1. Tell me about For the Birds. How did the collective form and were your part of that?
(It should be noted that for the past two years I have been a "migratory bird," if you will. I am no longer a key organizer, but I keep involved when I can because I can't imagine my life without this collective.)
In 2003, a group of women who were involved with punk and activism started the Long Island Womyn's Collective. Long Island, where I am originally from, had a really creative and active scene back then. I'm very grateful to have been apart of that community, but like any subculture it also had it's share of problems and exclusions. We began meeting here and there to discuss our experiences with sexism in punk and organizing. We had skill shares and idea shares in parks and bedrooms. It was refreshing and illuminating to meet with these women and to have collective "me too" moments. We no longer felt individually alone in this scene we loved but that often rejected us. When we gave ourselves a name and a mission, it was not received well by many of the men we associated with and we heard about it often. It didn't stop us. We met weekly at the Long Island Freespace, a really important resource for Long Island radical organizers that is now defunct. In 2004 we held the first Big She-Bang, an event focused on creative women. There was music, art, and panels. By 2005, the event grew so big that it was held over two days with a focus on historical and contemporary feminism on Long Island.
The collective eventually fizzled out due to members busying themselves in college or moving to Brooklyn. In 2007, one of our organizers, Jodi Tilton, an amazing human and wonderful friend, passed away. The LIWC reconvened and decided we should hold another Big She-Bang in honor of her life. It took place at ABC No Rio in the Lower East Side and we realized we not only missed working together, but that this work is never-ending. We continued meeting and eventually started a new collective in NYC, which is what hatched For the Birds Collective. We kept our punk ideals but began to move beyond into the much more immense world.
2. What are your collective goals and what methods do you use to achieve them?
As mentioned in our mission statement, the collective "works to combat social inequality and all forms of oppression through an intersectional feminist analysis of power both within our collective and in our larger society. We value collaboration, shared knowledge, self-expression, and meaningful conversation. We seek to combat transphobia, sexism, racism, classism, heterosexism, ableism, capitalism and other forms of oppression, and to reflect on our own privileges. Our activism emphasizes the need for accessibility, safer spaces, and support within our communities."
The collectively meets weekly with check-ins, check-outs, a moderator and note-taker, an agenda that is passed around, a safe word, and snacks. We organize inclusive events based around the creative endeavors of women-identified folks in safer and supportive spaces. We aim to be allies and to collaborate with local groups and organizations. We want to listen, learn, and support in any way we can. In the past we've partnered with groups including POC Zine Project, Mama's Hip Hop Kitchen, and Support New York. We've also given workshops on our organizing processes at events including Ladyfest, ClitFest, and Visions in Feminism. We've written a zine called So You Want to Start a Feminist Collective based on our personal experience as a collective. We table with our feminist distro at local zine fests and events in and around NYC. The collective has since taken a hiatus from organizing the Big She-Bang, which took place yearly at venues such as Judson Memorial Church and other locations in NYC, in order to focus on other goals.
3. How do you feel like being part of a feminist collective informs the way you relate to the rest of the world? To other women? Or to your community in general?
Working with this collective has taught me so much about being a compassionate human being. Never in my life have I met with a group of such respectful and thoughtful women who are willing to have the really hard conversations regarding our own privileges. I've learned how to truly listen and I recognize the importance of valuing the work we do while also understanding our privilege and taking a step back. Or taking a step forward when someone is treading on me. Each woman in the collective brings something completely unique and important to meetings and I've learned so much from them. Sometimes the work we all do feels draining and unheard, but holding onto our values is crucial even when the other half of the world doesn't care. It's what gets me through another catcall, another blow to reproductive health, another Trayvon Martin. It's a comfort knowing there's a whole lot of women and allies out there - within and way beyond our collective - who share the same core beliefs of staying alive, recognizing privilege, and resisting psychic death. This may sound bleak, but to me it's full of hope.