excerpt from Women’s History Month talk at Brown

i was invited to be the opening speaker for a month of events at Brown University’s Women’s History Month line-up. it was lovely, everyone was kind and curious. i got to hold a copy of the book for the first time, an uncorrected proof that was sent to the school. it was like tasting nirvana. i spoke about octavia’s brood, and i also shared some other thoughts i have been reflecting on. here are some of the notes:

i believe that imagination is where the world changes.

and that the imagination of women is at the very least as important as the imagination of men, if not more so, because of the way our blood and dreams and content flows through to the next generation. there is something sacred about the time of carrying a child, everything flowing between you…what you think, hear, say and dream during that time.

i also believe that the imagination of those who are marginalized and oppressed is of utmost importance. those who benefit from the systems that exist have no necessary impetus to change it with any speed. it is perhaps easy for those with abundant resources to ignore the very fucked situation we are in right now – environmentally, philosophically.

i was reading something about how 98% of species that have once lived on this planet are now extinct, and humans appear to be the reason for it, for this holocene moment. terror is a logical response.

i am supposed to be extinct.

we don’t speak of it this way, but it is what oppression actually stems from. a superiority, a deep belief inside that certain things – whiteness, maleness, certain gods – that these things give you the priority on this planet, for the resources. and someone like me, born into blackness – my ancestors continued to create through a genocide, into queerness, and gorgeously thick, and i can’t see without these glasses, and i am generally not having sex to reproduce…i am an abomination perhaps.

and yet i feel miraculous. i feel like my love is really precious and valuable.

and that i am here, we are here, we who are abominations and slated for extinction socially, and survive? we’re here to offer something really important to the world about what it means to be human, and how we can do a better job at it.

and yet according to beliefs throughout time, beliefs that other people, other americans, hold right now, many of us, i, should be extinct.

so as a creature marked for extinction, who has so far survived, i think that it is my responsibility to imagine a future in which i not only make it, not only eek by, or survive, or serve, or get a place at a table never intended for me…my imagination has to bend the world towards justice, has to stay focused on universal justice, has to make it better for those who come after me.

my blessing is that i have thrown my lot in with organizers and social justice workers for my adult life. and sometimes that has been exhausting and heart breaking, but often it has been inspiring, and at the very least i am with people who are consciously shaping the future.

this is why octavia butler’s work spoke to me, and i have read it over and over. she claims the responsibility of shaping the future. she says ‘all that you touch you change, all that you change changes you.’ ‘to shape god, shape self.’ ‘why is the universe – to shape god. why is god, to shape the universe’. this iterative process of shaping the universe is our human work, as we are also shaped by it.

we then created a feminist future together through a workshop process. in our future, menstruation/periods were seen as a healing substance, one woman was producing a chocolate cure for cancer. there was video game polyamory and subversive women’s healing circles working across class based outer space boundaries between homes and prisons. it was quite beautiful. i have stories from several writing workshops that i will be posting this month.

this is an amazing way to be with other people, creating radical futures.