Mobilizing passion into action with Mary Lovell

Mary Lovell has spent the last decade dedicated to the dynamic intricacies of organizing for climate justice and Indigenous rights. From supporting the Tiny House Warriors and rappelling from Vancouver’s Ironworkers Memorial Bridge in an aerial blockade to stop tanker traffic, to raising tens of thousands of dollars for Pull Together to support the Indigenous-led legal challenge to stop the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project: Mary is known to create impact.

Guided by an unwavering commitment to decolonization, relational integrity and finding the joy in community, Mary is an inspiring organizing force. For RAVEN’s “In Conversation” series via Instagram, we spoke with Mary to learn about her tips for effective organizing, how to stay connected to community during the pandemic and how to show up for and with Indigenous communities in a good way.

You can watch the full conversation here, and catch up on the highlights below. 

Can you share one of your favourite memories in organizing?

I did an aerial blockade as an organizer with Greenpeace Canada, blocking all of the tankers moving through the Burrard Inlet: the inlet of the Tsleil-Waututh. It is the place of their creation story. We painted 40-foot banners and had to use a projector on a forklift! The banners were painted with art from seven different Indigenous artists all along the pipeline route. It was challenging to make art like that but the idea was that they would move like streamers in the wind hanging off of the Burrard Bridge.

How do you stay inspired to continue organizing?

I think it’s always a good time to take action. It can be really disheartening to see the impacts every day on the state of the world and it can feel hard to get a foothold. My real desire for organizing is to move from the internal space of processing and into a more active way of engaging with the world. I often think about creative ways to bring community together: I know people are more powerful together. I ask myself a lot, “How can we move into organizing in this time and space where you will always encounter racism but understanding how to bring people together and supporting one another through that?”

What are some ways people can continue taking action in a safe way given the ongoing pandemic?

So how can you show up for one another when you can’t safely gather hundreds of people together as we would pre-covid times? Outdoor rallies, wearing masks, being cautious but also a lot of digital rallies and fundraisers. We had one amazing fundraiser, ‘Pancakes and Jam,’ with RAVEN that was a virtual concert which was really heartening. I didn’t expect to feel a lot of emotion watching an online concert, especially towards the beginning of Covid. That was really inspiring to me to see that people can come together despite all of the huge barriers to coming together. 

Where do you find joy in organizing?

Part of what brings me joy is the making of mischief. I love creating beautiful art and community. I love that when you do an action you know that it is focused on the corporation and that brings me joy, keeps me going. But also understanding that as much as there are thousands of people who will go to a march or rally, there’s not necessarily always a lot of people doing the logistics of that — organizing medics, showing up with the food. I take a step back when I need to because there are always people who need support; I think giving people rest through showing up is important. 

These projects are not a done deal, even when they are completed. You can always remove projects, you can turn them off. For instance, pipelines are decommissioned all the time. Even if it is constructed it doesn’t need to have oil running through it. The media and the governments are telling you these projects are inevitable and they are not. It’s always a choice whether these things are constructed or used. 

The urgency of the issues keeps me going; knowing that things are not inevitable means we can always make change. 

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