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Liverpool diary: September 2012

Jennifer Verson reflects on the intersection between activism and everyday life

Image23 August: It was a good thing to think about our housing cooperative as an action. Tracy is in Chicago and she has just been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. I look it up on the internet: it could be exposure to radiation, nuclear testing in Utah. Tracy has to fill out financial aid forms otherwise the doctor won’t operate.

Starting a diary for Peace News is a bit scary. Over the last year, I have developed a love of writing populist political theory: punk rock princesses and shock doctrine for a local grassroots publication in Liverpool and a massive article about identity, class, feminism and consensus decision-making for Interface.

I think a lot, but the thinking is woven into the fabric of life raising a daughter, the realities of motherhood and displacement.

The realities of being a migrant have meant that connections and resources are built and then lost, and each time I moved across the Atlantic I had to start again with people who just didn’t know or care about the things that I had done. Back to Chicago, a year after Gleneagles and nobody really knew or cared about the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army (CIRCA). Back to the UK with a one-year-old, nobody really cared about the Chicago Anarchist Film Festival.

It took at least a year to finally find other people who were raising children who didn’t dismiss me because I was a mother.

Then, on a street corner with kids asleep in prams, we dared to dream. Anstey and I stood there and said that if we wanted to have a stable home, if we wanted to be activists and mothers, we would have to do it ourselves.

When I went to my first Radical Routes gathering, I knew I would know people from my work with CIRCA but I didn’t know who it would be. I had both a sense of coming home, that I was in a place where activists look at systems and do their best to create holistic approaches, and the knowledge that again I would be starting to build relationships from scratch with people who didn’t know me.

12.02pm: I am waiting for the asbestos report from the Neighbourhood Services Company, I wouldn’t be able to do this if it were just for me, I don’t have this thing in my head that says I deserve a house.

What I know is that if I am committed to doing work that does not fit within a capitalist model, I am going to need to create the type of structure where I won’t burn out, and where I can live outside that model too.

The amazing thing that has happened with our main contractors is that we have tapped into this rich vein of old Liverpool rebels and radicals. Liverpool is a place where the people who have stood up to power are embedded in the fabric of society. Some of them lost and are sad in deep ways: lost the strikes; lost the rhythm of the tides; lost going to sea and working the docks. Containerisation: enclosure protects capital.

The thing is, they are here. Some are winning every day and some are just waiting and ready.

I was getting on the bus with my daughter, completely broke. They had just raised the fares to £3.90 for a day ticket. The driver didn’t have change for £4. He said he would give it to me later. I said that I would pay him later when he had the change. He offered to post it to me. I said that I was sick of them stealing from me, that it was my money. He kicked me off the bus because he didn’t like my attitude.

Then he stood up – an older man who remembered. You can’t kick her off of the bus. The driver tried to kick him off too, but there were more by then. We got back on, a woman pressed a handful of money into my hand.

We were Rosa Parks.

I was getting on the bus with my daughter, completely broke. They had just raised the fares to £3.90 for a day ticket. The driver didn’t have change for £4. He said he would give it to me later. I said that I would pay him later when he had the change. He offered to post it to me. I said that I was sick of them stealing from me, that it was my money. He kicked me off the bus because he didn’t like my attitude.

Jennifer Verson is a multimedia live artist and cultural activist. She is also a member of Rose Howey Housing Coop, which has been established to address poverty, housing, parenting, and education needs. They are in the process of buying a 70 room house. Rose Howey is part of the Radical Routes network of housing and worker co-ops, and social centres.