2011: Icarista Reportbacks From the FrontSubmitted by Icarus Project on Mon, 12/19/2011 - 2:31pm
We sent out a message to Icaristas across the country to report-back on how they got involved in Icarus and what they were up to lately. Here's what we heard!
(Icaristas at Anarchist Book Fair in SF)
2011 has been a phenomenal year of transformation and challenge for me. I began January by releasing a new zine, So Many Ways to Be Beautiful (available online here),which is a collection of poems and essays touching on gender, disability, trauma, abuse, healing, love, queer politics, spiritual practice, pilgrimage, art and liberation. After that I spent much of the late winter and early spring touring and speaking about radical mental health at Crooked Beauty screenings all over the US, conferences from Palo Alto to Hawaii, and activist spaces everywhere in between. My travels were deeply inspiring and a little much. After the whirlwind, I had to spend some time getting my feet back on the ground and learning what a sustainable work life looks like for me. (Again.)
In September I completed my 2nd year of practitioner training in Somatics and Trauma with Staci Haines and the crew from Generative Somatics. This work has been blowing open my mind and body, offering space for such profound transformation and recommitment to being a part of movements for healing and social justice from a centered place, offering love and embodiment rather than urgency and speed. I have a long way to go! Along the way I have been getting to know my anger and my fear- and all the patterns that get called bipolar, that have been trying to keep me safe for a long time, but do not actually lead to the kind of relationships and organizing that I want to be part of now. I'm developing so much new insight and so many new skills–I am excited for the time when I am ready to offer these practices to the extended Icarus community.
All of this somatic work has opened up the years of stories that my body has to tell, and led me to apply to grad school! As I write this update, I am in the middle of my first residency at the Antioch University's MFA in creative writing program, with a focus on literature and social justice. It is an amazing program. In the coming months I will be revising and creating new work for a book of my poetry that is going to be published by Deviant Type Press in Fall 2012, and reading a hell of a lot of books! I am deeply excited to have the time and space to dive deeper into my own work and art after so many years contributing much of my creative output to Icarus and the collective projects.
The last thing to mention is the ways that my work life has changed. After a couple years getting by primarily through running a gardening business–lots of designing and planting gardens, fixing irrigation, and pulling weeds–I have started to work part time for the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, where I co-edit an online magazine called Turning Wheel Media. Turning Wheel offers perspectives on the intersections between spiritual practice and social justice work. We also curate a powerful blog on mindful and nonviolent action within the Occupy movement. Though Turning Wheel's focus is not overtly connected to mental health, the space for exploration that it offers brings together many people reflecting on how we can live with balance and compassion in a crazy world. Many of our interviews and articles feel deeply connected to the investigations about navigating health and social change that Sascha and I opened up almost 10 years ago when we started the Icarus Project.
Greetings from a longtime Icarista, who used to be in snowy Western Mass and is now living in rainy Portland Oregon. I conspired with the Icarus collective since its founding and have been playing a backup role the past few years. The Icarus Project is like a pair of magical wings in my life, guiding me to an amazing community of wild dreamers. These days I finished my MA in Process Work and am pretty busy working as a counselor, doing trainings and teaching workshops. I collaborate a lot with the local peer recovery movement, and started Portland Hearing Voices, a way for people to meet each other outside mainstream identities, weave connections -- and get the word out about Icarus and the hearing voices movement. I continue to produce Madness Radio, and sometimes guest host other shows on the local community station KBOO, including a recent broadcast from Occupy Portland on the eve of the park blocks eviction struggle. Oh, and I still measure my life by film: it used to be Before The Matrix, After The Matrix; now it's Before Hugo, After Hugo.
Madness Radio Update from Will
Madness Radio is co-produced with Icarus and has reached tens of thousands of listeners over the years on Pacifica stations and online. Leah Harris is now doing audio engineering and Scott Lahteine is still the main web guru. Some past Icarista community collaborator guests include Jacks McNamara, Bonfire Madigan, Sascha Altman DuBrul, Leah Harris, Brad Lewis, Machete Mendias, Gabriella Coleman, Annie Robinson, Marykate Connor, Kate Bornstein, Sabrina Chapadjiev, Steven Morgan, Mel Gunasena, Michael Gennarelli, Jessica Max Stein, Rockdove Collective, Maryse, Carey Lamprecht, and Julie Spooner.
I first learned about TIP after reading a story in the Columbia News Service. I connected with the local NYC group, which was transforming, struggling, blooming, and reseeding itself, all at once. I got involved with maintaining and supporting the website, leading to its relaunch on the free and open source Drupal platform in Fall '06.
I currently work full time in educational technology, and am a free software developer and advocate. I am also working part-time on a doctoral degree in communications at the journalism school where I am investigating the politics of memory (e.g. surveillance, transparency, and privacy) especially at the intersection with corruption in psychiatry and the pharmaceutical industry. Last spring I completed my coursework, and this is the first holiday season in seven years that I haven't had a final paper due ;-).
I often write about madness-related themes on my personal blog. This year I published a paper titled "Pediatric Bipolar and The Media of Madness" in the peer-reviewed journal of Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry (2010, 12(3), 254-268). I significantly reworked this paper and new version of it now appears as a chapter in a new anthology called Drugs & Media: New Perspectives on Communication, Consumption, and Consciousness edited by Robert MacDougall. I have also presented at academic conferences on the ZyprexaKills campaign, and written about and presented the film Crooked Beauty at film fests and screenings. I am currently involved in the #OccupyWallStreet movement, trying to incorporate the language of Icarus in social and emotional support through direct action and our upcoming mindfuloccupation.org zine.
I consider Icarus to be my nuclear family, and am continually reminded how desperately the world needs the conceptual revolutions we lovingly devote ourselves to.
Icarus and AORTA Northwest Tour!
from kiran nigam <email@example.com>
Jacks and kiran from The Icarus Project and AORTA (Anti-Oppression Resource and Training Alliance) teamed up in Spring 2011 for a Pacific Northwest workshop tour! In a rental car filled with flip chart paper, markers, and dried bananas, we made our way through the Northwest.
In Olympia, Washington, we met up with members of The Evergreen Campus Icarus Project and led two workshops on queer and trans mental health and creating supportive communities. In Vancouver, kiran facilitated a discussion on Radical Mental Health for People of Color. The next day we were on the UBC campus, leading a workshop on queer and trans mental health. Our last day of Vancouver workshops found us in the DIY Dharma Lab, leading two packed workshops for community members, one on Radical Mental Health and Collective Living, the second on the intersections of Radical Mental Health and Collective Liberation.
Seattle was our starting and ending point: The tour kicked off with Jacks facilitating a workshop for the local Icarus Project, and culminated in an inspiring workshop that brought in close to 150 organizers and community members from across Seattle to explore the intersections between Transformative Justice and Radical Mental Health. We left inspired, with smiles on our faces and ideas in our minds and hearts.
Updates from Kim in MN
I’ve been involved in the Icarus Project since 2003, when it very literally saved my life. It continues to be a part of my life. I currently work as a social worker at two community centers, and I complicate the mental health conversation with coworkers and (hopefully!) provide holistic caring support for people as someone who has been there. While I don’t always use Icarus language with residents, I definitely talk about mad maps and friends making the best medicine and alternatives to medication and finding help and support that works for them. I work with primarily East African refugees, which means the Icarus model can be affirming for people who don’t necessarily even understand but can’t avoid the medical model as the only possible solution.
I present to a master’s level social work class every semester as “an audiovisual aide of mental illness,” at the request of the amazing wonderful Icarus-loving professor. I complicate the conversation and always get really good feedback, and gratitude for sharing the information. Doing it over the last 3 years, it has been amazing seeing a shift even within that short time period of students being much more willing to “come out” as having be labeled with a diagnosis and/or struggled with their mental health. Which has been really awesome to see, because it was pretty lonely when I did it 5 years ago.
In 2008 I co-led, with Icaristas Silverelf and Candace, the development of the wellness center at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul. We created a space for emotional health that was equal in size and attention and intentionality as the one for physical health. We had therapists and counselors and massage therapists and acupuncturists and reiki practitioners and a whole lot more. There was even a small Icarus group that met some during the convention. It was an incredibly draining experience, but I think that it was a transformative period, and that we played at least a small part in the attention emotional health is getting at other actions and at the Occupy protests today.
Speaking of which, just a few weeks ago I co-led a workshop on emotional trauma for medics serving Occupy Minnesota. We adapted the training that Candace and I gave about a hundred times during the RNC for Occupy, and hopefully improved the emotional health support that medics can offer protestors, as well as support the medics in taking better care of themselves so that they don’t burn out.
Oh, and I (re)met my partner Silverelf on the Icarus boards (we went to college together, but hadn’t spoken in 6 years). I needed some help downloading some files, and there he was. So…thanks TIP!
Ken Paul Rosenthal <firstname.lastname@example.org>
When I was a kid, my dad told me that my mouth would get me into a lot of trouble one day. And it did…on a lot of days…well into adulthood. Ordinary words alone could not articulate the well of sensitivities spilling out of what I secretly referred to as my “cracked urn mind.” In time, I found my voice in the twisted and gnarled metaphors of Edvard Munch’s paintings and traditional Butoh dance; both perfectly embodied experiences so intertwined with my soul that I dared not utter them aloud. And yet I still felt stifled as an artist; how could I create new language that resonated with my inner world without perpetuating our pervasive societal narratives, so rife with a vocabulary of disease, damage, and despair? How could I write without being written upon? That’s where The Icarus Project came in.
In January 2005, I picked up a copy of the ‘Navigating the Space Between Brilliance and Madness’ reader, and read Jacks McNamara’s phrase, “Birds with perfectly symmetrical feathers cannot fly.” These words spoke so deeply to the marrow of what mattered to me, that I immediately envisioned a poetic documentary that enabled viewers to examine their own capacity for change. One that drew new maps for madness as a tool of insight and inspiration for those who openly struggle with their mental health, and anyone who might feel ‘crazy’ in today’s chaotic world. I completed Crooked Beauty in August 2010, and over the past one and a half years, I’ve presented it at 29 film festivals; 16 universities and art schools; 18 mental health conferences; 12 hospitals and non-profit peer support networks; 20 museum, theater, and community events; 2 jails; and won 12 awards. By late Spring 2012, I hope to make Crooked Beauty available online as a very affordable 2-week download for home use, in multiple languages. Most importantly, I’m learning to be more mindful of my own wellbeing, so that I can continue to make films that are so beautiful, they will break, bend and mend hearts in one breath.
Shortly after I first met Jacks, I shared my concern that I might not be perceived as 'mad’ enough to be a part of The Icarus Project, and they responded, “If our mission resonates with you, you are one of us.” That is the heart of Icarus—creating community around ideas that are compassionately envisioned and extended to those who might not have the words. Martin Luther King said, “Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.” He’d have made a great Icarista. Mad love, and love madly…Ken Paul Rosenthal, Director, Crooked Beauty www.crookedbeauty.com
Sascha Altman DuBrul
I am so blown away when I think about the wild twists of fate that have me sitting here writing this little report back from a tiny attic room in South Berkeley, California where I live with a bunch of friends at the end of 2011. I've been hounding everyone else to get me their Icarus report backs and now that it's my turn I don't have time to do mine much justice, but here are a couple threads if anyone's curious enough to follow them...
So 3 years ago I officially stepped back from working on the Icarus Project and shortly thereafter I ended up dramatically in the psych ward! A little bit of the story is here but basically after a year of living at a yoga ashram I ended up moving in Oakland, CA (after 8 years in New York) and going back to college after dropping out as a teenager. I work as a landscaper and as I type these words I have one semester left before I graduate with my BA in Human Development. Amidst all the garden work, for the past two years I've gotten to do some amazing studying. Here's an interview Will Hall did with me on Madness Radio last year that I like a lot. One of the more interesting threads I got to follow post-ashram life was researching the history of the Human Potential Movement and teaching a month long seminar at a placed called Esalen with my buddy Brad Lewis, champion of Campus Icarus. Here's some writing about that, and then one of the followup stories, which is the connection Esalen ended up making between Icarus and Michael Cornwall, who's been a really active force in my life lately. Under the guidance of Brad, I've gotten to do some solid Icarus inspired writing in the form of this essay and this article which is getting closer to submission as we speak .
This past summer I had the most amazing experience traveling around Europe for the first time in my life and facilitating Icarus workshops in Stockholm, Sweden; Berlin, Germany; and Barcelona, Spain. I love traveling to new places and being an excuse for people to come together and talk about mental health and revolution. The complex knots of 19th and 20th Century European and Middle Eastern history have become a big part of what I think about these days, specifically related to Jews and the state of Israel, but really the lessons apply all over. I'm fascinated and engaged by world politics a lot more than I ever have been and closer to home I'm really inspired by all the long term community work falling under the title of Occupy these days. Having been an activist since 1989 (at the tender age of 14), I'm feeling more like an elder all the time (in the sweetest of ways.) I just turned 37 last week and my amazing girlfriend just turned 50 two days ago and me and her 21 year old daughter organized a big surprise party for her. My friend's children are growing and I find myself more and more drawn to be around kids. That's where the real action is.
I have this senior project coming up next semester and I think I'm going to develop a workshop model based on the Wellness Map/Mad Map/WRAP ideas that we've been throwing around the Icarus Project community for years and that have personally helped me so much. I think a lot about what individual and collective healthiness looks like, and consider it my life path to perpetuate it! My best friend Jacks introduced me to the world of Generative Somatics, which lies at the fruitful intersection of social justice activism and somatic (body based) therapy. I see a future in for myself it somehow, that mix of personal healing that allows the healers to rise from the ashes and use our sensitivities to help others. An old Icarus theme that gets more nuanced and interesting as the years go on.
I feel like I carry a lot of lessons and stories around with me these days, and I look forward to having opportunities in the coming year(s) to share more of this journey with all the incredible people that have passed through my life over the last decade in relationship to this project. Que vivan las Icaristas! Hope to see you in the new year!