Death Cafe London – Latest developments / Inclusion policy



 Introduction


Hi,


At the start of 2015 we had a poll about whether to try to set up a 'real' Death Cafe in London. This would be a coffee and events venue established specifically to facilitate engagement with death. In the end 126 people (91%) voted 'Yes we should try to set this up' and 13 people voted 'No we shouldn't.'


Buoyed by this I have been busy taking Death Cafe London forward. It is going very well and is already the most exciting (and scary) work I’ve ever been involved in.


The proposal has taken on a life of it’s own and a wide range of amazing people are getting involved. Pretty much everyone I speak to asks about it, especially in London.


So now we now have a draft business plan for consultation and comment. If you’d like to help shape this work please email me to receive a copy: underwoodjon @gmail.com


There is an element of the business plan that is very important but has not been discussed before: our commitment to inclusion.


The proposal is that a very strong commitment to inclusion is to be at the core of Death Cafe London. This is because the alternatives, of either saying nothing or merely paying lip service, wouldn’t fit with our ethos.


More about why this is necessary and what it means for us are set out in the text below from our business plan.


Zoe Samudzi has been instrumental in guiding the development of this content and the thinking underlying it. Zoe is a social psychologist focusing in critical race theory and gender. Her Twitter handle is @ztsamudzi.


This is not a commitment to be taken lightly. Please do share any thoughts about this.


Thank you.


Jon


Inclusion

 

In October 2014, Bernard Crettaz (whose work inspired Death Cafe) was asked about the idea of setting up a ‘real’ Death Cafe in London.

 

He said “I am scared … that [when] you create a specific space, that you actually recreate a specialised space while we actually want to give death back to the city and people. But I just want to draw your attention to the dangers of creating a ghetto of death.”

 

This risk has been considered carefully. Death Cafe London’s response is that if we are to avoid becoming a “ghetto of death”, with its disturbing segregatory associations, then a commitment to inclusion must be central to this work.

 

We’re all going to die at some point. Death Cafe London’s view is that, despite what society might tell us, no one individual’s death is inherently more important than another’s. But we also acknowledge that in London, as in the world, some groups are privileged or oppressed by virtue of fairly arbitrary characteristics.

 

For example, and in general, white people are privileged over people of colour, men over women, straight people over queer-identified people, cisgender people over transgender and other gender non-conforming people, and so on.

 

These and other oppressions and privileges interrelate, and the varying prejudices accompanying these different identities are deeply woven into our culture. Discrimination is reproduced by our institutions, and as individuals we often internalise and then perpetuate different kinds of oppressions.

 

Death Cafe London explicitly recognises privilege and disadvantage along these lines. By actively addressing them in our way of working, Death Cafe London will seek to avoid becoming a specialised or exclusive space that caters to/catering to privileged worldviews.

 

As such, Death Cafe London is committed to enabling all people – especially individuals with marginalized identities – to safely buy shares in, work at, use and shape the venture. The ways in which we will achieve this are set our in our inclusion policy.

 

Draft Inclusion Policy

 

Death Cafe London is committed to enabling all people, especially those subject to oppression, to safely buy shares in, work at, use and shape the venture. This means including the following in our core way of working:

 

-          Having zero tolerance for any form of discriminatory, intimidating, or aggressive behaviour

 

-          Actively engaging with and supporting marginalized and excluded communities and individuals, particularly those subject to intersecting oppressions. If these communities wish, we will enable them to attend or hold events related to death and facilitate the maintenance of safe spaces for them however that may look

 

-          Recognising the often violent or fatal experiences of discrimination against transgender communities, especially transgender women of colour, and holding a strong commitment to Death Café London being a friendly, inclusive, and safe space for transgender individuals

 

-          Respecting cultural ownership and avoiding cultural appropriation

 

-          Actively enabling people with mental or physical disabilities to attend Death Café London and support individuals with all natures of disabilities however they may need it, namely in making the space as accessible as possible

 

-          Actively enabling people of different ages to attend and facilitating opportunities for intergenerational connections

 

-          Recognizing various financial barriers to facility access and trying to address these, whilst still being aware of financial realities

 

-          Actively supporting the creation of open and safe spaces for discussion about issues related to inclusion, especially when they intersect with death.

 

Though ideas about inclusion may change depending on the practical needs of individuals utilizing the space, our commitment to inclusion will remain at the core of this work. Death Café London will be transparent and accountable regarding our policies and practices and welcomes assistance and advice from others around these issues.

 



Comments


Thanks for your comments

Hi,

Thanks everyone who has given comments on this piece and especially to Zoe Samudzi who helped produce it.

The proposals have been up for nearly 2 months now and comments have been largely positive. No requests for wording changes have been received and people seem broadly comfortable with the proposals.

As such I will look to incorporate a version of this in the key documents relating to the 'real' Death Cafe proposal.

If you still wish to comment it is not too late to do so but will become so circa end of June 2015.

Jon


Posted by Jon Underwood

Looks great to me. Susan, Natural Death Centre


Posted by Susan Morris


This inclusion policy makes sense and seems the way to move forward. I would suggest that separating groups for meetings is used only when necessary as the opportunity to share stories and experiences in as broad a group as possible is the heart of what it means to hold a Death Café.

Another point is the opening of a 'permanent' Death Café space. I agree that there is a need to hold groups regularly and establish a 'core' group of attendees (avoiding the possibility of a clique), but could this not be in a number of venues? Some people may be disadvantaged by distance or travel costs - meeting across London boroughs will offer the opportunity for attendance on occasion, if not each week.


Posted by Andrew Goodhead


Thanks Susan and Andrew :)

Susan - it means so much to have your support, especially knowing you and what you've done.

Andrew - two great points thank you.
I totally agree that having diverse groups attend and participate is of great value and something actively to be sought. That is really the purpose of the text above. However I don't think that diverse spaces come about very easily. I also wouldn’t say that our pop-up Death Cafes tend to be that diverse compared to, say, the pupils at the school my children attend.
By recognising some of the issues above the aim is to help everyone, especially individuals with marginalized identities, feel comfortable and safe to participate in Death Café London. I think a diverse Death Café in the middle of London would truly be an amazing thing.
Your second point is really important and this issue keeps being mentioned i.e. that perhaps it would be better to aim to have pop-up Death Cafes in different places, rather than a permanent ‘real’ Death Café.
There are lots of reasons why this might be better. As you say it would be accessible to more people. Also - and crucially - it would be less risky.
Proposing setting up a 'real' Death Cafe may be too ambitious. At the end of the day it will come down to asking people to invest their own money in it. If the venture bombs and goes out of business then people’s money is completely lost. And with a venture like this - setting up a real Death Cafe in the middle of London! - no one knows how it's going to go at all.
Also a nomadic, pop up ‘real’ Death Cafe would be less work. From a purely personal perspective this would be great! Setting up a 'real' Death Cafe is a lot of work and I am doing it as a volunteer.
So why not? Basically I have a very strong instinct that it wouldn’t work. For me the Death Café work is very important and powerful and I think a building, a ‘real’ Death Café is needed to ‘ground’ it. If this is done then I think it enables more work e.g. it would be really good to do some nomadic pop-up Death Cafes too.
As well as thinking it is necessary in the sense outlined above I also think a ‘real’ Death Café is viable and desirable. When the community share offer goes live we will find out whether there are enough people willing to support it.
I will amend the business plan to incorporate these points. Thanks again.


Posted by Jon Underwood

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