Top Responses To a World on Fire: Party as Protest - Part 2 Author: A. Hannah Spadafora
In the last article in this series, the history of festive events used as rebellion against power was traced from the removal of dance from medieval churches, to the pathologizing of festivity by early psychologists, to the suppression of free time in corporate work organizations, to—more upliftingly—the claiming of power in various ways by carnival celebrations over the last millennium. The follow up to this unit suggestion response to a world on fire looks at how protest demonstrations across major change movements over the last two centuries have served as communal gatherings, as well as adapted some traditions from parties and carnival.
Top Responses To a World on Fire? Party :
Best held as a parade...
Every year, the LGBTQIA+ communities hold Pride parties—in June for most of the country, in October for those living in Atlanta. These events involve celebration of identity as well as protest against legislation that denies the humanity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, nonbinary, and other non-straight, non-cis, and/or non-heteronormative community members.
...in a park:
Practices of flashmob are popular in the secular sphere. Here above is one where participants paid political tribute to Hillary Clinton—showing support for her former bid for president while paying tribute to her iconic professional fashion in an array of pantsuit ensembles.
…on the street:
Protest demonstrations, much like funerals, can have elements of celebration and mourning laid side by side. It is empowering to celebrate life, and powerful to commemorate death. Here is a protest from the DC chapter of the Black Lives Matter movement reflecting these dual concerns, as participants perform dance for the intended audience of a police gathering.
All night long…:
In 1929, Igbo / Aba women in Nigeria protested men being appointed as “warrant chiefs” as well as the imposition of market taxes via traditions of censoring and shaming through all-night singing and dancing.
…or in the yard or public visit of your favorite love-to-hate homophobic politician:
In recent years, queer dance parties have thrown in front of both Mike Pence and Ivanka Trump's houses and public events. This has been a celebration in the face of oppression and an interruption tactic utilized to counter disruptions of gay community members lives with disruptions that question their rights in public spaces, implement discriminating policy, and spout hateful / ignorant rhetoric.
Or taking a walk:
Here is some early footage of suffragette marches for women's enfranchisement/fight for the right to vote. This did not win all women the right to vote, as African and Native women were only allowed to much later, but it was a start down the path of women insisting on inclusion in public spaces and political matters.
Civil Rights Movement:
Marches during The Civil Rights Movement aided the process of ending formal segregation and Jim Crow Laws, as well as the push for social acceptance of integrated families, work forces, and neighborhoods. Clearly there is still work left to be done, but it is inspiring to know change is possible, and to reflect the power of demonstration in changing hearts, minds—and policies.
Despite achieving victory in the realm of voting, women are still fighting against policing of their bodies, control over their lives, and for equality in workplace payment and equity in workplace policies—as well as to be treated with dignity rather than misogyny in social and professional situations. Above are a few videos of demonstrations using creative tactics in marches for protected women's rights.
Black Lives Matter:
It is a carnivalesque strategy to interrupt daily routine with demonstrative protest. Black Lives Matter protests carry on where CRM left off, advocating against racism, police brutality, and continued marginalization of POC communities. Both 'Hands up, Don't shoot', and road blocking performances have been notable disruptive events with these goals.
March for science
In light of modern science and climate change deniers, the work for those advocating for sensible and research based policy is cut out for them. Here, activists march for science as part of national and international series of protest events.
In all of these clips, we see something inspiring. People gather together for a common cause, employing demonstration techniques that involve symbols, apparel, and notably performances that all scream "No!" and "Yes!" simultaneously—no to oppressive repetition, and yes to identity and cause affirmation. Whether singing, chanting, music, dance, marching, these protests are themed events, and if you ready to stand for what you believe, you are invited to party.
On that note, from Atlanta: Happy Pride!
Hannah Spadafora is the founder and editor of The Conscious World, and a researcher currently focused on economic anthropology, public policy, and social change (see: The Meaningful Work Project.) She is trained as an applied social cultural anthropologist (M.A.) with a heavy background in social political philosophy (B.A.), comparative religion (B.A.), English (minor), psychology (minor), and journalism/mass media (HS), and has experience across the ground level of office, academic, publication, and service industry professions. Previous research projects have focused on justice and human rights, and music fandom. Former classes taught include introduction to anthropology's four subfields (biological, archaeological, social-cultural, linguistic) and student success/first year program classes; these featured themed content on history, performance, ethics, imperialism, biographies, media, and contemporary events. Manuscripts in the works include a fantasy/sci-fi influenced dystopian novel series, as well as non-fiction writing projects on Buddhist/anthropological ethics and public policy; visual anthropology and community performance; and a more informal funny/self-help centered book, How to Fail at Buddhism. These are written around remote jobs that pay the most basic of bills, but not the soul. An Idealist to the end, clearly.
Article: Party as Protest: Part 2
Series: How To Respond To A World On Fire Column: The Activist Platform