is shown and solidarity above all. 

The GVCTEH has a large experiential group called Social Inclusion Advisory Committee (SIAC).  Members are more and more empowered to have a voice as to what gets supported and funded.  SIAC is a growing lobby that the coalition can access and, grow as a result of.  Bernice and Hilary have been doing an amasing job at networking with us and the street level and back to Coalition, kudo’s and a shout out to their work and networking!   Thanks also to Derek for his great supportive work and also volunteering his time and really being a big part of us acquiring a great spot; sharing all the musical instruments on stage at Break Away Cafe!  Many GVCTEH staff past and present has had relationships over many years that are based upon respect with much of our homeless family members. 

That brings me to other events we have had that the GVCTEH formally do not sponsor like our recent Cafe.  This has been upsetting and confusing for many of our homeless family members. 

So, as a reminder: the reason for Break Away Café’s first event was based upon request’s to have a space for music and networking ideas with housed and homeless family members.  We thought it a good match with the campaign Social Housing Now.  Over a year ago we hooked up with the Social Housing Alliance out of Vancouver when they came to the Island in outreach.  Far as I am aware, the GVCTEH has not signed onto this movement?  Our ideas of diverse solutions are a lot different than the funding bodies ideas are for many like GVCTEH, as well as other more charity minded and poverty industry funded organisations.  We do not support charity like United Way for example.  We support the poor directly; we don’t want managers.

Poverty Pimping exists and we must honestly deal and shift it while having jobs within it.  This has been called liberal feminism, to change from within a unhealthy structure, to internally shift it from a top down power structure to a consensus participatory structure whereby, for example: the poor lead themselves out of poverty with the help of progressive anti oppression workers. 

When it suits colonial system we get attention, when it does not, they ignore us.  When it fits in with their ideas, they use our ideas.  When it does not fit into their policies or are systemically “a problem”, they ignore us. 

Many reasons exist why networking is lacking.  There’s the obvious busyness we are all too often spinning in.  Not prioritizing networking and its value anymore based on feminist bashing over many years, in my opinion, is another big reason.  As I have sated, organizations being dependent upon funders can’t mention and often disassociate from us or, they can “get into trouble”.  Some worry we at the CTEHV are too “radical”.  That one is a good laugh.  We are about focusing on homeless family and a HOUSING FOR ALL solution.  Martin Luther King himself supported a guaranteed livable income, its not new and we support this.  If that is seen as “radical’ that just goes to show you where Victoria’s and other city’s and municipalities across Kanada’s heads are at.  “Media uses the term “radical” for many years now to describe “terrorists”.  So, lets get with their messed up program and bravely see reality how about?  I just got educated these past few years bon this one, by the way.
Some understand what being “subversive “is all about and highly recommend its application and its continuation.

We are not politicians; we are not about putting one person on a pedestal.  We are about empowerment for our homeless family members and some moving forward in a leadership capacity for a time and empowering community to pass the torch on.

“Anti poverty work is not for the weak of heart”.   A dear friend Calvin Woida said that once in regards to a conversation he was involved in where my name came up. I was honored by the compliments that came out of that conversation. I miss Calvin.  I know that we at CTEHV are doing the best that we can and some are being challenged to DO MORE while others are being challenged to DO LESS.  Guess which category myself and the likes of Alison Acker are in?  Bless her and other Raging Grannies like Ruth Miller, for whom we are forever thankful!  

Which finally brings me to the title of this piece.  It comes from Ellyn Kaschak, (who came to Calgary years ago and co led a workshop with Sandy Butler in which I was honored to attend).  She shared her belief that, in my words, we as humans are unable to deal emotionally regarding the oppressive state we are in and this work we attempt, in addictions, in sports, in schools, in life colonial period, is made emotionally painful and its a systemic issue.  That it would benefit us greatly if we can all understand this as reality.  To acknowledge this fact of what the colonial system has wrought over generations can help us all get thru what we have a duty to do, to heal and make change. 

Ellyn believed that the only way thru was to have this understanding.  We could be compassionate with each other as we hold each other accountable.  We could  experience more understanding and be honestly  challenging of self and community in healthy ways so as not to become lost in re victimization cycles within colonial system.  We are all indeed wounded.  Class, race, sex are but three major divisions used and taught to us all from birth.  Many heal thru generations of rising up, rebelling, becoming an outlaw or simply moving beyond so-called norms.

Feminists in anti poverty taught me about how we often disassociate from others when they touch on something that rings true.  Tactics we learn such as triangulation; children go thru this teaching early on.  We, during self-esteem building times, can in fear try and separate others from a group to gain friends. Its natural to be challenged as a child by a group of children.  Many adapt by using skills already taught.  Parents or elder children can help still others can help intercept and teach healthy skills.  Left unattended, low self esteem and triangulation will follow them all their lives.  Colonialism feeds this low self-esteemed messaging to us.  We are taught well how to do it.  Another example: Often, if anyone says anything racist or sexist at a social justice conference or workshop for example, many within ears reach will tend to dissociate from that person by even going so far as to lean away from them if sitting near them, acting as though “I’d never say that, its racist!”  No kidding.  Like another mentor of mine said to young feminist’s after they were horrified to experience racism at an ally’s conference:

 “Why were you so surprised?  Learn to deal, it doesn’t go away once you learn how to deal or name it, we simply learn how to respond cause its still alive and well and being taught.”

Debie Yaffe (I paraphrased)

We don’t figure this out at a one-time conference workshop on empowerment thru anti colonial training and anti racism or, how to be an ally in one sitting; it can take years and sometimes generations for all sides to relearn how to communicate and experience connections.  Colonialism is a living-breathing organism of belief that runs through our blood memory and it takes time to unlearn.  We make mistakes and things come out of our mouths we regret, hopefully folks around can see our regret and be understanding in their feedback when hearing, “wow, I can’t believe I just said that, I am so sorry.”   Often we just have to eat it, listen to the feedback and take time to chew on it.

When we are taught messaging all our lives, it can take years to relearn new ideas.  Time.  If folks are committed, it goes smoother but still lots of bumps. Family bonds ‘n’ friendships rocked at their very foundations; Its life in the “social justice fast lanes”.

We attempt empowerment and are often lost in emotional responses we learned in childhood.  When one is unable, the rest of the group can attend to all parties, not judge or be punitive.  We are doing this more, still, we struggle to be the voice if its or story.

I believed Ellyn Kaschick’s basic theory then and more so now.  It why in the end, harsh honesty and compassion with understanding means time.  We need to slow down, allow silence. Breath.  Its life on the front lines and we know it, those of us who’ve been there all our lives know it and maybe we all have been there all our lives?

We are all raised in colonial hell, some with more or less “privileges” which divide. First nations local tradition of the potlatch is the best example of how we can share and just might again.  If we can all know this to be true, and it is, the knowing helps tremendously.  To know colonialism has scarred us is a big step towards healing and empowerment.   It’s a tough one that we keep being asked to take and its tough on us all, I know it, I experience and sense it constantly thru my life, community in pain.

All of us have a place in the production of a healthy community; we all have gifts we bring that no one else can bring based on each of our life’s experiences.

Unity is the opposite of divide and rule. Lets show our unity, lets mention each other’s work. That is networking. 

To be subversive: one can support the homeless we serve by having your organization help financially support antipoverty work in what ever ways possible with out the funder knowing it and still be following funders guidelines; yes, its possible.

Since our work is about Social Housing Now, for example, we hooked up with the Social Housing Alliance out of Vancouver one year ago and again recently, we got leafleting the first Saturday of March with VIPIRG hosting.  It was fun.  I am grateful for the solidarity VIPIRG shows with our homeless, how Vancouver shares in the work they do, unity in action. We are all now a part of a large Network and Alliance of people, unified to help community as a whole, we are still growing.

Another note in ending: the CTEHV had consensus and we support a Guaranteed Livable Income for years now.  For many of us a GLI NOW demand is as critical as the Social Housing Now demand is.  Myself and Seb from VIPIRG talked about adapting the Social Housing Now campaign leaflet to reflect our local initiatives as was suggested by the group who brought Social Housing Now to us from Vancouver.  We are thrilled to join a movement which is growing, its only a matter of time our demands be met in each location.

Remember, generations before us have gotten thru worse.   Long lengths of family lines going way back.  We are not only capable of change; we are built for it.

In ending, respect goes out to all of you for being a part of community building and affecting change for generations.  Please, check out the post about the Social Housing Now leafleting campaign and join us for a better future now.


kym hothead hines