Thanks so much for being here!
As the site is brand new, I wanted to take this opportunity to explain a little about what TBA is and what motivated me to start it.
We live in an age of crises: a climate crisis, a crisis of capitalism, rampant racial injustice and other social injustices, and a resurgent fascism, to name just a few. The consequences of these crises stare us in the face every single day.
In such times, each of us is faced with a choice: do we try and ignore the problem, continue with our life as much as possible, and hope that someone else fixes things? Or, do we take a stand, refuse to turn away from the contradictions before us and say “I’m not going to take this anymore”?
Do we, in short, remain passive bystanders, or do we become active upstanders?
From my own experience of activism and of working with activists, I’d argue that no one is born that way. Instead, people become activists by finding themselves engulfed in circumstances that they find unbearable, where the only choice is between action and surrender.
This tells us two things. First, every activist has their own story of how they were “activated”, of the circumstances that caused them to change from passive to active. Second, activism is fundamentally a project of building new worlds, worlds which do not require the repression of identity but which are liveable, just, and fair.
The Zapatistas use the slogan “one world in which many worlds fit”. If TBA had a slogan, it would be something like “one world in which many stories fit.” This reflects that fact that although every activist has their own background and motivation we are all part of the same world-building project.
This is really the starting point for TBA: telling the stories of activists and activist groups whilst paying attention to the specific contexts in which they were moulded and the specific motivations which brought them to act.
TBA has three main sections. News and Features covers everything that’s happening right now in Bristol. And I mean everything. As any activist knows, 95% of activism is meetings and organising, fly-postering and outreach. Mainstream media would not consider this newsworthy. TBA thinks differently, and anything that empowers activists with knowledge or inspiration will be published.
The second main section is Interviews and Analysis. Here, we find interviews with organisers and participants in key movements, groups, and actions. This is not about making people into celebrities, but about telling the human story behind the headlines and drawing out the motivations people have to take action (even, on occasion, at great personal risk).
Analysis is about looking critically at campaigns and actions that have happened in the past and asking questions like “what worked”, “what didn’t work”, “what could be done differently”, and “was it successful?”. Analysis reports are like debriefs, written for the benefit of those who come afterwards and look to the past for inspiration.
Finally, we have the Resources section. This is a place to tell the history of protest and activism in Bristol so that we can better understand the terrain in which our struggles today take place.
Taken together, TBA is a bridge between past, present and future. It is a living archive of activist knowledge and experience designed to educate, motivate and inspire activists now and in the years to come.
What emerges from this is not simply the what or the how of protest, but the why. History is not an instruction manual. There is no universal formula or general principle for successful activism. Every act of protest, activism and resistance has to be understood in the specific circumstances of its time, place, and the people involved, just as we must act in the specific circumstances of our own times.
Of course, we can and should learn from the past, but we must also be adaptive and unafraid to break with tradition. I believe that the best way to do this is to recognize that what connects us across time and space is not what we do or how we do it, but why we do it.
So join TBA and let’s explore the ever-changing world of protest, activism and resistance together. Let’s share everything that makes us great and powerful so that we might spread that greatness and power to others now and in the future.
In return for your support, TBA promises to
- Report on news that is of interest to activists; no story is too small
- Tell the true stories of activists and create space for marginalised voices
- Promote progressive causes and always remain anti-racist, anti-facist, anti-sexist and anti-capitalist.
There is no future but the one that we write for ourselves.
James Ward. 20/03/2021.