360 View: Home Is Where the Resistance Is

360 View: Home Is Where the Resistance Is

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Attendees wanted to know what would happen if they were deported. Would they have access to their money in banks? Should they set up a power of attorney for their children? They also had questions about how to deal with subway harassment and school bullying. “The mood was a bit tense at first,” said Ms. Meyer, 32. “It’s a little awkward to go to a stranger’s house. But as the evening went on, people relaxed.” On the way out, some attendees hugged.

The dinners have also helped forge closer bonds among neighbors, like the one that has blossomed between Ms. Meyer and her next-door neighbor, Reba Frankel, 37, after the two hosted a December dinner with their spouses in their Sunset Park co-op. “We had traded bread recipes and they cat-sat for us when we went out of town,” Ms. Meyer said. “Now we are going to protests together and organizing together and email every day.”

Even the youngest participants have noticed a change. “Our children are bonding,” said Ms. Castillo, who has two young daughters. “My daughter said to me, ‘The only good thing about Trump winning is that you formed Love Trumps Hate and I get to make all these new friends.’”

In late January, Ms. Khan-Cullors, a founder of Black Lives Matter, and about a dozen other activists held an emergency meeting in a two-bedroom house in Santa Monica, after protesting the immigration executive order at Los Angeles International Airport all day. In a gathering that lasted until midnight and grew to 40 people, a legal adviser broke down the implications of the order for the guests. “I need to be with people right now,” Ms. Khan-Cullors, 33, said in a telephone interview. “I need to know that we have each other’s back. We’re not just going to live online in the social media world.”

For a younger generation that has come of age in an era of telecommuting, a living room makes for a more natural venue than a sterile office conference room or a church basement. In the early days of Black Lives Matter, Ms. Khan-Cullors hosted many gatherings at her home in St. Elmo Village, an artists’ community in Los Angeles, where she lived until 2015. “Many of us in this generation are not interested in having our thoughts, our intellectual property or our organization inside of traditional building spaces,” she said. The home is “where we’re generating a lot of ideas.”

Taking part in a Solidarity Sunday event at the Greenpoint, Brooklyn, apartment of Artineh Havan included, from left, Maria Falgoust, Joelle Te Paske, Rachel Thieme and MargiBielser.

Credit
Tess Mayer for The New York Times

“It’s where we’re producing the next iteration of where the movement is going,” she said.

There is also a long history of political organizing in the home. Fledgling groups often do not have the resources to rent office space, so living rooms make viable alternatives. At the consciousness-raising groups of the late 1960s, for example, women gathered in one another’s homes in New York and around the country to discuss feminism.

“To the extent that women have power, it tends to be in the home,” Gloria Steinem, a founder of Ms. magazine, said in a telephone interview. “The goddess of the hearth is a woman, for God’s sake.”

Certainly, women have figured prominently in the months since Hillary Clinton lost what would have been a historic election of the first female president. The women’s marches that took place around the country the day after the inauguration drew as many as five million protesters, by some estimates, making it among the largest marches in American history.

“I think what you’re seeing is that the resistance is being led by women,” said Rebecca Traister, the author of “All the Single Ladies” (Simon and Schuster, 2016).

Consider Solidarity Sundays. Three mothers in Alameda, Calif., started the Facebook group a year ago, rattled by the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., and the shooting in nearby San Bernardino, Calif. For a year, the group, with about 800 members, gathered monthly at two of the organizers’ homes to eat, drink and contact elected officials about specific policy concerns, like police violence. Babysitters would watch the children. Most of the members are women or identify as women.

A pile of letters to elected officials and advocacy groups written at the Greenpoint meeting.

Credit
Tess Mayer for The New York Times

And then the election happened. Three days later, the group held an emergency meeting at the home of Kate Schatz, one of the founders. The gathering, with 100 attendees crammed into a living room, was “super intense,” said Ms. Schatz, 38, the author of “Rad American Women A-Z” (City Lights, 2015). “We spent the whole time brainstorming.” Now the group has 12,000 members, with about 100 chapters meeting in 27 states. Manhattan has four chapters, Queens one and Brooklyn six.

On the second Sunday of every month, guests who have signed up through Facebook arrive at a neighbor’s home. Last Sunday, Rachel Thieme hosted her third event in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. She held the first two in her railroad-style apartment; the third one she co-hosted at the apartment of Artineh Havan, also in Greenpoint.

Many of the attendees have never been politically active before, she said. For Ms. Thieme, 36, these monthly gatherings have served as a political awakening, a chance to flex a long-dormant political muscle. As her neighbors made phone calls, she refilled their cocktail glasses. “I don’t even know what’s going to be happening in the world,” she said. “But what I can count on is that there is going to be a ton of rad women in my house who want to take action.”

Chapters have also opened in more conservative parts of the country, like at the home of Kathryn Mahaney in Bay Saint Louis, on the Gulf coast of Mississippi. Last Sunday, she hosted her first event, with around a dozen guests drinking bourbon and eating king cake, a traditional Mardi Gras dessert. While other chapters focused on political actions, Ms. Mahaney, 33, saw hers as a way for politically progressive neighbors to find allies in a deeply conservative community.

By opening her home, Ms. Mahaney hopes to make liberals feel less isolated. “Many of them feel that they have to hide,” she said. “They are afraid to signal their political beliefs because of the fear of retribution from friends and family, as well as from strangers.”

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