By Groundswell participant Kelsey Corbett
The new year has brought on a totally different change and energy at Groundswell. I’ve spent a lot of time this past month thinking about it and trying to figure out how i feel about it. The year has also set a totally different pace since we started jumping into creating a project, which I am super stoked about. So i guess this blog will be written in two parts: 1) the Groundswell project and 2) the project i’m working on.
PART ONE: GROUNDSWELL
SPACE AND STRUCTURE:
Dang. What a cool project with so much potential. But damn. Why does it feel so hard? I guess being on the more radical side of the spectrum, I’m feeling a lot of things come up and have been processing them hard (sorry to my partner and friends!). But i think it’s good, and i think something really tangible and constructive has come out of it, for me, and hopefully for Groundswell and the Cafe too (maybe).
First, after a lot of conversations with folks in the class who also participated in Session 1, we met with Gilad and Andrea to talk about Session 2 structure changes and how they have been affecting us and our class dynamic. The result of the conversation was awesome. Gilad and Andrea listened to us, and decided to alter the curriculum to bring in designated time for facilitated introspective and emotional work not revolved around our projects. I’m very happy about this because i think a lot of the reason i’ve felt very connected to the GS community this year is largely due to how open and vulnerable we have been to each other during the “Greenhouse” (formerly Personal Development) class. A safer and supportive space to be vulnerable in brings more depth to our interactions and strengthens our class community. So, i’m stoked on that.
THE COMMUNITY WHO?
Wednesday we had some folks come to speak on a panel about the “Shared Economy”. It brought some clarity around some of the discomfort i've been feeling, which is really good. During the presentation, and often at Groundswell, people use the term “the community” liberally and without specifying who the community is. “We welcome in the community!” “The community will create the space,” etc, etc. But who is the community that is being referred to? In my observation, the community being spoken of seems to be a reflection of the community (organizers, facilitators and participants) that speak about it. The greater Groundswell community is made up primarily by a very specific demographic of mostly white, young, “up-and-coming” (soon-to-be-middle-class), progressive, and predominantly straight social entrepreneurs and enthusiasts. I have been uncomfortable with the term “community” being used in this way, mainly because it doesn’t reflect myself or my communities, as i am a mixed race, genderqueer and trans, anti-colonial activist/nanny. I recognize that there is a specific demographic of people that Groundswell is currently serving and appealing to, but I think this needs to be clearly and consistently talked about. When trying to be inclusive, we should recognize that certain communities overshadow others, and acknowledging that is one good step towards accountability to and recognition of those who are not in the space.
Set to open its doors as a community cafe Feb 10th (so soon!), I’m really excited for the folks running the project, and I also have some concerns.
First, I have to acknowledge the effort, passion and love Amanda and Brian (among others) are putting into creating the menu, putting the word out and making such incredible food. I am really proud of and happy for them.
Secondly, I have concerns that the cafe is going to submit to the same fate as Fat Dragon, our predecessors who only lasted 8 months at 566 Powell. I wish for the cafe to thrive, and i don’t want anyone to shit on our doors either (which is what happened to Fat Dragon). I think it is essential to the survival of Groundswell Cafe that the space be a resource to the community (the DTES neighborhood) for a couple reasons.
- As Fat Dragon (and Gorrilla Foods) have proven, people with a higher economic standing aren’t buying food at Powell and Princess, even though it is only about 6 blocks from gastown. And it doesn’t seem like people in the neighborhood ate at either restaurant, since both only lasted for about 8 months.
- To be welcomed into the DTES/Oppenheimer community, I think Groundswell Cafe will have to prove that they are there for the existing neighborhood, and will not be an entity that pushes neighborhood folk out.
- Given that Groundswell values social justice, I think it only makes sense that there is intentionality in how Groundswell Cafe can share their resources with this community.
So here are 5 suggestions I have:
- Provide 3 computers for free access to the internet (I’m sure Free Geek has some for next to nothing)
- Allow free bathroom access and put needleboxes in them
- Put a Free Phone outside (the people’s phone) http://linwoodhouse.ca/peoples-phone-booth/
- 3$ Sandwich and Tea (gramma style, super simple and yummy: cucumber, cheese and mayo; eggsalad sammies; cut into triangle quarters, that kind of thing)
- By donation soup and/or curry
Implementing these things would be super easy and not very resource-intensive. I believe these services would be welcomed and used, and it would allow space to simultaneously serve beautiful, quality food at a deserved price to a different demographic. It would be a way to reach folks from different communities while still following shared economy values, and be a starting point for a less gentrifying space.
Just my suggestions…
PART TWO: OUR GROUNDSWELL PROJECT
So much has happened in the last week, and I really appreciate the community that has been fostered at Groundswell. The friendships that are coming out of GS are solid and I believe they will be long-lasting. I am grateful for that. I feel so much love for my co-creators, and though we have only been organizing together for a month, we have made so much headway, and our personalities seem to click really well.
So far we have incorporated as a non-profit, called Youth and Arts Society of Surrey, created a tumblr blog, started pulling together a zine about people’s experiences in high school, and built a website. Last week after quite a lot of effort, we figured out the traditional territories that our project will most likely be residing on, being of the Katzie, Kwantlen, Semiahmoo and Tsawwassen peoples. Thanks to Shawnee, we also met with an lgbt*q youth group in Surrey who was really stoked on the idea of having an inclusive, non-judgemental arts-based youth drop-in space in their hometown. With the feedback they gave, the meeting felt very validating to what we are doing. It also just felt really good to meet and chat with youth in Surrey to see what they’re into and what their experiences have been like. We are looking forward to doing more of that!
Our project is moving fast, and it’s intense, and also feeling good. Thanks Wes for the website feedback. We got surreyyouthspace.com!
In all, I’m feeling pretty grateful to be part of this experience, especially with this year’s cohort which is filled with amazing and supportive people. I am really appreciative of the openness to feedback and flexibility that all of the facilitators and organizers of Groundswell have been consistently demonstrating, and also for their feedback and mentorship. So thank you Paola, Emily, Tiffany, Andrea, Wes, Gilad, Amanda and Jim! And Reilly, we miss you!