A tiny swarm descended upon Yellow Springs on Nonstop’s Community Day, on March 25th. The bees, as they call themselves, are members of the Beehive Collective, a political media-arts collective based out of Maine. Their mission is to “cross-pollinate the grassroots,” touring their large-scale graphic campaigns that intricately weave together the environmental and social aspects of issues from around the globe. With a focus on horizontal organizing, consensus based decision making, and communal living, they had a lot to share with the Nonstop community.
The giant banner they were currently touring focused on MTR, or mountain top removal, a modern form of coal mining that uses heavy machinery to blast away the entire mountain top. This mechanized process exposes a seam of coal that is then scraped away. In addition, this method requires the rock and debris that once was a mountain to be scraped off and dumped into the surrounding valley, decimating one of the most bio-diverse places in the world. In addition, it negatively affects all communities in its wake, destroying their land and forests, toxifying the water and soil, and continuing to weaken a historically exploited and economically depressed region. The complex graphic was compiled of several large sections depicting different aspects of this involved issue. These included a social and environmental history of Appalachia, the changes in industrial and mining process, the effects of mining and coal consumption locally and globally, and a picture of current resistance and a vision of a healthy Appalachia.
Rather than use images of miners, coal companies, and other human constituencies, the posters make use of plants and animals from the bioregion to play these roles. The story becomes even more visibly connected to the history of the place they are dealing with. The bees do much of their research on site, and have spent months traveling Appalachia to gather a picture that is relevant and real from the people that are living with and fighting the socially and environmentally destructive practice of mountain top removal.
At Nonstop’s Community Day, they gave a presentation discussing the situation, the graphic, their work and missions as an organization, and the work that is to be done. They facilitated small group discussions to process the material and generate feedback about their work. Simultaneously, the groups generated ideas about solutions, organizing, and further work against mountain top removal. The bees stayed for long conversations and did some networking, sharing, and organizing with the community, and even ate at the acclaimed Nonstop weekly staple, Big Beautiful Pizza. They talked with children at Mills Lawn before heading to their next tour stop later that day. The community’s reaction was quite positive. As one community member said, “It feels good to be able to talk together about something important that isn’t our own institutional issues.”
At the April 7th COPAS (Community Organizing, Participation, Action and Service) Community Meeting, Nonsters reflected on organizing and about our experience with the bees. Meghan Pergrem, current Nonstop Co-Community Manager, reflected on their visual presence helping our community to understand what they were doing. Chelsea Martens, our other Co-Community Manager, appreciated their use of those visuals to reduce reliance on a specific language and make the material accessible to a wider audience, which the bees covered in their presentation.
The community’s discussion about our lessons from the Beehive included observations about their skills in communication, methods of research and organization, their process of presentation and education, and the similarities and joint struggles between our two communities with regards to commitment, transience, individual and collective needs, and the specific struggles of communal living and working. This illustrated a connection and a depth of learning and conversation that has stayed with this community since the bees presented here. While we were sad to see them buzz off, we’ve clearly been cross-pollinated.