Tag Archive for 'emergent strategy'

how does crying work?

last weekend i cried in front of people. i suspected it could happen – i was teaching a somatics course and was being vulnerable in front of the class.

it wasn’t just a few tears, it’s the kind of crying where you feel ugly and want to be smaller and picked up by someone who has the answers and will carry you back to some time before you knew adult suffering.

it doesn’t much matter what i started crying about, when it was time to be done, my tears were not done. they felt non-specific and available, like new thoughts, old memories and ongoing longings would float up in my mind and they also wanted tears.

the crying, the feelings made me pale and tired and prickly and pushy and honest without sweetness. thank octavia i love so many patient people, or i think i would truly have to go find the castaway/lost island and learn to open coconuts on rocks.

yesterday i was driving from one home to another and in a pause between two songs, more tears came, suddenly, strong enough that i pulled off at the next exit. my tears almost always come at the sharp point of a singular true thought – “this person is gone”, “i was thoughtless”, “someone scared my nibbling and i wasn’t there”, “why is my species suicidal?”, “i miss my grandparents”.

later i drove through a storm and finally, for the first time since crying in front of people, felt just right. lightning shot down bright fingers trying to scorch earth, thunder clapped and undulated overhead saying “wrong way, wrong way, turn around”, and the rain was so abundant.

i saw how you can’t rush the rain, can’t rush a storm.

i’ve been trying to rush through my amazing life, my own transitions, rushing to share everything i learn, rushing to be everywhere at once. leaving no time for big messy beautiful storms, for my rage, my overwhelm, my celebration.

tears are another way the body takes time. slows things down.

my body says: “slower.

slower.

know nothing, know nothing, just listen. no, listen. fill up your cup and then, maybe, pour into others.

slower.

it may even seem like you stop for a moment. slow like that.”

i spent time with my bestie-nibbling yesterday. she’s been in this world nine months now, and she is learning about crying, testing out her lungs and her discontent. we stepped onto her balcony and the rain had just cleared. her face was calming, a fat tear lingering on her cheek. she looked up in wonder and watched a flock of birds fly by us. i just watched her face, the full range of feeling there.

i want to live at this pace.

my face is wet, my breath is deeper, i’m catching up with myself. i want to really be here for my life.

i’m thinking of rewriting the tortoise and the hare as a shapeshifting story. with my body.

wave goes out, wave comes in

Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds went out into the world in late March. it felt like a wave moving through me, going out into the world, seeking shore and kin and possibility. in the subsequent almost two months, the wave has been flowing back in, so full of love.

wanted to share some of this with you. i’ve started gathering testimonials from folks on their thoughts as they read it here.

and then there’s the picture thing – people are taking the sweetest selfies with the book and posting them. i’ve been making collages of these pics and more flow in daily, and every day this makes me rest into this book as a work of many many people longing for and practicing being in right relationship with change and the planet and the future. here are the collages so far (and some event highlights):

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y’all are absolutely gorgeous. all love!

the big thank you

Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds was the work of many many people and i wanted to properly thank them all. i wrote this book in several places so if i left you out of this list you just tell me and i will get you in here.

Rachel Plattus made my work come to life in the Emergent Strategy Handbook, so I commissioned five pieces from her for this book, they grace the cover pages of each section. she was also an early reader of the book.

Margaret Killjoy thank you for the beautiful layout which allowed all the kinds of things I wanted in the book to have their own place! and Herb Thornby for the cover of my dreams.

the entire team at Allied Media Projects, especially Nandi Comer and Toni Moceri for helping me adult, Monica Kish for keeping me out of jail, Mike Meadow and Jenny Lee for this political home, and Muna Danish for helping me create an online home for this work.

there were several people who took on the early work of reading and responding to the book drafts. some of them ended up sending editing notes that i just put verbatim into the book. others just made corrections in the clay as it spun. here is a list of those readers:

Autumn Brown
Clare Bayard
Celeste Faison
Dani McClain
Deborah Frieze
Hiram Rivera
Jodie Tonita
Michelle Mascarenhas-Swan
Omisade Burney-Scott
Rachel Plattus
Sage Crump
Shira Hassan
Staci Haines and Spenta Kandhawalla
Tunde Olaniran

and thank you Lorna at AK for the copy editss! there are the circle of readers who blurbed this book:

Alta Starr
Ayana Jamieson
Denise Perry
Elissa Perry
Makani Themba
Margaret Wheatley

and then there are the contributors, people i asked to gift me their poetry and reflections.

Adaku Utah
Adela Nieves
Aisha Shillingford
Aja Taylor
Alexis Pauline Gumbs
Allen Frimpong
Anna Martine Whitehead
Andrea Quijada
Ashinda Maxton
Autumn Brown
Ayana Jamieson
Beatriz Beckford
Bilen Birhanu
Brenda Salgado
Celeste Faison
chelsea cleveland
Chris Zizzamia
Chrislene DeJean
Cindy Weisner
Denise Perry
Dani McClain
Dara Cooper
Desiree Evans
Elizabeth Yeampierre
Hannah Sassaman
Harsha Walia
Holiday Simmons
Invincible ill Weaver
Jasmine Burnett
Jayeesha Dutta
Jay-Marie Hill
Jeanette Lee
Jesse Maceo Vega-Frey
Jidan Koon
Joan Morgan
Jodie Tonita
Jozi Zwerdling
Junauda Alma
Karen Joy Fowler
Karissa Lewis
Kasha Ho
Kat Aaron
Kiese Laymon
Laura Luna P
Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
Luzviminda Carpenter
Lynnée Denise
Malkia Cyril
Manish Vidaya
Marie Varghese
Megan Swoboda
Mervyn Marcano
Morgan Bassichis
Naima Penniman
Nia Robinson
Nicole Newman
Omisade Burney-Scott
Patrisse Khan-Cullors
Peter Hardie
Prentis Hemphill
Richard Strozzi-Heckler
Sendolo Diaminah
Sham-e-ali Nayeem
Shane Bernardo
Sharon Lungo
Sierra Pickett
Sofia Samatar
Supriya Pillai
Taj James
Tananarive Due
Tawana Petty
Terry Marshall
Toshi Reagon
Tunde Olaniran
Vassi Johri

book in the world!

y’all!

Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds is out in the world! i downloaded it and read it on my phone.

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it’s been an incredible journey to this place and i’m enjoying the letting go, letting what i wrote and gathered just be in the world.

here’s everything there is to know about the book – where to get it, what kind of events are happening and the potential tour stops and how to book something. the book has lineage, principles, elements, interviews, spells, practices, and tools to put in use.

in the journey of the book i reached out to a lot of people to help me see the ways nature has shaped their organizing and their practice of emergent strategy. shorter responses are sprinkled throughout the book, but i also wanted to share these pieces, many of which are longer, nuanced explorations or conversations. so these are also up, as well as appendix materials and links referenced throughout the book.

my intention now is that you all use the book in whatever ways it serves.

enjoy ?????

post righteousness

it’s a gift when someone speaks their truth and you can see where they can grow and move in with love.

it’s a gift when you speak your own truth and others move in with love to show you where you can grow.

don’t forget that we learn to move by falling down a million times.

don’t forget you were taught most of the things you now believe and teach others.

don’t dispose of each other – turn and face the conversations we still need to have.

change and be changed.

p.s. be as gracious and rigorous as your mentors were/are. be an invitation. offer others the same compassion you need when you’re wrong.

now we can

I remember one time I was talking about how capitalism was failing and classmate-friend-teacher-organizer Mia Herndon said “capitalism is working exactly as it is meant to. in competition and constant growth, those who don’t compete, or who compete less viciously, suffer, serve and struggle.”

now it feels to some people like America is failing, like the people who said “make America great again” are confused. but this is the trajectory of nation states, of borders and white supremacy. deepening our anti-capitalist and post-nationalist analyses will help make this moment an opportunity.

also, saying “I told you so” in any way is tacky and diminishes the speaker, because saying is not enough if we don’t effectively organize to make our visions palpable and our strategies collective. so we knew “make America great again”, when uttered by white supremacists, was not harkening the racism of the 1980s, or even 1950s, but the era of chattel slavery that preceded and seeded our current prison system. we may have done our very best, but we did not organize effectively enough to have the power to stop this moment.

but now we can. this moment is our ledge, or choice point. we are as free as we choose to be. (baldwin)

now we can put a moratorium on shading and attacking other factions of movement on the internet (or in meetings, or with funders) and either choose to collaborate or ignore other efforts while still counting them as part of our own resistance momentum.

now we can look at each person, regardless of background or experience, as a potential comrade (butler) and figure out how we must transform ourselves to transform the dynamic (boggs) in the name of liberation. i have been practicing this in cabs – i’ve had three transformative conversations with drivers in the last three days – people just need one suggestion, one encouragement to question everything.

now we must look within ourselves and ask what actions we are willing to take, what interventions we are capable of, if we can will ourselves into honest conversations, if we believe in our visions enough to step towards them, if we are brave enough to assert the future we require and to shape it.

the other option is to survive for a while, pointing at the very sharp thing aimed at our hearts and getting closer by the minute.

adapt! dodge, weave, learn from the L, slip out of your ego, hold each other, scream the truth and keep moving towards life. everything is going fine in this realization of someone else’s imagination. but we dream another world, and we make it come true.

confederacy

weep, and become more intentional about building shared ideas of the present and future with your friends, neighbors and family. talk in more depth at the intersections of ideas – relinquish right and wrong, listen, argue and understand each other.

rage, and donate/join a local group that is organizing people to determine their collective longing and exercise their collective power. focus on those led by Black, Arab, immigrant and indigenous community members.

share the news with sad/angry faces, and download signal and whatsapp (and adapt to best options as the landscape shifts beneath our fingers).

ridicule the victors, and then remember that they and all their grandchildren will rely on this planet, and science, as much as anyone else. we have to make sure what we know to practice outlives their spiritual foolishness. #nodapl, listen to and invest in the people still in touch with our original relationship to this planet.

grieve the narrative of America that has kept you from hearing about the civil war until this moment, and then get your hands dirty bending the arc of the world towards justice.

#resist
#persist
#create
#adapt
#revolt
#liberate
#transform
#evolve

making the world (thank you to the women’s march)

i wrote visionary fiction for six hours today, taking breaks to watch the women’s march. watching the aerials, the masses, i am feeling so moved.

i intentionally chose to be out of the country writing my novel this month, it felt like the most radical and self-loving move for me.

i am surprised by how exciting the women’s march became, so much adaptation, so much responsiveness. it turns out to be a space where the most radical and most moderate of my loved ones were on common ground. with so much documentation available for those of us who aren’t there for whatever reason.

i remember organizing the us social forum in 2010, so much smaller in numbers but nearly two years of work at a local to national scale. i remember how hard it was within the process, trying to hold values, balance need, grow analysis and relationship. and how sometimes it didn’t feel like those outside the organizing process had compassion and/or respect for the work. the exhaustion of doing all that work and also having to push against that impatience produced a heartache in me that took a long time to pass. the process viscerally changed where i was willing to put my organizing heart.

i can only imagine that that is magnified a gazillion degrees with this march. much less time to organize, overt adaptations of leadership, message, even need along the way. i want to send the women who galvanized all these people several standing ovations, for what you did, for however you pulled it off, and for how it has and will change and shape you. i want you to know i and so many others see you, applaud the work, applaud the transformation, and will make sure to provide pathways into existing work for the masses and masses you inspired to move.

when i had written a chapter to satisfaction, i went in the ocean for a bit, and i met this octopus.

i know, they are so amazing.

so while we sort of intertwined limbs i was chatting with this octopus about what it was like to be in the ocean and know how amazing and powerful it is, and then have new people show up all the time who don’t even know how to swim or breathe underwater, who may not even see you there. and they bring what they think are new ideas of the sea, feel its vast force for the first time, and bring new tools and structures and messes.

the octopus, i’ll call it pussy for shits and giggles, took some time to answer, so long i almost forgot questions could have answers. then it said this poem to me, called ‘how to welcome':

oh you came!

you came to make the world
i am so glad you are here
this is your house too you know

as you can see it is a mess
i would apologize, but such a mess
took many peoples’ forgetting, even yours

it needs all of us
sweeping up detritus, mending reef
singing ink into the cold depths

listening to the waves and whale mantras
even though we have been divided many times
even though we have lost the words

we get still, listening for a way,
and then a next way
relinquishing the idea that there is one way

some of us were born here, in this mess
we have been making the world since forever
and before that and before

my mother makes the world with love
my grandmothers season it with sacrifices
my great grandmothers keep its secrets

now you, bright minded free bodied
vulgar, tender, honest humans
ancient and pulsing still with desire

tired of effort, who can’t yet turn away
and the so-young humans, just beginning
and the babies, rooting the masses in future

yes! you came!

i see you humans on the edge of your hearts
who love the world but cannot admit it
who seem to learn by destruction, consumption

you are welcome (even though)
we have needed you and needed you
you are welcome (even now)

you came, and we hope you never leave

we are the creatures who have learned
how to live beyond caring
what others think of our freedoms

we are the wild ones who will not relinquish
any of our sentience,
and we are making the world

from this place, this day, abundant paths
unfurl in many million directions. we say:
tend the ones that call you, all of it is ours

again, and again: welcome!
may your first taste change your life
for the making goes on and ever onwards

and tomorrow is our blessing

.

i thanked the octopus.

and i thank everyone in the streets today, and everyone behind the scenes learning how we do this together, again and again.

election exhale

i spent the past weekend at a gathering called with/out ¿borders? hosted by the arcus center for social justice at kalamazoo college.

it was a well structured gathering, four plenary conversations over two days, each one with a set of related breakout sessions afterwards. there was an ‘unconference’ as well, emergent sessions and film screenings that bubbled up from a brilliant participant body.

i got to speak on the first plenary and the election came up. as i was speaking i realized that i have been feeling unexpectedly calm about this election lately.

but how is this possible!

i was returning from a hot springs off-grid moment after a six day facilitation extravaganza, so i’m not sure how coherent i was.

but here is some exploration of the feeling, and the context.

to begin with, i feel like all the people i most respect and admire are playing their positions well – in movement, in life, and in relation to history.

the vision for black lives platform is brilliant, complex and clear. it really helps as a guideline to any and all who would hope to lead in or shape the future of this country.

in each place/movement i get to facilitate, i see people moving towards complexity and alignment with each other in ways that support being able to advance the leadership of grassroots and directly impacted communities.

these organizers i look up to are aware of the election, and doing work around it that makes sense. none of them are dropping everything and doing reactionary electoral organizing – their work is much longer term. most are not endorsing any candidate, because our standards are high.

and! we are not ignoring the election, primarily because many of the people we care about are looking through the election lens right now, and we dance between the attentions of the people and our visions for justice.

rosa clemente and others are reminding us that in spite of all the fear drums, there are other legitimate and politically aligned options, especially in blue states, and no individual has to bear the brunt of a broken system – everyone should have the right to vote their values.

the conversations i’ve been in are nuanced, and this, more than any particular individual or formation, gives me hope.

mostly we recognize that candidate pump as a hilarious and offensive attention-suck is not himself the problem, it is the ideologies he is playing with, the animus he is stoking to get attention – that’s the problem. still, he is doing us the favor of showing how vast and solid white supremacy and economic fear are in the u.s. right now. mapping the opposition. and white house or not, white supremacists are turnt way up right now.

and…that is what we expected, and should expect, in response to this moment of nonlinear black political, economic, athletic and entertainment flexing.

the death throes of white supremacy are vile to witness. it never stops shocking or hurting us to witness and be prey to white supremacist vitriol. but i am focusing on how many white people are standing up, stepping back from the table, and finding ways to learn self-love that don’t require dominance, looting, destroying.

i am also impressed with the radical compassion of leaders who can see through the fragile surface of white supremacy, see through to the pain, all the way to economic alignment, and are reaching through to speak about shared oppressions and shared possibilities.

regarding clinton, mostly we recognize that while having a woman president will be a move forward, we won’t be tricked into ecstacy over symbolic gains again. constructs such as race and gender expose themselves most when they are fully indulged. the mind and values of each woman are different, are not to be assumed. yes she is a woman, and familiar, and ridiculously competent, and a survivor, and a human being. and a hawk, and a zionist, and so on.

clinton is not the first woman to run for president, but she does seem to be the most experienced human to ever run for this office. still, she doesn’t align with or advance many of our values (“Who do you trust to be the president? The Republican, or Donald Trump?“), particularly in the ways she has used the tool of war.

we have under our belts two or three shared experiences (at minimum) of overattending to the office of the president. one is the panic of george w bush’s presidency, the terror that was drummed up, the heartache of watching critical funds move away from what we cared about and towards war and destruction. the stolen elections upheld by the supreme court, which shaped eight years of history, left us cynical, and in a mounting racial and climate catastrophe.

two is the thrill of obama’s election to the presidency, followed by years of seeing the limitations and compromises that defined his position, guaranteed his second term, constricted his legacy.

he is perhaps the best president we will experience, the most feminist and facilitative. but in a capitalist imperialist nation it’s hard to measure or celebrate such a thing.

an example of the contradictions needed to consider the obama presidency: i pray for him and michelle’s black love and safety daily, but i don’t trust him to free mumia and peltier.

i trust the savvy organizers who are using this election frenzy to move important stuff down ticket – sheriffs and school boards and policies matter so much more than presidents in our daily lives.

in detroit we are organizing people to vote on prop A, which will allow communities to hold corporations accountable for what they do in our city.

and during this time the exciting news is not happening in the media-election frenzy, but on the front lines of the Standing Rock struggle to stop pipelines that were prophecied to destroy the land and water from being built across North Dakota, as black people continue to live and die at state whim and to learn to love and protect each other in real time. and Flint and Detroit fight for basic water rights, and learn to love and protect each other in real time.

what i am saying is, our priorities are in order, we are aware of the paths of fear and limitation, and we are choosing to organize, collaborate and grow what we long for.

so no matter what happens? we gon be aight.

critical connections

last night i was hosted at Exit the Apple for a very sweet community potluck in Baltimore. the potluck brought together people who have been doing beautiful justice work around the city, but not necessarily together.

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i introduced myself by telling of my journey through organizing, electoral organizing in a panicky fear to stop george w bush, direct action and civil disobedience, and landing in visionary fiction, emergent strategy and pleasure activism.

we focused on the aspect of emergent strategy that is about critical connections, and i wanted to share the exercise we did. it took about 20 minutes total and people reported back surprisingly deep connections with each other (a lot of exchanging information and wanting to continue building at the end, signs of healthy community longing).

1. i had people raise their hands if they knew everyone in the room, 80% of the room, 50%, just one other person. often we assume everyone else is friends and we are the only stranger or outlier when it isn’t true. this scan exposes the patterns already in the room and the needed pattern making.

2. i asked folks to partner with someone they didn’t know and get lined up. this meant chairs were facing each other, hearts and eyes were facing each other. too often we work together and never actually consider the person in front of us, or we work off of assumptions and stolen glances. so the invitation is to actually see this person in their humanity, in their desire to transform the world. i invited people to reflect to each other first what they noticed in each other.

3. next people shared what they love about baltimore, and the work they do for/in this place. in an ideal place-based movement or life, those two things are connected. for instance – i love the radical blackness of detroit, so i center black liberation/freedom fighters in all my offerings of somatics, writing and healing space.

4. after pairs talked for about ten minutes, i asked people how they were doing at connecting. i noted that often we talk at each other, and we listen through our preconceptions. it is important to shift away from trying to fit people in our existing internal boxes, to shift towards curiosity in each other.

so the next step was a version of the question game. for a full minute, each pair had to go back and forth only asking each other questions. in this case, it was questions related to what they had heard in the other person’s baltimore love/movement story.

as a facilitator i noticed the shift in the room. there was laughter, people leaned into each other and became more collaborative, a team on a mission of curiosity.

5. as a final step, each person got to choose one of the questions asked and answer it as honestly as possible.

img_0508 photo credit Jason Harris

in reflections on the exercise, people said they were amazed at how deeply they could go in such a short period of time.

i referenced the incredible barbara holmes here, a black scientist who taught me years ago about the vibrational field of the heart, which extends about ten feet around us, strongest in front and back. when we sit face to face with someone, we are in each other’s vibrational field – it’s a practical way to connect.

so often when we speak of movement building, we look first at how to achieve critical mass. but margaret wheatley and grace lee boggs and octavia butler taught me that the quality of connection inside each pair, group, community or movement is what makes transformation possible.

facing each other and getting curious are two very simple tools for generating critical connections. focusing on place and what we long for really helps with alignment – there are a million places to diverge and we have been taught to focus on those, to deconstruct. but what we pay attention to grows, so the invitation for critical connections is to find the places of alignment and common interest and grow towards interdependence from there.

also, food helps. our community potluck was truly baltimore style with fresh oysters! and tons of other small, precious offers of sustenance.

also, children and babies help. there were teenagers in the group and 2 young children running circles around our pairs while a 3-month-old observed us and took naps in the back. watching the young children make connections by chasing, hugging each other, rolling around on the floor and shrieking with joy reminds us that it is in our nature to connect and play, that it brings delight when we give into the friendship available in the moment.

grateful to baltimore, exit the apple, lester spence and especially ailish hopper for pulling this together.