We went to Wayside for several reasons, for one, probably a lot like you the reader, we didn’t know what the heck it was or what was going on up there. Two, I have one friend who is passionate about what they’re doing and another who was also curious. It felt we would have a supportive family there, even though we had no idea what we were getting into. Turns out it wasn’t so weird after all.
Wayside Center for Popular Education is a place for activists in the social justice movement(s) to gather, plan, connect, and heal. Physically, it is a beautiful old, brick homestead in the mountains of Virginia located on about 25 acres of rolling pasture and cradled within the cup of a surrounding ridge. The cove is a like womb and the activists who come are the babies growing there to be birthed into the world.
For my husband and I, gay rights, Latin rights, language equality were all sort of items of awareness but not things we think on a whole lot. We are white, straight and born in America. Our passion is food and having access to food the way we want it: seasonal; local; from our neighbor if only we could legally purchase it that way. We had never really connected with the difficulties faced by LGBT people nor those of the Latin-American immigrants who enrich our scentless, colorless, bland culture with their passion and vibrance. We had only seen those up-sides and never opened our eyes to the horrific treatment, prejudice and struggles these people face all of the time. Life is a constant fight for respect, dignity and equality. In our insular little social circle, these things are not cogent. In the great wide world, they are. So, we learned and we felt a spark of love and compassion for those speakers who have fought against such great odds to make a difference in this world for their fellows.
Those two issues were the main focus of the educational aspect of the welcome party but certainly social justice cannot end there. Social justice is for everyone. I want to be recognized as a breathing, passionate, sexual, intelligent being rather than seen only in the cliched light of middle-aged housewifedom. In a way becoming invisible has been great. It gives me full freedom to stare, to watch, to analyze and consider the people around me, most of whom never look at me. Perhaps they notice that I’m there but acknowledgment is rare. Graying hair, a thickening waistline, a peach just past ripe and a little bruised that no one wants to bite into. This is the downside. I used to be young, fit, sexy and attractive. It’s hard to feel that limelight shift to the next group of socially approved lovelies, my daughters among them.
Can social awareness be brought to the middle aged or older aged woman’s right to still be considered a thinking human? A sexual human? Is it possible that being marginalized is painful and insulting and worth calling some attention to. Perhaps there are more pressing issues. Obviously, there are more pressing issues. Still…
So, not only did we learn what these people have been working on. Their words sunk in and made me think that maybe my words, my experience, my thoughts could be of use to someone, somewhere and I know that if this happened for me at Wayside over the weekend, there are a lot of other people stirred to action as well.
*Note: I meant to publish this on my Four Oaks blog but for some reason it came up here. Fitting perhaps because of the great numbers of homeschoolers in attendance: grads; parent/teachers; kids. It was certainly a learning experience for all of us.