Hello from the depths of January… the land is frozen, the winds are howling, and when the sun shines, the ice crystals sparkle in the sky. We are knee-deep in a series of winter storms with brutal temps and harsh wind-chill… isn’t winter grand? Despite the dark days and less than desirable temperatures there is just something so wonderful and magical about winter. I’ve finally decided to declare that winter truly is my favorite season but I know it's easy for me to make this declaration from a home that is heated and that not all have that opportunity. While all the seasons have a special place in my heart… it is winter that makes me feel at home.
Over the past couple of weeks, there has been a very intense conversation on Instagram with polite words and some harsh ones about the reality of privilege and racist ideas present in the knitting community. The interactions were sparked by a blog post that conveyed a lack of understanding of issues related to diversity, racism, and privilege. While I read so many comments and felt superfluous to the conversation, it wasn’t until I read a quote by Martin Luther King Jr. that I began to reflect on my actions, thoughts, and the impact this has on my work with Project Peace.
Here’s the quote:
This quote stopped me in my tracks. I wanted to run… why, you ask? Let me explain…
At the beginning of 2019, I picked a word (as I have the past few years) to provide intention and focus to my actions throughout the year. I wanted a word that would turn my attention to reclaiming some focus, to help me intentionally work to decrease all the overwhelming forces that are at work in my life. A word that would capture the work needed to focus on health, family, home, and peace-making efforts… I picked the word ORDER.
Little did I know until I read this quote that there were negative connotations associated with the word order… that this word has come to represent “law and order” and for many that’s associated with racism and privilege. How did I not know this? I must do better.
From there, the phrase “negative peace is the absence of tension…” took my breath away… and not in a good way. I began to question if my approach to Project Peace was perpetuating negative peace rather than promoting true peace. My stomach sank and a knot began to form in my throat… what have I done?
And there was more, people began to talk about the derogatory term of “snowflakes.” I had no idea this meant anything other than an ice crystal falling from the sky but sure enough it represents racist ideas and white privilege tracing back to the mid-1800s… I’ve written about snowflakes, even posted photos with snowflakes and I had just picked snow as my theme for Project Peace 2019. I had no idea. I must do better. And yes, I picked a new theme.
It’s been more than 2 weeks since I read that post… not a day has gone by that I haven’t thought about that quote and my next step forward. I’ve had several meaningful conversations with a couple of close friends as well as hours discussing this with my Mum. Should I just avoid this and not bring this to your attention? But what I’ve learned is that being silent on this topic perpetuates the severity of the situation and is not the right path. I must speak up and I must bring this back to the topic of peace.
First, let me say that I have now read of multiple accounts of people representing different financial backgrounds, body sizes, and color demonstrating the tremendous lack of inclusivity existing in our knitting and fiber community. The conversations on Instagram specifically addressed lack of diversity, racist ideas, and the presence of white privilege. The lack of inclusivity is real. I am aghast I didn’t see it. And I will do better.
This blog remains a place to bring awareness to our own individual actions, a “virtual home” that welcomes all regardless of faith, gender, color, political affiliation, ethnicity, age, body size/type, body ability, or skill level.
My goal with Project Peace is to provide an opportunity to choose peace in one’s day. I use knitting as a metaphor as well as through the act of knitting. I have intentionally chosen to not focus on religion or politics in my blog posts. Over the years, I have been criticized for this. During these past few weeks, I began to question whether that approach was creating “negative peace.” Was I doing this to merely avoid the “absence of tension?” I’ve asked myself this question over and over —is my definition of peace this “absence of tension”?
With heartfelt, sincere and deep reflection, I can now answer that with a solid “no.” My intention is, and always has been, not to avoid conflict but to create a welcoming space for all. I want a blog space, a Ravelry home, an Instagram feed where everyone is welcome from the moment they virtually enter. My goal is to plant seeds, to create a ripple effect that each one of us will choose kind words when we talk to ourselves, to family members, strangers, that person who cuts you off in traffic. My hope is that regardless of your identity, your approach to peace is not driven by the absence of tension but rather to create a world where justice is for all… your motive in all that you do and all you support. That when you make yarn, pattern, and shop choices in your knitting, you consider peace as a reason to make a purchase… to support a shop, a family business, a rancher, even factory workers in a country that’s not where you reside.
In 2015, I entered into a relationship with this seemingly simple five-letter word… it’s as if I went on a blind date with the concept of peace, fell in love with all the beautiful components of this word. Now just three years into this committed relationship, I find that this one word is perhaps the most important and impactful word in all the lands.
The events of the past few weeks has made me question my involvement with this “word” and if I should persist. Am I doing more harm than good? And then I realized that those committed to peace don’t throw in the towel when things get tough. We persist. We learn. We grow. We can’t walk away from the discussion, let alone the work… this is uncomfortable work but vital to creating a just world. We stand here together.
I must admit that promoting peace in the knitting community is a tough sell. Here, in my blog I’ve always felt I’m talking to and with those who share my commitment, my belief, my desire to have a world where justice is for all… the essence of ‘peace.’ However, the number of people in the fiber and knitting industry that resist engaging in this process, well, it boggles my mind. I’ve not yet been able to identify the reason for this resistance, but it exists. I plan to continue identifying ways to engage in discussions and to use my platform, my position, to join with voices for change. I plan to double down on efforts to ensure my blog, my Ravelry forum is welcome to everyone, reaching out in ways I perhaps haven’t before.
Let’s make December 21, World-wide Knit for Peace Day stand for something. The United Nations declared September 21 the “International Day of Peace” as a day when all warring nations would put down their weapons. As a commuKNITty, let’s pick up our sticks and string and say “yes” to peace. Let’s welcome all…
Peace begins within and ripples…. To impact those around us, to create change whether that’s interpersonal, political, or global.
I dream of a day when all are welcome… my part in making this happen will be to continue this journey with peace. To knit on through the good and challenging times and to never falter.
Join me… let’s break down barriers, become aware of—and defeat—our own biases, and welcome all to our commuKNITty.