The reported “war on women” that swept the nation within recent months, has not been well-received here in Seattle.
With the buildup of many questionable remarks and actions by male legislators about women, several female Seattle activists decided that enough was enough. Women were not going to be marginalized, they said, and, instead, created a two-day workshop for female and female-identified individuals to learn about their ability to create social change.
The “Direct Action Training Workshop for Trans- and Female-Identified Activists” that took place Nov. 2 through 4, sponsored by the newly minted Solidarity, Equity and Activist Support Network (SEASN) was designed to create leaders in the social-justice movement.
“The goal was to work to break down patriarchy while giving women and trans[gender women] the direct-action skills for more effective social-change efforts,” said key event organizer Angela Vogel. “This weekend's workshop was an amazing beginning to this effort as we gained excellent skills and began a process of building empowerment in an oppressed community.
“But for long term social change it will take more than a weekend,” Vogel noted. “The knowledge we gained and the connections we made will begin the foundation for our next steps.”
The event featured several workshops, including “Rules of Engagement Discussion,” “Direct Action and Strategic Campaigning,” “Light Projection as Protest,” “Art and Activism Appreciation Event,” “Know Your Legal Training and Grand Jury Resistance” and “Climbing Basics for Banner Drops and Tree Sits.”
The workshops were led by trainers, including grass-roots organizer Kim Marks, who has been working on behalf of environmental issues for 17 years, and Danielle Hale, an organizer for environmental causes.
Approximately 20 women attended the event, which took place at the Seattle Creative Arts Center in Ballard.
“The most common feedback was how much everyone really enjoyed having a female- and trans-only space — that it felt safe, and participants felt like it really fostered learning,” Vogel said. “Attendees felt [it allowed] their voices to be better heard, and they didn’t have to struggle with the normal challenges of being talked over by patriarchal voices.”
The multifaceted nature of the event was also a plus.
“There was such a wide variety of training that each person had a different favorite,” she said. “For some, it was light action training; for others, it was strategic campaigning, and for others, it was know-your-rights training.”
Organizer and particpant Mercedes Elizade said the event fostered greater awareness of what activism truly is.
“I think people felt it was an eye-opening experience about the different aspects of activism,” she said. “People think about activism as very off-the-cuff, and they don’t think about how much actually goes into it.”
Also, the event leveraged people’s diverse concerns well, she said, giving everyone a voice.
“There was a feeling of inequity in the activist community.… It is patriarchal, like everything else, and we wanted to bring women together and give them tools to create sustainable change.”
More, toward social change
The event’s genesis began when Vogel decided, several months ago, to team up with organizers at local nonprofit groups that provided activist workshops. Vogel herself participated in multiple trainings in the past.
“It was a collaborative effort of many organizations and campaigns in the area and everyone who was organizing,” Elizade said. “There are lots of activists in different types of ways,” including nonprofit groups working on behalf of the environment, women’s reproductive rights and people of low income.
“The plan is to do similar events” in the future, Vogel said. “SEASN was started with the intention of having a strong educational focus. We will probably host another trans- and female-identified direct-action training at some point and may also organize other types of workshops that will help us work toward social change.”
However, future events might go beyond just female leadership, Vogel said.
“One potential that is being discussed is hosting an anti-oppression training, which gives real tools for reprogramming our ingrained behaviors of oppression through skills like consensus process [and] facilitation.”
To learn more about SEASN, e-mail info@SEASNetwork.org or call (206) 579-9309.
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