by Liz Frederiksen
How do you make protests fun, and get people’s spirits up during what is, to many, a dark time politically in America? This was the question faced by Alli McCracken, National Coordinator of CODEPINK. For the past four years, she has facilitated many important, and decidedly serious campaigns. “Our campaigns generally revolve around advocating for our government to spend less on wars and militarism, and more on things that are good for people and the planet, like healthcare, education, infrastructure, green jobs, and more,” she explained. “We have a lot of actions, like protests and vigils and that sort of thing, which are often times very depressing and related to very sad issues like war and death.”
Thanks to hooping, however, she’s putting a new spin on things. Alli, who has been hooping for a year, and a couple of other staffers who are also hoopers, decided what was needed most at such a sad time was a morale boost, and what better way to share some joy than with the hoop? “We thought it would be fun to host a hoop jam with a political twist in front of the White House,” she said. Hoops Not Bombs was born.
On August 21st 2014, Alli, CODEPINK, and their supporters began assembling on Pennsylvania Avenue, directly in front of the White House lawn where Michelle Obama had shown the world her own hooping skills. There was no trouble organizing, or getting permissions to hoop on the street. A press release for the unusual event ensured a healthy media attendance, and the jam itself drew a crowd. She said, “There’s tons of tourists that walk past the White House at all hours, and they were stoked to see dozens of people hooping to loud, fun music. Lots of them joined us and talked to us about CODEPINK and the work we do.”
For several hours, CODEPINK jammed, the tourists took pictures and the media became mesmerized by Keely Madison, because she’s “a bad-ass hooper.” Sometimes they chanted, “Hoops not bombs” over the microphone. With all the laughter and joy, Alli told us “even the Secret Service police looked like they were having fun.”
I couldn’t help but wonder, though, if a hooping protest would somehow disrupt the free-form, often peaceful vibe, that comes with hoop jams. But Alli assured me that not only is it not a problem, but that we should be careful about limiting what hooping is about. “If anything, the amazing hoop community has taught me a lot about love, community, and support–– all things we need more of in the world that can’t be achieved with war.” This is very true, and really, the beauty of hooping is it can mean whatever we want it to mean, and be a form of expression in whatever way is meaningful and important.
While it’s too cold to plan an outdoor event in DC in February, they have plans for more Hoops Not Bombs events this Spring. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for hooping demo news and updates!
Contributor Liz Frederiksen was a rhythmic gymnastics performer with Ritmika in the ‘80s/‘90s and participated in the SkyDome (Roger’s Centre) opening ceremonies and Argos football halftime shows in Toronto. After two decades away from rhythmics, she discovered hoop dance and is having fun learning the on-body skills to go with her off-body tricks. She’s a social media consultant and lives in the GTA with her husband, cat and growing collection of hoops! She’s on Twitter and Pinterest.