The ecosystem of the aftermath
What happens after a public “accountability” moment in social justices and radical spaces, here in England? (For context, head here https://www.instagram.com/p/Cb-RU-dNyjT/?igshid=YmMyMTA2M2Y=)
My recent work with Sol Cafe CIC, as both a contributor to the work in ways that are visible and not, valued and not, brings to light the barely tangible once more.
Here are some of the ways the ecosystem of the aftermath — the many ways humans find to process, act, commune and grieve — that I find myself wading through in Birmingham at this time.
I’m the problem
This one is a well-worn track on the record. Speaking about a problem in ways that directly disrupt the harm to self and others? In ways not permitted by whiteness, patriarchy and respectability politics? Then you are the problem.
Examine more and it’s about shifting discomfort, a key tenet of whiteness. In order for my truths to resonate, we are all responsible. Far easier to find a way to explain the behaviour as a damaging aspect of someone’s psychological make-up. Hysteria diagnosis for women v2022.
Am I the problem? Or is the way social power is used and abused the problem?
Removal from community
Another strategy out is to be removed outright from community conversations, considerations and care. The matter discussed endlessly in digispace and the corners of parties, but never clearly with someone who speaks out.
This is how the rumour mill works to its best advantage — if the person is never actively engaged, myths and mistruths can abound. Did I purposly esend an email to a group address in place of a the individual it was personally addressed to? No, of course not. That was a result of email chaos on my end or Sol’s. Did anyone approach me to check, converse? Nope.
People on the streets, in the park and in cafes all around Birmingham either blanking or giving a cursory hello where once there were kisses and love.
One way through the messy aftermath is to set up an architecture to manage the pain. Processing the grief by doing a process. I think this is seen as radical action in spaces that brought people together outside of the systems we live in. What I see instead is replication. Because the things needed now are to be held by people with wisdom, care and love. Elders. Truth holders. People who are resourced and effective.
With no shadow-casting on intentions, twenty year olds cannot hold these energies and needs. We collectively are causing more harm if we let them.
Being able to let go and rebuild in ways that bring ourselves closer to who we really are is the transformation needed. But we are mired in Englishness and all its fuckery.
A dance in a forest would be more powerful than sitting in rooms constructing narratives and reading out statements. But, we are white and European. I’m just witnessing that this is a way to keep busy and make the work feel real.
Sitting at home journalling for a year is also real. Holding small community meals in our homes is real. Taking photos for a community archive is real.
Not building more organisations because the work isn’t yet safe is real.
Trauma is always in the room
What is missing from the ways I interrogate the world is a deeper understanding of trauma, and this is much needed here. I experience my own traumas — significant, medium-sized and micro — and I find ways through. I have accessed therapy since a breakdown in 2014, and understand this is a privilege of my resource and identity.
What I can draw on is that a major personal trauma unfolded for me in Birmingham, just ahead of the pandemic, just after I moved here. The ways that experience interacts with my work and relationships here are specific, and because everyone else in Brum is so traumatised it is rarely seen. So yeah. We’re all traumatised and we all need to do better at healing.
This absolutely doesn’t look like sending young people to co-counselling training and hosting un-supported check-ins with each other. The dangers this holds for everyone were painful to witness, and I will never be complicit in that again.
Resourcing the revolution
I’m interested that the conversation on what to do with the physical & financial remnants of Sol Cafe CIC has not yet come collectively to those four of us who made a public statement. We would have ideas, we would be keen to see how our organising and community work could leverage these resources. We run a bookspace that both sells and gifts books. Some of the books that I personally fundraised for to give as free copies to young trans people are sitting on those shelves in the empty cafe.
And perhaps the reason we are not being asked is this simple. We are seen as the reason for the closure of Sol Cafe.
If this is a truth held by some, what does this actually mean? It means that the failures to build safely, care-fully and from a place of deep love are being placed with four people who did their best to overcome those failures from within. And when that proved catastrophic to our safety and health, and those of others less privileged than us, we acted to disrupt the games. If we are the reason for the CIC ending, there can never be another space like this again.
And if we are not given a voice and agency in the closure, having removed ourselves so wholly for safety, there is no real healing for anyone.
Which is entirely an option.
These noticings are from a wealth of conversations with Cass, Polls, Shilpa and Hazel. Grateful to be in such a beautiful place.