Title: Answers to a concerned community member.
Are you concerned about the holding of Northwest or other Recess events at this time? If so what are the concerns, and what is being done to address them?
While I respect people’s choice to not engage, I have not seen any reasons for forced termination of Recess. I can see reasons why I think it is in the best interest of David, Ely and Justin to terminate recess, I ultimately feel like it is their decision. And, I can also understand why there is concern in the community. I have listened to many public complaints and many private ones. While publicly there has been a lot of concern expressed, I have not found any actual incidents or substantiations that warrant concern for systemic safety, oppression, or harm to participants at events.
Most of the critique I've seen has been around the intra-organizational patterns and hardship of being a member of the organizer team. Feelings of frustration with the organizational structure of Recess - the ways it operates like a collective and on the work of many, yet is still being managed by Justin and he still has more power than others and gains resources, and social capital from his work that others do not. I hear concerns over how femme labor is respected and listened to. While I think that needs some serious looking in to and work on behalf of Justin and the organization, at this time, I am hesitant to say it warrants an end to recess holding events. I am opening to hearing other perspectives on this. Or, at least to say, I think that it warrants more conversations with those who have been organizers with Recess in the last 10 years.
What are the reasons people are boycotting Recess? And can you speak to what you have seen of them and think of them in regards to your work with recess?
The concerns listed below are the major ones which have been brought to my attention. I have put the concerns in quotes to be clear that they are not my words or necessarily things I believe. They are not direct quotes from anyone.
Here are the main concerns I have gathered and some of my lenses on them:
Is it true that Recess has an exceptionally high turnover and burnout of labor, particularly femme labor?
Recess does move through organizers, and it seems Recess is not an easy organization to work for - and the pay and praise for that work low. It seems that people work with Recess because they believe in it as “good community work" and they care about it.
I know numbers and statistics don't hold the whole story, but out of curiosity, I looked at Recess’s entire history of organizers that have worked with recess and for how long. I've kept the names anonymous to respect individual privacy. Surprisingly, when not including Justin in these numbers, Recess has had 5 mfab (male assigned at birth) and 5 famb (female assigned at birth) people work as Recess off-site/full Organizers, and their average number of years working for Recess are nearly the same. With Mfab organizers working an average of 3.4 years for Recess and Ffab organizers working slightly longer at Recess averaging 3.6 years. Also, I was surprised at the high number of a 3.5 year average of working with Recess, only because I know that community dance organizer turnover to be very high in general in the dance community, and since Recess produces 9 events in the same annual time frame that local organizers produce one or two, I expected a higher turnover.
I hear calls for concern in some individuals about femme labor and I wold love more insight and information about this as I am struggling to understand the exact situations, concerns or critiques. While I am sure they merit attention. I don’t have the information to work with this one with Recess.
Were the departing members invited to the camp out?
The departing members were not formally invited to the camp out. They had already stopped responding to messages from Justin, Ely and David. Recess was respecting the implicit and explicit "no" to further communication. The camp out was not about an accountability processes. It was held because of the lack of information and engagement from those that left in an attempt to hear, listen and audit what was happening (and what was needed) in a face to face way with the community at large.
It was an incomplete process. It was a beginning. We are still in the work of unravelling and addressing what happened. And, more is still needed. We know that.
Is there an accountability process happening?
No plan of accountability has been made. I have been in the process of supporting Recess in designing a process (accountability, reconciliation, conflict resolution, community peacemaking circle, etc). It is still a work in progress and after 2 months, we dont have enough concrete concerns or incidents to work with that warrant and official “accountability process.” With out more involvement from concerned parties this is going to be a slow process and possibly one that can't actually have integrity or be successful. We have been hesitant to create something insincere or superficial for Recess. I know there are real concerns and people are upset and there is an ask for change. Recess is in conversation about how to move forward with addressing that in a way that honors values of restorative justice and reconciliation.
I don’t think accountability can happen without the need for it from, (and participation of) Leah, Kim, Dig or Cat. Or, another individual or group from the community step forward to call them into that process. There are community members who have been in conversation with me about working together to design something. And, I have not found (in my scouring, digging, and asking) any reason to approach this situation with an abuse narrative and invoke an accountability process.
* I welcome and invite more voices and more community involvement in this process so that can happen if it needs to. I know that Recess would step into it if it were asked of them.
Have the departing members been involved in the accountability process?
No accountability plan exists. As we are still in the quest of to whom and to what Recess should/could be accountable. But requests - from me (to Leah) and from Recess (to Leah, Kim, and Dig) - have been made for feedback and invited participation in some process (with me, or another mediator, or anyone of their choosing). At this time, those offers have been declined.
I know that this choice and decision (by Leah, Kim and Dig) to step out of processing with recess is important, and one I respect in honor of self-care and holding boundaries.
My assessment is that this conflict best deserves a conflict mediation process rather than one of accountability. Perhaps a conflict mediation process would bring to light a need for accountability, but at this time I do not see it as appropriate for this circumstance and don't have the skills to design something based on what I have.
My other idea is that Recess sit in formal mediation with all past organizers and influrntial people to Recess to talk about and design changes together.
I won't support recess until I see real changes and accountability.
I won't support recess until Kim, Dig, Cat, and Leah do.
Thank you for your conviction and passion to see real changes in the experiences of femme and nb folks. However, I am really concerned about the tactic of asking a community to stop supporting Recess or asking Recess to fold without offering some means of reconciliation, transformation, addressing concerns. I think it is complex. And, I believe that those who stepped out have done so out of their own necessity and self-preservation, and I do not question this decision. I do question a community in which we “other” and villainize those who have done wrong and made mistakes. In which we alienate, shut down or shut out that which is not working. I believe in community. I believe in goodness and good-will of others. I believe that Recess would like to change and would like to step-in to this conflict and step-in to the chance and the opportunity to change. But, currently, the process is slow going. And, continuing to host events and gather with community seems to be the thing that Recess team has access to in order to be in conversation, to try to do better.
I don’t see how forcing Recess out of business or out of its work is going to create positive growth or change for the community or the remianing organizers. I also don’t see how a boycott of recess and recess terminating is accomplishing anything empowering or transformative for those who left, for those who remain, or for the community at large. We can't not end patriarchy by poisoning the king. It is not enough to “take down” a symbol of patriarchy. Or, to take down a leader. We are best off to look at what is happening and take collective inventory of a bad situation, work towards demands, boundaries, and make clear requests and expecations - to give each and all of us the chance to have Recess and have it be different. I can understand that perhaps those who left have lost hope in that. I am entering late in the game here. But, my optimism is both my gift, my strength and my achilles heel. And, I would rather risk trying and losing then to fall in to patterns of punishment used by systems of power - shame, alienation, exclusion, finger pointing.
What are your personal goals in boycotting Recess? Tangible outcomes? What are you standing behind and what are your hopes? For yourself? For the community? For the departing recess team? For those who remain?
Are there ways to engage and come toward this situation in a way that honors community and transformation and liberation? That acknowledges the people behind “recess” and their humanity? Is there a way that does not put this problem as “their” problem, but rather “our” problem? Is there a way that holds each other “in” instead of “othering" the problem as “not in me?” Where is the growth in it for me? For them? For you?
As far as accountability to those who left, no concrete demands or requests have been given to Recess by those who left. The public post asks the community to stop supporting Recess. It also doesn't name that transgressions of abuse, harm, coercion, manipulation nor abuse of power have occurred. Everything I have read from the departing members suggests problematic dynamics behaviors and hurt. It names trust issues. It names gender dynamics. And, it certainly has sparked much critique online that includes a whole world of annoyances, disagreements with, and dislikes of, Recess. But, I haven't found anything to base or warrant an accountability process at this time. More invovlement and more participation from others may yield more reasons down the road. Again this is all made difficult by the lack of communication around the issue from those who have left: accountability processes are conducted between people and the other parties are absent.
I believe that the tone and language of the public posts invoke an abuse narrative rather than a conflict narrative. They infer injustices around gender and patriarchy.
As I have spent months trying to siphon through all of this. I can not understand how or why an "accountability process” is needed. That is an honest sentiment of perplexity. Not an argument against those who want that. I also recognize that not everyone is willing to work with me and talk to me in this because I am seen as being allied with Recess. So, it’s complicated.
I hold concerns about community approaching this with an abuse narrative and the implicit power dynamics that can create. I also hold concerns that the call for “accountability” is actually a desire for punitive justice. To see recess suffer and be penalized for it's mistakes and short-comings.
Does Recess need a conflict resolution process with those who left? Yes. Certainly. Some changes to be a better organization? Yes. Certainly. Work on examining patterns of patriarchy and how they play out in recess team? Yes. Please. It will be well worth the time. Do Justin, David, and Ely need a break personally from events for a while? Yes. Probably. Does the community need to demand that they do that? Seems dramatic and unfair based on what concerns I have found as substantiated. Are people upset with Recess? Yes. Are their legitimate reasons for the community to boycott Recess? That is one for personal discernment based on personal values. From my value and ethic set - no.