Additional Resources for Facing Coronavirus/Covid19

ah loves, turns out it’s not easy to take a sabbatical during a global apocalyptic event. in my attempt to stay away from news, work, stress, and distraction, i found myself a little rural hideaway which, who could have guessed it, is now in a quarantine zone. i am fine, supported, connected, stocked, staying calm and solo and washing my hands in that near-obsessive way virgoes are prone to do naturally.

but there’s no escaping this, even with reduced contact – friends, family, media, strangers in the grocery store…we are interdependent and it shows so deeply in moments we are asked to stay apart for our own good.

i keep thinking – should i write about this? and, conversely, am i really writing about anything else? every bit of fiction and song emerging from me swerves into the territory of connection, safety across generations, virus, right relationship. i am writing about this, but there’s also so much that i and others have already written and spoken that might be helpful for the human, land, spiritual, community, movement, familial, network, and/or society side of this virus at this moment.

the science, the protocols, i leave that to science and government: wash your hands, stay home, think collectively.

and here are some resources that might help you think about where to be, how to be, and how to see the possibilities even in this moment, how to move towards life.

1. Octavia’s Brood.

over the past few days as i have had to consider where to be, i was comforted by Dani McClain’s excellent story Homing Instinct and then remembered how Mia Mingus pointed to society shaped by those with chronic illness and disability in Hollow and how Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha reminded us we can travel without traveling in Children Who Could Fly. these texts feel relevant now, as we would do so well to learn from those who survive toxic exposure daily and know about being safe and connected in vulnerable bodies.

i am challenged anew by the implications of my own story The River, in which earth moves to protect herself and those who love her. only time will tell how this moment will impact our relationship to earth, but early reports of reduced emissions appear to be a silver lining to this tragedy.

here is a real-time resource leah just passed on to me for mutual aid and survival!

2. Emergent Strategy.

change is constant, be like water. we are used to being a rushing river pounding through every obstacle. now we see there is danger in that endless rapid flow and we need to find a place to pool deeply and be still and let time cleanse us in its way. i have received messages from people who are finding a first or re-read of the book useful in this moment.

a few bits to highlight:

* “transform yourself to transform the world”, grace lee boggs’ wisdom is literal right now. this virus doesn’t stop because of blame, pointing at other people’s faults, or races/ethnicities. it only stops, or slows, because each individual increases their own accountability to the collective. people have suggested different songs for hand washing time, to help stay in the sink long enough to do an adequate job. i found this bit of magic with the ‘fear is the mind killer’ guidance from Dune that i love. i am also often just saying a little universe prayer – “with this handwashing i align with the universe, with this handwashing i wage love, with this handwashing i care for [here i insert the names of elders and compromised immune systems i cherish].” i am transforming my own behaviors through practice and repetition.

* there is a conversation in the room that only these people at this time can have…there are conversations that will only happen because you initiate them, lives that will be saved because you risked being the awkward one to ask ‘how are you adapting safety protocol in response to coronavirus?’ i have a text thread of dear ones who are sharing news with each other and one had to push thru the resistance of her elder family members (our elders have seen so much – how do we honor their experience and dignity and still acknowledge that this virus is hungry for them, specifically?). another just changed the safety trajectory of her pilates studio. and in another friend circle a european book tour was canceled. this is no time to politely drift along with the herd, this is the time to ask direct questions and generate unique community solutions in conversation.

* there’s always someone already working on the problem. i think of all of my patient friends who have navigated chemical sensitivity for years. or those with lyme, gluten intolerance, fibromyalgia, cancer, aids…who in our communities must we protect, yes, but who has been surviving collective cluelessness and obstinance, who must we now listen to?

* beware of haters (and infiltrators). here we are, figuring out massive issues of safety during a fraught election year in the u.s. under a government hungry for tighter borders. this virus may change how voting happens, and how communication around the election happens – if we are all dependent on the internet to contact each other, campaign, even vote, there’s a lot of uncharted and quicksandish territory. our electoral system is dysfunctional on a good day. and, this collective experience will impact what people seek from leadership. and, the outcomes of this election will effect the future of this virus and how other similar global threats are handled. it is not a time for petty, haterish, divisive behavior. it is a time to be in heightened awareness of infiltrators, instigators, agitators. beware the lone wolf, beware the critic who isn’t oriented on any solution, beware the social media poster who has few followers and fewer posts, beware time sucks, red herrings, and vapors posing as people. it’s easy to get sucked in. liberate your attention back to the much more important and difficult work of finding political alignment and righteous compromise amongst the people you know and live next door to, your relatives, people who care about you.

* pay attention to patterns. what is being detoxified from the soil? what is migrating? who is in drought, in flood, in peril, in privilege? i am definitely influenced by having just finished The Overstory by Richard Powers but…ask the trees what they think this virus is about. what to learn, now?

* localize your attention. what grows near you? who grows it? how can you secure resources together vs stockpiling individually and combatively?

* and, as aways, what’s in your go-bag?

3. Pleasure Activism

right now we are getting to experience the unexpected expected. we all knew contagion was coming and have made countless entertainments about it…but when, how, from where?

it may seem counterintuitive, but i am putting my attention on the pleasures of quarantine, aka ‘if introverts ran the world’. what to do when you can’t go somewhere else and be around mad people to do it?

obviously there is a way of working with less distraction when isolated, which those of us liberated from offices already know to be a pajama-infused delight.

i have made a list of additional recent pleasures i opted to fully experience instead of panicking – washing my hands in warm water, writing, reading, new kinds of orgasm, cooking, painting, slow yoga in the sun, going out in the yard to observe my local ecosystem during the day (which often involves attending to what is usually the periphery – the sound on the edge of hearing, motion on the edge of sight) (and which, during my writing of this post, included watching and hearing two bumblebees mating in the air!), and at night listening to owls, porcupine, wind, river, traffic, life. catching up on shows, extended and deeper video chatting with loved ones. inventory (this may just be me but i like assessing that i have enough), being topless outside, creating and executing rituals. getting high, or, lately, getting that other high that comes from not getting high, but getting present.

i encourage you, whether you’ve already been quarantined or it’s coming soon, to at least attempt the mental emotional embodied exercise of not fighting it, but finding the pleasure and connection potential in it. how can it increase your freedom to have your routine disrupted? how can it allow for more intentional and reverent interdependence? don’t just think about where you will get your food and water, also map out where you will get your togetherness, your touch, your laughter, your joy.

4. how to survive the end of the world

in the years of doing this podcast with my sister, we have had many conversations that feel relevant to this moment.

our conversation with Sister-Doctor Alexis Pauline Gumbs on breath, among other things – we need to practice breathing deeply thru a respiratory invasion. our conversations with Toshi Reagon on prophecy and responsibility. and with Angel Kyodo Williams and Lama Rod Owens on being still. with Mariame Kaba on justice – because this virus is largely spreading by human error, and how do you address the harm caused by someone not washing their hands, the sickness and death caused by humans who didn’t mean to hurt anyone? and the conversation with Siwatu Salama-Ra, how to generate freedom within when externally contained? and, of course, our talk with Michelle Mascarenas-Swan of Movement Generation, about the larger systems at play in this great turning. plus roughly every other conversation.

5. generative somatics.

this is a time to get more curious about your body, your health, your patterns. listen to your gut – the other day i was ten minutes out from home heading to the store when i realized i’d left my hand sanitizer on the table after checking if it has enough alcohol in it. with almost no thought, my body found the next spot to turn around (i am way down a single lane dirt road) and went back to get it. i used it four times while out and was so grateful my body knew i needed it. my body steers me away from people with sniffles and coughs, processing information faster than my brain can generate a logic for me. if it’s hard to hear and trust your body, get into this centering practice from generative somatics genius Sumitra Rajkumar, let repeated centering awaken you. there’s time.

so. visionary fiction, emergent strategy, pleasure activism, and surviving apocalypse. attention liberation, somatics, right relationship. listening, adapting, surrendering.

may this serve as it needs to. i am with you, of you, and you are of me. let’s do this transition well.

northern ireland, first impressions

at customs the woman asks a few questions and then says, “so you’re spending the whole time in Northern Ireland then. that’s a whole nother country.” i know this, my sister autumn and i have been well prepared for the journey we’re on. but this is this first impression i get here, on the land – there is a battle over the story and it is reinforced with every step.

we have come to Northern Ireland by invitation, to do the work of Octavia’s Brood, of practicing collective visionary fiction. 20 years into a tenuous peace agreement, with brexit on the horizon, survivors and comrades and family members and nations and religions are all wondering: what’s coming?

our hope here is that these workshops will invite solutions and shared dreams in, to help these beautiful people dance with the grief, fear and mystery. we hope to, in some small way, help them shape change together.

since we announced we were coming here, i have been surprised at how many people have told me what i must do and see and read and watch and listen to to really understand what’s happening here. there is rarely a question of who is hosting me – if asked i would say i have been given tons of reading and things to watch, and i am learning the most from the stories of former POWs and hunger strikers and blanket protesters, about how they came into the conflict and how they made it through and why reconciliation is so important to them. i am humbled by their stories. i want others to hear them, i want these voices that feel so parallel to those i hear and focus on in the US to be heard.

most of the time when i travel to teach or facilitate, it is by invitation of people in that place. my rule of thumb has been that i come when and where i am called by communities i am of, committed to, and in solidarity with. so when people, especially people not from/of the place i am in, reach out to guide the journey without asking, i often feel a little defensive bristle in my heart…i want to say ‘trust the people here to welcome me, to show me what i need to see. i do.’

but even as i bristle, i can remember doing the same thing to people going to South Africa and Mexico and Thailand. i am very protective of who tells the story of Detroit, and just beginning to think i might be one of those storytellers. it’s a gift and curse of loving places, and of travel. we want to adventure and root, see everything and know it all. relive our lives through others. and, in conflict zones, we want the right side to be crystal clear.

i can already imagine future-me insisting that i know who has THE story in Northern Ireland, even as i recognize that the power of my experience here is being exposed to so many stories, so many perspectives of pain, persecution, regret, ignorance, resistance.

this desire to shape the story (of Northern Ireland and other places we go) speaks to trauma based tension in a way i recognize – after harm there is a desire to do with narrative what could not be done in person, clean up the story and claim a victory. but there’s no neat story here, and the main victory is not winning or losing, but sacrificing and living. these people who look so much alike have a coded, deep experience of being othered.

today we are told of a sunken wall in Belfast City Cemetery to keep the separation of catholics and protestants even in death, and i feel how far they’ve come, these teachers from both backgrounds, and others, around a table over wine and meatballs, cohabitating on contested land.

i am moved by how love flows amongst them, how many are in mixed religion love stories, how healing comes at the place where intimacy lives, how love knows what is truly different and the same about us.

i am also struck by the random nature of history. almost everyone i’ve spoken to was caught up in the conflict by accident, by circumstance. they were born into a lineage, a certain faith, a set of borders, a presumption of imperial rights, a working class that was hard to survive. most of them were shockingly young when they were sent to prison, or lost someone in ‘the troubles’. none of them have expressed being particularly religious, they were just raised a certain way and before they had much chance to choose anything or even learn about other options, they were being shot at, interrogated, bullied, taught who to love and who to fear, locked up or grieving or/and seeking the source of their fear and grief.

once in prison or in grief, they were shaped by those who showed up in the container with them.

so much of this makes me think of home. those that get caught in the matrix of racism and poverty and gun violence and patriarchy are rarely seeking that life path. there’s nothing romantic about living in constant fear, losing your community in an unacknowledged war, watching a generation become addicts and/or commit suicide in droves. there’s nothing romantic about spending any portion of life in prison because your rights are denied, or you’re from a different religious lineage than the dominant one where you live. civil wars, whatever sparks them, don’t end in unity, but in exhaustion.

another aspect of our work here is shaped by the humbling condition of being an American citizen. we know what it looks like when the “civil” war “ends” but the hatred never heals, the truth is never unveiled, and amends are never made. when the system never really shifts, when the conditions actually get worse, when the growth is symbolic and fatally compromised, when the past takes the future in its mouth and begins a destructive feeding. when we said no, but didn’t say a clear enough yes, when we find ourselves still fighting to win the rigged game.

we are so young, but we know this pain, the wound’s wide open.

we came to teach, so of course we’re the students. i am learning/reminded, i want this kind of big vast love to guide all movements. i want the love each of the people we’ve met have for each other, for humanity, and for this land, to be the central story – of this week, this place, and of my life. it takes love to look back, to really see what’s behind you/us, and still choose to dream the future together.

i am finding love in Northern Ireland.

(many more pictures and stories on Instagram feed)

CTRLALT

A few days after the election I was part of a massive and amazing event in New York that has stuck with me.

The event was called #CTRLALT, organized by The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, and it was Asian, Black and Brown artists offering vision, alternative, ways to the future. I was scheduled to offer two workshops in the realm of sci fi and social justice, but it was three days after trumpocalypse and the energy and flow of the event was subdued, tender. As was I.

There were incredible pieces and installations. The Chinatown Art Brigade set up an immersive piece on gentrification in Chinatown, particularly poignant because we were located in what was the Pearl River Market until the owners got priced out. Sheldon Scott offered a piece on blackness which involved him standing on rocks speaking truth to us in a destroyed suit. Charles Jean-Pierre constructed a black (w)hole for us to enter full of light, mirrors and doors.

Genevieve Erin O’Brien worked at the intersection of food and justice, creating a space under a staircase that whipped up blood orange cotton candy and was covered in radical commitments. Nia Keturah created a “woke machine” where participants could transfer some of their experience of racial oppression to people who had never experienced it. Christine Sun Kim had an installation exploring the art and influence of sign language – I met her at Art Dubai and was absolutely blown away by how she speaks of the body’s articulation of possible futures.

Nerds of Color created a reading nook which, I was excited to see, included Octavia’s Brood along with tons of other work I love and a stack of Eshu posters from John Jennings that I wanted to confiscate. Across from this, Chad Shomura and Yuki Sakugawa structured a corner of heart-to-hearts where there was a collective cape people could share, a tiny safe space. Down the hall Saya Woolfalk sat in a room of stunning borderless textiled gowns and walls which I want to live in, the artist greeting guests with a child in her lap.

I was housed in the Museum of Impact’s interactive installation, surrounded by black women’s ode to activism.

As people slipped past me in the space I could feel the shock and the tremble in some of them, especially brown queer people. I pulled two chairs together and sat down, and soon someone sat across from me and began to cry. We spoke briefly and honestly to each other, as strangers, about fear. We then found the fear in our bodies, and then found the resilience – the part of ourselves that knows how to recover. We ended in laughter, not over the fear, but with the fear and grief, with each other.

Across from us was a muted boxing match produced by Samson Young – the audience was silent, heightening the impact of sounds as two black men pummeled each other. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the sounds as another person, then another, sat before me. It felt honest, the impact on black skin – this is how it feels to live here.

Mostly my guests and I were quiet, or whispered to each other. I felt like Sadness in Inside Out, sitting with people and finding beauty in the truth, in the depth between us.

On the second day of the event, I held a micro-workshop with a group of middle schoolers, mostly Asian, already wrestling with the impact of white supremacy, teasing each other in asides and whispers. There was a bully amongst the kids who led the way, making the kids laugh at each other. He was doughy and smart, and I felt heartache for whatever had shaped him even as I led the other kids to vision by circling around his distractions until the ideas were compelling enough to turn his attention.

I brought my tarot deck that day and set the cards up as a way to channel the emotions in the room. As I read people, I again noticed that moving from mass engagement to very deep personal interactions was so relieving to my system.

The event has stuck with me and here’s why:

– We need depth. Right now everyone is looking to large scale urgent moves, and I understand. But what feels clearest to me is that we need to dig deeper, into ourselves and with each other, into our resolve and our vision. People need to feel and believe there is a reason to keep transforming at their deepest core level in order to withstand what is being uncovered as the truth within these manmade borders. And we need depth across experiences of oppression – not isolating ourselves in panic, but understanding that these systems want to control and devour everything that isn’t white, male and wealthy.

– We need play. While some of the pieces took themselves quite seriously and brought me to tears, I was also deeply moved by the playful offerings. Next to my chair was an installation that made art of people’s heartbeats. Watching people contort and dance to the music DJ Rekha was offering up shook something down in me – everyone wanted to gather there. Times are hard but we must be an invitation to co-create, rather than a rigid set of gates to pass through.

– We need love. After people shared their fears with me, the next words were always about love. Telling me who they loved, wondering what love could create and do in fearful times, asking the tarot for guidance around love. The tarot was clear: be more honest. We need more spaces where love begets honesty, where we can set aside our masks and projections and be kissed on our scars.

– We need adaptation. I could have proceeded with a workshop structure and had fun. But what emerged from my own need and the need of the people who came with me returned me to a place where I could even look at the future. If we can’t adapt, even our best ideas become outdated, irrelevant.

During that weekend I also got to attend Underground Railroad Game, a play cocreated by my dear friend Jen Kidwell, who also stars in it as a teacher/slave era dominatrix. It was delightfully controversial and moved me – exposing the way we try to be coy and humorous about unspeakable things.

It is of utmost importance not to normalize anything at this time – white supremacy, climate catastrophe and misogyny in office and policy are not new for any of us, but this moment allows us to see it more clearly. And it is of equal importance to be visionary about how we engage this moment, and each other. Go for intimacy, depth, creativity and relationship.

Make more art, and let it be honest.

national network of abortion funds 2016 keynote

tonight i had the honor of giving the keynote speech for the national network of abortion funds 2016 summit. i spoke after they gave each other awards and there were lots of tears and just so much recognition and celebration of their incredible and radical work. here are my notes from my talk, what i planned to say and what i think i added in. <3

I would like to open with centering words from octavia estelle butler, the black science fiction writer and, I would argue, prophet-philosopher.

first, let’s take a moment to center, come into this moment:
let yourself be heavy with gravity
and light with stardust
and look around your table, connect with the people around you
and connect to this moment

now, octavia says:
all that you touch you change
all that you change changes you
the only lasting truth is change
god is change

i always evoke her into these spaces because she taught me to be visionary.

wow. so here we are in texas, this massive great state that gave us beyoncé.

now, i was also born in texas, not to imply that all first-born singing virgos from texas are at the same level, or that you should expect a beyoncé level performance from my speech tonight. i only aim for perfection.

but seriously – i heard that there are only 6 abortion clinics left in this state. as we sit here knowing how hard we are working to make moves forward, as we make our Best effort to create changes within and beyond the system, as we raise the money to create our own systems of care, we are still only meeting about 1/3 of the need.

and we are traversing an election season that for some of us is ‘so historic’, for some of us is ‘so depressing and/or terrifying’, for some of us is ‘totally irrelevant in terms of tangible impacts in our communities’, and for some of us all of the above.

this fight of ours is both a local fight, and a supreme court fight. it is a fight that can sometimes feel rigid – as if all the territory has been mapped out already. as if every victory is fragile, and every position must be defensive.

and yet we must win, right? we must not only end hyde, but go beyond, beyond smashing our opponent (which can absolutely satisfying, i know). we need to evolve the conversation beyond the realm of opposition – we must create such a change around abortion that no one can deny it.

everyone in this room is part of an effort to create change. and yet sometimes we forget how change actually works. we think of change as an external impact – we will do something, and the other person will change. and we will stay the same, and we will be happy.

we do this at a personal level – how many of us have fallen in love with someone’s potential? with our story of how we were going to liberate another person’s best self?

or educate a family member?

we do this at a collective or organizational level. how many of us have gone to work at institutions that were deeply unsustainable, or patriarchal, or had severe conflict aversion or other really big clear red flags that we imagined we could transform on the strength of our own (naive) brilliance?

(i won’t ask if anyone here is still in that situation. we are all feeling the love – and i know it’s complicated.)

and of course we do this at a political level. we can see so clearly how the other, our opposition, needs to change. and we set forth to change them. we rage against them on facebook and twitter, go head to head in policy wars, or give them the evil eye at holidays. (cuz you know all this political opposition is in the family, right?)

and of course they are doing the same thing.

our lovers are imagining that we will begin to put the toilet paper roll on correctly, and stop interrupting them with important details when they tell a story to our mutual friends.

our organizations hope that with time we will get so passionate about the mission that we will overlook the regressive structural issues and work the extra unpaid hours to close the gap between the needs of our communities and never-quite-enough resources we can generate to meet those needs.

and politically, our opponents hope, and probably pray, that one day we will cave. that we will say fine. you all should make the decisions about what we can do with our bodies. you win – what were we thinking?

now, within this battle of wills, no one actually wins.

we all get amazing at fortifying our positions, at polarizing the entire world in a binary system that has no room for complexity, for changing positions, for life experience. we create hierarchies of ourselves and others.

octavia teaches us that we use our intelligence to construct hierarchy, over and over. and then we revel in it. i am guilty of this. i feel superior in every way to any man who seeks to legislate my body.

i can’t help it!

it is so easy to see the change that is needed in others, or needed in large scale systems. it is so much harder to create those changes within ourselves, to live up to our values, to live into the unknown, the theoretical – what we FEEL is right, even what we have proven is right at a small scale.

it is particularly frightening to see socialization rooted inside ourselves, and to pull it up. and yet that is what we have to keep doing, and what we need to inspire the rest of this country to do.

most of you are in this room because you have done this work to unlearn the shame and stigma so many of us still get taught to associate with abortion, and to step to the front line to make sure that anyone who needs an abortion can get one.

your work here, all of you, has been so crucial in this respect – you are putting your time, life and resources on the line to help us change how we access abortion care from the local to the national level. you are supporting low-income women, women of color, young women.

i commend you all. i am grateful beyond words. (part of why i wrote this down was because of how emotional i was just preparing for this)

i am grateful as a full spectrum doula.
i am grateful as a survivor of ectopic pregnancy.
i am grateful as an auntie to babies who will have more choices because of your work.
i am grateful as an ever evolving pan-queer-sexual human (who knows what the future holds?)

i thank you.

so now i want to explore what the next edge of growth is for us. what will be healing to everyone we touch?

all that you touch you change. but it also changes you. change is a multidirectional activity.

one of my biggest areas of question to offer tonight is – how do we expand our network of change? i mean, not just who we will change, but who we will let change us, in order to reach far enough to change everything.

to even consider letting others change us, we have to have a solid sense of self. a movement sense of self. we can create change around abortion, we are growing reproductive justice. we are creating a new world here. that you all have raised the money you have raised in spite of the cyber and ideological attacks, the vitriol and socialization of this country is a tangible measurement of that change.

but as we succeed, our opposition changes.
as we get bigger, they get frightened of losing power, and become more dangerous.
as they become more dangerous, their strategies and policies become more outrageous.
and then we become more fearful.
and we can get very narrow, trying to just protect ourselves, to hold the line for the tiny sliver of dignity and liberation and basic rights we cannot live without. our vision, tucked tightly in a safe place.

but often what we think we are protecting is already gone. vision is the collateral damage of a reactionary movement. the ‘vision’ begins sounding like “not this! repeal that! stop that! can we just get a little of this? a tiny bit of justice?” (i speak from experience)

remember the personal relationship scenario? you ever find yourself in a fight like – “wait how did we get here? i don’t even care about the toilet paper – i started this conversation because i want our home to feel like a retreat center of love and equity! you got stuck on bathroom habits, and what the heck? are we breaking up right now?”

it can be funny – even if its not funny at the moment we can usually laugh in retrospect, depending on how the breakup goes.

but this happens in our political work all the time. its less funny there.

this has absolutely happened with our work for reproductive justice, we keep finding ourselves in external and internal debates over differences that distract us from our vision – which is that every person has agency over her, his or their own body. it isn’t about one choice – its about a multitude of choices all rooted in love and equity.

humans tend to change in a cycle.

people say history repeats itself, and in some ways it does. but each time, the group of humans is different, the world is different, and even if it looks the same from the outside, within each cycle are evolutions, micro shifts that create different outcomes.

this slow but determined cycle of change is why so many of our movements are evolving beyond silo’d issue struggles and embracing intersectional identities.

it is how this movement is coming to understand that any discussion about abortion is a discussion about race, about poverty, about borders, about prisons, about control, about collective liberation.

that took so much work. your work and so many others. it is imperative to celebrate that work.

in order to realize our vision for a world in which we have safety and agency for all humans in all bodies, we have to understand this iterative cycle of change, and aim not just for surface shifts that advance or regress from administration to administration.

we have to get very intentional about how we “transform ourselves in order to transform the world”. those are the words of grace lee boggs, my late mentor. we have to create an ideological majority and stability around abortion access and reproductive justice, one that can normalize inside an ever changing world.

i know we can do this.

grace also said “we must assume our power, not our powerlessness”.

octavia called this shaping change. understanding that change is inevitable and constant, but if we are awake we are not simply victims of change, or reacting to change. we can be a force that shapes change.

we can shape change around abortions and reproductive justice.

it is time to get visionary about abortion.

(visionary. what do i mean? not idealistic. not never never land. (vision is kind of my fetish – one of my fetishes))

last year a book that i co-edited with walidah imarisha came out, it’s called Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction from Social Justice Movements. we asked organizers to write science fiction, because we realized that our work as social justice visionaries and organizers is to bring about a world we have never seen. a world without poverty, without patriarchy. a world where every human has the right to make their own difficult choices for their health and lives, towards abundance, towards liberation.

we haven’t experienced this world yet – we are cocreating it. so organizing is reaching forward and pulling the future into our present. all organizing is science fiction. (we are all badass super heroes!)

and what we found in our organizers was that many went above and beyond our call. we don’t lack vision, we lack permission.

we called it sci fi to reach the place people are familiar with, but it is more precisely called visionary fiction. walidah created that term to speak of art we create with intention.

art is never neutral – it either upholds or upends the status quo. so Octavia’s Brood gathered stories of the future that show change as a process, as a bottom up, collective process, centering marginalized communities. neither utopian nor dystopian, because as we know those actually tend to go hand in hand. the 1% depends on the 99%. first class has to be in front of coach. even heaven requires hell.

we invited stories that took us beyond binaries, that took us to the edge of what these organizers could see.

because gloria anzaldua taught us: “nothing happens in the ‘real’ world unless it first happens in the images in our heads.”

this is our work. we must dream the impossible, dream it together, out loud, until it becomes practice and pathway. we must collaborate on our ideas, subverting the capitalist practice of competing like gladiators to have the best idea. we must build collective vision, deep intentions that allow radical adaptations in the unknown future.

(now, i say this next part as someone with deep southern evangelical anti-abortion family members)

a lot of the people who are counted in our opposition have been negatively impacted by the execution of their own espoused values – unable to get the abortions they needed; born to people who did not want to, or were not ready to, parent but felt they had no choice; people shamed for their pregnancies; then shamed for their abortions.

our imagination needs to include these women, our story needs to be big enough to invite them in.

i have been talking about imagination a lot lately. who gets the right to imagine? who gets to realize their imaginations in the real world? we are, in fact, in an imagination battle. i borrow this line of thinking from claudine rankine and terry marshall – right now we are living inside the imagination of other people. people who think women and black people and people from other countries and people with different abilities or desires are dangerous and inferior. can be shot down in the street. mike brown, renisha mcbride and so many others lost their lives to that imagination. we can be regulated around the choice to bring life into this world, we can be controlled through the violence people take based on their waking dreams.

those imaginings have created the conditions of oppression that bring us into this room. the results of this delirium are that women, especially women of color and poor women, are not to be trusted with our bodies. it’s not sane, but it has been institutionalized. and as we grow our resources and our ranks, it is imperative that we burst out of the box that the conservative imagination designates for us. this means moving out of a defensive stance.

i am creating work at a particular intersection. octavia is there, grace is there, and gloria. and a few other ancestors who bear naming.

toni cade bambara charged us with “making the revolution irresistible”. i think of this often when i find myself turning to fear or shame as a motivating force for my people (i never mean to do this but it comes out under pressure, fear and shame are contagious).

how do i make a future of justice an irresistible option? how do we paint in the loudest colors a picture of a world in which families are intentional, joyful, resourced with love and longing. that’s what’s on the other side of abortion access.

audre lorde is also at this intersection – she taught us of pleasure – that it is the experience of the erotic, of being fully sensationally alive in real time, that makes suffering unbearable. she said, when i am “in touch with the erotic, i become less willing to accept powerlessness, or those other supplied states of being which are not native to me, such as resignation, despair, self-effacement, depression, self-denial.”

so i have been reflecting on how the fear of an unwanted pregnancy seriously impacts pleasure and power. in part because of the process of abortion. but, i think, in much larger part because of the narratives around abortion, the trauma of stigmatization, and the lack of emotional support for those who make this choice.

in terms our opposition might understand, they “deny themselves heaven” in this regard, because i suspect a next level of sexual freedom and erotic evolution is also on the other side of abortion access and human-centered reproductive justice.

the final piece i want to add here brings us back to where i started. one of the ways we change ourselves is to change our stories, yes – and my invitation is to bring creativity, joy, love, longing and pleasure into the next stories told about abortion.

but the other way we change ourselves is to put down our armor, or at least move the shield to the side so we can see who we are fighting with. this is ESPECIALLY important for our internal differences. how much of our time and energy do we spend trying to change each other, instead of working to align with each other?

this is a lesson from nature, which i have been studying in a deep way for my next book, which is on emergent strategies, focusing on the way complex systems and patterns emerge out of relatively simple interactions.

in nature the big creatures, those who are the same species but battle each other for territory – the lions, tigers, bears (oh my) – they are on the extinction lists. the creatures which work together with clear distinctions and roles and a shared sense of survival, those are the ones that are proliferating. ants, birds, roaches. octopi and squid. slime mold. these organisms move at the speed of relationship.

the black lives matter movement has been articulating this practice as moving at the speed of trust – that’s as fast as we can go. and our impact can be as big and powerful as our trust is.

our internal movement armor comes in the form of political positions and think pieces and call-outs. we must practice putting down our armor with each other, spend more time getting into a room together and not just drinking (which i enjoy but am abstaining from sugar so…) but working on our alignment. if we are already clear on where the differences are, how do we turn our collective attention to those places where we align and grow that?

what we pay attention to grows. so let’s practice with an affirmation pledge. turn to the person next to you and really take in this divine specimen of warrior. now repeat after me:

i am not you
oh but I need you
thank you for your work
let’s get this. let’s get free
.

thank you so much for paying attention to me these last twenty minutes.

thank you so much for paying attention to our rights and our bodies as your life’s work.

thank you yamani, tiffany and everyone at the national network of abortion funds for having me.

(after this was an incredible karaoke night that was, as yamani sang in her first ever karaoke performance, ‘more than words’)

edges

image

this country pushes
my human heart
to its edges

earth’s ancient borders
let the land breath
humans mimic
making only ugly edges

the majority is dishonest
in this way justice is elusive
fighting in the street
we leave tumbleweed
we come apart and sacrifice
for those displaced from the core
to the edges

we whisper at the necks
of our lovers
black girl stories
the sharp edges of truth
leaving carved flesh
trust notes

the sun leaps down
the edges of the world
a mountain goat
a temporary life

all of this is so fleeting
it is a comfort to let it go
to dance breathless and awed
on time’s edges

(for walidah, rasheedah, krista and ola)

#shapingchange #becauseofoctavia

things i think i said at eso won books

the other night i got to do an artist talk at eso won books, in leimert park los angeles. super grateful to cultural shapeshifter lynnee denise from international locals who organized the event, which included an artist talk with the sci fi writer nature grrrrl homey lisa bolekaja, and a book signing. it felt like a portal opened up, and i said some things. below are those things. afterwards i got to sign their big book of famous signatures where octavia butler’s signature from 2005 was on the first page! then i was told that one of my future wives, queen latifah, had just purchased octavia’s brood the night before.

!!!

so here are some thoughts:

as you do anything, as you write new stories, you are either moving towards justice or away. there is not a neutral space actually, you’re either perpetuating the existing paradigm of power, or you are disrupting it. that’s why visionary fiction is important, fiction that intentionally disrupts existing paradigms of oppression.

writing sci fi, writing futures we want, is a mindfulness practice. we need mindfulness practices to intentionally grow a future up through our collective and familiar cycles of trauma.

time is non-linear – octavia butler’s stories or nina simone’s music are good proof of this, as relevant now as when they were writing and singing it.

(in response to a question around what and how we create in a world that doesn’t want to acknowledge and celebrate our work…referencing hugos, world fantasy, oscars, etc, i stood up and turned around and said:) look at me. look at my body. i don’t have a body that is seen and affirmed in the mainstream space. i see some reference to it now in people like nicki minaj, but still nothing quite like all of this. so learning to love my body has been choice after choice after practice. it has included self documentation, self pornography, not engaging lovers who want my body to change, learning how i like to look and feel, learning what health is for me. my mind is as divergent from the mainstream as my body is. all of our minds are. which means we can’t look to mainstream systems for affirmation and approval – that’s why we created octavia’s brood. that’s why there are anthologies, and malkia cyril’s work and center for media justice are fighting to keep the web accessible to all, so we have room to create our own spaces and celebrate ourselves. our self love and full realization are dangerous to the mainstream.

capitalism has skewed what we think is enough. everything doesn’t have to be huge bestseller on mainstream markets for everyone. figure out who you want to reach and measure success against that.

we have rituals for collective trauma – we spread the word, and our outrage, on social media where you have to be careful, the trauma is on auto play. we create a hashtag and seek justice and take action and then when justice is often not send we have a next round of grief. we listen to music and sing and numb ourselves. we have less ritual for collective healing. black zen teacher angel kyodo williams pointed that out to me, how technology is connecting our pain so fast, but we have to develop the individual and collective capacity not just to respond, but to evolve together beyond this paradigm.

(in response to a question of the difference between black sci fi and afrofuturism). i see black sci fi as a literal thing, black people doing sci fi – it includes anything, can be the regular old tropes, action narratives, can be conservative, heteronormative, misogynist, etc. whereas afrofuturism to me implies a worldview beyond the western paradigm, being explicitly distinct, born from a different perspective from the mainstream white male American sci fi stuff.

create create create. find people to read your work and get feedback and let people see and hear and engage the part of the future you hold.

9 lessons from my wayward child

9 months ago today, I became pregnant.

Pregnant in spite of plan b, nonchalance, magic and my non-pregnancy-inclusive plans. I had no idea. I didn’t feel anything particular, didn’t notice my enhanced sense of smell (except in retrospect).

I didn’t glow.

8 months ago today, I reached up to close a window while doing a phone interview for Octavia’s Brood, and was suddenly in the most acute and life focusing pain I have ever experienced. I understood in a quiet inner way that I only had a few minutes to get myself downstairs, and that I needed immediate help if I was going to live. A friend rushed me to the hospital where I, with no insurance, learned that I was pregnant and it was ectopic and I was lucky to live in a time when I could survive it. And I would be losing my left fallopian tube.

I’ve given myself these long months marked with other griefs to process it myself before writing about it, hopefully birthing some kind of wisdom in the absence of a child-based outcome.

Here are the 9 lessons I have learned, so far, from my wayward child.

Lesson 1: I am special.

I rarely date men (frankly it never seems to go that well, in spite of my earnest pansexual leanings). So rarely that when my dad heard the news, I think he seriously considered the possibility that I was involved in a biblical birth. The game of percentages means there’s exactly a one in gazillion chance that this could happen, both the pregnancy and then the ectopicness of it.

Lesson 2: I am not special.

When I got to the hospital, I told them I was pretty sure my appendix had burst. They said it was more likely that I was pregnant. I was adamant, I made my case of how that was impossible, asked them through clenched teeth to focus on the real problem. They said, “uh huh, pee in this cup though”.

It was a common situation, and I was handled accordingly, with very little gentleness.

Lesson 3: People are complex human beings, and also angels.

I had two that night, humans who stepped over into a beam of light. I will forever be grateful for the convergence of events that led to my strange and lovely support team that night, and getting to see the particular goodness that can emerge in crisis. The nurse wouldn’t give me morphine for a while because of my ‘condition’. It was cold, and scary, the pain was nonstop, and there was a torturous internal ultrasound. I both survived and increased my pain by laughing, and it was worth it.

I am also grateful for my mom’s voice on the phone, helping me face what was happening. There was some time between learning I was pregnant and learning for sure that it was ectopic and surgery would be immediate, my hour of conscious pregnancy. My mom’s voice on the line helped me through that time.

Lesson 4: I am human.

After what I initially called ‘the surgery’, I denied my humanity and tried to carry on as usual. I was in the middle of a book tour. I did several major events, which I powered through, hoping no one would notice I was moving slow and couldn’t do simple things like open doors or water bottles. People did notice, and I told various small lies (an ‘ovarian cyst’ seemed close enough) about what was going on. I shared what I could, mostly because I had to depend on others. Other than my closest friends and family, I actually didn’t know how to say the truth. I spent about a month in tears after every event, overwhelmed by the juxtaposition of the high of my life’s work and the strange irrational sadness inside me.

People kept speaking of the book as a baby, asking wasn’t I thrilled about our book baby. I had said that before, too, but I don’t think I’ll say it again…nothing is a baby except a baby.

Lesson 5: I can grieve like a motherfucker for something I didn’t want, something that barely happened. I’ve written about my choiceful childlessness, I’ve ignored healers and intuitives who felt a baby coming for me.

Still.

I had a few people afterwards who advised me not to think of it as ‘losing a baby’ since it wasn’t a viable birth. I tried that. It didn’t work because when I did my research, it said that there were all the makings of a baby, it just connected to the wrong part of me. If it had connected to the right part, or even a different wrong part, I could be in or near labor today.

After my sister’s miscarriage, my niece, four at the time, said she hoped that the baby found another way into the world. I hope the same for the little mass of miraculous tissue that visited me. I sense the size of it’s soul in absentia.

And in spite of my attempts to logic through it, that little lost embryo made me cry a lot this year. It was tenacious and miraculous in it’s own way. A one in a gazillion kind of lost embryo.

Lesson 6: So many humans have faced unintended pregnancy loss, of kids they wanted, of kids they didn’t want.

And so many people get pregnant even when they take measures not to get pregnant.

Many of the children I love most in the world were unintended, were somehow able to outsmart preventative measures to get here.

A lot of my favorite parents felt disappointed, scared, confused and stressed when they found out they were pregnant.

These stories emerged this year when people learned what I had experienced, and I am grateful to all of them for sharing and normalizing my complex emotional response.

Lesson 7: It’s not the little one’s fault it didn’t find fertile soil. They showed me some pictures, it’s confusing in there.

Lesson 8: Everything does not happen for a reason.

That doesn’t mean you can’t create a reason for everything.

This year, this wayward child, has turned my sense of self upside down, narrowed the number and increased the quality of people I need close to me, made me sloppy and vulnerable, changed how I want to dress, made me favor my left side, sharpened my ideas of what I want to generate in the world, snatched my perfection mythologies away, given me good news to sweeten the hardest days, found me wandering in the dark begging for help, and helped me keep choosing to see and love myself, just as I am.

Lesson 9: Time is the most precious thing. Time is the most precious thing. One month, nine months, an hour, a lifetime. During these nine months life and death came in and out like waves, like always. My wayward child was life moving towards life for a month. My mentor Grace was life moving towards life for 100 years and 100 days. Could it be that they are equal teachers to me?

Time is the most precious thing, choosing to learn in this precious time. Once lived, these hours cannot be returned to me, I determine whether it is a miraculous experience with my attention.

So. Nine months are complete. I declare it miraculous.

Closing Remarks to Environmental Grantmakers Association

These are my notes (roughly what I said) for framing the closing plenary of the EGA.

Apocalypse is not in the future. It is a current condition. In places like Detroit, where I live, or New Orleans, where I just was for the ten year anniversary of Katrina…or hearing the news from Syria, or the Marshall Islands where my family lived for a while, the apocalypse is all around us. It is happening now.

Apocalypse is not linear, with an end point. I was raised with a Christian concept of apocalypse….four horses, and scene. But there are places that are post-apocalyptic, people beginning again in toxic soil, surviving after what was an end to the economy or environment as we knew it.

Apocalypse and temporary utopia co-exist. We are all interconnected, which means we are all, right now, living in an apocalyptic time. When I go to California I take three minute showers and don’t flush anything, then I leave and I go back to “normal”, instead of holding that the water crisis is interconnected.

The reality now is that there is no science that can account for our future. According to Movement Generation, we are living in the effects of our technology and pollution from 40 years ago, it takes that long for the impacts to fully show up. In 40 years we will feel our impact now! There is no science, no math, nothing to account for the survival of places like New Orleans. Now is a time for imagination and magic that can move us beyond what we think is politically possible now, which is simply not enough.

This is why I write science fiction (after spending so long in social justice work). To cultivate radical imagination. I believe, Octavia’s Brood proposes, that all organizing is science fiction, all efforts to bend the arc of the future towards justice, is science fictional behavior.

How we do that work really matters.

Emergence is the way complex systems and patterns arise out of relatively simple interactions (give examples). We are all interconnected. Denying that, we die. Surrendering to that, we live.

Relationship is key! Relationship, quality relationship, may in fact be everything. To create a shift, we have to learn to be in authentic relationship with, to listen to, voices that are ‘on the ground’.

What does that mean for you? Do you just go up to an organizer and write a check? Perhaps. But aligned with the Jemez principles, ground up happens at every level. In your foundations, it means putting more power in the hands of program officers, who are forming relationships with the field. In organizations it means really listening to the organizers in the field for strategy. And so on.

Who do you know how to listen to?

black sci fi dreaming (report back from Ferguson is the Future)

so…princeton’s new african american studies department partnered with the octavia butler legacy network to offer up ferguson is the future, a black to the future sci fi love fest extravaganza that took place over the last three days.

there’s a live stream archive, and i live tweeted and instagrammed everything, so i’m not going to cover all of that.

i’m going to instead share the feelings i was left with.

– we make the beautiful moments, we bring the magic with our presence and attention.

– there are many ways to build family, and none of them are fast.

– when the opportunity comes to support other artists, take it. this includes buying things, but also really listening or contemplating the art, dancing to the music, reading the book, seeing the whole.

– be present. when you are actually present you can shape the moment. you can shape by speaking truth, slowing down, letting someone know you appreciate them, suggesting what you most long for, and other small/massive actions.

– children can create the best moments. the 11-year-old and the newborn at the gathering gave me some of my favorite moments of playfulness, sweetness and equality.

– living into your gifts doesn’t take away your humanity. meeting all these sci-fi deities was so humbling. i was daunted at the task of facilitating them, and then i got there, and each one of them was kind, visionary, figuring out life, and just…just wonderful. i miss them all, i want to time travel back to their laughter.

– to love others in this world is to see in them the same humanity and flaw-possibility that i see in myself. it’s liberating.

– we cannot change others, but we can change ourselves and in doing so change everything. complexity.

– mentoring can happen in a moment.

– transformation can happen by witnessing someone else in their wholeness.

– being deep in my life’s work makes me feel beautiful.

– walidah imarisha is a powerful human being who has changed my life and i’m so grateful for her and for Octavia’s Brood.

– i love sci fi, i love black and brown people creating our freedom with zero apologies.

now, finally, sleep.

BALLE 2015 Closing Plenary Speech

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But first we imagine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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