It was Monday, 9am and day one of Groundswell. After frantically juggling my morning chores (which consist of a number of feedings: feeding the cat, feeding the dog, feeding the chickens, feeding the worm compost and maybe even getting around to feeding myself), I hopped on my bike and headed North. It seems like there is never enough time to get ready for these things, even if you are one of the keeners, like myself, who after applying way back in March, then had 6 months to “prepare.” 6 months to wait. 6 months to sit with my worries, doubts and far too much excitement to handle. I made it as far as 1st Ave before hitting a red light, both literally and figuratively: “What the hell am I doing?” Eventually the light turned green and the pack of cyclists that had formed behind me pressed me forward. It felt good heading to the Downtown Eastside first thing in the morning; just like old times at the Neighbourhood House. Arriving late, I stumbled into an already well-formed, however oblong, circle. Class had started and I had made it. Only time will tell if I made a huge mistake.
I found a seat near the front of the room, which was open to interpretation seeing as it was a circle. I had been in the Groundswell space before and felt uncomfortable with the fancy aesthetics in this part of town: a sure sign of gentrification. But then a cockroach crawled across my shoe and I felt a bit more comfortable. “Hi little guy, or girl or no preferred gender,” I thought to the little creature. This just as we made our way around the circle introducing ourselves by telling a story about our name, how we were feeling and our preferred pronoun.
It was nice to be in an educational space which dealt with our emotions first thing and where the majority of participants either identified as she/her or they/them. Patriarchy in institutional education...not in this space. It was relieving to see how many of my Groundswell comrades shared my simultaneous feelings of anxiety and excitement, doubt mixed with trust. They seemed like a rad bunch.
Most of the morning blew by in a flurry of housekeeping and mingling until our first guest speaker, Lauralei (Raven-Wing), arrived. A First Nations elder from the Cree nation and a medicine woman, she bravely faced the group; and, in a refreshingly frank and open way, she answered any questions we had. She touched on topics ranging from colonization to the gender spectrum. The latter she termed “genderful.” Already I was starting to feel a bit more settled. Phew...
Forming groups, we discussed questions we had about the neighbourhood in which we would be spending so much of our time for the next 8 months. My group, neglecting our assigned task, spent our time brainstorming the ways in which this space, our space, could become a hub for the community. Popcorn style:
People's Phone Community Potlucks Bathrooms Harm Reduction Free/Cheap Coffee Tent City Support Free School Clothing Rack Office Space Inclusivity Library Free Store
I was starting to get excited. But it wasn't until the day had ended and I was chatting with Gilad that I heard the sentence that settled my troubled mind: “every revolution starts in a cafe,” he said. Now I was seeing all the possibilities of the space, the Groundswell team and our community at large. Not too shabby for my first day. Finishing up this post, I saved it to a new folder I created on my computer entitled “Groundswell.” Shit's real now.
written by Groundswell participant Kim Del Valle Garcia