The salvage collective has been winding down for a while now and was mainly active between 2014-17. In this time we managed to do a small research project, run two workshop series, workshops and events, and hold a forum event. The world has changed so much since the collective went on pause in 2018. It is autumn, the nights are drawing in and it is time to let go. I wanted to thank everyone who has been part of our individual and collective learning. As a member of the collective during these years I wanted to leave a small trace of some the lessons I learned in my involvement.
Thank you to Move Under Your Own Power and Onsind who raised funds for our work. We passed these funds on to Cradle Community in November 2019 and January 2020 (£358 in total).
1. Self-accountability is crucial
I learned the need to hold space for mistakes and the harm I have caused. To take responsibility for the consequences of the choices I made. I learned that it is not possible to engage with accountability work without first facing up to myself and holding myself accountable for the harm I cause as a survivor of harm. Our research project failed to include the experiences of survivors of colour. Acknowledging and understanding how I sustained white supremacy culture and thinking and making deep changes in what I do and how I do it is the crucial work I commit to continue to do in all aspects of my life.
Here I am super grateful for the wisdom and work of Shannon Perez-Darby and many others as a crucial guide for me in working through this. For instance in the Self-accountability and Movement Building webinar and Building Accountable Communities video series.
2. Holding clear expectations
Our research project aimed to equip British Left activist groups and communities to better understand the dynamics of gendered violence and offer a possible starting point (zine, toolkit, space) to explore how to respond to it. We were not equipped to facilitate accountability processes, provide a solution or an expert opinion. Accountability processes and projects are known to be hard to sustain. Holding clearer expectations would have helped us to ease the pressure, reckon with feelings of responsibility and made the work more joyful, connected and sustainable.
I find Nicole Rose’s Overcoming Burnout and adrienne maree brown’s Emergent Strategy and Pleasure Activism helpful in my healing process.
3. Take a step back and build the skills first
Looking back I can painfully see how I did not have many crucial skills. We need to nurture these in ourselves and those we organise/are in relationship with first before launching ourselves into this work. This includes: learning how to disagree; how to navigate/lean into conflict; identify, hold and respect boundaries; how to do self-reflection and mindfulness; de-escalation and bystander interventions; active listening; how to practice self-compassion; how to build a support system; practices of interdependence and care; how to identify your purpose/values; how to build trust and vulnerability in relationships with each other; build facilitation skills, and, yes, self-accountability and many many more.
4. Learn from experienced practitioners and activists
It struck me how much urgency and scarcity drove our efforts. The expansion and accessibility of information about accountability and transformative justice work that centre and take leadership from Black, Brown, Queer and Trans communities and disability justice movements across borders is an incredible resource for us all. I have benefited deeply from videos, resources and online webinars organised by New York Transformative Justice Hub, Barnard Center for Research on Women, Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective, Support New York, INCITE!, and Project Nia. Take time to digest it all in relationship with yourself and those around you. I am also delving into archives to better understand the British legacies of anti-violence activisms and how previous movements have thought about and responded to violence. A shout out to Healing Justice London, Survivors Library, Not Your Fault, Abolitionist Survivors, and What Really Makes Us Safe for their incredible work.
Also these vital books have been published:
Dixon, Ejeris and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha (2020) Beyond Survival: Strategies and stories from the transformative justice movement. Chico, CA: AK Press
Kaba, Mariame and Shira Hassan (2019) Fumbling Towards Repair: A workbook for community accountability facilitators. Project Nia and Just Practice
Thanks again to everybody, including: collective members, co-conspirators, artists and graphic designers; people who hosted us; the cooks, cleaners, and space keyholders; facilitators and co-facilitators; those who showed up to do the difficult work; footprinters; people who gave us feedback especially what we needed to do better, funders (we got some financial support from the Feminist Review Trust and Harm and Evidence Research Collaborative at The Open University); animals, pals, partners and bandmates; the one person who cycled pizza to the train station to make sure we ate that night; and most importantly the survivors who generously shared their experiences with us. I hope we did enough to honour and care for your stories. None of this learning would have been possible without you.