On the weekend of the 9th of February, Resist and Renew ran the first weekend residential on the theme of Exploring Collective Liberation. In the final hours before the participants arrived at the venue, we did our last bits of preparation and ran through the agenda for the whole weekend. In the run up we had spent a lot of time thinking about and planning the journey we thought would be most useful for the participants – but we had no idea how they would respond to it and what ideas and energy they would bring to the space – we had built the framework, but how would they fill it?
Part of the motivation for running this course was to respond to the growing awareness and need for solidarity, but move away from debilitating feelings of guilt and shame. This, however, doesn’t mean shying away from difficult conversations around power and privilege, but going through them and beyond them. This requires that we challenge ourselves. This is one of the things we asked our participants on the first evening – how can you challenge yourself? This came as a part of a session on how we want to treat each other, what can we do do make things ‘safer’ for one another, and how would we want to be treated in a conflict situation over the weekend? These were big questions to ask on a Friday evening, but they also laid the necessary groundwork for the group to work together over the rest of the weekend.
Much of the next day was focused on our identities – who are we, what makes us who we are, where do we come from – in the widest possible sense? Games and different ways of performing our similarities and differences helped to explore this. Identity, of course, is not a static thing and neither is it an inherent thing that we are born with. In part it is produced by society and that process is political – we therefore looked to politicise our identities, rooting them in history and examining some of the ideas and philosophies that have shaped how we see one another today. We also asked how these might play out in our organising today and experimented with how we might change it.
On our final day we explored the concept of solidarity, looking at how it has been done in the past and thinking about how to begin to integrate some of the learnings we came up with into our groups to do solidarity better in the future.
Ultimately, these are lifelong questions we will all hopefully be working on, but we’re really grateful for all the participants who came along to this event. They modelled a great sense of vulnerability and trust in sharing with each other and they’ve given us a lot to think about in planning for our next events.