If you follow knitting personalities, people, groups, and hashtags at all on Instagram, you must have noticed more content in the last six months about a hard topic: that in every aspect of our lives, racism is present. And, our knitting community isn't immune. This article sums up what occurred. BIPOC (black, indigenous, people of color) knitters all over the world have shared experiences on Instagram of being ignored or condescended to at local yarn shops, of feeling uncomfortable being the only brown person in a knitting group, of being told "I didn't think black people knit." This isn't the kind of knitting community we want.
To provide a brave space for Portland knitters to talk, share, work out, and learn in person, we set up Knit Nights. We've been meeting every second Monday at FUMC. From August onward, we are considering new times and places to make it easier for people who are already booked on Mondays; look out for updates.
For those of you nervous about attending: please consider coming. Yes, it may be awkward at first. And, yes, we definitely want you to feel like you can join us.
It's awkward enough for some people to come into a new social group when the topic isn't about personal politics, deep self-reflection, and racism.
âBut, we're a friendly and supportive group. We also talk about fun things. We laugh. We knit while we talk and talk about our knitting. Conversations meander. Many questions are asked rather than assumptions made. Challenges may be posed, but it's all up to you how you want to proceed or not. We're all vulnerable, we're all here for each other. No one will make you talk if you just want to sit, knit, and listen.
Know that you're welcome and we appreciate you.
So, what have we been talking about at Knit Night? Here is a short summary in which we tried to capture some highlights, soundbites, and thought-provoking points. We hope that you bookmark this post to go back to when you need some grounding, some ideas, some help, and some guidance.
Each meeting, we try to come out with a "homework assignment" to spark discussion for the next meeting, like question prompts or reading suggestions. Here are some examples:
Make time to read/listen to a resource from our compiled list:
This list should be editable and sharable by anyone!
What common history do you remember learning in school that you later discovered had a different perspective?
What are some local organizations that are asking for knitting supplies for marginalized people?
Knitting was an easy access point to start putting action into a problem brewing for centuries.
A few conversation topics had:
How social media helps expose and challenge our awareness outside of our "bubbles". Some of us grumble about how the Internet can be a negative place, but member Carol Hanna made a great point that it's also an opportunity to discover ideas and people in a good way. What do you think about that?
The democracy of knitting vs. exclusivity. Knitting can be an expensive hobby. What are some more economically inclusive ways to enjoy this hobby? Thrifting sweaters for their yarn? Upcycling/recycling other yarn? Alternative yarns?
While the Guild extends an invitation to anyone, not everyone has the ability to come. Transportation, child care, and other practical/logistical things can be bigger challenges to our neighbors than we assume. Different cultures may have different definitions of child care, for example. How do we be as inclusive as possible while providing a great experience?
Knitting was an easy access put action into a problem brewing for centuries. It's fortunate for us, as knitters, right here, right now, to be a part of the conversation and to take action. Why has it been the knitting community and not golf, yoga, or "white dominated" communities? Surely, other communities have. What are some examples?
A Few Links of Interest
When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir,
Portland writer Mitchell Jackson: https://www.mitchellsjackson.com
A Reading List for Ralph Northam: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/02/antiracist-syllabus-governor-ralph-northam/582580/
About Vanport, a forgotten Portland place (especially for transplants: https://www.pdx.edu/ourhistory/vanport-city
One of the MANY conversations that have happened on Instagram:
Black artists of Portland: http://oregonhumanities.org/rll/beyond-the-margins/black-mark-black-legend/?fbclid=IwAR1HaOWEf58K-xeE9cCsS9zVTVr0oGjqlSV6emiHnUfy3Jiq5hp5brUJQpI
Waking Up White by Debby Irving (a self-described WASP's tough self-reflection and learning experience): http://www.debbyirving.com/the-book/
Kristy Glass Knits This Is Us! A Fiber Friends Conversation. (A disarming and greatly informative conversation): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HvLwaANQAM4&t=2106s
More historically accurate documentary about Victor Green (recently highlighted in the Hollywood film The Green Book: https://www.smithsonianchannel.com/shows/the-green-book-guide-to-freedom/0/3467847
Regarding Vanport, OPB has an excellent documentary: https://www.opb.org/television/programs/oregonexperience/segment/vanport/
Seth Myers' "White Savior" skit: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1215682811924361
Good Ancestor: http://laylafsaad.com/good-ancestor-podcast
Seeing White: https://www.sceneonradio.org/seeing-white/
Black music by black artists from black Portland: https://thenumberz.fm
Comment with your suggestions for what to read/listen to/watch, and let us know what topics you'd like us to discuss. Please comment with your questions, as well. Hope to see you soon!
Missives from the fabulous women who got the ball (of yarn) rolling.