Sunday, April 1, 2012

What can I do to help in Vancouver or in my own community?

There have been a lot of people asking "what can I do to help, if there's anything you need, please don't hesitate to call me". Well, I don't know anymore than anyone else about what to do next, but here's a list of things you can do to help this process along:

If you are a part of the VanSlam community (or have ever been):

1. Call/text/email the people you care about in the community. We're all stressed, triggered and trying to be Heros (I'm imagining Lisa Slater and Kyle Mallinson in bright spandex and big boots!). Don't expect a response but do expect them to feel great relief they aren't alone working on this problem.

2. If you feel inspired to help with the next step of planning, policy making and education then send an email to either jessica@vancouverpoetryhouse.com or to our communal (read hippie) email vanslamspeaksup@gmail.com. Just tell us what skill sets you wanna bring to the table, what interests you or even what you don't want to see happen. All these things are useful and needed.


3. Come to the Poetry Slam and talk to us (You can't miss me, I am 6 foot tall with a shaved head). Talk to everyone. Make billboards if you got the moola, because we need to be talking about these things. You can send us anonymous emails, speak to us in person or start your own blog, but whatever you do, please don't be quiet. It's incredible to me that a community of such loud mouth Poets have been keeping this quiet, me included.

4. Educate yourself. I'm an arrogant sort a lot of the time and think I got all this feminism/rape culture lingo down. Well, it turns out I learnt more about these issues these past three weeks than in my entire life of reading and "being part of the movement". Arrogant, under knowledged people, both men and women are the ones allowing this to continue.I should know. I'm not saying that if you have experienced sexual assault you need to do what Lisa and others in community have done. You can remain anonymous and still share, be involved and help rebuild our communities. You are the most power thing at your disposal.

If you are part of a community somewhere else and care about people being safe:


1. Hold a meeting on sexual assault and safe space. Give people the opportunity to feel heard and offer them avenues to share their experiences anonymously. Tell everyone where they can go (a couple of key people) to find support and report incidences. This says you care, you're aware there's an issue and you don't need all the answers, in fact you don't need a single answer to the problem, just acknowledging there is one will begin the healing.

2. Create a "no" list within your community. Lisa Slater and I have begun one, it's a spreadsheet of incidences reported to us first hand.  We have the names of Perpetrators, names of Survivors (if they don't want to be anonymous), dates on incidences, contact people and details of what happened. This isn't to be shared publically, it is an internal reference used for safety, future accountability, to see trends (I feel like a dolt for using "trends" when it comes to sexual assault, but you know what I mean). This knowledge is incredibly powerful. just knowing that the "no" list, or as I like to call it the "Fuck NO" list exists is enough to prevent  some of these things happening. If I was a rapist who comes to VanSlam looking for young, emotionally unstable women to prey upon I would be pretty afraid right now. Knowing that everyone is talking about it, I'd have no cover of silence to continue.Even if I wasn't a rapist I would check myself and think "Wow, have I ever done something untowards sexually with people in our scene?". This is a really healthy concern. If you are checking yourself it means you care, it means you don't want to be a creep. you value people's safety or maybe you just want to be safe from allegations. Either way none of us are untouched by this. I know for myself I have been looking at some of the misogynistic shit I've done over the years both on stage and off stage. It's tough looking at your own actions rather than focusing on other people and their issues. Ultimately, I would love to see the day when the Perpetrators of these incidences feel supported enough in our community that they actually volunteer the information we need to get them help and we, as a community are ready to give them that support.

3. Go to organizations in power. I'm looking at you PSI (Poetry Slam Inc). Ask them what they're doing about sexual assaults in our community, make it their problem because it is. Send them information and offer to help them create a structure where they feel they can deal with these problems. Tara Hardy said "you know you are in a safe space when people are talking about violence", this sentence has been ringing truth in my head. Organizations are afraid to tackle this problem because its so fucking big and we don't have clear ways of dealing with it effectively in our current society. This is a reasonable excuse, I mean we all got huge to do lists, why put this on it too? Well, because I don't want my friends to come to events where they are going to meet predators who can potentially destroy their love of the world. I don't want my friends to feel afraid every time the house is dark or their lover tries to kiss them. I don't want my friends to get STI's, get pregnant, become chronically depressed or try to end their lives because no one wanted to deal with the awkward situation of confronting someone's bad behaviour.

4. Come to the Poetry Slam and talk about this, educate yourself and others. Read 3 & 4 above to get more on this. there's some great articles to start with on the resource sheet, if you have other great articles send them to us, we aren't experts, we're just trying too!

2 comments:

  1. To speak to number 3, I am part of the EC at PSI and I am paying very close attention to this so that a committee can work on and translate on to the next level. Safe spaces also include other issues and dialogues that need to continue at the inter-national events. - Karen G

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  2. a suggestion a friend gave me after seeing the links I posted on my facebook to this issue is to create a "positive review" website where anyone who we have a great experience with as a traveling poet or as someone hosting a travelling poet. That way the public information is all the good... if there are complaints about someone then they can be removed from the positive list (perhaps this is where a non-public database could come into play).

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