we are so fantastic/it hurts so much

this morning i woke up and again watched bree newsome take down the confederate battle flag from the capitol of the state my family is from, where most of them still live.

i cried watching the video.

i watched her all day yesterday too, slowly hitching herself up that pole, which i know from my ruckus years is hard as shit to do.

she did it beautifully, like a warrior in trance, in meditation, from a center outside of here-now.

and it felt like, in the wake of the charleston murders, i needed that flag down to properly mourn.

i am proud to have met bree last year – she is a sci fi filmmaker social justice warrior and tananarive due had us on a panel honoring octavia butler‘s legacy at spelman.

i’m proud to be alive at the same time as bree. and patrisse, alicia, and opal. and mervyn, deirdre, ashley, celeste, thenjiwe, malkia, adaku, prentis, moe, phil, denise, dream, hiram…there is such a beautiful blackness emerging right now, what intelligent mischief is calling a black renaissance, an explosion of artistic and strategic resistance and world changing. there are too many creators to even begin to name us all. and we are so fantastic and complex and different and learning to love each other and grow together.

as the charleston 9 are folded into the earth, and smoke from black churches floods the sky, i can only sleep at night because i look to my left, right, front and back and see multitudes of black people willing to be afraid together, and honest with each other, and keep advancing on our dignity.

and now we can get married.

it was beautiful to see the divergence of responses to the end of straight-only marriage in my circle – from straight friends putting a rainbow wash on themselves and posting their own wedding pics (are there a lot more trans people in my network than i realize?) to queer/trans folks explaining marriage abolition. i felt an internal spectrum…tears to see my friends for whom this really matters proposing to each other, and also a niggling sense that we’re celebrating something that never should have been an issue.

i call this my alien sensibility. being human, being american, means having to fight for and then celebrate things that should just be a given. my many kinds of love are equal to anyone else’s, so when anyone thinks otherwise and then comes around to reason, my celebration is actually for their liberation, not mine. my love has been good and real and sacred all the time.

i also saw a lot of issue juxtaposition in these last few days…like ‘oh gays can get married but black lives still don’t matter so i can’t celebrate’. this seems to move in the wrong direction, not because there isn’t a hierarchy of isms that are playing out in legal time…but because gays getting married is not equality, it’s not liberation. it’s a step towards those things.

just like if cops were disarmed. it wouldn’t eradicate racism, but it would make it harder to practice racism with such violent state-sanctioned outcomes.

there is very little in my identity profile that is beloved in this country, and for now love is not what i expect. where we are in the arc of change is awakening, and reducing harm in a nation strung out on supremacy and patriarchy.

i say this not to belittle our victories, but to encourage intersectional thinking. lots of queer black people have an increase of basic shoulda-been-had freedom with this ruling, and there’s no need to self-compartmentalize.

you can whoop-whoop and propose to someone if that’s in your heart.

and also sign the petitions about to be circulating to redistribute HRC funding to struggles for queer and trans health and safety.

and also cry a million tears for charleston. and also feel tender when the president sings amazing grace for those lives.

and also wish he would go sing at the border, some song of welcome.

and also feel terror that racists are burning churches down across the south as the unnamed civil war of values within these borders escalates.

and also cheer on bree, and tear down every hateful flag you see, including the american flag anywhere its not at half-mast over this onslaught of lynchings and burnings.

and also curl up with your poly boos or your monogamous other or your super besties, or your beloved pets, and revel in your non-married love and post-normative family.

and rest up, because we are in no way finished, not on any front line, not in any direction. we celebrate not the end of anything, because every moment we are awake it hurts so much to be black and queer in this country.

we celebrate because with these steps and these action, we show each other the future. and we know that we will win.

in octavia’s lineage

happy Octavia Butler birthday!!

last year i was beginning the inaugural class of VONA’s Speculative Fiction workshop on Her birthday.

this year it’s her day and i’m up early for the first day of the clarion sci fi writing workshop – six weeks of reading and writing original sci fi!

i’m nervous and excited. Octavia attended this workshop, her first draft stories are in the archives and i’m going to visit them today as part of my celebration of her existence.

i learned last night that another of my favorite writers, kim stanley robinson, has read my stories and will be around here. we also get to attend comic con, my first one, and there’s a chance of total nerd immersion. those kind of things really make me fangirl out.

leading into this i was on a 12-city run, so i am definitely on fumes and anticipating being in one place for six weeks (even if that place is a cement dorm block with cafeteria food), meditating, yoga, reducing sugar intake, being still-ish.

just before this i was at the Allied Media Conference in detroit and it was deep to feel the growth and transition pains, and also be reminded of the utterly unique, self-evolving and unicorn-loving space that it is. i’ll be posting more from that experience, including notes on a debrief of a racist incident, emergent strategies for organizations, and new Earthseed verses for grief.

part of being in that space that was so hard, and will make it hard to be here or in any space that isn’t all black, is that less than a week ago there was an act of terrorism in charleston that is incomprehensible. for some of us it’s hard to function in the aftermath.

yesterday as i flew here, i wrote a lot about it, about the hour the wolf was amongst the black sheep. i wept a lot, but couldn’t pull anything out to publish, it hurts too much. this morning i woke up with a short story about it coming forward, and am going to write it this week.

i want to encourage all of y’all to also find a way to create – create from rage, from grief, from anguish – do not be silenced, creation is the finest tool we have.

i love y’all, and may blog less during these six weeks, but trust that it’s because i’m writing so so much.

i love y’all. send me focused, restful writing energy.


p.s. i received a partial scholarship, but the workshop still costs a couple thousand dollars – if you want to support my being here, feel free to become a member of this blog, or just make a donation via paypal.

Dolezal Affectation and other sci-fi poetics from Rachel

We are piles of secrets
We construct truths to survive
Now we are all looking at yours

At first glance
We are appalled
How does this disgust feel to you?

It is a black thing.

Scenario 1:

RD: My cover is blown. This family ain’t loyal.
White Supremacist Overlord: Well. I told you the knee length faux locs were pushing it.
RD: Naw son…it was my family. We should have relocated them. Anyway, all eyes on me, and I wasn’t able to seduce anyone at NAACP national yet. What do I do now?
WSO: We’re going to reassign you to South Africa. Maybe go colored instead of full black. We don’t want to lose the investment in you. The weave alone, my god.

Race is a construct
Criminal walls and nails
Used to justify
Miniscule and massive horrifics

Are you in construction?
Are you an architect?
Are your hands coated in dust?

Scenario 2:

RD Howard Diaries:
I’m feeling so isolated again, so lonely. I wish everyone could see my heart. I feel like I was born in the wrong skin, but nothing I do shakes me loose.

Black is magic. Black is where I feel home. Black is my real family.

We are all from Africa, this is my journey home. Why can’t anyone see that? Why doesn’t anyone welcome me?

Did you think
You could taste blackness
Could transform blackness
Cast it lightly around you
And be safe?

Are you of blackness?

Black centuries are heavy
Dragging behind, they put a shape
Into the bones

Does it trail behind and inside of you?
I have only seen you walk away

Scenario 3:


Blackish Students Organizing Hall
Dolezal Affectation Orientation


Based on your emogenetic profile, you currently believe you are Black in spite of your DNA testing which shows less than 1% African lineage.

Look at each other. This is your first day, and first assignment. Not one of you has modern African diasporic ancestry, though it’s hard to tell now, given your thorough practice of Black culture.

You may just be coming into your Dolezal Affectation, or you may have been raised in an environment that supported or encouraged this transgression earlier in life. Either way, this will be your political home for the next year. You are not a prisoner precisely – you are a student who has been consigned to this area of study on the mandatory recommendation of your friends and family.

We have therapists on hand for any potential trauma this causes. In the long run we hope to eliminate your unique affliction and all the trauma in which it is rooted.

You are welcome to be here and study Blackness, and to explore your own relationship to it. We commend your curiosity and your study.

However, there are guidelines. This is not a place to emulate or appropriate Blackness – I’m more lenient about hair than other decolonizing instructors. But no Black or Orange face, and no code switching.

Tomorrow you are to show up with none of these, so we can begin the work of self-seeing. You will learn to love you.

You are here to find right relationship with the construct of Blackishness, an iterative construction of your ancestors which was then innovated upon by survivors of the slave era genocidal effort.

You will learn why trauma is not something to opt into, and ultimately what solidarity looks like.


Did whiteness break you in half?
Or did you need to drop it
Like a hot stone the size of 2/5 of your hand?

Did it regress you to origin?

Do white people dream of the motherland
Epoch-deep in the cells?

I never considered origin-grief.
It cannot be held.

Scenario 4:

RD: My cover is blown
Reverse Integrationist Radical Front: Well yes honey, going full NAACP might have been pushing it, boo boo.
RD: What should I do?
RIRF: we’re considering if you’ll have to go public about us. This might be a good time for a mass unveiling, or at least for a few of the celebrities. White people will feel under attack otherwise – and really this is about loving them.
RD: ‘loving white into blackish, eradicating white supremacy one life choice at a time’
RIRF: how long will it take the latest treatment to wear off?
RD: one more week
RIRF: ok radio silent. and stay in the house. When you emerge, you’re Rockwell white. You’re grieving that integrated life. We’ll get Diane Sawyer.

People ask you questions
Maybe you know these things

I don’t even know all the answers
I grew up away from here
With a white mother

You study us, or nah?


Harriet Tubman was a) a dreamer b) a superhero c) a black woman

Rekia Boyd was a) incredibly young b) a martyr c) a black woman

I am a) light skinned b) fine haired c) a black woman

You are a) a white perpetrator b) a betrayed black woman c) an alien beyond our comprehension

I am not black because of a quiz
Or a sibling
Or a longing
It’s shaped in my bones
Memories live in my cells
Escape dreams and owner searches

Scenario 5:

RD, journal June 9 2015

Now she is threatening me. She says if I don’t concede the case she will go public with the story that I am white, the story she constructed by bringing her white saviour into the hospital of my birth.

I know the truth, I know who my father is, I know who I am, I know the family has all been turned against me, but I will survive this like a strong black woman always survives in the face of oppression – head held high, dignity intact. She will not break me with her time traveling shame. I’ll pass any test of blackness. Any test.

If you have been wearing culture
Like a masters degree
An earned identity
A reward for study and attention


If you’ve been maligned
In an act of complex familial scandal
Even misled


If you are an alien
Finger outstretched to understand
The wounds of race in our species

You know
we’ll need to see your blood

BALLE 2015 Closing Plenary Speech

Here are the notes from my talk today at the BALLE 2015 Conference! Enjoy.

Thank you first and foremost for your work to bend the future towards justice, love, cooperation and liberation.

I would call your work science fictional – being concerned with the way our actions and beliefs now today will shape the future, tomorrow.

You are excited by what we can create, you believe it is possible to create the next world, you have been building it here these last few days. You believe.

So do I. as michelle mentioned, I’m the Co-editor of an anthology of original science fiction from social justice movements called Octavia’s Brood, which has just sold out its first print of 10k books, so i suppose now it’s public…but I’ve held this belief that we can create new worlds for a long time.

This might be because I was born to a trekkie – meaning one who watches star trek obsessively. My dad watched Star Trek in a way that seems logical to me now. He watched the way a black man from the deep south bringing mixed race children into a racist world would always watch a post racist narrative – eyes wide, faith bubbling up.

We all watched it together, as his military career took our family from place to place. My parents intentionally took us away from the US for our early years and I think they believed that by the time we came back here things would have changed.

When that didn’t happen, they brought us back anyway and took us to Georgia. I think what I experienced there, the casual and constant presence of white supremacy, the knee jerk assessments of my intelligence and humanity, is one of the foundational catalysts for my study of sci fi, apocalypse and post-apocalypse, emergence and complexity.

i thought then in middle school, and i think now…This can’t be all. no one survives this approach, not long term. This can’t be the purpose of our species, to constantly identify each other as ‘other’, build walls between ourselves, and engage in both formal and informal wars against each other’s bodies, build an economy that could never serve the whole.

I feel miraculous. its confusing to feel so miraculous when so many people hate my skin and my history.

i see the miraculous in others – even those who hate me have heartbeats, and, I generally assume, have people they love. why can’t they love me? should i love them anyway? how can i hold these massive contradictions?

I started reading sci fi, obsessively, looking for options. Other worlds where I wasn’t dismissed as an idealist or an inferior.

On that path I discovered octavia butler. Decades before my birth, she was working these same edges in her heart, pendulum swinging between curiosity, possibility and hopelessness. Because if we can’t articulate more viable futures, and adapt, our human future is pretty hopeless.

Octavia Butler wrote novels with young black women protagonists meeting aliens, surviving apocalypse, evolving vampires, becoming telepathic networks, time traveling to save slave owner ancestors. But woven throughout her work were two things: 1) a coherent visionary exploration of humanity and 2) emergent strategies for being better humans.

I’ll say more about emergent strategy in a second.

First I want to say that what my Octavia’s Brood Co-editor walidah Imarisha and I call or work is not actually science fiction. We call it visionary fiction.

Fiction that disrupts the hero narrative concept that one person, often one white man, often matt Damon, alone has the skills to save the world. we write Fiction that explores change as a Collective process. Fiction that centers those who are currently marginalized – not to be nice, but because those who survive on the margins tend to be the most experientially innovative – practicing survival based efficiency, doing the most with the least, an important skill area on a planet whose resources are under assault by less marginalized people. In these ways visionary fiction is constantly applying lessons from our past to our future(s).

Visionary fiction is neither utopian nor dystopian, instead it is like real life: Hard, realistic…Hopeful as a strategy.

We’re here in Arizona, a land where the voting majority believes in aliens, and where my safety is determined by the proximity of my passport. also, the future is unfurling here. Utopia? Dystopia? Perspective is everything.

As long as the future comes from imagination, there will be divergent paths that are moving in and out of alignment, in and out of conflict. Our ideas of right and wrong shift with time – right now it’s clear to me that something is wrong if it hurts this planet. But if we don’t claim the future, that sense of loyalty to earth, of environmentalism, could become an outdated concept. Kenny Bailey from Design Studio for Innovation shared that recently on a panel called black to the future – that justice, rights, things we take for granted are not permanent.

That affirmed to me how important it is that we get into the game, get dirty, get experimental. How do we create and proliferate a compelling vision of a new economy that centers humans and the natural world over the accumulation of material?

We embody. We learn. We release the idea of failure, because its all data.

But first we imagine.

We are in an imagination battle – Claudine Rankin and Terry Marshall speak of this. Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown and Renisha McBride and all of them are dead because in some white imagination, they were dangerous. And that imagination is so respected that those who kill based on an imagined racialized fear of black people are rarely held accountable. imagination has people think they can go from poverty to millionaire as part of a shared american dream. imagination turns brown bombers into terrorists and white bombers into mentally ill victims. imagination gives us borders, gives us superiority, gives us race.

We have to imagine beyond those fears. We have to ideate together. The poverty that results from our current system allows all of this Imagining to be fed by the results of scarcity economics. We must imagine new worlds that transition us from seeing black people as murderers, or brown people as terrorists and aliens, to ones that can see black and brown people as cultural and economic innovators.

Black lives matter, which has issued a clarion call to us in this time, is brilliant on so many levels. they created products to support their work almost immediately, making the look of the movement irresistable and undeniable. Now they are gathering stories from black people about what the world will look like when black lives matter. This is a time travel exercise for the heart. This is ideation – what are the ideas that will liberate all of us?

The more people who collaborate on that ideation, the more people who will be served by the resulting world (s).

Sci fi is simply a way to practice the future together. I suspect that that is what many of you in this room are up to, practicing a future economy together, practicing economic justice together, living into new stories. it is our right and responsibility to create a new world.

And what we pay attention to grows, so I’m thinking about how we grow what you are all imagining and creating into something large enough and solid enough for a tipping point of humans to cross over?

Ursula Le Guin recently said “We live in capitalism – Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings.”

she went on to say It’s up to authors to spark the imagination of their readers and to help them envision alternatives to how we live.

I agree with her. We must make an alternative economic future, as Toni Cade Bambara taught us, irresistible. That was our goal with our anthology, to have a collection of compelling, irresistible stories.

I think you are amongst the protagonists of what might be called the great turning, the change, the new economy.

And I think it is healing behavior, to look at something so broken and see the possibility and wholeness in it. That’s how I work, when a body is between my hands, I let wholeness pour through.

And I think you are healers too – because you are creating possibilities, because you are seeing a future full of wholeness and equity and hope.

I suspect this is in part because you are practicing what i call emergent strategies.

Emergence is the way complex systems and patterns arise out of relatively simple interactions. My mentor Grace Lee Boggs first raised this concept with us in detroit after reading Margaret Wheatley’s work , about biomimicry and mycelium magic. Grace started asking us what our movements would look like if we focused on critical connections instead of critical mass.

We need each other. I love the idea of shifting from ‘mile wide inch deep’ movements to ‘inch wide mile deep’ movements that schism the existing paradigm.

Strategy is a military term meaning simply a plan of action towards a goal. We use it to mean good or bad, but it’s not that discerning. Horrible plans can be pitched as strategic. We must be more precise.

Emergent strategies are ways for humans to practice complexity and grow the future through relatively simple interactions. It was what made sense to me when I was trying to explain the kind of leadership in octavia butler’s books.

It wasn’t just that it was black, female, or young leaders. Or perhaps it was because of all of those things, who leads matters.

But what I noticed is that her leaders were adaptive – riding change like dolphins or surfers ride the ocean.

Adaptive but also intentional, like birds migrating south who know how to get where they’re going even when a storm pushes them 100 miles west. I just came from supporting a meeting naomi klein called in canada, to set an intention to build a clean energy economy. I was so moved by their work to build a shared intention. that is radical imagination.

Octavia’s protagonists were also interdependent, often polyamourous, because the personal is political, because pleasure evokes change perhaps more than shame. right now there is an effort called BOLD, black organizing for leadership and dignity, is cultivating a safe space for black vulnerability and mutual support of leaders, countering the usual model of leader isolation. we all need a place where we can weep and be held and feel our feelings and figure out how those feelings can direct our next evolution. what amazes me is that in the space of such constant black trauma, we get together and we celebrate and love on each other, we laugh, we find the pleasure of community, of interdependence. it feels good together.

Octavias leaders were also decentralized, and they were generative – resilience came from that decentralization, no one person held the power. Ferguson showed us the power of individuals willing to act without a single leader, their leaderfull example is inspiring others to stand up in real time, offline and online, to change legislation and perception.

Ferguson and other movements right now are fractal, practicing at a small scale what we most want to see at the universal level. no more growth before experience. There’s a group in new Orleans called the wild seeds that’s doing this fractal work – women of color practicing pop up galleries and stores to sustain themselves on their radical creativity.

Rather than narrowing into one path forward, her leaders were creating more and more possibilities. that is what i see here – not one perfect path forward, but an abundance of futures, of ways to manage resources together, brilliant together.

So I have become obsessed with how we can be movements like flocks of birds, underground power like that mushroom under Oregon, the sea shell representation of a galactic vision for justice.

I invite you to join me in writing ourselves into the future, naming the principles of total transformation, building an economy in which black lives matter because every single life, and all that supports life, matters – let us practice in every possible way the world we want to see.

the black fantastic

Hello loves!

I’m in the midst of an 11 city segment of this Octavia’s Brood book tour, so I’m sorry for writing less.

Here’s a little something I posted on the Brood blog about Celebrating the Black Fantastic – the way that in this #blackspring moment communities are using our anthology to catalyze celebrations and collaborative dreaming of black futures.

In the midst of this tour I’ve been doing a sugar cleanse and Mercury has been in retrograde (and it impacts me in rough ways even when I try to have a rosey outlook) and I’ve been thinking about how we have to turn up the challenge sometimes to see how we’re doing. So how am I? Exhausted and stretched too thin and needing an assistant, and no more crises, and a beach…

AND I’m surrounded by love, interacting with people who inspire and fuel me, feeling clearer each day I step away from sugar, like I’m facing things from my dignity…and as far as I can see there are abundant opportunities to answer my calling.

I’m quoting Rihanna’s body art all the time – ‘never a failure, always a lesson’. Because of course ‘god is change’.

I’ve been thinking how grateful I am to be alive in an age of the Black fantastic, being of a creative class of black people explicitly bending the future to be grand enough for our survival and brilliance. I look at rooms full of people of all backgrounds and I feel so grateful to see the black people realizing themselves, and all the other folks celebrating us, standing with us, reorienting to the shape of a different center. What we pay attention to grows…attending to black dignity, and growing it, creates more possibilities for all of us.

I’m case you are curious, my big thought these days is what kind of world we would need in order for there to be no enemy of blackness. Where no one feared black children.

I’m traveling with this thought, and generally wondering if we can sustain a vision of a world without enemy in the face of hateful realities…how do we stop rearranging blood, weapons, power from one deranged isolated system to another…how do we get in right relation to the planet as a species? I think realizing the fantastic, the pleasure available to each of us, is key to this exploration. This, too, is pleasure activism.

That said, last night when asked about pleasure activism, in front of my mother, I answered ‘to have more fucks’.

This is a bit of a random post but I miss y’all. In all things I am working to keep it simple.