On 7th June, we attended the uplifting and heartwarming “Life-affirming infrastructures” event, organised by Healing Justice London and Kin Structures, in collaboration with RESOLVE Collective. This event marked the first physical event of Healing Justice London’s 2 year Rehearsing Freedoms programme

On the panel was Amahra Spence from MAIA; Imandeep Kaur from Civic Square; Arman Nouri from Kin Structures, Farzana Khan from Healing Justice Ldn; Akil Scafe-Smith and Seth Amani Scafe-Smith from RESOLVE Collective. We loved the panel, filled with people part of the Shake! family that we’ve had the pleasure of working with over the years. 

Increasingly, as we’re reminded of the world’s multiple, interconnected crises, it’s incredibly important to be reminded of the practical ways that we can do things differently to create the liberated world that we want to see. Farzana spoke about not just “doing things in the image of harm.” To us, that’s about not just destroying the structures that don’t work, but rebuilding new ones that give us all we need and more. As Seth and Akil shared, “Infrastructure which can tend to wounds for all of us to be well.”

This resonated largely with our work, and Farzana spoke about how her work at Healing Justice London is influenced by her work as Creative and Strategic Director, and now Strategic Advisor at Shake!. We use a model of personal transformation and structural change to re-imagine new infrastructures in opposition to capitalism and colonialism. The Pillars of Shake! focus on practices that help us to nurture, embody and sustain ourselves. In our Anthology of Creative Movements, we outline one of our favourite workshop exercises of observing something in the local streets that has been abandoned and neglected. We then ask what are the conditions and structures that keep it neglected and failed, what being cared for looks like, what needs to be repaired for it to thrive and more. 

We thought about this exercise during the Life Affirming Infrastructures discussion when Seth and Akil encouraged the audience to consider the “infinite possibilities in your immediate environment.” 

Imandeep asked us to think about “What if the climate and ecological transition and deep retrofit of our homes and streets were designed, owned and governed by the people who live there?”

Amahra presented guiding questions such as “How do we decentralise resources to meet the expansive needs of people, in which no one is made disposable?” and “What forms help us grow our collective imagination to practise the world we want to be in?” 

All of these questions beautifully reaffirmed Rehearsing Freedoms’ central aim: what are ways that we can, in Ruth Wilson Gilmore’s words “rehearse the social order coming into being”? These questions apply whether the focus is on food, health, climate and housing justice, better public spaces or, in our case, uplifting young people of the global majority. 

The conversation also highlighted the pressure to get things right the first time when rehearsing, practising and rebuilding new structures, especially for people from the global majority. In the Shake Anthology, we write “whiteness is commonly afforded space and opportunity to risk, trail and figure things out, then also offered redeemability over and over again.” We feel a pressure for these new possibilities to be perfect; we may worry that it will be harder to get another chance to try again, whether that be with funding opportunities or other factors.

Farzana highlighted that white people often receive a ‘pre-forgiveness’ and encouraged us to all apply a pre-forgiveness in our work with each other, especially with people from the global majority. When faced with worry about not getting things right, Arman re-assured us to follow what we feel in our bodies, and trust our gut.

One of our favourite aspects of the event was seeing the panel bounce off each other with shared joy, laughter and love, arising from not only having core values in common, but their experiences together. For example, Seth shared how some of RESOLVE’s work was informed by conversations with Amahra and Imandeep. 

Questions from the audience focused on how we bring other people into these life-affirming structures, and how panellists manage the toil of organising, and maintaining positivity through that journey. In bringing other people into the movement, Imandeep spoke about the importance of going where people are, in ways that work for them. Places of community are great access points because life-affirming infrastructures do have people and community at the centre. For some people, conversing about life-affirming structures would work well over a cup of tea; for others, it might be best in their place of worship. Community and people were also focal to responses on how people manage the impact organising can have on them. Having people who can support, amplify and care for make all the difference because we can’t create these life affirming infrastructures alone.

We loved this event and we can’t wait for the next Rehearsing Freedoms events coming up this summer. Join Healing Justice London on Thursday 13th July for ‘Rehearsing Futures Pt2: Experiments in Imagination’

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