Author Archive for Adrienne

emergent strategy in the world cup

i am not generally a futbol (or any other kind of sports) watcher.

i read and saw a lot about the racial and class dynamics of the world cup, and what brazil did to ‘clean up’ for FIFA. a lot of those dynamics, which follow athletic competition around the world and show up most prominently in world cup and olympics years, reminded me why i can’t deeply engage in sports as a regular outlet. it is so oriented around competitive and capitalist indulgence, uplifting heroes and gathering faceless erasable masses to cheer them on.

but i am beginning to suspect that nothing operates outside the realm of emergent strategy.

being in amsterdam, it made a lot of sense to watch the world cup. it was part of being immersed in this place, sitting at coffeshops and watching the game with an international spread of locals.

i didn’t have a particular team i was rooting for, and really only engaged around the quarter finals. but once i got hooked i couldn’t stop watching. and rather than rooting for particular teams or players, i was fascinated by the patterns and rhythms, the art of the game. so i want to offer some analysis from my non-expert vantage point.

lynnee and i were watching the semi-final match when germany scored seven points on brazil, most of those points within an 18-minute free for all in the first half. it was brutal to see.

i had the humbling opportunity, during my dad’s last assignment in germany, to be a fairly useless part of my high school soccer team. we were invited to play a friendly international match against a team of german third graders. they scored like 30 goals on us while barely seeming to move or break a sweat. over and over they took the ball away while we ran in circles, gasped for air and tried not to cry.

i didn’t understand why brazil looked like my high school team. in the semi-finals of the world cup! i needed it explained to me. i was reaching out to people, because the commentary was in dutch and i needed to know where the gorgeous warrior dancing magicians i’d witnessed in the quarter-final against colombia had disappeared to.

my sister autumn reminded me that in that very breathtaking match, neymar was injured, and silva was carded. she broke down how much neymar and silva were the center-captain-irreplaceable aspects of offense and defense, respectively.

the night before last, lynnee and i were in rotterdam at an incredible outkast 20-year anniversary show at the north sea jazz festival. and we snuck out to sit on the floor with a bunch of mostly germans and watch the end of the world cup. we caught the only goal of the final match as germany bested argentina.

it occurred to me, first as i found myself hoping for a mercy ruling in the brazil-germany match, and then again while watching germany seem to easily work together to defend and score on argentina in the final, that this was a perfect example of emergent strategy in action.

emergent strategy includes being intentional, which, at a basic level, i think all of the teams were. they each intended to win number one, period. but it also includes being intentional even in a fractal sense, at the smallest level. watching the way germany had one to two people in pursuit of the ball even when the opposing goalie was trying to figure out where to kick it, there was a hungry focus on possession of the ball that presenced their intention to win in even the smallest moments.

emergent strategy includes being resilient through decentralization. brazil’s team was oriented around key stars who embody certain skill sets. when those players are in and on, it is the most beautiful playing i have ever seen. for germany’s team, even after watching them play several games, i couldn’t point out anyone irreplaceable on their team, any superstars or best players. based on my limited viewing, they seemed to easily interchange players and fluidly move together to defend their goal – not as dazzling, but consistent, effective, beautiful in its collectivity.

emergent strategy is adaptive and interdependent. when neymar and silva were taken out, brazil didn’t have the capacity or depth on their team to adapt. the lack of cohesion from their team felt loud. germany moved like a flock of birds over and around the field. they worked as one body to take possession of the ball and move it. any time brazil or argentina got the ball, germany suddenly had four players around them. it didn’t feel like a formation, it felt like interdependent murmuration towards a shared intention – they flew towards the ball. the sheer number of team members attending to the ball at any given point meant that germany was consistently creating more possibilities for itself to have the ball, to have choice over what happened next, to get the chance to score.

one other element was transformative justice, which i didn’t see much of in the finals. i saw glimpses of it in algeria’s decision to give their world cup winnings to gaza. not because of the charitable aspect, but because of the use of their platform to raise awareness of the genocide happening in gaza while the world gave it’s attention to a game.

there is more to emergent strategy of course. just as there is so so much more to the world cup – contradictions, hypocrisies, tragedies, elations. what did you see?

allied media conference 2014 share out (octavia’s brood, storytelling black women, emergent strategy handbook!)

this year’s allied media conference felt like one miracle after another and i wanted to share out with you all (especially those not there or unable to get into certain workshops) a few stories, agendas, occurrences and the link to the emergent strategy handbook which is now available for viewing online or downloading.

storytelling black women’s lives

this friday morning workshop was proposed as a five person panel of storytellers, featuring some of my favorite scholars of black women ancestors. the panel shifted a few times, and by the time the session rolled around we had two panelists in person and one on a google hangout. but it appears that certain ancestors were so pleased to be told on that they made it not just work, but become a time for praise, healing and magic.

we realized the night before that what we were really engaging was the fine art of being oracles, imparting wisdom as presented through the lives of these ancestors. the oracles were sister doctors alexis pauline gumbs, moya bailey and ayana jamieson.

alexis made an alphabetical list of ancestors and we filled it up as far as we could, trusting that the workshop would be able to keep growing it.

the first part of our workshop was the oracles channeling. a participant would ask a question, and the oracles would let the right story come to them, about octavia butler, or toni cade bambara, or harriet tubman, or another black woman ancestor.

the questions included how to we honor our ancestors as we transition into our own power, how do raise multi level genius babies if we don’t see ourselves as geniuses, how do we tell our mother’s stories in a culture of shaming?

the second part of the workshop gave everyone present a chance to give and receive guidance. i have heard lots of feedback of how accurate the guidance was.

we closed by sending love to sister warrior charity hicks as she sat between here and there in an ICU unit. we conjured up a shared sense of her aliveness and power, and let the universe know we want to learn the next chapters of her life, whether it was to stay or to go.

octavia’s brood

the brood had two fantastic experiences at the AMC.

first, we got to present four brooders as part of the opening ceremony. alexis, gabriel teodros, dani mcclain and leah lakshmi piepzna-samarasinha (whose name is a joy to my tongue). they hadn’t heard each other’s stories, and it was exciting for us as editors to hear these stories in their voices.

my co-editor, walidah imarisha, was delayed in portland and arrived literally five minutes before we took the stage. we threw on our heels, had a mindmeld and walked out there.

the next morning we got to offer our first behind-the-scenes session. the brooders, including the editors, shared where our stories came from, engaged with the participants about the art of writing visionary science fiction, and offered lessons from the overall process.

walidah and i have learned so much about ourselves and each other in the effort to do this project in line with our principles. we have learned to laugh at each other, keep it real, and offer each other support as our personal lives have unfolded in parallel to this life’s work.

it was beautiful to share that with folks who cannot wait for the book to be out, the transformation is not the end product, it’s the entire journey.

emergent strategy train the trainers

this workshop felt like it’s been building for a while. i created a handbook for it, which you can download now.

i want to decentralize emergent strategy, share it in a way that others can deeply engage and take ownership over and keep learning and shaping.

our room was much much too small. we had 80 people inside and somewhere between 40-50 outside and upset. next time i will request the auditorium, i want so many people to be in practice around this approach and these tools.

i started by reviewing the handbook (shout out to eli feghali for getting it printed the morning of!), which includes three different pieces i have written about emergent strategy, in chronological order, as well as a clear illustrated articulation of the elements of emergent strategy thus far.

the elements were up around the room, and we used emergent strategy methods of flocking and adaptation for the group to engage these elements. while they were flocking about we found a larger room and reconvened the group there.

people were then partnered up with one other person to make emergent strategy commitments. the idea behind this is that you ‘transform yourself to transform the world’. the best way to implement emergent strategies is to become emergent in how you process information and show up in the world. it was beautiful to watch the energy with which people claimed their commitments.

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we then came together to reflect back learning and lessons. here are the lessons i offered as a way of deconstructing what we had done:

- collaborative ideation. at the root of generating our ideas, we want to learn to be collaborative, to see the best ideas as growing through conversation and sharing (rather than competing, isolated moves forward).

- begin by listening. this AMC principle is the key practice of emergent strategy. we are tuning into each other, listening not just with our ears but our awareness, understanding, bodies.

- deepening one-on-one connections builds the strength of the whole. to change what is possible in a room, let people connect with each other directly.

- people are more passionate about the things they articulate themselves. don’t over-structure an agenda, let people articulate what they most want to work on together.

- passion over obligation. understand the motivation for people being in the room.

- lao tzu on trust: if you don’t trust the people, you make them untrustworthy.

- make room for the conversation that wants to be had in the room.

- reach for the horizon but realize that it is only a limit of your sight, keep checking for new horizon info as it changes.

letter to charity, as she goes home

i just received the news that my friend and comrade charity mahouna hicks has made her transition. here is the statement on her life from lila cabbil:

Our dear Charity Hicks joined the ancestors on July 8, 2014. She had recently directed her community in Detroit to “wage love” as a strategy in our fight for justice and equity. Her mantra was her love for her people and consistently bringing in the voice of those who were marginalized. As we prepare for her homegoing services let us reflect on her rich legacy of passion, knowledge, vibrancy, sharing, commitment, mentorship, persistence, giving, wisdom, advocacy, and deep pride of African heritage and culture. We are all Blessed by her God given gifts. The global beloved community she cherished is collectively charged with continuing her extensive, unmatchable, intellectually brilliant, work that reached out lovingly to people world wide.

Support for services (including bringing her home) can be directed to Gofundme.com/wagelove

i have been writing to charity since the accident, trying to understand it all. here are some words pulled together from that writing and in response to her transition:

charity love,

i write this with tears in my eyes – i just heard that you’re gone, at least in the way i know you. black beautiful soft round tall beaming you. i want one of your hugs. i have a hard time believing your body could not recover. i knew it was impossible, i knew it. i thought of you as a cosmic ancient superhero.

when we worked together, i found myself trying to keep up with your mind, trying to stand with you in massive emotions. your mind moved faster, drew easily on more data, connected everything together. and the connections you made filled you with rage, with sadness, with incredulity…and with such tenderness.

the way you would take my niece’s face into your hands, the way you would hug people in greeting, the way you would listen to a curious young visitor to detroit and then affirm her curiosity by blowing her mind out with an explosion of stories and facts. you brought to the world equal parts tenderness and fire.

and no one could bring fire quite like you.

we had our different approaches. i wanted you to focus, you wanted me to ignite. the place we found each other over and over in our work together was love – for family, for Detroit, for justice, for our own bodies, for the ways spirit was moving through us and our lives, for new ways of grasping the universe, for our own potential. i loved our kitchen table talks. i wish we could have more of them.

and what will Detroit do without you?

for the years we worked together i watched you with amazement and worry, as you tirelessly attended one meeting after another on the unreliable bus system of Detroit, carrying a mental map of issues and people and histories, bags full of documentation and computers and flyers, a hundred keys to the universe hooked to your top.

i remember meetings where you stood up and demanded that we all get naked, say what we really meant, say what we were going to do. you were daunting, generative, wholistic, healer, soldier. if there was a right action you would take it first. you embodied a commitment to justice.

i didn’t always understand your fire, love. you were a friend and a mystery, deeply rooted and incredibly complicated. Detroit needs your fire now, your kind of thorough love, compounded, burning out of control. the world does.

you led with your love, water warrior earth goddess in motherland cloth armor. you have always been larger than life.

when i last saw you, i felt awe. even as you were in the between place, your vibration filled the room. i hope you heard and felt all of the love that was flowing towards you, from me, from Detroit, from all of the people you touched.

i need you charity. you inspire me. simultaneously, i hold on in disbelief, and i let go wishing you only ease and rest and goodness on your journey. keep an eye on us, on Detroit, send us some divine sacred fire for the work and the change that is coming.

love you, and miss you
amb

amsterdam 1: biking

i landed in amsterdam monday morning, and i have been biking every single day, miles and miles. it is the primary mode of transportation.

it has made me tender, and it has made me feel very strong and accomplished. it is a healing experience to get places with my body, to feel the pain of body use, and feel it subside, normalize. i have been experimenting with strategies to make it work, and the best approach is so obvious: slow down. everyone here appears to bike with such ease and confidence, while i struggle to get my machine in motion, stay balanced, not collide, discover the best angle for my delicate body with the machine. and it goes better if i take my time, stop and walk up hills that daunt my knees, and take in the gorgeousness around me.

and i feel myself getting stronger every day. biking is another confidence worth developing, more and more of my travel is in places where bikes replace cars much of the year.

biking these allies and canal roads feels very different from biking the wide slow streets of detroit. i am relearning the etiquette of crowds, conscious of the brief important relationship i have with this wheeled creature, who i just decided to call The Darkness. (lynnee is on a bike appropriately named little red corvette.)

The Darkness is an all-black steed like i have at home, heavy in front with a massive basket, reverse peddle brakes. she stands a couple inches longer than my legs.

i have had two unremarkable falls. both times i have watched my embarrassment with amusement, receiving the help of others.

last night was the best ride so far. on our way to and from a place that ended up being a non-destination, we found ourselves on a road where every floor had a wrought iron balcony, little minarets edging rounded towers, shades of periwinkle and lavendar, navy blue doors, red window frames, little orange futball flags strung out like world cup christmas lights.

the end of the day here, from around eight til ten, is the time of perfect light, slow sunsets and magic cloud formations. we time our days so that we are on our last ferry as the light goes, on our way to a quiet place across the water from centraal station.

it is time to ride now.

lessons from grace lee boggs, who is 99 (with sage crump)

detroit-based philosopher activist grace lee boggs just turned 99! happy birthday grace!! sister comrade emergence scholar sage crump started off a list of lessons learned from grace. i added to it. please feel free to add more about what elder grace has taught you.

adrienne: know your references…be willing to point people towards the books and cultural influences that shape you before engaging in conversation. it is totally fine if one of your primary references is your beloved.

sage: Name a thing correctly. There is a difference between a riot and a rebellion.

adrienne: have the conversation you are interested in, that feels worth your miraculous time. watching grace i have seen that there is an elegant way to do this – smile, shrug, and then ask if they have read the book you are reading, raise the topic you want to dive into. also, feel free to end the conversation when you are done!

sage: Let time, other people and new information influence you. We don’t shift with the trend or the wind but it is absolutely okay to say I have a new perspective on this now.

adrienne: yes! if you believe in transformation, your politics should change as you grow and learn, you have a responsibility to keep learning.

sage: Reflection is as important as action. Being in a room of people discussing struggle/movements/ideologies is as vital as being in the streets. It provides clarity, builds community and deepens our analysis which increases our capacity to develop radical solutions.

adrienne: ask more questions. to people of all ages, all backgrounds, all belief systems. there are teachers and opportunities to transform everywhere. ‘you are nobody unless you are somebody to other somebodies.’

sage: Surround yourself with brilliant, committed people! You will keep each other going and growing.

adrienne: transform yourself to transform the world. you are the microcosm. internalize the critique and the generation of solutions.

5 reasons sam smith is everything

this tender young brit is the only thing i want to hear right now, and here is why:

1. he doesn’t care about money and he says so on multiple songs. he doesn’t have money on his mind, and that leaves so much room for love songs. 1b. his romantic nature is so consistent! he has a love song to a soulmate he hasn’t met yet. i was his emotional twin at 21.

2. he also can’t be bothered with trifling people in general and just covers his ears and says, la la la la la. this reminds me of one of my favorite facilitation agreements: engage tension, don’t indulge drama.

3. the album is an emotional journey. it works song for song in order on repeat: leave your lover, stay with me, i know i’m not the only one, he’ll never love you like i can, i’ve told you now, make it to me.

i miss albums, i miss albums that are unapologetically meant to be consumed whole as a singular text and mood. when i get excited about an artist, i want them to do me the honor of consistently being at their most awesome. there is nothing so disappointing as two great songs on a subpar album. this album is an act of respect. i feel like i can trust him now.

4. i love how he looks. he doesn’t smile when he sings, because he is singing about a subtle pull that is wrought with tension. i love his soft chin, his narrow hair, his bright eyes, his black jacket.

5. he is not afraid of pulling in a big ass choir to emphasize the truth of what he is feeling, but he doesn’t overuse them, or any other production elements. fundamentally this is us with him, a few instruments, and that voice. and occasionally about thirty other people clapping hands and catching the early teen romance spirit.

its. so. good.

writing as a healing art (midway reflections on VONA)

i am entering my fourth day at VONA, voices of our nation, a writing workshop for people of color.

sometimes you can’t know how much you need a thing until you are sitting there, skin lit up with chills because you just shared a whole truth and they heard you and they felt it too.

i am in the inaugural speculative fiction workshop here, which, of course, started on octavia’s birthday. my classmates are gifted writers who each have different skills and strengths and, together, are going to shape the future of our genre.

i want to come back for a residency, political content, travel writing and poetry workshops over the next decade of my life.

so far i have written a short story, two poems which i read (in front of other people! me! poems!), written and recorded a song sketch, made a collage, received in-depth review of my work, bonded with a lot of incredible writers and had multiple major breakthroughs about my writing life.

we are halfway through the week.

i am not oriented towards utopias, or heavens. but i do think it is important to have healing experiences in my field of passion, in the work i am called to do.

i talked with my mom yesterday and she said that she and my dad were proud of me, were saying to each other, ‘our daughter’s a writer!’ and that they had known that for a long time, but now it seems like i know.

it’s true.

inside, inside where i am only who i am, i am a writer. accepting that has been and continues to be a healing, transformative journey.

now. back to my homework.

water is life (reflection/call to action for detroit)

i feel like sister warrior charity hicks, who has been central in the fight for water rights in detroit and is currently in critical condition after a hit and run accident, is in my dreams sending me poems and anger in my daily meditation on her.

the current state of affairs is this: the u.n. has warned detroit that turning off water to force the poorest residents to pay exorbitant bills is a violation of human rights – you can only turn off water if you can prove that people could pay the bill but are not paying.

learn more about this key moment for all humans that is playing out in detroit. sign the petition crafted by blue planet project, the detroit people’s water board, mi welfare rights and others.

our daughters cannot be thirsty
this whole summer long
dust tongue dance of desperation
blossoming bodies, arid fruit

our sons cannot be parched
long limbs pressing black skin
through the tar sand streets of july
ratchet prayers for rain

our elders should not be anxious
after heavy lives holding all our dreams
now water becomes memory in the dark?
dry begging whispers with no teeth?

our babies cannot be sustained
on ashen breast or mother’s tears
as david checks face goliath bills
they will become our thick sweet rage

we who are human cannot taste
our own bitterness for so long
without becoming the silver spear
that righteous edge cuts out from within us

for now we look naked before you
hands cupped in the heart of
america
needing (begging) only (pleading) for water

but life creates conditions for life
the phoenix may burn, but first she is water
look into our eyes before you upset us
we water warriors, we survive

3 new sci fi, social justice and emergent strategy tools (!!!)

this weekend has been incredible – octavia’s brood got to read excerpts at the opening ceremony of the allied media conference, and offer a behind the scenes look at our process. and i got to launch three different pieces of work that have been growing for various lengths of time in, around and through the sci-fi, speculative fiction, social justice and emergent strategy frameworks.

first, you can now read original science fiction from detroiters that emerged from the series of writing salons hosted at my home this past year. the work is up at the detroit sci-fi generator site, with the work of each salon gathered into a chapter. the pieces are short, experimental, and show the brilliance of this city, and of the work of collaborative ideation – developing ideas and work together. my hope is that there will be more salons and more work posted in an ongoing way.

the second tool is the emergent strategy handbook, which will be distributed today at an emergent strategy train the trainers. the content is various articles and reflections on emergent strategy from the past few years, the lay-out and design is by the incredible rachel plattus of the new economy coalition. my heart fluttered at her gorgeous handwriting during the gathering in kentucky where we met, and now her handwriting, art, mindmaps and design are the container for this tool. i will post the digital copy next week for download for those who aren’t in detroit this weekend.

the third is a project that popped up very recently. for years i have working with octavia butler’s earthseed verses from the parable of the sower and the parable of the talents. then sister doctor alexis pauline gumbs did a black feminist breathing chorus 21-day meditation practice and a light went off – why not create an accessible meditative tool around octavia’s work? i put out a call for reflections and lots of brilliant people responded with meditations, wisdom, stories, poetry. it is gathered into this little book, reflections on octavia butler’s earthseed that i imagine sitting on altars, in bathrooms, being used for local reflection groups to guide reflection and conversation. octavia’s 67th birthday is tomorrow – let’s honor her by engaging earthseed.

(669) 221-6251 – bell hooks feminist awesomeness

three days ago, a security guard at whole foods waited for me in the parking lot after i ignored his attention in the store. he asked if i was married. i felt annoyed, as i usually do. ‘no,’ i said, ‘just not interested.’

in reflection i sought compassion in my heart – it must be so hard to get rejected all the time. asking if someone is married (taken/’you gotta man?’/owned/etc) is leading with the rejection you can handle.

if i am married, it implies that there is a possibility there in spite of the fact that i have given you no indication of mutual connection and blatantly ignored you. but alas, because i belong to someone else, we cannot act upon that possibility springing solely from your loins. eh…i kind of get it, as much as i can from the other side of whatever that line is.

but i want the people of the world who believe in this particular brand of sexual pursuit to try to get this: i am not property.

i am not property.
i am not property.

even though i am feeling healthy and great in my clothes, standing up straighter and kind of glowing from love and summer, and a man thinks from a distance that he wants me.

i am not property.

i am not even flattered.

**

two days ago i was talking with my neighbor and as i turned to walk from my house to my car a man was standing too close to me. he said he hadn’t wanted to interrupt but could he get to know me, he thinks i would like him.

i stepped far away, off the sidewalk, and said ‘not interested.’

he followed along beside me, asking for more information, asking for a number, while i ignored him. i am near my home now, as opposed to the neutral ground of a store parking lot. this makes me angry.

this sort of behavior has often driven me back to ice cream. constant navigating of unwanted attention triggers the danger i felt – and trauma i experienced – as a ‘pretty’ girl, which i have largely avoided as a big woman (though i won’t lie or play demure…a sexually empowered, happy-style wearing, confident big woman still gets a lot of attention).

i wish i had had this number on hand: (669) 221-6251. call it – it reads a feminist quote from bell hooks and then hangs up.

it’s so wonderful!

because generally i want to approach other humans as humans, and lonely humans as lonely humans. and men, particularly black men, i approach as my brothers, my family.

but there need to be tools for humans who treat me like property and/or make me feel unsafe. and i need it to not be my responsibility to risk my safety for the teachable moment. i need something in between a self-defense chop, screaming, and submissive kindness or avoidance.

i need this number. :)

(669) 221-6251.
(669) 221-6251.
(669) 221-6251.