dreaming an adjustment

just woke up from an odd little busy work dream. in it I passed president Elizabeth Warren in a hall and showed her the resolution notes of a mediation I had just finished. it was something Black people needed and she didn’t have power over it, just eyes on it. she quickly scanned it and said ‘nice. precise, fair, to the point. good work.’ I felt her partnership. she walked off and I went on to do other dream things.

I woke up like…oh. a Warren presidency would be one I wouldn’t just vote for, but would be proud to serve in some way.

this is as opposed to my current feeling, of not wanting to be associated in any way with the u.s – I’m out of country and feel the mark of the devil on me – of having a president who is disrespected and destructive to everyone I meet. it’s hard enough with a good president, to travel, to feel proud. I know I am a post capitalist who believes in the emergence of many vibrant ecosystems that collaborate to live on this planet, and yet to anyone I meet, I come from a capitalist superpower trying to take all the labor and resources of the world for our own even though we don’t need it, a taker-nation that still has extreme poverty and homelessness (I still rarely see homelessness outside of western nations).

anyway, tangent…i wouldn’t just feel proud to vote for Warren, I’d feel like contributing to her vision, having her contribute to ours. and I feel the same about Sanders.

but something that feels important in this is that if neither of them makes it to the final four, then I will vote for whoever does in the run against drump, because I recognize the difference between this feeling of alignment and desire to serve and my actual citizen duty.

my citizen duty is to give future generations a fighting chance. to protect those who are most vulnerable: our collective children, those from muslim nations, trans people, those living in poverty, those who are deployable, humans who are breathing and thus might be somewhere a gunman lashes out or the climate implodes, etc. my duty is to vote for the best available option to ensure that our basic humanity is given a chance of advancing.

feeling enthusiastic is not a guarantee. it’s a miracle to feel excited about two candidates this far into the race.

I’m reminded that the other morning I ran into someone I respect who is supporting Bernie. we uplifted each other, honored that we’re publicly supporting different candidates, then touched briefly into what we’re learning. there was only respect and interest and a sense of possibility. that’s how I want political engagement to feel. we are fighting over which employee will best suit the needs of an important job. it isn’t political home – we both have those outside of the electoral process, places and people to whom we feel accountable. this is for mass strategy, mass protection, high level policy protection of the communities we love.

purist debate is important, honing how you feel and having a place to practice it fully is important. make sure you have a political home. don’t get that confused with the American experiment, with shaping the conditions of this experiment such that the most vulnerable stand a chance of surviving and changing it themselves. do not make poor people and immigrants and women and our babies the collateral damage of purist ideologies. your theoretical happiness is not more important than the earth’s and species’ tangible survival.

I think that’s all my dream demanded I share with you.

first the window, then the door

according to my calendar i am, today, exactlyish one third of the way through my sabbatical.

i was with others, various kinds of family, for the first month, and then have been mostly alone this second month. i’ve been gently reducing my time on social media – being alone is really daunting for most people, and i am a person. it’s felt especially so after the year i had, moving like a whirling piece of kaleidoscope through experiences of immense depth and relationship with groups ranging from two to five thousand, and during all of it, also being present with a growing social media community, or set of communities, the scale of which i can’t really comprehend…i generally feel healthier if i ignore the numbers. so, the new normal, feeling deeply face to face, and then going in the bathroom to see the love and grief and adventure and random thoughts of friends and strangers.

the spaces i have chosen to travel are just right for this shift towards solitude – first, busier tourist beach areas, or the brown family holiday house where there were enough people to create lines for bathrooms or stove top burners at high tide. then, slightly less trendy spots but still, neighbors and restaurants. the next places i am going are much more solitary – ‘bring groceries down this dirt road and don’t expect high speed wifi’ type places. when i booked them i was intimidated by my ambition, but now i can’t wait. even with all the space, i feel crowded by the random late night party sounds, the hostel hoppers looking for friendship at the snack spot…i am ready to claim even more solitary space. i’ve learned this past decade not to go too fast into solitude, as it isn’t meant to be a violence to my system but an opening.

what i am most aware of is how the size of my thoughts grows as i open more space. other voices, news, trolls, scrolling, all of it can become a wall of sound, of content that i may or may not actually care about, when i don’t give myself space. after a while it feels like i only have a tiny window through which the light of my own thinking and feeling can pour in or out.

i think of plato’s shadows on the cave wall – my comprehension of the world can become an analysis of shadows, an interpretation of shadows cast from captured light, of a reality i am not really able to see. time alone, for me, is a way of slowly turning towards the light, grabbing a torch and finding my way to a gap somehow full of light in the wall, and then finding that it is somehow a window, hitching it open, looking outside. then it’s ‘aha! it’s so different than i understood!’ all the time. and cave/house blended metaphors abound.

the boundary work shifts in the opening. initially i was (as usual) very rigid, trying to control and direct others into seeing and holding my boundary. but then aha! if i hold my boundaries, others don’t have to do that much to honor them.

and the attention shifts. ‘i can’t meditate’ or ‘i can’t learn a language’ becomes a story that suited and relieved me in the cave. looking out the window, i can’t help but reflect, drop inwards, contend with my place in the world. looking out the window i want to know the language of the falcon, the lizard, the turtle, and all the different humans i meet. aha! it isn’t the story of my limitations i want to hear, but the story of my healer, my host, my cohabitating wildlife, the chef. surely i can bring my attention to learning that language, to attempting that listening?

my interest in changing itself shifts. though i am at this point fanatical about change as a divine force, i still mostly mean change in others. me myself personally, i can be remarkably resistant to change. it takes me time to notice that i have outgrown myself, time to then shed skin which i don’t yet know how to slink out of (i tend to burst out, apologize, and then try to tidy the mess without being noticed until i can present it victoriously), and then time to expand into my next self.

i am excited by small and large changes. how i transition from cobra to downward dog, how my back foot feels in triangle pose. how forward my shoulders are when i am in a conversation i care about. how different walking a couple miles a day feels in my knees now than it did the first few days. how audre lorde’s work makes me notice which identities feel like home in this moment, gives me permission to examine myself as a relevant case study for my scholarship. some changes are small and structural, some are larger and ideological – are my ideas changing? do i have enough space to think at scale?

that question makes me hunger for the space to think and feel and be at the scale of my gifts, my communities, my generation, my love. these aren’t small times, though they are made up of small-seeming moments in which change is chosen in the (scary/compelling/comfortable) face of staying behind our evolutionary thrust, in false concepts of economy, safety and power.

now i am heading towards the door, the cave’s mouth. smaller thinking, forced to shrink by others, happens in here, in the tiny cave left at the edge of an overly full life, a life of nonstop doing…i want to go out and be in it. looking through the window isn’t enough, i want to run through the field, get pollen all over my dress, dance backwards and forwards in time, i want to inhale reality and feel the inevitable thrum within me, that internal philosophy lighting up. in this way i become available to life and then this feeling of being alive on purpose is so natural, it’s so right, it doesn’t need to be narrated or conducted, it just is…i want as many moments of my lifetime as possible to be spent here, finding the next heirloom seed ideas that want to root in me now, to burst out of the roof, or mountaintop, someday. out here looking at the sea and the stars i remember i am as much a tree in the forest as a volcano as a child as an artist as a warrior as a me. it’s just a matter of time and space, and diving into one to make my way to the other.


soldiers: go awol!

as a ‘military brat’ i know that soldiers often get to political development the hard way, by finding themselves out in the world fighting people who have nothing to do with the war they are now being displaced/attacked/harmed/killed for. suddenly you see: this is not justice. it isn’t fair. and it won’t increase the safety of your nation or anyone else in the world.

this violent reckoning is especially likely for those who join the military for economic reasons. poor people get pit against each other for wealthy whims.

it’s not too late to think it through. it’s a matter of life and death for you and those you will be next to and across from. if you have even a shadow of doubt, bring light to it. make this phone call before you participate in this unjust action the president has initiated to distract from his own accountability.

if you have active duty family or friends, spread the word, let them know there is dignity in taking a stand to defend humanity from tyranny.

I’m outside the US and there are t-shirts everywhere that say “Trump = Next Hitler”. this is no time to simply obey orders. there is a role of resistance now that only soldiers can play. and there are many of us who believe in your existence, your right to think for yourself. we welcome your passion and skills.

repost from @vetsaboutface, #nowariniran #dontbeapawn #befinn

Eight Days of Gratitude #sixdaysofgratitude

gratitude day 2:

I’m grateful for the active practice of family. choosing when to lean in, when to let go. learning to be honest with people even when you know everything they are holding – the respect of honesty, the compassion of not asking for more than I need. the love in small moments. my current practice is to meet exhaustion, frustration, and rope-ends vibes with as much of a sense of preciousness, of this-moment-is-the-only-THIS-moment-ever energy, as I can muster.

I’m grateful for how much this decade taught me about moving outside of my thoughts and being able to observe my state with curiosity and generosity.

I’m grateful for how this decade taught me the value of an hour alone, of quiet time with others, of how much energy gets saved when you drop pretense.

I’m grateful I haven’t forgotten how to play, and how to surrender to the pace of children.
tagging in @shonalihollyhottamale

day 3 of gratitude

today I showed my nibbling the @deemjournal magazine cover. she said, “you’re famous?” I responded: mostly no, but in some small circles, a little bit.

in reflection, I’m grateful that I got to know enough about myself to have some sense of what I wanted to grow in this lifetime before I reached this level of exposure.

nibbling asked to do my makeup. they asked if I liked it as much as the magazine photos and of course i do – see that afrofuture across my brow?

they’d heard me talk about how @anjalipinto and the team made me feel my beauty. they said in the future they’d be honored to do my makeup for magazines and make me feel beautiful.

i’m grateful to have done this spread with only outfits that showed my arms. and to have done so many interviews this year where i only told my truth.

i’m grateful that the people who love me and know me are all mostly bemused by the increase of exposure in my life and still treat me like a person.

i’m grateful to be in this magazine with @maisonlafleur and @leahpenniman and @naimainfinity and so many other amazing humans.

i’m grateful for this year of being part of ideas that are spreading like wildflowers.


day 4 of gratitude / 10 of cups

I began this decade in love, and I end it in love.

I am grateful to look back at how I have loved – i have been brave, foolish, selfish, honest, hungry, concerned with what others perceived, sex starved and sex crazed, emotionally endangered…i have so often been a contortionist in the name of love. I have shamed my learning self, and forgiven, embraced, and learned to feel so much compassion for myself and everyone else.

I have leapt into romance, written so much poetry. my text threads could be novels and movies of love.

I have experienced such interesting lovers, dynamic comet lovers, stable, steady lovers, lovers who have tried to contain me and lovers who have encouraged my freedom. lovers who turned me out and others who never truly touched me but changed me nonetheless. this decade has taught me an immense amount about what actually matters to me in love, in connection…and I’m learning about the boundaries that liberate me.

I am grateful for each lesson.

I’m grateful to have learned how deeply the well of love is within me, that ‘alone’ is a myth or commitment that isn’t true in me. I don’t need anyone else to fill this well – in the sweetest way, I learned this decade that I can be incredibly happy in a life of self love, deep friendships and intentional family-ing. I want to shout this feeling from the mountaintop – this satisfaction in my existence that I have tasted and cultivated with solitude and changing my behaviors.

it means the love I feel now, am in now, is driven by delight and curiosity, wonder and fun, unveiling. cocreation. magic.

today I pull the ten of cups, next to my love. “the journey to completion looks different for each of us. what we are fulfilled by looks different as well. a sense of wholeness is present. all encompassing love and oneness preside, and we may feel generous in our happiness. this is the kind of deep joy that makes us want to hug strangers and light candles on altars of abundance. mantra: my wholeness is shared by many.” axé

#sixdaysofgratitude but I think it’s going to somehow be eight? of course in gratitude time is expanding.

#movementtarot from #shewolfetarot

day 5 of gratitude / six of wands

today my gratitude is for practice. in this past decade I have learned that transformation comes from practice. I have learned that I can maintain practices I love, practices that nourish me. my core practices are tarot (for myself and movement), somatics, writing, meditation, swimming, yoga and relationship. and therapy.

when I’m in practice, the foundation of my life is solid and the rest of my mental, physical, spiritual and emotional health is easier to feel and navigate.

when others ask me for guidance, more and more often I respond with some variation of: what are you practicing? as all of my somatics teachers say, we are what we practice. intentionally or unintentionally. practice is how we direct our attention and focus the miraculous force of our lives.

today I asked about the impacts of practice and got six of wands: “triumph, good news, advancement, desires realized.”

word! #movementtarot from #fridakahlotarot deck

day 6 of gratitude

I am so grateful to the movements that have coalesced and shaped this last decade, particularly for the radical work I have been able to serve.

when I look back at this decade, I see that I have poured myself towards black liberation by following leaders and allies I trust to ask the right questions, take the right risks, make the right mistakes.

I am grateful for the work of leaders like @charlenecarruthers, @sunshinekarissa, @thenjiwetameika, @problematicpapi, @chasinggarza, @osopepatrisse, @markanthoneee, @marbrecaryn, @_ashdashlee_, @maryhooks, @chinyere, celeste faison, @mauricewfp, @cindywiesner, n’tanya lee, barbara ransby, @mamamchll, gopal dayaneni, @worshipmyankle, @hgchange, @taranajaneen, @culturejedi, @gritsandpolitics, shira hassan, mariame kaba, @adela_noblesnow, @invincibledet, @dreamhampton313, @howell.shea, @denise.perry.0521, @insurgente_lola, @jtrising, @spentawalla, @jennylx, @earthseeddetroit @leahlakshmiwrites, @walidahimarisha, @sagesense, @dani_mcclain, @asharaekundayogallery, @instatonita, @kellymcgnyc, @spirithouse_inc, @dallasgoldtooth, @jihangearon, @nainadevi77, @ashindi, grace lee boggs, @ultimate_paygee, mama lila, charity hicks and so so many others, many more than I could ever name.

facilitation and mediation is sacred work, and to get to serve Black life and the planet through so many experiments and projects, directly and indirectly, has been a great gift and a great teacher to me. to be part of a decade of humans so willing to move into action, to try, to embody possibility, to wrestle with terror, trolls, philanthropy, philosophy, narrative and the humbling work of real change…i am grateful.

to be part of movements that are learning to know each other, risk loving each other, dreaming together, creating culture together, practicing sci fi and witchcraft and pleasure and nature together…it’s been an incredible decade. we feel different now than we did ten years ago, more inviting, longer term, humbler, more complex.

movement is what we make of it. to become the ocean we don’t say the river is small, we become the great water that changes the landscape.


day 7 of gratitude

oh body!

i am so grateful for this decade of living into my body. it’s been a decade of somatics and self observation / love / documentation / wrestling / worship. my body has changed so much – I’ve gone thru an ectopic pregnancy, developed arthritis, discovered allergies and relinquished extremist dieting. I’ve been learning to listen inside myself, finding the rhythms of my hunger, my own dances, my mermaid magic…increasing the kindness and liberation i offer myself.

after years of thinking I had a bad memory, I’ve learned that my memory is incredible and deep, it’s just in my tissues, joints, muscles, in my psoas, my calves, my jaw.

my teacher-friend liu hoiman says, “a relaxed body is a powerful body,” and I’ve been reveling in what becomes possible when I can notice a tension forming in my flesh and release there, just there. what becomes possible with a breath!

this year a new system of feeling awakened in me and I am excited to spend the next decade learning how to wield what I can now feel, what I know beyond words, what I thrill to surrender to… thank you body for being miraculous this whole time it took me to truly see you.
#sixdaysofgratitude #icantcount #buticanpraise

day 8 of gratitude is for beauty

precisely, for my ability to experience a multitude of beauties, even under conditions that try to steal away from me that which is beautiful in my life, and in this period of human history.

the beauty of the living world has enraptured me – this decade has been a great turning of my attention and fascination from outer space (still cool but more daunting) to grass, ants, turtles, murmuration, cloud patterns and sun rhythms (super wow). I am so intoxicated by the particular beauty in the design of this place.

I still dream of aliens, but now I see them in octopus and squid forms, in thrills up my spine, in the stardust of my lover’s skin. I am obsessed with the beauty in humans – in the tensions between us, in the truth that there are many truths, in the small sacred work of finding those true, whole connections.

when the struggles of this time threaten my desire to be alive, or my revolutionary hope, or even the peace available in a moment, I know the medicine is to seek the beauty, the signs of life and miracle, of divine intention, which, when I look, are flooding my senses, humbling my comprehension, inviting me back to awe.

join me here – what is a beautiful moment we shared, physically or virtually, this past decade? remind me how beautiful it’s been.

#sixdaysofgratitude #oreight

sabbatical boundaries

beloveds – i have had a number of somewhat panicked messages since monday that made me think it might be helpful to articulate how to interact with me on my sabbatical.

first, a couple of FAQ type things:

what is a sabbatical?
“a period of paid leave granted to a university teacher or other worker for study or travel, traditionally one year for every seven years worked.”

why am i taking one as a non-academic?
i identify in the ‘other worker’ category, on good days an organic intellectual. in the last seven years i have completed three books for publishing and three books that are still making their way to the light, toured a lot of places, been a doula for an institute, facilitated and mediated movements i admire, and survived mad shit.

what am i going to do?
i am going to travel and rest, rest, rest until i remember how to really sleep and feel a good deep breath. i may study pace and creating in the realm of fiction, music and art.

and how can y’all interact with me on this journey? here goes:

send me beautiful, weird, cool, science/fictional, Black, liberation or other awesome things – i especially love pictures of bombastic creatures, proof of magic, and high quality memes.

send me positive vibes that remind me how each of us are more miraculous and valuable than anything we have or could ever produce.

if you happen to see me in the wild, know that i am aiming for anonymity. be kind, and let me go on.

i am aiming for unstructured and unplanned space. if you are not my family or woes, please do not ask me where i am going, or if you can join me.

do ask me how my heart is, what is interesting my mind these days, what inspires me.

don’t take it personally if i answer internally.

do not ask me to work.

beyond facilitation and writing, my work includes scheduling, brain picking, assessing, connecting, interviews, administration, and teaching. do not ask.

that includes not asking me who to reach out to in my absence about work – my auto responder and all social media have the email addresses to use for all work related requests: bookings@alliedmedia.org or emergentstrategy@alliedmedia.org – ask them…and please honor their answers.

especially don’t slide into my DMs/private messages to ask me to work, or to slip around my boundaries.

holding boundaries as people push against them is work. do not push against my boundaries. do not ask me to collaborate with you in breaking my boundaries.

if you aren’t sure if what you want to say or share is work or not, wait until June 2020 to say or share it. let’s share the interdependent faith that it’ll keep or find another space.

and finally, recognize how hard it is to need this, to write this, to ask for this, to take this moment for myself, to go into the unknown of myself. hold my hand by holding my boundaries.

with love!

ps. you can also give to my sabbatical fund:

you can send me money (thru apps below or send checks c/o allied media projects with amb sabbatical fund in memo line) OR e-gift certificates to online places where I can order books!

cash app: $adriennemareedough
venmo: adrienne-brown-25

cold moon conjure

we. out. here.

releasing the walls that held/hold in harm and danger.

releasing regressive constructs that are scared of change.

releasing any small particles of tolerance for abusers – learning from the biodynamic and interconnected youth who just say the truth and ask us to live in it, demand us to change it.

releasing any idea that shrinking ourselves is what makes room for others…learning to trust in the abundant world which needs all of us, all of our gifts.

releasing what has died this past decade – loved ones, loveships, illusions. thank you for the lessons, for being a part of everything we are and will be.

releasing expectations of and attention on those who are not trying to grow right now. it’s all good, really it is, pace is subjective. but i hear tomorrow calling and i am in love with that sound.

releasing the small ways obligation has crept into my heart. letting love and liberation cleanse me back my authentic, odd and positively obsessed self.

releasing those i can’t forgive, and those who can’t forgive me. may we be happy. accountable, rebirthed, yes. but happy.

releasing what i cannot carry, cannot swallow, cannot believe, cannot feel, and cannot trust.

releasing the sharp and isolating teeth of superiority that sit inside of recognition like a venus fly trap – i know better: i’m not better.

releasing regret, and shaping change so that i can end patterns of regret. particularly releasing any patterns that keep me from letting feeling guide my actions. my intuition is becoming a pendulum in my cells, and i am learning to trust my direction, my tongue and my mistakes.

releasing any narrative that asks me to sacrifice my health for my relevance. i only want to mean something to those who care about my flesh, bones and spirit.

dark night, bright moon, prayers up, thank you


optimism and practice

it is hard work to believe in the apparently impossible enough to move towards it.

it is terrifying to see another way, especially if it is truly a transformation you see, especially if it begins within you. then it becomes daily practice, cultivating the seed of a transformed world within.

it is generating and sustaining the possibility of liberation, not just for each of us individually, but for a collective body, for a species…daily practice of that generating and sustaining in the tunnel of justified hopelessness, that is what gives us options, a future. neither violence nor victory within the current context is as dangerous to those holding unjust power as someone who knows: we are free and will continue to move and shape the world accordingly.

every day.

a first gray hair

sometimes it is while sitting on the toilet in an airplane bathroom and catching my reflection in the mirror that i see something profound.

there is my unguarded face…when i get a certain kind of tired, i try to hide it, to focus on gratitude or the work to do, throw some glitter on. still me, still real, but focusing my attention away from my exhaustion. under slept, hair in a knot, i can try to protect myself from seeing it, seeing the dark circles under my eyes, the parched pores.

mostly it’s a good tired. i’ve been having an outstanding life lately, living waking dreams and traveling during my sleep.

and there it is before me, on the reflective surface of the bathroom door: my first gray hair.

it’s not really the first. i have found, or had pointed out to me, gray hairs near the center of my crown. they excite me, but i can’t really see them.

this is the first one at my hairline, a bit to the right, shorter than the hair around it. this one is strong, thick like it’s here to stay.

i’ve been expecting this one.

my pace has been frantic lately. i’ve been pushing everything out of me as if i have no faith in my own longevity, in what can be done tomorrow. it’s been this way my whole adult life. i know better, but the call of exciting and relevant work is hard to delay.

and yet…as the year closes, something big has shifted. i have seen something happen in my lifetime, in my work, that deeply satisfies me. room after room full of incredible human beings reflect that they are feeling emergent strategy and pleasure activism. i know they know what i mean. some of them knew it before i wrote it, for some people emergent strategy gives them language, or common reference.

they reflect it in words, but that’s not what i mean. y’all know i, like many of you, have had my heart broken by movement. this year, over and over, i have gotten to witness and be healed by what i’ve felt in movement spaces.

multiple times this year i have witnessed people publicly take accountability for harm and judgment, of their own volition, often in a mutual exchange. the ripples of this healing rolled through the room, ancestors and energy thick. i have watched groups learn to extend trust to each other not because it was earned, but because it is necessary. i have seen rooms fall in love with each other, believe in each other again. i have seen cross sections of movement choose to move towards right relationship.

we’ve started small – sixty people in each of seven cities, plus about 200 in detroit. and 120 people thru facilitation trainings. what i see is that seeds have taken root…or memories awakened…or dreams shared…or faith met.

it took the color from a hair to do my part of this work, to push this hard, and i’m grateful to have been called to work that feels so joyful, even in the hardest moments. i want to go gray this way, gray with delight and reckoning.

now it’s time to rest and recover, and integrate, and learn how to hold this kind of life satisfaction. now it’s time to let all this love simmer on the back burner, to get still enough to take it in.

build as we fight: remarks from the 2019 American Studies Association Annual Meeting

my friend and comrade Scott Kurashige is the president of the American Studies Association, and this year he very kindly invited me to be the artist-in-residence, which meant that I got to do lots of sessions and offers for folks who I am amazed might be interested in my work. my offers here have so far included an emergent strategy workshop, a pleasure activism workshop, singing the Black national anthem to open Scott’s presidential address, and a panel with three of my life teachers, Angela Davis, Robin Kelly and Shea Howell. today I get to do one more panel with some of my favorite speculative fiction thinkers and creators.

the workshops went well, I got to test out new forms for offering the content and got great feedback.

here is the song:


and here are the notes for my remarks at the panel “build as we fight”, most of which I said roughly like this (I’ll italicize things I wrote but don’t think I spoke aloud):

hi. my name is adrienne maree brown and I’m nervous. it’s delightful to feel this nervous, this alive.

after two days of making academics get in small groups and feel feelings and cry and discuss nakedness, I caught on to the ASA way and I have written up some thoughts to read to you.

I want to tell you about a few ahas, ways I am moving towards the future, and about what building as we fight looks like in my life, thru my lens as a facilitator of Black liberation movements for justice.

my lens is shaped by the Anishanaabe land I fell in love with over a decade ago, also known as Detroit, the post motor city, where it feels like a modern Black Renaissance is unfolding as an artist-led insurgence against gentrification.

I’m shaped by Grace Lee Boggs, who I initially resisted, cause everyone loved and worshipped her, and I mostly recoil at heroes, celebrities and worship. But then we spoke, and I kept coming back. Grace taught me to ‘transform myself to transform the world’, and to keep working a question as long as it took, because some questions are longer than one lifetime.

I’m shaped by her beloved Jimmy, who was gone by the time I got to Detroit, but also present in everything, was everywhere. He reminds me often that I’m nothing outside of relationship, never to let the celebrity so available in capitalism keep me from being in authentic and accountable relationship to real people, to use any platform I have to advance ideas generated and tested by collective formations.

I’m shaped by Scott Kurashige and Emily Lawson, by Shea Howell – who taught me to foment revolution on the detroit river. And Malik Yakini and Feed’em Freedom Growers and the Peace Circles and Detroit Summer.

and by Octavia Butler, the no nonsense prophet who used science fiction to deliver her visions. And Toni Morrison, Samuel Delaney and Nalo Hopkinson, Walter Mosley, and Tananarive Due, all the black speculative fiction writers who bent and bend the world into fractals of truth and justice to help us see ourselves.

and by Margaret Wheatley and Janine Benyus, women studying complexity science. We are also complex science, we are also nature.

I’m shaped by Harriet Tubman, who was willing to go and make a space for those hungry for freedom, those not quite ready to make a run for it without invitation, leadership, path and proof.

I’m shaped by the Tao the ching, which says to let the mud settle into the way is clear. to trust the people. and that mastery is when the collective can feel it’s own power.

and by Audre Lorde, who validated my black queer poetic and erotic aliveness as a measure of political power. And bell hooks with love and rigor, and Toni Cade Bambara with irresistibility and Barbara Ransby showing me that facilitation was radical through Ella bakers legacy.

and of course, of course Angela Davis who has pushed me to understand freedom and justice beyond the carceral state, and Robin DG Kelly, who has widened the lens with which I understand our moment in black history.

and there are so many more. so if it sounds familiar, or like worship, it is.

my first big aha was visionary fiction, offered in a collection of science fiction from social justice movements coedited by myself and Walidah Imarisha called Octavia’s Brood. When I told Grace about this work, she casually dropped that she had tried visionary fiction in the 1970s, and pointed me to the shelf where I could find a copy of it. she thought ‘it could be interesting’.

we who believe in freedom must build our muscle of imagination. because we are living in, and only sometimes surviving, an imagination battle –

who imagined this world?
this absence of right relationship to earth?
this violent addiction to dominating each other?
these myths of superiority of those with pale skin or external sex organs or bodies without kinks in the bones, or born on this side of manmade, and cruelly held, borders?
who imagined that these prison bars on jails and schools would generate safety?
who imagined a generation or more would tolerate this black and brown hunger? and this allowance that some will hunger while others feast, not oblivious, but willfully, and structurally, ignorant?

in the face of this world, this moment, where self definition outside of oppression can feel impossible, we must strengthen our capacity to live and create and affirm and vision outside the white male straight able-bodied citizen gaze, to structure our visions beyond their limited, often self-worshipping imaginations.

or the educated imagination.

any emotion-less, arrogant, vengeful imagination.

we need our own oceanic visions.

socialization of the dominance of white imagination and fantasy creates what toni morrison called “interior pain”.

we must counteract by creating an abundance of interior freedom, and weaving collective freedom dreams, dreams that include all of us, dreams we can speak to each other plainly, or poetically (or as y’all speak to each other, which I’m trying to comprehend).

Dreams as complex as a black owned food cooperative in right relationship with indigenous land lineage, or the community land trust, two projects seeding in Detroit after twenty plus years of experimenting with solutions. We are living science fiction – all organizing is science fiction.

my next big aha was, is, emergent strategy.

emergence is the way complex systems and patterns arise out of relatively simple interactions. emergent strategies are informed by complexity, by learning from nature how to be in right relationship with each other and the earth.

Grace exposed me to Margaret Wheatley and complex science theory as a movement direction. I went fast into learning and I’m still going.

as we fight we must also harness each lesson to learn how to get in right relationship with change.

we must build dialectically, committed to learning with each other more than stagnating in a point of view.

as we fight we must build our fractal capacity, meaning solutions that we practice at a small scale, that will work at any scale (as opposed to solutions we demand at a large scale but no one, or very few people, practice, ever – democracy, abolition).

we need solutions that work for a small band of survivors in an apocalypse bunker if that’s what humanity will be up to for a while, a more and more likely scenario each day. we need to be raising up and becoming humans who have the communications skills, imagination muscle and loving care to make a life worth living at a small, hyper-local scale.

or the scale of municipality, if we can breathe above ground but we can’t fly or drive to each other every other day.

or the scale of instantaneous transporter travel and sky highways and alien technology if that happens first. or the octopuses start talking to us. it’s all equally possible.

one of these fractal skills is what cabral spoke of as revolutionary democracy – trusting the people to learn self governance. many of us are terrified to govern, much more comfortable with critiquing what is than with creating and practicing what will be.

start small. democratize your home, your relationship with your neighbor, with your lover, with your family. if we can’t budget together, we can’t be mad that our government struggles to.

movement generation, also a great teacher of mine, defines economy as the management of home. how do we manage collective home together? how do we contribute to a collective home that is resilient in constantly changing conditions?

at each level, our natural world teaches us that we build the resilience by building relationships, proliferating aligned differences. we need critical connections not just between those who think the same thing, but between different skill sets, worldviews, cultures and, yes, politics.

Loretta Ross teaches us that “a group of people thinking the same thing and moving in the same direction is a cult. a group of people thinking many different things and moving in the same direction is a movement.”

we need to harness the most successful strategies of the natural world – the symbiotic biodiversity, the interdependent fecundity, the abundance mindset of mushrooms and dandelions, the shapeshifting adaptation of multisexed frogs, the collaborative pheremonal effort of ants, the iterative beauty of ferns and deltas and galaxies.

if attended to, and learned from in an ongoing way, these critical connections to each other and to our nature are what make critical mass solid enough not just to demand change, but to become change.

we must go beyond calling for abolition, and build our tolerance for, and practice of, transformative justice.

at an intimate level, I do kitchen table mediation, bringing movement leaders going through a breakup or break down to sit together and remember what is larger than us.

at a collective level I facilitate principled struggle – a Marxist conflict framework by way of N’Tanya Lee at LeftRoots – helping people to have integrity to movement even in personal beef, to struggle for the sake of deeper understanding (not just to be right), to be responsible for our own feelings and actions, to find the right container for our gifts and longings and to release containers that cannot hold us, to seek deeper understanding before writing the critical commentary or instigating the debate or tweeting the complaint. to gossip and vent, yes, we are human – but keep returning with integrity to the work we can and must do together.

in this moment, we can spend a lot of time tracking every crack in the shell, or we can be the chaos that tremors those cracks open, or we can be the wild creature learning to breathe inside that shell, preparing to burst thru, expanding beyond the boundary of what most people think is reality. it’s all construct.

what we can be and do depends on the rigor of our collective attention. are we obsessing over what we cannot change, or nourishing what we can touch and grow – or as Octavia taught us, shape, partner with?

my final offer to build while we fight is pleasure activism.

we must build a felt sense in ourselves of authentic satisfaction. and remember that pleasure is not a frivolous spoil of luxury, but a measure of aliveness, the life force that has been whittled away, stolen away, by oppression and colonization and capitalism. we must break with the assumption of misery that does not serve us.

we are responsible for building movements that feel good to enter and good to stay in. in my work facilitating the movement for black lives, I have continuously asked these current and future shapers of history to turn towards each other (when it felt like there was no time for it), care about each other, sing 90s r&b together, and risk loving each other.

to organize this way means we must remember how to feel. we are not minds alone, strategies and speeches alone. we have multiple kinds of intelligence to draw on. we must learn to tolerate feeling both discomfort and delight, sadness and celebration, more than just fear and submission.

and to love. to be loyal to love, as grace was to jimmy for their life together and for the years after she left. to love the way she did, for us to look at each other the way grace looked at jimmy’s face on that little video of jimmy she played every day.

ultimately we need to feel and heal and grow and love ourselves into movements that birth not just rock stars or temporary victory based campaigns or cultural pendulum swings, but new worlds. movements that can see our future dissolution (rather than permanent institutionalization) not because we outsmarted each other, but because we forget how to lose. and we win by surrendering to our collective purpose, to being life moving towards life, surviving and thriving together. we win only by getting in right relationship, before we go extinct.

maybe happiness?

being happy takes a lot of work for someone like me.

suffering makes sense to me, the world is hard and unfair and oppressive and dangerous. finding the narrative of despair is our focus as a species, hence what we call news (terror, shame, controversy, immaturity), what we slow down to ogle at in traffic (hint: not the flowers). we make each other miserable, unnecessarily. many people, including me, can make meaning of our lives by how much we suffer, how extensive and heavy the baggage is that we bring forward.

also, i am a virgo. scorpio moon. i pay attention, i look for the inconsistencies, i can see the worst case scenarios fanned out before me, a million lonely paths. since i was young, i have been drawn to what i thought of as “real life”, the hard stuff; the addictions, heartbreaks, and the places where humans were failing at perfection.

i have had to learn to cultivate joy, to generate and extend trust, to be still, to focus my attention on what brings me ease, to give myself permission to experience beauty and love. that shouldn’t be past tense, as it’s all daily practice. i am learning. i am learning that being happy is, at least initially, not about external circumstances, but about internal perspective and attention liberation.

two years ago i wrote: when i feel hopeless, it usually means my attention is on things I can’t touch. when I bring my attention to the people and places I can touch, can shape and be shaped by, my life fills with meaning, connection, joy and transformation. #attentionliberation #attentionreparations #emergentstrategy #interdependence.

i have been practicing. here are some further aspects of bringing our attention to, and experiencing, happiness.

acknowledge suffering
if you deny that suffering is real, is happening, is part of human life, then you cut off a massive part of your awareness. you move out of balance with reality. happiness lives in the connections between us, the tether that joins us to the living world.

we have to acknowledge grief, longing, anxiety, oppression, depression, despair, loneliness. khalil gibran taught us that our sorrow carves out the space for our joy, and vice versa. they are inextricably linked – to deny suffering, especially the suffering of others, is to stay in false joy, joy that takes but does not give.

acknowledge suffering.

acknowledge doubt
doubt is a sign that you are paying attention.

there is a random wild energy moving through the universe, that is what makes it interesting, what brings us the unexpected. life has patterns, but is still not predictable.

doubt is that proof of chaos that distorts the blank surface of perfection. doubt is that small cut at the foundation of a lie, which eventually fells it. doubt keeps us from staying in stupid systems forever, from believing misguided leaders when they tell stories about god, power and change. doubt helps us escape false paradigms in which joy in the present moment is impossible.

acknowledge doubt.

be smaller
start small. be small.

i am happiest when i let my life be contained within my body, listening to my needs, and letting myself follow the impulses of care and connection.

current life requires such projection, such a massive scale of oversharing and trying to change strangers through the internet and attend to massive crises. we can live our whole lives as minds, worried, thinking, untethered.

large scale sometimes still happens when you’re being small, but it’s more deeply sourced, and doesn’t create the same level of attachment. when you’re small, your discernment is about the authenticity of the care, the real person you can be and feel in each connection.

be smaller.

let it go
my papa used to say this all the time. when someone was complaining, building a case for their misery, building a case against a loved one, he’d say ‘let it go.’ he gave it to god.

i didn’t understand it then as the profound key to happiness that i now find it to be, the ability to let go of things. when i can’t change something, when it isn’t working, when we don’t know how to apologize, when they didn’t mean to hurt me, i let it go. i give it to earth – that which is larger than myself.

i also think of this as clearing the channel. one of the first ways i understood healing was that i could feel the open channel of connection between myself and others, and/or sense blockages there. i would focus on clearing the channel so that my love, care, tenderness, forgiveness or other kinds of nourishing attention could reach them. i now use this technology to let things go, to keep myself from holding grudges, becoming a sad barnacle on a wreckage of my life. i don’t stagnate in any narrative that denies my power. i let it go, i stay in sacred motion.

as often as possible, if it doesn’t serve the miracle of life, let it go.

revel in the present
the present is so precious. sometimes when i drop out of the grip of memory, when i pull myself back from forecasting into the unknown, i find myself shocked at how incredible the present is.

in the present is where love makes its offer. i look back at how often i have missed love because i had my attention elsewhere while it was happening. i have a visceral memory of the first time i felt present-time love, holding another’s hand and walking across a field, needing nothing. it was so mundane, but every blade of grass caught the light, and still does.

when i am present, i relax, bringing my attention to the gift of the moment. i am feeling. i can choose connection, or solitude (connection with others or self). i can move or be still. i can intentionally focus on what brings me awe, even while getting a flu shot or blood drawn or a speculum inserted. when the present is grief, i can remember it is gratitude, i can bring love into me.

when i am present, i understand that time is not linear, but fully available to me. in my healing work, i can relegate the past to the past, notice my own survival. i can humble myself to the futures, and listen for which ones want to use my sacred life, partner with my heartbeat to shift the potential. i can release my need to know that which i cannot know. in the present, everything is possible, except the clearly impossible. that clarity, that light on everything inside me, is a sign of right direction.

revel in the present.

when i do these things, acknowledge suffering and doubt – past present and future; when i get small, and let go of what isn’t connection, i find that the only thing left is to revel in the present. a brief car ride becomes a celebration. love becomes an option that doesn’t require contortion or obsession, just honesty. a truth spoken becomes a liberation. our species is not failing, but learning.

and i can have a moment of happiness.

that’s what all this brightness is, pouring out of me as i do my life’s work, heading towards rest, connected deeply and honestly to those who see me whole and still choose me, letting praise and critique simply be signs that others exist and feel. when i am present, i am doing my best without effort, relaxing into what is, right now.

and because it’s taken so much work, i want to claim it, here in my exhausted and overextended life, even though i need the sabbatical coming and more quiet and more vegetables…i am also full of this chaotic, tender, real time brightness. in this moment, awake again before dawn to listen to now, i feel so much life flowing through me.

i feel satisfaction.

and maybe, maybe, happiness.