Important Community Letter
Dear Midwest Burn Family,
Thank you so much for making InterFuse 2016 one of the best burns ever. Awesome people are what make a community like this work. As an officially sanctioned Burning Man event, post-event we are required by the Burning Man Organization to share an “Afterburn” report with our community to show financial transparency, and departmental trials and triumphs. For the second year in a row, we would like to follow this report with a community survey. Generally, the survey is for gathering feedback from our attendees on what they really liked, and what suggestions they have for the future.
This year, the survey will carry one big decision for our community to make. Those of you that attended the Midwest Burners Community Forum at the event were made aware that InterFuse has been asked by the Burning Man Organization to become fully inclusive, and end the ban on minors. InterFuse is the only remaining officially sanctioned Burning Man Regional event, that is a multi-night camping event, and not all ages. There are several reasons InterFuse originally elected to be 18+. Missouri law bans nudity that is of a lewd or sexual manner in the presence of minors. As with any decision regarding the safety of children, it isn’t a bad idea to err on the side of caution. Other regional events get around this issue by organizing “Red Light Districts” (areas that allow nudity and sexual behavior for adults only) and “Kids Camps”. At the time of the decision, InterFuse organizers were unable to find community members willing to organize these areas, and therefore elected to be 18+ but leave all of our other multi-night events all ages (HullabalU and Burning Down the River).
Anyone who has spoken with me on this manner in the last several months knows how I feel about this subject. We have to decide if the ability to be completely naked and to radically express our sexual selves in all areas of the event is more important than sharing this experience with the children of our community, who are our future performers, artists, leaders, dreamers, doers, and so much more. Would this transition be easy? Of course not, but we have grown so much that we now have people that are willing to do the work to make this possible.
The Event Coordinators, Midwest Burner Board, and Missouri Regional Contacts agree that this isn’t something we could or should decide on our own, and thus we will be leaving it to you. In about two weeks, we will be sharing the community survey mentioned above. In the meantime, I encourage you all to talk with your friends in person and online, email me to ask as many questions as you would like, and if you feel so impassioned, step up and offer your assistance.
In closing, I have attached a link to a letter written on behalf of the Burning Man Organization detailing the organization’s stance on this issue, and also link to a youtube video created at the “Big Burn” this past year called “The Kids of Burning Man” which I don’t think could have come at a better time.
Thank you for everything. Your work, energy, dedication, and your love of our Midwest community.
InterFuse Event Coordinator 1/3
Missouri Burning Man Regional Contact 1/3
Letter from The Burning Man Organization
Dear InterFuse Board, Team & Beloved Burners!
InterFuse is a much loved official event in our Regional Network. Many of you are also valued members of our own Black Rock City teams. Whether you are or not, you are family and we are united with a common sense of delight and purpose in the world. Today we have a request of you: Please restore InterFuse to all-ages status.
Children are an important part of our community and have been present at every Burning Man. Larry is fond of saying “Kids were at the first Burning Man and they will be at the last.” By that he means it is not up for compromise and everyone in leadership at Burning Man feels the same. We are inclusive and kids are vital to Black Rock City’s thriving social dynamic and our community’s future. This doesn’t mean it has always been easy for us to be all-ages. On the contrary, throughout our history we have been fought and regularly fight for the right to include children at Burning Man. At times we have gone head to head with conservative staff of law enforcement that wrongly think that seeing a large pink penis sculpture is pornographic. Or that nudity is inappropriate around children. Or that a toddler should not be naked because that too is pornographic and something to be ashamed of. Or that two people of the same sex should never be seen by children holding hands. There have been law enforcement who have said Burning Man is no place for children. And they are wrong. Very wrong!
We have seen children grow within our community into amazing people: loving, accepting of others, self-assured, well adjusted, smart, creative and concerned with the well being of the world. They dare to dream big because they have seen crazy ass dreams come to life regularly at our official events. Many have become exemplary citizens in our community and I expect they will be future leaders in the larger world. In fact, over my 20 years as an active part of this community I have seen babies grow into 9 year old talented fire performers; self-assured teenagers who work on art build teams and our temples…then bring valuable perspective to friends back at school; and I have even seen children over time become 20 year-old amazing adults—creative and amazing citizens of the world! These are the people that will bring what we love about our gatherings into daily life in healthy and positive ways. This will happen a little more each time, year after year, with each child that becomes more wonderful. It has already happened and in time it will tip the scales a few people at a time, then many at a time toward the better way of being and treating one another we have experienced and want more of in the “Default World.”
Friends, there is no “Default World” unless we default and just accept that nothing will work and our events are just vacations from reality. Screw that! If we are to rise to our community’s potential to REALLY nurture positive social attitudes, we MUST include children at our official gatherings. It’s also not very nice for parents who would like to share what they love with their children. And, importantly, the inclusion of children is one of the very things that makes our gatherings conscious, nurturing community experiences and helps differentiate them from “raves” and mere “parties.” Kids add to the beautiful spectrum of fun and silly and “WOW!” and we have found that including them makes the event better in numerous ways, including: more positive, safer for everyone, playful, full of child-like wonder, and nurturing of one another. They also let new participants know that we are a community and what we do is about community.
One of the criteria for being an official event is being Radically Inclusive. We make exceptions for urban one day events because we understand that sometimes a 21+ venue is the best option available, but we do require overnight camping events that want to be official to be all ages in the spirit of Radical Inclusion. It’s great you do have events that welcome children, however having a completely separate event to accommodate an all-ages requirement doesn’t fit our template when considering official overnight camping events, and it raises concerns for us. We have cut groups slack when something reasonable and unexpected comes up. We aren’t jerks but we set the criteria because they try to create the context and conditions we have seen work so well and what is important. Figuring out how everyone can co-exist really is a microcosm of the challenge our entire civilization faces.
The battle we are waging with conservative thinking to move people in the direction of love, acceptance, personal power/responsibility, and that wonderful zaniness that comes with being accepted and feeling safe to be our best selves as a community—these are the reasons to be all ages. A darned important part of what makes our gatherings so magical and meaningful. I would also be happy to make the same argument for the elderly, but since that isn’t in question here, I’ll save you that extra bit to read. ; )
We ask that you find a way that would allow InterFuse to fully embody the principle of Radical Inclusion by allowing all-ages participation. Please join us in our larger work in the world and welcome children. Require active parenting, eject parents that do not practice active parenting should you need to, but do not continue to ban children from experiencing what I know you all pour the very best of yourselves into and will ultimately help kids (and people) not feel as some of us have: repressed or excluded, not welcome or unwanted. That is what is implied and perpetuated by not being all-ages at one of our magically transformative community gatherings.
If you share with the world what you love and you do it with integrity with kids present and manage to still keep it all fun and engaging—as I know you can because you have super smart people among you and have dealt with much tougher challenges—we all win! There are no losers and we change the game for the better! We must embody what we want the world to be and we have to be brave about it and, if necessary, fight for it. I have also seen members of our community figure out in other conservative parts of the country how everyone can co-exist in a way that is responsible, respectful, and still fun and wildly imaginative. It is what will help InterFuse to thrive and it pays off in the long run!
These are my words, but the wishes and sentiment of our Founders and Board who asked me to reach out, convey why this is important, remind you of our criteria and why we have them, but more importantly appeal to you as valued members of our community we have great faith in and very much want by our side in the world. So, we respectfully and lovingly ask you to please join us again in doing what must be done if we are to live up to our potential in the world as a cultural movement that supports First Amendment rights and humanist values. You are cherished members of our community; truly spirited, powerful and imaginative. We hope you will rise to meet this challenge with us in the world.
Thank you for hearing us out and for all you do as Board Members, community leaders, team members, freethinkers, culture jammers, beloved freaks, our community.
$teven Ra$pa, Regional Network Committee
Arts Advocate, Burning Man Project
Tzara Vierck, Regional Events Committee
Meta Regional, Event Production