The Icarus Project Late Summer 2009 Update

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River swimming, cross country touring, backyard (vegan) barbecuing, bicycle rambling, gardening/ harvesting/ gleaning -- summer is here. Late summer, to be precise, which is the fifth season in chinese medicine, with a tempo and mood all its own. The Icarus Project has been spreading and connecting, swarming and flowing in multiple omni- directions over the past four months, gathering and connecting a community of radical-minded visionaries to change the world and nurture mental wellness. Here's a recap and some website art as we enter the last few weeks of glorious summer and welcome the coming fall...

We want to bid a fond farewell to our Icaristas who are moving on to
different expressions of their talents and visions -- Michael and Mimi are stepping back from their positions on the Icarus Coordinator Collective. Michael has been an Icarista for many years, bringing a radical vision to Fountain House in New York City and partnering on our Education and Outreach committee. Mimi has tackled the Icarus distribution and logistical process and used her collective organizing and administration experience to bring long overdue order and clarity to our tangled procedures and systems. Michael and Mimi continue as part of the larger movement family, but we'll miss their ongoing presence in the NYC coordinating efforts.

The changes put us back in hiring mode, and we're excited to announce that Eric S. has joined the coordinator team, focusing on web and forum administration needs. Eric is a longtime Icarus forum contributor, moderator, and one of the coordinators of the St. Louis Icarus Project local group. He writes,

"We're currently focusing on getting a new moderator team in place, as some longtime volunteers take a step back for a breather, of which I am happy to be a member. We've also got some exciting updates behind-the-scenes going on - an upgrade to our forum software, a better organized main site, a merch and distro store, as well as an expanded social media presence are all in the works. On a personal level, I'm excited to be working with such a talented and committed group of people and excited about being part of the continued growth and evolution of TIP."

We also announced an opening in New York City for a new admin-distro person. We're busy interviewing potential candidates, so stay tuned for news of the results soon. Happy trails Icaristas and friends and welcome new co-coordinator energies!

Molly of our Support Network working group reports the past several months have been rich with initiative and community-building. The newsletter and community zine team launched an organic group to get materials compiled, edited, designed and published by fall for a new Icarus publication. Take a sneak preview of content, including member stories put to sketches by TeslaCoiled, and Sarafin's web comic Asylum Squad. Musical Icaristas are also coming together for a compilation cd with songs from Icarus members and rad allies; seeds are being planted for an Icarus Etsy team of mad artists and crafters; and members are working on a patchwork banner with pieces made from members all over the country.

July saw Mad Pride events in Toronto (watch video here and here), Olympia Washington, and smaller events in Asheville North Carolina. A southeast regional camp-out is coming together soon, while a support network skill-share held on the fabulous magical telewonkavator Icarus conference call room (see illustration) focused on starting and sustaining local groups, with plans for more skill-shares in the future. Support Network also launched its own organic group on the website, a place to organize related notes and documents in a wiki.

People were also rallying around personal support needs of members, with care packages, traveling journals, love bombs and pen pals flying through the postal system. New members are joining Icarus every day, with folks coming to the site from diverse places that include India, Guam, and Korea -- a person from far away Australia even joined in the monthly community conference call.
Icarus groups are re-emerging in Portland, Philly, and San Francisco; new groups were launched in Fresno and Detroit and solidifying in Boston; and seeds were planted for groups in Oklahoma, Milwaukee, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Tuscon, Pittsburgh, Memphis, and Brisbane Australia.
Ashley McNamara is now living in the San Francisco Bay Area again and re- connecting Bay Area Icarus Project organizing. Ashley reports,

I've been working with a wonderful bunch of Bay Area Icaristas this
summer to get a local group meeting here again. Highlights from our Sunday night gatherings have included a recent mad-mapping party, a picnic in the park, and discussions that have touched on topics as diverse as Marx and mental breakdowns, alternative therapies ranging from soul extractions to acupressure, how to advocate for ourselves with doctors and other practioners, challenging homophobia and transphobia, and a whole host of other things too numerous to mention. On August 22nd we'll be tabling at the SF Zinefest, and plans are in the works to collaborate on some radical mental health classes with the Santa Cruz Freeschool in the fall. In addition, Icaristas from our local group distributed information on alternatives in mental health at a recent NAMI conference, and I collaborated with organizers from Mindfreedom and the California Network of Mental Health Clients to orchestrate a protest of the American Psychiatric Association in May. On a personal level, it has been amazing to be back in the city where Icarus started, almost 7 years ago, sitting around a table with fascinating characters and engaging in the kinds of skillsharing and storytelling that Sascha and I brainstormed about back when this all seemed like a wild dream! A couple weekends ago I found myself laying on the exact hill in Dolores Park where I drew the original Icarus drawing, answering questions about how the project started, and marveling at the way things can come full circle when you didn't know if you or the project would survive long enough to tell the tales. But here we are. If you want to get in touch with Bay Area Icarus, please e-mail bay.area.icarus (at) gmail (dot) com

(Read more about the successful APA protest and challenge to corporate medicine, organized in collaboration with Mindfreedom, here.)

The Icarus Project's education and outreach working group also joined
an Evolver Town Hall event, "The Economic Recession, Energy Crisis, Global Warming… Okay, so what are we going to do about it?" co-sponsored by Thrive NY. The Town Hall was a city-wide gathering of innovative individuals, groups, nonprofits, government organizations, and local businesses who are transforming today’s challenges into opportunities. Each person came away with ideas, information, connections, and contacts to get involved within the community and be part of a local solution. Icarus also joined the Big She-Bang, an all-day event at Judson Memorial Church in NY, workshops, panel discussions, visual art, and music by and for womyn and womyn identified artists & community members. The Big She Bang was created in response to the desire for womyn to claim space in their creative communities.

Campus Icarus working group has been networking with folks on campuses across the country, and a team of student organizers and collective members worked these past months assembling a "seed packet" to send to help CI groups take root. The "campaign" will continue through the fall. If you're interested in learning more or starting a CI group on your campus, please contact campus(at)theicarusproject(dot)net.

Madigan at the 20-20 filimingLast May's Newsweek story helped generate fresh interest from the mainstream, including plans with ABC News for a TV piece on the mad movement. Wow! Though the final version and air date of this work-in-progress are still not clear, the prodcucer has focused on Icarista Bonfire Madigan Shive and her life outside the mainstream channels of music-making and mental health. After much spirited reflection and dialogue some Icaristas decided to independently participate in the production of the upcoming Primetime piece.

Members of a local Icarus peer-support group invited ABC News to record one of their meetings for the piece. In the deliberations over the risks of our involvement, folks came to better appreciate the loving compassion embodied in the structure of our Icarus peer-support groups. Peer- facilitation (without the help of any licensed professionals), our meeting preamble agreements, check-ins and check-outs, and countless other cultural practices, all of which strongly communicate our values and visions.  Icaristas recorded our own version of the taping to preserve our narratives in their original context. We have also been inspired to create our own video of a (sample) peer-support group in action for use in education and outreach. A lot of excitement and controversy, with many people working hard to shape our message as sharply as possible. We're all waiting to see how the TV machinery ends packaging it all, with a potential to reach many people who might have never heard of radical mental health (-- and a scary potential to distort our message). The web forums are currently bracing for a possible huge influx of new interest and users. We are hopeful that our efforts will successfully express our mad dreams and desires!

The ABC attention is just a part of the continually growing interest in The Icarus Project and the mad movement. Icarista Annie Robinson appeared on Connecticuit Public Broadcasting's Where We Live radio show, Will Hall of Icarus and Freedom Center was invited by Mental Disability Rights International to consult on reform efforts in Peru, Madison Wisconsin Icarus Project organizers got coverage in the local weekly newspaper, and NYU Gallatin School Icarus activist Bradley Lewis was interviewed on Madness Radio. And we're experimenting with a new way to get the mad movement message out -- through Icarus apparel at our store!

Longtime Icarus activist Leah Harris, who has been helping with our Facebook presence, writes about about the US Human Rights for All Tour she organized, co-sponsored by The Icarus Project. You can read her full blog post, and here's an excerpt from Leah:

In June and July, the U.S. Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry (USNUSP) organized a "Human Rights for ALL" tour which was co-sponsored by many organizations include The Icarus Project, MindFreedom, CAFETY, and the Freedom Center. The tour was designed to raise awareness about human rights, and particularly the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). For several years, my friends Tina, Celia, Myra, and many others from the US and international user/survivor movement were involved in the drafting of the convention language and the fight for inclusion of the issues of people who have experienced madness, distress, etc. The resulting document is truly one of the most radical ones I have seen, in terms of clearly protecting our human rights and expressing a vision of a society in which people of diverse abilities are rehonored, respected, and treated with decency and dignity. For so many of us who have been abused for so called "mental impairments" or "psychiatric disabilities" this is a huge huge victory. Visit the USNUSP at

It's been a vibrant summer teeming with radical mental health offerings for the world. As late summer winds down and we head into Fall, Icarus continues with a major outreach campaign on campuses, and continued community building and visioning. Show your involvement- we need your donations! We depend on volunteer membership energy and donations to keep this going and cover our basic housekeeping expenses.It's easy to make a donation online -- just click here. Donations are tax-deductible, and even small amounts like $10 or $20 really add up. Please join us, donate and participate in your Icarus community navigating the space between brilliance and madness!

-- TIP Coordinating/Housekeeping Collective 2009: Molly (support network), Will (media/ publications), Angel + Annie (edu/outreach/campus icarus), Eric + Nick (web support), Madigan (air control), Mimi/opening (distro/admin). Art and photography thanks to: Ashley McNamara, Sandpiper, Yeshua, TeslaCoiled, GypzyFly, Sarafin, Vincent Andrews, BMad, and Sarah Q.