VERVE Community: Philadelphia USA
I moved from London in June 2017 to Philadelphia to continue my humanitarian efforts where I thought I could have the most impact—home. With the US government spiraling out of control, I worried about where the country was headed and I wanted to be on the ground. Although I love Philadelphia and I consider it home, leaving London was a huge sacrifice for me. I had built a home there too and a large part of that was the relationships I had developed. The work I was just starting to do with Verve was inspiring and I didn’t want to lose that momentum. The Prosecco Think Tanks (PTTs) were particularly meaningful for me. I have always been more focused on social justice issues than my friends and I often lamented not having a place to talk about the world. PTTs gave me that place and introduced me to an incredible group of women who I connected with deeply. I wasn’t willing to lose this just because there was an ocean between us.
I continued to write for the Verve blog, giving my experiences here wings. It helped me stay connected to a global community. In a few blogs I interviewed women in Philadelphia who were doing incredible community work around immigration and refugee rights, one of my key issues. Each time one of these blogs was published the woman would share it with her social circle, widening the Verve community.
In October 2017, Verve sent me to the Women’s Conference in Detroit, organized by Women’s March National. I was so grateful to be close enough to attend. It was an empowering weekend full of inspirational speakers and concrete advice on community organizing. I attended decked out in Verve swag and passed my VERVE business cards around. At every opportunity, I shared the work Verve was doing and explained what a Prosecco Think Tank was. The resurgence of consciousness raising meetings with a drink on the side delighted the women I met. The weekend would have been perfect if my fellow Verve operatives were with me.
Back in Philadelphia I was determined to continue PTTs with the women here. There were some women I already had in my circle who I knew would enjoy this space but I was also meeting new amazing women all the time. As I looked around my home at the women who had assembled I started to feel grounded here. In their voices were frustration and outrage but also something else. It was what I had heard in London—an almost giddy excitement about giving voice to their experiences in the company of women who understand. I heard the relief that comes from hearing other women say “me too” and realizing that the fault isn’t with yourself but with the system.
Galentine’s Day was, hilariously, was one of my most celebrated holidays this past year. On Galentine’s Day, my roommate and two of my favorite Prosecco Think Thank women joined me at a Galentine’s Day fundraiser for our local Planned Parenthood. This Planned Parenthood is one of the most important medical centers in a city full of hospitals. It is centrally located in the Gayborhood and like all PPs, accepts anyone. I have seen protestors in front of the building many times and PP has had to use escorts to get their patients safely out. Supporting them was a perfect way to celebrate Galentine’s Day. The following weekend I had a Bloody Galentine’s Day brunch for my PTT women. Following London’s lead, I collected donations of sanitary products which we donated to our local Women Against Abuse organization.
I’ve hosted four Prosecco Think Tanks so far, bringing together businesswomen, lawyers, therapists, artists, ministers, and others. We have planned to do PTT book clubs, PTTs hosted by businesses, and even taking PTTs on the road to include our friends in Washington D.C. The excitement when we talked about future PTT events is a healing balm for my homesick heart. Although am repeatedly aching over the events I’m missing in London, I now have some of my own here in Philadelphia to look forward to. My hope when I started PTTs in Philadelphia was that we would find a way to save the world but the PTTs ended up saving me.
Article by Claire Ryder
VERVE Operative USA & Humanitarian Activist