This year, Grassroots International was excited to pilot a new program: Solidarity Encounters. These encounters are virtual engagement spaces for donors, prospective donors, and others interested in supporting Grassroots International to learn more about our work and the work of our frontline partners. Following the successful pilot, we will officially launch this new program in 2023.
In May, in coordination with the publication of our Response and Resistance report, we held an encounter on the transformative ways the social movements we accompany have responded to Covid and other converging crises. In July, we held an encounter called Sustaining Movements, Building Power, which brought to life the work presented in our 2021 annual report. The July encounter included guest speaker Ricot Jean-Pierre from our longtime Haitian partner, PAPDA (Plateforme Haïtienne de Plaidoyer pour un Développement Alternatif/Haitian Platform to Advocate Alternative Development). Ricot spoke about how PAPDA and other social movements responded to the 2021 earthquake and other crises in Haiti.
Our most recent Solidarity Encounter, Cooking Up Solidarity, held in November, was a fundraiser for Palestinian social movements featuring renowned chef and activist Reem Assil. Chef Reem led an online Palestinian cooking class and discussion about the connection between food and land rights. Participants learned to cook a Palestinian dish – a vegetarian kibbeh made from chickpeas and chard, with a dough made from pumpkin and bulgar.
To start the event, participants shared their connections to Palestine and struggles for Palestinian liberation. One reflected, “On the Grassroots International trip to Palestine in 2014, I did not expect to find a besieged and attacked people to be so very loving, hospitable, and generous in their welcome to us. From the first moment of meeting the beautiful people of Palestine, I started to be educated on the art of being human.”
As she cooked, Chef Reem talked about the ways in which food is political. “Food is one of the frontiers we are fighting for when our food has been rebranded as ‘Israeli’ cuisine,” she said. “We need to normalize things that have been invisibilized” and reclaiming culture through cuisine is one means of doing so, she explained. She also talked about how cultural work is a critical component of all movement-building work. After folks shared and tasted their dishes, Chef Reem left us with this reflection: “Cooking and enjoying this cuisine — it is an act of solidarity.”
Solidarity Encounters are one offering among our various donor engagement opportunities. Other offerings include delegations to visit frontline partners and intensive Donor Engagement Groups, or DEGs. Through DEGs, participants take part in a series of learning sessions to deepen knowledge about and solidarity with movements in a particular region or focused around a particular theme.
Please stay tuned for our 2023 schedule of Solidarity Encounters. The encounters will include mística, dialogic learning, art and culture, panels on the transformative visions emerging from grassroots movements, and conversations with frontline partners. They will also all include space for community building, and for celebrating our shared visions and collective work.
Solidarity Encounters – and our other donor engagement spaces – are critical components of our work creating a praxis of Solidarity Philanthropy. We are truly excited to welcome you into this process, and be in community with you, jointly decolonizing philanthropy and radically re-envisioning what it means to be a donor, and to be in deep and transformative solidarity with global social movements.