Love, the word has uncountable connotations; sometimes we take years to let it roll off the tongue and sometimes its utterance moves mountains. Love's radical edge is beginning bear some meaningful fruit in today's society; credit is due to numerous movements and people who have devoted their work to highlighting the power of love, over the love of power - as Hendrix coined it.
The work of radical black feminists such as Bell Hooks has showed us that love is one of the most fearless acts we can engage in, and the push toward self-love as self-healing is providing fertile ground for sound-minded lovers.
"The one person who will never leave us, whom we will never lose, is ourself. Learning to love our female selves is where our search for love must begin."
In London over the past 12 years on the nearest Saturday to Valentine's Day, amidst the chaos of the affront on love, Piccadilly Circus is taken over by the Reclaim Love movement. Hundreds and sometimes thousands of people fill the busy city center with the intention of celebrating love, and defying the conventions of what love looks like.
Reclaim Love, born from the rich environment of protest in the 1990's, seeks to rejoice love, in its rage and its joy, at a moment where corporate romance is stamped over what sharing love means. "I often ask people 'if peace on earth was declared today what would you have to do to keep it that way' and it would be clear that peace is the byproduct of love", Venus CúMara, founder of Reclaim Love explained.
The annual street festival in full flow
The day is something of a participatory experiment, trying to build up a critical mass of radically loving individuals around the world. For attendees, a lasting peace is only achieved through embracing love in its fierce holistic wholesomeness. Venus explains how loving is a difficult and radical act in today's society, where insecurity is encouraged and our capacity for warmth is constantly undermined.
Venus, of humble Irish origins, with a sack full of stories and heart full of compassion, has long been a part of the social, environmental and economic justice movement. "I hope that one day a critical mass of people will be saying the Reclaim Love mantra at the same time worldwide, envisioning what these words really look, feel and smell like" - as our conversation unfolded it became clear that Reclaim Love is far from shortsighted.
Over the years, what was once a national celebration has now become a global phenomena being celebrated in varying sizes across 4 different continents, from Australia to Egypt. I sat down with Venus to discuss what compels her to occupy London and reclaim love, she explained that "the importance of celebrating what is working in the world is often overlooked in a world of many problems, but as we say in Ireland we have to water our good seeds".
Globally synchronized recitation of an ancient Sanskrit mantra, a key element of the day long festival.
Venus is far from a pacifist or fluffy hippy and in conversation conjures endless tales of confrontation, from dodging law enforcement in the battle of Genoa to dodging bullets in the Copenhagen riots - however she now feels that resistance work must run adjacent to the reclaiming of love. Reclaim Love, she says with utter confidence, has championed the much-needed discussion of spiritual degradation in society but, most importantly, has also provided a platform to do it.
"I'm doing my best to bring that day where we are all happy and at peace closer, I know it's possible and that knowing keeps me going... I have sincere unstoppable commitment". Venus CúMara
In a world increasingly filled with neglect towards our rich biosphere and dismay towards our fellow family of earthlings its clear that something is fundamentally off kilter. The attitude many corporations have developed has led us, as a society, to worship short term gains over peaceful sustainable existence. If peace is a by-product of love, then exploring how to reclaim love in our lives and society is the work we must all do, and that Reclaim Love has bravely done for 13 years.
Without love our empathy always falls short, and without full-bodied empathy we cannot act in true selflessness, consequently, we will not fix the deep seated issues we face as a species. It makes sense that unless we reclaim love from its hegemonic interpretations, in order to love ourselves, to love others and to love planet, our work for social change will always be burdened.
Photos: used with permission of Reclaim Love movement