3 – Sharing skills and creating culture

By Chris, Nikki, Julie
“All struggles are essentially power struggles. Who will rule, who will lead, who will define, refine, confine, design.” – Earthseed, memories of the living
In Octavia Butler’s dystopian sci-fi Parable series, almost too real to read in 2023 California, protagonist Lauren Oya Olamina and her family and neighbors survive a drought, an uncaring government, and the ever-present threat of violence through the practical skills and knowledge they have shared with one another. Their society mirrors some of the world we know today, the world we struggle through, the world whose future we control. Many recognize that information-sharing can help us adapt to these adverse circumstances. However, the Left often concerns itself with academic knowledge and theory to the exclusion of practical knowledge: the building blocks in fighting for a more just future. In society, many life skills are passed down almost solely through family ties. That flow of knowledge has withered away as corporations stand to benefit from commodifying life skills into services. Things like car maintenance have been gatekept by gender; others like homesteading/land stewardship have been gatekept by race and class. Classes on basic life skills cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
Complex intersecting identities, including queer and trans identities, make the concepts of family, community belonging, and generational skill-sharing even more complicated. That’s why Nikki and Micha started Queer Survival Skillshare (IG: @queersurvivalskillshare). It’s a group that meets on Sundays in different spaces around the East Bay, to equip queer folks with essential life skills in a free/ donation-based decentralized workshop structure. From and for the queer community, workshops they’ve arranged so far include pasta-making, changing car oil, weightlifting, bike maintenance, herbal remedies, firestarting, and growing microgreens.
“The title Queer Survival Skillshare is both in reference to the workshops’ focus on survivalist, homesteading, and permaculture type skills, and also the idea that acquiring these skills might better the chances for the literal survival of the queer community through times of upheaval that we find ourselves in,” explains Nikki, one of the cofounders.
Queer Survival Skillshare joins other community event spaces like 2727 California, the East Bay Community Hub, and the Long Haul (see the Slingshot community directory for a much more complete list) and free workshop series held by mutual aid groups and the PLACE for Sustainable Living in Oakland. In Nikki’s words, skillshares can become a “queer Yellow Pages” that provide a network of mutual aid, a support system to rely on, and a space for queer joy and fun. It is a re-imagination of a found family, of breaking capitalist cycles of having to purchase goods and services to survive. It is one of many potential solutions to the question: What does it look like to provide for oneself and for one’s communities?
Its founders are excited for what lies in the future. They hope to empower attendees to lead their own workshops, and inspire folks in other areas to start similar groups. It’s an iterative process, but they define success as “people coming out and leaving one skill richer, and seeing their knowledge as something to teach and be proud of.”
Great changes to our environment and our lives are coming, or have already arrived. We are all that we have, and sharing what we have with one another might be what gets us all through.