November 23, 2018

Politics and Fun: Finding the Balance

Tivnu is a bit of a mix: politics, fun, and fun with politics. Social justice is the mission of this organization, and 9 out of 10 times, that overlaps with politics.

From the week of Halloween to the week of the midterm elections, these past weeks have been full of excitement. Costumes were worn, votes were cast, Ping Pong was played and things were learned.

Most directly related to politics in Tivnu these last weeks were the midterms. This election is considered the most important election since Trump came into office. Tivnu  canvassed, and the measures we were against (Check out to find out more) fortunately were shut down. Fear finally lost, and I’m happy about that. The measure we were canvassing for also won- Measure 102 for affordable housing.

More indirectly related to politics, we had an interesting experience at  Night Strike, a program in downtown Portland that entails walking around and greeting people on the street, having conversations, and giving them food and other basic needs. While not all that far removed from some of our internships, it proved to be memorable and meaningful.  It’s helping out people on the street, even if it’s something as simple as saying hello, or treating them as a person. It’s social justice work not only because humanizing people helps individuals-it also helps on a larger scale to break down the walls of class. Some people of higher classes treat people like they’re objects, look down on them in pity or contempt.  Breaking down class barriers is a political thing-

Henry dressed up as Stephen King, his favorite author, for Tivnu's Halloween celebration

Henry dressed up as Stephen King, his favorite author, for Tivnu’s Halloween celebration

when there’s empathy, our system that insists on separating people by class is broken down. One of the ways the wealthiest can stay on top is if people of different classes hate or fear each other, so if we can break that down, we can have a less divided society. I’m glad Tivnu gets to participate in that.

We have also been busy at the construction site building tiny homes for a transitional housing community for houseless Portlanders.  A high school group from southern California came to Tivnu, and while we didn’t see them all that much, we did share the experience of a presentation by Outside the Frame together, which was deeply interesting.  It was another way we learned from people who had experienced houselessness a little about what that was like for them, and built our empathy.

Tivnuniks and community members listen attentively during the briefing for Night Strike

Tivnuniks and community members listen attentively during the briefing for Night Strike

Night strike, Outside the Frame, and the transitional housing units we are building at Agape Village all help move people toward resources they might need to eventually be housed. Helping people towards being housed is also social justice, and therefore political, work. If they don’t have to be constantly worried about if they are going to sleep through the night or if they are going to be moved around by the police, then people are freer to engage in other parts of their lives, and eventually freer to engage in the political system.

With all of our Educational Explorations, construction, and internships, Tivnu has made me reflect on different ways to engage in politics.  When I was walking all around town the other day, I passed Voodoo Donuts. Outside of the donut shop was a man with signs and a microphone. He was yelling about “It is legal to Kill Babies” and other anti abortion phrases. Suddenly, in the middle of his rant the skateboarder edged over to him, cut his microphone, and then skated away. I could not help but laugh out loud at the scene.   My experiences in Tivnu have given me lots to think about for how I want to engage in politics. That guy yelling was engaging in politics in his own way, just as we were with canvassing, even if it was holding the people captive who were waiting in line. The person on the skateboard was also, in their own way, raising their voice, even if I would prefer the canvassing route. 

Tivnu is not all work, though- we also went to Pips and Bounce, a ping pong club, for some “mandatory fun.” Thanks to a map mishap, we got lost on the way there and, after some chaos in the middle of nowhere, we found our way to the ping pong place. We had a good time, and the journey was memorable enough to be worth it.

The week ended with a scavenger hunt/’amazing race’ that took us all around Northeast Portland, where the batim (houses) are situated. We started at one house, went to the park, Frank’s Noodle House, Goodwill, a bunch of other local businesses all the way back to the other house where it ended in a party. Humans were pyramid-ed and knotted, frogs were flipped, pictures were taken and fun was had.  

TIvnu human pyramid

Tivnuniks and friends build a surprisingly stable human pyramid for our Amazing Race community building activity

Working actively toward social Justice is important to me, and enjoying myself is part of being human! We need both.  Luckily, Tivnu has politics, fun, and fun with politics.

This is Henry signing off.


Written by Henry Belman, Tivnu Gap Year Participant 2018-2019. Henry interns at Urban Gleaners, Sisters of the Road, and Tivnu Construction. 

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