Fireweed Collective

New Blooms, New Cycle, New Story – Hey Fireweed Collective!

Fireweed Collective is born out of The Icarus Project. Leaving The Icarus Project behind is not just a name change – it is a transformation and a birth announcement. Through Fireweed, we’re committed to working at the intersections of mental health, healing justice and social justice in service of a future where we all get free. Together.

Over the years, The Icarus Project received grievances about an organizational culture that harmed people of color, women and femmes, LGBTQIA+ and other marginalized folks. We attempted internal accountability processes that instead resulted in backlash and retaliation against the women, femmes, and/or people of color spearheading these efforts. It became clear that in order to stop and heal these harms, we had to undergo a deep transformation.

During these past six years we have consulted with different organizations and leaders across movements for collective liberation that have been doing this work in ways that are more aligned with our vision of what social justice looks like. We asked, we listened, and we took action.

As we grew, so did our structure and formation. Our analysis, programs, and alliances put disabled people, black folks, people of color, immigrants, and queer and trans folks and their needs firmly at the core of our leadership, programming, and partnerships.

Our new name reflects the new organizational culture -and the new organization- that emerged since the transition of leadership began. The plant Fireweed is one of the first blooms after a forest fire. A plant that flourishes in scorched earth, Fireweed fixes essential nutrients in the soil readying the ground for new life to thrive. If there was ever a time to bloom anew, it is now.

Creative Commons photo by Wiknight94
[Image Description: a field of dense pink fireweed flowers in the foreground against a background of sparse trees and a foggy mountain skyline]

Putting Our Wings Away – A Farewell To The Icarus Project

We are grateful for the experiences and wisdom we bring into the future from our time as The Icarus Project. The Icarus Project’s political analysis and contributions regarding the intersection of mental health and social justice will forever leave a footprint in the healing justice movement. The Icarus Project made a home for folks who experienced mental health struggles that were not understood or honored in the larger social justice movement. It normalized conversations about altered states, intense emotional distress, and suicidality. It fostered solidarity and relationships among folks with experiences that are often labeled as mental illness. It saved thousands of lives.

But we are also clear that it is time to shed the skin that no longer serves us.

The Icarus Project started in 2003 as a sanctuary where people could explore and self determine their own personal paths to wellness. It conceived mental health struggles not as faulty brains, but in the context that we live in a faulty world that is not healthy for us. The Icarus Project’s name draws from the Greek myth of a boy named Icarus, who escaped a labyrinth by flying with wax wings, built for him by his father. But he crashed and burned after ignoring his father’s warnings not to fly too close to the sun. The founders saw the name as a poetic metaphor for “madness” as a dangerous gift that with care and attention could allow us to soar, and that, together, we could keep each other from flying too close to the sun.

Past leadership included many white cisgender men that didn’t fully understand how deeply mental health struggles are interlocked with many forms of oppression. The result was an oppressive organizational culture that harmed people of color, women and femmes, LGBTQIA+ and other marginalized folks. White cis men, particularly those affiliated with The Icarus Project’s New York City chapter, were the folks most often named in these grievances, that also included unwanted sexual advances and systematic abuse of power. We attempted to develop internal accountability processes, however, white folks that sat firmly by people accused of causing harm disrupted and derailed the process and the women, femmes, and/or people of color spearheading these efforts experienced intense backlash and retaliation. It became clear that in order to stop and heal these harms, we had to transition away from white cis men leadership. The first step was to end the relationship with local groups as we were not able to guarantee the safety of these spaces.

During this process, we realized that the myth of Icarus also teaches us a lesson about giving into the feelings of wanting to escape this dreary world. We know that we can’t make a better world if we are constantly trying to leave behind the places we inhabit.

For all these reasons, we have decided it is time to put our wings away and direct our fire towards tearing down the walls of oppression.