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Building Solidarity: Reflections on holding space for grassroots activists from across the UK

Updated: Dec 17, 2021

a drawing of a group of diverse people putting up a banner which reads "Solidarity, Community, Human Rights, Diversity"
Solidarity Banner by Ivonne Navarro

Over the last two month’s the Social Rights Alliance’s Community Researchers Project has held space for activists from across the UK to share their experiences of using a Human Rights Based Approach in their grassroots campaigns. Activists from PPR shared the story of the #123GP campaign, activists from ATD Fourth World spoke about the impact of Povertyism on the Right to Family life campaign and leaders from Making Rights Real talked about the importance of genuine community participation in their Housing campaign in Leith, Edinburgh.

The power and passion of each group was tangible – inspiring the Community Researchers to reflect on their plans and actions, how can they knit in some of these ideas, develop actions that are using these principles of PANEL (Participation, Accountability, Non-Discrimination, Empowerment and Law) in to their work. More of that to follow in coming weeks.

But from each these three sessions, a key theme was of Solidarity.

Solidarity built through sharing soup with other community members.

Solidarity built by parents walking with alongside other parents through their battles with social services.

Solidarity built by singing carols in a Public Health Agency Board meeting to stop the powers that be from ignoring communities’ voices.

So what does Solidarity mean within the Community Researchers project? Within our group we have such power, passion and strength, but in turn it comes with pain, vulnerability and fear. We are a diverse group with many personal stories of being “othered” and excluded:

“I don’t get your experience cos it’s completely different, but I get it in the sense of the fear of being worried all the time. And not wanting to hide. But knowing I need to hide to keep myself safe and look after myself. It is all of us. It is for all of us to challenge these things. These are the moments of how we create solidarity.”

We agreed that in our space we are working to build that solidarity – amongst our group, but also through supporting each other’s causes and challenging discrimination of others within our own communities.

It all reminds me of the poem by Beth Strano:

There is no such thing as a “safe space” — We exist in the real world. We all carry scars and have caused wounds. This space seeks to turn down the volume of the world outside, and amplify voices that have to fight to be heard elsewhere, This space will not be perfect. It will not always be what we wish it to be But It will be our space together, and we will work on it side by side.

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