Monday, October 29, 2018

A Safe Space for Activism: Talk and Music

I was invited to be the guest speaker and performer at the Unitarian Church of Edmonton for its quarterly "Social Justice Sunday" on October 28, 2018. The topic was "A Safe Space for Activism." Below is a video of my talk and performance of four songs, as well as my notes. I ad libbed a bit in my talk as well, because I was responding to the previous speaker and adding a few things here and there as well.

Safe Spaces and Self-Care

I come from a Jewish background. In Judaism, as some of you probably already know, there is a concept called tikkun olam, which translates to healing or repairing the world. Much of my activism is rooted in this belief.

There is a lot of talk about safe spaces in the activist community and beyond, especially now in light of the #MeToo movement. When it comes to establishing and maintaining my safe spaces, of course, the support of my family, friends, and community is important. Being able to confide, ask for advice, share experiences, and the opportunity to be accountable and hold others to account is part of having a healthy community. But like every part of society, the activist community is not immune from bullies and predators, which is why having a network of support is so important.

Having safe spaces also includes finding a place and time for self-care. Activists often get so wrapped up in organizing and attending events, that they neglect their own needs, leading to burnout and mental and/or physical health issues. Not being at the best we can be physically and mentally can make us more vulnerable. We need to be safe to say no when we are stretched, and to have the space to explore our own self-care needs.

Music is an integral part of my safe space and my self-care. Like my faith, music also was a formative part of my activism. Through my mother, I grew up listening to a steady stream of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Buffy Sainte-Marie, and Peter, Paul and Marie. The folk music of the 60s helped shape my political beliefs and my own musical style, when I began learning how to play the guitar and write songs as a teenager. Music is part of my activism, writing songs about social justice issues and performing at rallies and protests (and events like this).

For me, music is both a creative expression and a place of mental retreat. Putting on my headphones helps take me away from the stress of daily life, can calm anxiety, and sometimes even help me concentrate. Writing and performing music, whether in front of an audience or in the privacy of my home, also cuts through stress and helps me focus. I find that if I go more than a few days without playing music, I get very tense and feel incomplete. Then, as soon as I pick up a guitar and start singing, my sense of grounding and balance is restored. There are proven health benefits of singing, both physically and mentally (these can be researched online), and I can attest to many of them from first hand experience.

Besides being a part of my safe space, music helps me reach out to audiences with messages of peace and love and social justice. I will be sharing some of these songs with you today, and I welcome you to join me in my place of sanctuary.

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