The World Hearing Voices Congress & Alternatives

The Western Mass RLC was well represented at both the World Hearing Voices Congress and the Alternatives Conference that took place between August 16 and August 21 in Boston, Massachusetts.
 
This marked the Congress’s first time on USA soil, and Alternatives’ first time in the Northeast in several years. RLC team member Marty Hadge was one of six keynoters at the Congress, and Erin Levesque offered a keynote talk at Alternatives focused on her Alaskan Native heritage. Former RLC team member, Danny Kochanowski also offered a keynote talk on lessons learned working as a Community Bridger supporting people to transition from psychiatric hospital back to the world.
 Erin Getting Award2Sean Getting a Plaque2
Other RLC team and community members who presented at one or the other (or both!) conferences included Caroline Mazel-Carlton, Natan Cohen, Earl Miller, Sean Donovan, Sera Davidow, Michael Mansur, Anya Zephyaire, and Andy Beresky on topics ranging from alternatives to suicide to building leadership by people of color in the hearing voices movement to transgender rights and beyond.
 
A bunch of the RLC crew (including Kim, Rafael, Rachel, Anya, Emily, and Zoe) also pulled together to offer a mobile Afiya peer respite at the Alternatives conference, earning many positive reviews. A surprise was also awaiting Sean Donovan, who was recognized with the Cookie Gant and Bill Compton LGBTQIA Leadership Award which he accepted on stage alongside several other leaders in the community.
 
All in all, there were many powerful moments and connections made, but one of the most powerful was at the end of Erin’s keynote when she shared the following poem that she wrote about her connection to herself and her culture. (please click read more below!)
 
 
All in all, there were many powerful moments and connections made, but one of the most powerful was at the end of Erin’s keynote when she shared the following poem that she wrote about her connection to herself and her culture:
 
~Amakun kadakiingin axtan ux̂atinaaĝiqatxin waya ilgungin akun malix!~
by Erin Levesque
 
I know where I come from
I know that I
am made of star light
and moon sky
like watercolor music
on galaxy canvas
 
I am magic
I know my people
standing
on blood stained ground
walk a path
paved with indigenous bodies
ancestral road maps
like concrete over genocide
 
and truth denied
I am here
 
I know our story
of seal fur warriors
fierce woman carriers
of our culture
in our bones
to our future
 
I am a collective voice
 
and I beg no pardon
nor permission
for my run on sentence
structure
my refusal to shrink
at your audacious claim
that I am too much
and yet somehow
still
not enough
 
I am an open book
 
always more words
than you think I should be
and not enough writing
to hold who I am
through my elders
and my ancestors
I do know who I am
so take heed
when you ask me
to make comfort cloths
of your misogyny stitching
and tell me not to stretch the fabric
as you pull it hard across my lips
 
Because I am history
 
I
culture bearer
truth discloser
from time before time
like infinite travel
through generations
of silence
I speak
I exist
I come
from a nation of free people
and we rise
from icy tundra
 
we are Unangax̂