[guest post by Julie Johnson, RFC Granting Coordinator]
It’s been two weeks since my first RFC Family Gathering. Over a long weekend in early August, 12 families including 22 children and 16 parents, and four peer leaders (all former or current beneficiaries) came together to build community in western Massachusetts. Parents and children from all over the country spent three days together in dialogue, finding support, having some laughs, and forming bonds.
The Gathering allowed children to meet peers whose lives have also been impacted by their parents’ targeting and ongoing organizing, and it gave the adults an opportunity to process together their struggles as both parents and activists. The event created a space for emotionally rejuvenating and politically validating conversations with others in similar circumstances. Arts-oriented workshops, swimming, games, and cultural activities further enriched the experience for participants.
I was honored to have the opportunity to get to know so many of the beneficiary families whose voices I’ve heard over the phone and stories I’ve read on paper, but whom I’d never met in person. It was inspiring to listen to all the accounts of what participants have faced as well as to see parents and children let go, have fun and make some new friends. Although these families came from diverse backgrounds, and their activism ranged from anti-war to animal rights to anti-torture, people found a common thread and solidarity.
A father confided in me how much it meant to him for his son to meet other children whose parents are activists, and whose families remain strong and committed to one another as well as their activism, despite their targeting. Seeing the children bond and witnessing moments like hearing a mother from a small town in Maine tell a mother from a large city in the South that her son was welcome to visit any time, were beautiful experiences that I am humbled to have been a part of. One teen later recounted, “…my favorite part of the Gathering was connecting with my peers with similar experiences…Thank you all for making so much possible through your grants and this Gathering…”
Gatherings (like RFC grants) are intended to combat the isolation that targeted activists and their families too often experience by showing them they’re not alone. This Family Gathering offered just this solace to the attendees. As one parent wrote afterwards, “…It allowed me to share feelings and experiences that previously I could not share, with others who have been through (or are going through) similar experiences. I really love and appreciate what you do for all these folks. Thank you.”
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