What does SPEAK (youth organisation) do?
SPEAK is a UK organization for young people. – that takes note of Proverbs 31:8-9
“speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.
speak up for the rights of all who are destitute.
speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy”
What does SPEAK do?
- Seeding Change – a SPEAK campaign focusing on the injustices of agribusiness. It involve Land issues and Seed issues.
- ‘Vocal Training’ weekend, Flower Model’ biannual participatory forums, and occasional SPEAK ‘Monastic Gatherings’.. and more. Read on
Andy Cope of SPEAK writes of the “Soundcheck” event of February 2013 (at Which Jo Abbess of CEL gave a talk) and of SPEAK’s other activities.
The annual Soundcheck event is – an opportunity to meet other young Christians with a heart for the poor and oppressed, finding strength in community and worship, as we try to tread more lightly on God’s good earth.
“SPEAK’s revolution exposes injustice and interrupts death… but their revolution also knows how to dance, and laugh — and therein lies its power”,
says author and activist Shane Claiborne.
And well, there was certainly plenty of dancing and laughter at our annual gathering ‘Soundcheck’ a few weekends ago. Furthermore, our dancing was fuelled by tasty vegan food, and our laughter was triggered by the creative and prophetic: sowing ‘seeds’ of change, performing protest songs about the Iraq war, and constructing a large ship out of banners to reflect the ‘Sea Change’ theme of the weekend.
For the SPEAK Network, a once-a-year gathering like Soundcheck is clearly not really sufficient to build a close-knit body of friends fighting for justice together. Of course, we also do get to meet up at smaller events in the calendar – for example, our ‘Vocal Training’ weekend for group leaders (this September), our ‘Flower Model’ biannual participatory forums, and occasional SPEAK ‘Monastic Gatherings’ as well as our presence at festivals and large national protests.
But the real lifeblood of the Network is in our groups – 15-20 around the country, on university campuses and in other cities, meeting regularly to tackle the local face of global injustices through prayer and campaigning. Naturally, we’d like to see this number grow, hopefully by recruiting new Network Builders on our staff as we look towards the next academic year.
One issue that we paid particular attention to at Soundcheck was injustice in our global food system – the subject of a panel that Jo Abbess featured on. This helped frame our launch of a new campaign on this issue, called Seeding Change .
In particular, we are focusing on two areas:
Clearly, land grabs and other misuses of land are prohibiting a fair and careful production of the food that the world’s growing population needs. Secondly the manner in which power is being concentrated over the seed markets, and indeed our over-dependence on agrochemicals and other agricultural inputs/methods, is destroying farmers livelihoods and the environment we all depend on, and this is clearly unsustainable. We want the Department for International Development to stop promoting such unsustainable farming practices, and hope to see power restored to small holder farmers who can be trusted to put social and environmental concerns at the centre of food production – also known as food sovereignty.
In order to equip the Network with material for this new campaign, we have recently compiled a campaigns booklet for Seeding Change. The 24-page booklet outlines the key issues we are tackling through both facts and stories, offers ideas for prayer and action, and lists many online and offline resources (books, documentaries, blogs and so on) which tackle issues of food and agribusiness in more depth. We hope to get this printed soon through crowdfunding (please get in touch if you’re interested!) This summer we also plan to create a petition on an issue relating to Seeding Change in cooperation with Falé, our sister-network in Brazil. The details are yet to be finalised, but you can stay tuned through the SPEAK website or sign up to receive our mailings by sending us an email
Just because we’ve launched something on agribusiness is not to say that SPEAK’s other campaigns aren’t ongoing. Indeed, there is an active body of peace activists within SPEAK steadfastly flying the flag of our campaign against government support of the arms trade. ‘Defend Peace Disarm Tax’ calls for the closure of DSO, the Defence Security Organisation – a government sub-department devoted to promoting the UK’s arms industry to foreign buyers. We believe that arms aids oppression, harms development, and fuels conflict. Jesus’ message of peace was clear, and it’s in these footsteps that we follow. Expect to see us in action opposing the renewal of Trident over the next year, and at DSEi (the world’s largest arms fair) that London’s Excel Centre will be hosting in September.
The year 2013 also sees the development of the Bardic Bike Tour – a creative campaigns- and fundraising-focused initiative on two wheels! In 2012, members of the network already racked up well over 1000 miles as different groups and individuals cycled from their homes to places of historic and contemporary protest, doing prophetic actions and raising awareness at local churches along the way, as well as raising some desperately-needed funds to keep SPEAK going. The added ‘bardic’ element takes inspiration from the medieval bards who told stories through songs and poetry – a somewhat disregarded yet powerful tradition of which SPEAK enjoys making use, to communicate our message of faith and justice innovatively. The series of legs completed so far include one across the Pennines, one linking Nottingham and RAF Waddington (the Lincolnshire air base where drone pilots have recently been stationed), and a visit to a former atomic weapons establishment that is now a nature reserve! A SPEAK Monastic Gathering taking place in May is hoping to develop more extraordinary pedal-powered devices for use on future Bardic Tours – again, promoting the bicycle as a seriously viable and ecologically-friendly form of transport to others.
All in all, rather a lot going on! SPEAK’s young demographic demands that we keep replenishing ourselves – a challenging yet refreshing practice – and so we look forward to engaging new young activists from the student world at summer festivals such as Soul Survivor and Greenbelt this summer. The SPEAK blog on our website is a good way to keep up with our news, or through our Facebook page and Twitter feed . Since its founding in 1998, SPEAK has been building a reputation of punching above its weight in the campaigns world – but that doesn’t mean that we don’t need continued support! We are always looking for more ‘Loudspeakers’ (who donate on a regular basis) and ‘Advocates’ (who promote SPEAK to others), and your prayer support would also be very welcome! We pray that as the Church, together, we would seek to build up and support each other in our mission to bring God’s Kingdom down to earth. And by God’s grace, may this indeed be a revolution with dancing and with laughter.
Andy Cope, SPEAK Campaigns Officer, April 2013
Comments on "What does SPEAK (youth organisation) do?"
"More like a party than a protest march" as Rob Hopkins says about the Transition Movement! I am a blogger with Transition social Reporters - hoping to do a week of blogs on faith groups supporting the same ideas as Transition does. See below for link. http://www.transitionnetwork.org/stories Would you, or someone in one of the uni SPEAK groups perhaps, be interested in making a contribution? Caroline Jackson