Troublemaker’s workshop in Amman

“If you don’t like the news …GO OUT and make some of your own!”

–Wes “Scoop” Nisker

As part of the Beautiful Rising project, a workshop was held at the ActionAid Global Platform in Amman from 12 to 15 April, 2015. The workshop brought together 15 activists whose work is based in six Arab countries (Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt, Tunisia, Syria and Jordan) to reflect on and document their work together, share their own experiences with creative activism, and join an international network of rising social movements.

The workshop provided participants with new in-depth technical knowledge, tactical and strategic insights, and networks of information-sharing and mutual support that will empower them in their coming day-to-day work. It also included writing sessions in which participants helped transform their success stories into cases useful in other countries. There was also training in strategic campaigning, networking, creative action planning and brainstorming on best practices, tactics, and approaches used in social activism across the Middle-East/North Africa region.

Participants and facilitators had an incredibly valuable and inspiring experience:

“When describing the Beautiful Trouble book, a storm of ideas come to mind. Inspired by the social movements mentioned in it, and by the tactics, principles, theories, and quotes contained in it; you go back to your country carrying plenty of ideas, and start seeing activism differently: as an everyday joy and pleasure!” wrote Zyna Mejri (Tunisia).

“The Beautiful Trouble book is useful beyond documentation in that it contributes to a common language for activist work and makes a great deal of this work available in a concise, cross-referenceable form which we all can draw from,” says D. ‘Alwan, an Iraqi-American activist and a participant at the BR workshop. “My take-aways in addition to new relationships and networks, come in the form of written case studies. These writings will highlight tactics, principles, and theories of activist campaign work based in the Arab world that will be included in some way in Beautiful Trouble projects.”

However, according to D., the Beautiful Rising workshop model also faces some challenges, including how to best encourage global engagement since the format of the content being collected is already set. In order to be involved, international participants are being asked to work within predetermined western paradigms that feed Beautiful Trouble, the book. This limits what these participants are able to explore together as well as contribute. The Beautiful Rising project will address this constraint as it moves forward to work in more countries.

But it wasn’t just about learning, documenting, and planning for the future. Participants took action, too: In one of the action-design sessions participants rewrote lyrics to Lauryn Hill’s “Killing Me Softly” in order to encourage her to cancel her upcoming concert in Tel Aviv as part of the cultural boycott of Israel for its human rights abuses. Participants filmed themselves singing the song and produced a music video that got traction in online news sites and joined the global chorus asking Ms. Hill to not play the show — a movement that was ultimately successful in helping Ms. Lauryn Hill to do the right thing and cancel her show. You can thank her by adding your name on the “Thank you Ms. Lauryn Hill” site.

The Beautiful Rising project was co-founded by ActionAid Denmark and Beautiful Trouble in 2014 and is funded by the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) under the heading “Innovative Partnerships.” Beautiful Rising aims to strengthen the capacity and effectiveness of social movements, activist groups, and civil society organizations to achieve lasting social change. The first phase of the project includes an across-the-world “listening project” to identify inspiring stories and key factors in practicing creative activism in politically challenging circumstances. The workshop in Jordan this past April was the second of five or six that are planned. The team went to Myanmar in January, and future workshops are scheduled later this year for Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, and Uganda.

Posted by Zyna Mejri
May 12, 2015