Based out of the Community Resource Centre in Killaloe, ON, the Survivor Advocacy and Support Initiative (SASI) is a grassroots feminist response to gender-based violence. Their team works in collaboration with community members to nurture cultures of consent, community care, safer/braver spaces, and transformation.
Core to SASI’s activities are Caitlin & Anna MacDonald. ReDefine Arts first partnered with Anna and Caitlin last year for the Renfrew County Inquest Public Art Response, and have shared community with them since the early years of Countdown.
Having just confirmed them as partners once again for this year’s new and upcoming Pathways of Resistance Arts Festival (read more about it in the newsletter!), we invited them to contribute their voices to our blog and newsletter - anything they might want to share on the topic of rural gender justice and SASI’s work to end gender-based violence in the Ottawa valley. Lucky for us, they said ‘yes!’
“The sound of laughter ripples through the air sending waves spilling into the kitchen of the North Street Community Centre in Killaloe. Hot water pours into a tea pot and mugs are gathered to bring out to a table surrounded by a group that has been gathering for four months sharing food and conversation. This is Kitchen Table Conversations.
Kitchen Table Conversations is a project envisioned by SASI, the Survivor Advocacy and Support Initiative, and based out of the Community Resource Centre in Killaloe, Ontario. Conceived during the pandemic, SASI is a grassroots feminist response to gender-based violence, through advocacy, support, referrals and community. The KTC project brings together a group of rural women, trans and gender diverse people, meeting each month to share perspectives, enjoy a meal and discuss a wide range of topics. These have included sharing struggles of combating GBV, the complexities of being gender diverse and/or queer in rural communities, talking about issues happening in our schools and communities, and imagining future community projects and programs. It also included collective artmaking, creating poetry, community visioning, expressive drawings, and sound making.
One of the themes we explore as a group is gender justice. Having a safer space to ask questions and share different perspectives creates space for us to build connections beyond our current social and work circles. Rural areas can feel very isolated where community is often something you need to work at building. “There is a funny mix of being alone and feeling like everyone knows your business in small towns.” Shares one of the group facilitators. “This project shifts that feeling of being alone by bringing together a diverse group of people with a common goal, to share, to connect and to disrupt gender-based violence. It wants to reconsider the power of the spaces like the kitchen table where important conversations of support and knowledge sharing have always happened.” Advocacy and movement building is effective when it is actively bringing in more people. There is a tendency to see changemakers as the single exceptional people who are the only people who can create change. Instead, community transformation is the work of many.
Here is where change also happens. It’s not just in court rooms and government policies, it’s in the hearts and minds of our community as we learn to become better allies to each other. It’s in the sharing of cups of tea, laughter and friendship. It's by creating spaces of gender justice, of diversity and truth, spaces where we can talk about the hard elements of life, share joyful moments and spark change.”
– Caitlin MacDonald, Survivor Advocacy & Support Initiative (SASI)