Love fights back: A series born on the front lines of protest

Jos Duncan, a filmmaker and educator, will host a series of events and workshops around Philadelphia. Called “11 Days of Love Stories,” the series starts Wednesday, July 5.

Jos Duncan, a filmmaker and educator, will bring 11 days of love to the City of Brotherly Love.

On Wednesday, she launches 11 Days of Love Stories, which takes place at 11 different locations, and features events that center on love as the catalyst for change, with workshops ranging from “Love and Men,” a talk-back that explores male vulnerability, to “Love and Time Travel,” which explores interconnectedness and the future.

But the series that focuses on the heart was birthed on the front lines of protest.

Two years ago, Duncan was documenting the “Philly is Baltimore” protest that was spurred by the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who suffered fatal injuries while in police custody. For many, Gray’s case drew parallels to the death of 26-year-old Brandon Tate Brown, who was shot by a Philadelphia officer in 2014 during a routine traffic stop in Mayfair.

Duncan found herself filming rallies with increasing frequency. She witnessed the consequences of racial profiling among her friends and, more personally, felt the trauma after the death of a family member at the hands of a police officer. Recording  the cycle of death, outrage, and anguish took its toll.

The work she was doing no longer felt like it had any impact. But at the “Philly is Baltimore” protest, though she was physically and emotionally exhausted, she noticed something. “I realized so many people were taking care of each other,” she said. “I saw people holding hands with one hand and pumping their fist with another.”

11 Days of Love Stories is meant to reconnect people to the work and remind them of the core mission, whether that’s activism or community work. And there’s nothing passive about it.

In 2016, she launched Love Now Media, a nonprofit that focuses on telling stories with a focus on “justice, wellness, and equity,” such as the web “Revolutionary Love Stories” that highlights the idea that effective change agents have love at the center of their work.

As Duncan started documenting these stories, she said, “it was healing me.” There isn’t enough focus on wellness and self-care in activism and social justice work, she said.

“When you add love to the work, it’s solution-based. Without the work, it’s a pacifier that silences people,” she said. “Positive thinking is not love. Love is not always peaceful.”

Jos Duncan will be hosting a series of events and workshops called “11 Days of Love Stories.” The series will take place July 5-11 at various locations around Philadelphia. JOY LEE / Staff Photographer

Duncan and her collaborators will get the message across through events like Friday’s “Love and Justice,” which focuses on self-care methods for social justice workers, or “Love and Body,” combining yoga and journaling, followed by an Afrofusion dance class. And then there’s “Love and Time Travel.”

Rasheedah Phillips, Afrofuturist and lawyer, will lead the workshop Saturday. Phillips, who regularly lectures on Afrofuturism, will talk about the way we access the future and the past  “without using machines or advanced degrees,” whether it’s through music, crystals, astrology, memories, and language, all with a focus on love. At the workshop, participants will “be redefining the way we think of time.”

A part of her workshop will focus on the ways that our actions impact each other over time. Phillips, who also studied quantum physics, said that, though something may “happen in one community, it reverberates through all communities.”

11 Days of Love Stories aims to have that ripple effect. “It’s really about a love of humanity,” said Amira Smith, director of marketing and multicultural affairs at the Greater Philadelphia Film Office, who plans on attending 11 Days of Love Stories. “Historically, when people fight for human rights, the people who are fighting are never the only recipients of  the benefits. Everyone wins.”

For Duncan, it was important to bring the work from online to onsite so that attendees could leave with tangible ways to look at love as a resource.

“There’s so many narratives. It’s one thing to push love, and another thing to push love stories,” she said. “You can experience love in a moment, but when you build love around a story,  you can carry that with you.”

Series

11 Days of Love Stories