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Activism, Social Justice and The Firefly Gathering

Activism is nothing new to The Firefly Gathering, which started because a group of folks realized that the current paradigm was completely unsustainable for our species and planet. However, some folks say Firefly is not the place for activism...here's our thoughts.

Activism is nothing new to The Firefly Gathering, which was founded on principles of social and environmental change. In fact, Firefly started because a group of folks realized that the current paradigm was completely unsustainable for our species and planet. Various groups and organizations have presented their causes at Firefly since the beginning: from The Beehive Collective to Dogwood Alliance, Mountain Justice to I Love Pisgah, and many more. Firefly has always stood behind activism as a crucial function of any viable counterculture.

That being said, each year we get push-back from folks in our community who view social justice work and environmental activism as things that do not belong at Firefly. It is for this reason that we have felt compelled, as the organizers of The Firefly Gathering, to address this topic. We are aware that we are treading on sensitive ground here, and hope to do no harm; but to open the space for a respectful dialogue where we can engage each other and listen; where we can soften and open our hearts to consider perspectives other than our own. Through conscious heartfelt communication we can navigate these topics that, if left unresolved, will continue to haunt us as a people, and if handled carelessly will threaten the same fate. But if done well, we can begin to unravel the inequities and truly work together to co-create a new paradigm in which we can all thrive.

Some folks have political views that prevent them from seeing the importance of this work, especially this year as we became a profoundly polarized nation. While we hold space for all people and perspectives, we acknowledge that our current system is set up to advance certain individuals, (namely white cis gender hetero-normative males,) and that everyone who is not each of those things has a steeper hill to climb in this game called Life.

Not surprisingly, most of the resistance to this work comes from those individuals who benefit the most from the current system, as anything that challenges the status quo that provides for them is resisted. We understand this, and are willing to lean into this challenge.

Many folks who challenge us bring up spirit, claiming that if we focus more on the spiritual conditions of humanity, the other “symptoms” of this lack of spirit—racism, sexism, homophobia, inequality, environmental degradation, etc.—will work themselves out. This is called “spiritual bypassing,” friends, and it is very dangerous. People often wield spirituality as a shield or type of defense mechanism. Rather than working through hard emotions or confronting unresolved issues, people simply dismiss them with spiritual explanations.

We must, as a nation, acknowledge that this country was founded on genocide, and that the government was structured to keep the rich in power, to create and use the middle class as a buffer from the poor, and to destroy the indigenous inhabitants of this land. This country was also built up on slavery, with 25 of the 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention owning slaves, and 8 American presidents being slaveholders while in office.

We are being naive if we think that the ramifications of this system have passed. We are being shortsighted if we think that Black, Indigenous and other People of Color do not experience the continuous and ongoing effects of our nation’s origins. And we are denying their experiences if we do not acknowledge that white people benefit from what our country was founded upon, and how it continues to function today.

The race riots we experienced this year, the numbers in our prison system, the frustration felt by People of Color in America today all testify that this is a current problem that we must bravely face together, as American people.

The Firefly Gathering cannot turn its back on these truths. We cannot, in good conscience, simply host an annual event that celebrates the natural world and our profound love of and connection with Earth without acknowledging the disparity in experiences of the people we share our home with, and all the lifeforms we are connected to. We cannot turn a blind eye to the suffering of the many, and the extreme wealth of the few. We will not stay silent and complicit in the many acts of inequity and oppression that we see around us every day.

We know that some people will feel threatened and angry over this message; we are sorry for that. Our hope is that before reacting we each will soften and open our hearts to these ideas, and take the time to understand. Read up on the history of this nation, not as written by those who stand to benefit from the same old story; but from those whose voices have been silenced. We recommend “The Indigenous People’s History of the United States” and other books like it, that tell a broader and more accurate story of this nation and its origins.

By honoring our differences while acknowledging our shared realities we can begin to heal the past and work towards a stable present and a sustainable future. United in love, we truly can stand together for something beautiful for all beings. This is to be activated, to be an activist; it means we are no longer passive, watching the metaphorical movie of life; but take an active role in how it all unfolds. We know we will stumble; we acknowledge we do not have the solutions, and cannot “fix” this, no matter how many skills we have. We do commit to being awake, aware and active; will you join us?


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Lily Harlin


Lily is an artist, creator, and dreamer. Since a very young age, she has been immersed in the natural world and draws heavy inspiration from the wild. Though her medium changes frequently, Lily’s art and expression always incorporate an element of the organic and unpredictable. She got her associate in fine arts in 2023, and now volunteers at her school as a ceramic studio monitor. She hopes to open a studio of her own one day to have a place to teach and inspire others. In addition to doing commission work, Lily has been creating many graphics for The Firefly Gathering since 2019. Lily grew up in the Earthskills community from the time she was eight years old, so having the opportunity to grow and give back in so many ways has been incredibly fulfilling. No matter where she ends up, this group of people and ideas will always hold a special place in her heart.