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Struggling Together: Social Spaces Summit 2013

by Isaac Oommen

Struggling Together: Social Spaces Summit 2013
Struggling Together: Social Spaces Summit 2013

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The Social Spaces Summit is back for a second year on the Unceded Coast Salish Territory, bringing together organizers from all over Turtle Island to share strategies and experiences about their projects.

"We are so immersed in the daily routines of running the space, we don't have time to look beyond our immediate surroundings to find other people working on similar spaces, projects and issues in other cities,” said Son Edworthy from the CommunityWise Resource Centre in Calgary, who is attending the Summit for the second year. “The Summit is a temporary social space where we can come together and share stories, insights, talk shop and pool our collective experiences.”

Last year's conference brought together a range of folks from radical social centers, infoshops, libraries, student resource centers, co-ops and artist-run spaces to talk about common struggles and share skills.

“Originally, the idea was that the summit would be co-hosted by a few spaces from different cities and after the first year the summit would move to a different city as the host place. That is still the ultimate goal!” said Summit organizer Carla Bergman.

Included in last year's Summit was a panel discussion by VMC, with folks from Redwire native youth magazine, the Anti-Poverty Committee and the 12th and Clark infoshop on the impact of losing radical social space.

“I think it's important to name physical spaces as a spot for where a lot of these oppressions and power structures are organized around,” said attendee Andrea Marcos, who is headed to the Summit again this year. “It's necessary to be critical about what folks are doing with land, social spaces, with the commons: how it fits into forces and structures we're are actively against, and how it fits into and supports the visioning and enacting of lives and relationships we are wanting, proposing, and doing!”

Held in a number of spaces around the city, the Summit is bringing together groups such as the Purple Thistle youth centre, the Emma Goldman Finishing School, Spartacus Books, QTPOC Seattle, Camas Books, Gallery Gachet, Tomcat Bikes, APIRG, Community Yoga Vancouver, Vancouver Collective Houses and University of Victoria Women's Centre.

“The Summit put my feelings into words: we are on stolen native land, and I am personally benefitting from this still, and I don't want to anymore, nor do i want to contribute to it,” said youth Summit organizer Kelsey Corbett. “The Social Spaces Summit not only put these feelings I've had for a long time into words, but the shared experiences of like-minded folks open to the discomfort of changing these systems of oppression inspired courage, provided tools, and community support which made this change feel possible.”

With 'decolonization and space' as one of the three central themes of the upcoming Summit, there is plenty of room for this sort of reflection and organizing.

“One of the problems we face in radical left movements is that settlers, and especially white middle class people, are soooo frickin' mobile,” said long-term Seattle collective house organizer and social justice educator Tamara Myers, who is heading to the Summit for a second time, and who is looking to challenge key ideas around social spaces. “Having stable spaces seems like one way to keep people more rooted in place. And yet, consolidating more land in the hands of white or monied people doesn't seem satisfactory either. So what to do? This is the kind of stuff I want to grapple with and feel like I can at the Summit.”

For more information on the Summit, to be held 8-11 November, check out their website here.

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