A Spark, a Seed, a Beginning

On January 5, 2023, a group of climate change activists who share a passion for art, creativity and resistance, gathered in a house to explore the possibility of forming a creativity-based affinity group. Something special happened or, perhaps more accurately, began. It was stunning.

My name is Jerry Atkin. I have been an activist for most of the last 55 years. Several people in XRPDX have known me for 25 of those, but I haven’t been active for quite a while. I was a caretaker for my wife for seven years before she died a little over a year ago. Lorene Scheer [longtime labor organizer and core XRPDX member – Ed.] called, and like a hibernating bear, I lumbered out of my cave for my first meeting in a very long time.

What I noticed first: this is a group spanning more than five decades of activism.  Our life experiences are wildly different and wildly exciting. What I noticed next: our intent and desire are exactly the same. We want to harness our creativity to create a better world, to create the conditions of change, to do the cheesy quote thing: “to be the change we want to see in the world.” Together. This desire is way more subversive than any single action.

There was a sense of excitement from the beginning. Being in a room with a dozen creative folks who wanted, humbly, to change the world made me giddy and calm at the same time. I didn’t have to explain myself, but I could choose to share my dreams, and my fears. And I could reach out to understand how my talents and experiences could be used to create something greater than the sum of our skills and desire. In some ways, in that room, we were exploring new ways to imagine our work in the world. A spark, a seed, a beginning. Now we begin.  

So, we took the first tentative steps to sorting it all out. Finding our way forward to create the love and trust that would fuel us, bring us together in this process, ready to engage the larger world in a different, more powerful way. For me, this process of creating an affinity group is the deeper work of creating social change. Social change that is also part of the larger healing that is necessary if we are to survive and rebuild a physical, emotional and spiritual world that is fit for our children, all children.  

And I saw all of that in that room, in the shared excitement of being together in a way that deepens our connection, that can inform everything we do to resist and rebuild. Being together created a kind of energy that makes us sustainable for the long haul. Our ultimate resource is each other. Coming out of hibernation is fun! Who needs raw salmon and blueberries, when you have painters, poster and banner makers, writers, fiber artists, and photographers waiting to remake our world in a more just, kinder, gentler, and more respectful way. Now let’s talk about exposing the crooks and the criminals, the war on hydrocarbons and the beauty of green hydrogen…

About Jerry Atkin

Jerry's activism began during the Vietnam war and his fondness for what Rep. John Lewis calls good trouble has continued for more than 50 years. Since moving back to Portland in 1993, his activism has focused on the farmworkers (PCUN), Portland Jobs with Justice, and the Rural Organizing Project. He believes in artfulness, and the most current forms of that are writing and photography.


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