despite devastation, creativity (notes from a pandemic joy sharing)

(pandemic joy is a community of radical spirits called together by malkia devich-cyril. we take turns sharing our hearts with each other, and this week i was asked to share. here are my prep notes)

the theme today is Despite Devastation, Creativity. i want to talk about two completely different things today. the supreme court, and my good life, which feels like a living embodiment of this theme. i create in a lot of ways, but one of the main ways i create is making meaning – when things seem scary and wild it helps me to make meaning, make myself look at things in a new way, create connections that help me see what time it is on the clock of the world (shout out grace lee boggs), to see if the devastation is real, (if the collapse is a crisis, and for whom) and, if it is, to imagine what we, what i, am going to do about it. 

yesterday i was at a gathering with sangodare, to launch a collaboration app for qbipoc called quirc.app (sign up for the waitlist), and they reminded us of these words of audre lorde: “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. And this fact is only threatening to those who still define the master’s house as their only source of support.”

the nation called the united states of america has never actually been our house. it has never been about genuine change for an adaptive, equal species. we have always been fighting the base tendency to simply be a functional master’s house.

but, the land on which the US was built, the land from which the US was extracted – this has never been the master’s house. and there have always been people who remembered that, human and nonhuman. 

so when i feel overwhelmed by the politics of a given day, i turn to the land. i ask the earth how to survive, and the answers are clear and simple:

keep turning

connect underground


and create.

one of the things i am trying to create all the time is language for my existence, which i fundamentally know to be beyond the reach of language.  

i often say i am a post-nationalist, for lack of a better term. in this term, for me, nation means those whose identity is defined by unnatural borders and shared history. in my lifetime, nation has primarily been a term and structure of violence. so maybe what i mean is, i am life-ist? lifist?…i choose moving as life towards life over the sustaining of any unjust nationhood or border. 

what i mean is, the nation i could imagine belonging to does not yet exist, though in my human contradiction i am still building it all the time – a nation of many kinds of people from many places who feel the earth to be our sacred home, and relationship to be our sacred purpose. 

what i mean is, the nations of my lineage have primarily been concerned with one kind of master or another, one kind of oppression or another, so if i look back honestly, without romanticizing history, i mostly see would-be and practicing masters with very limited ideas of who i could be –  mostly people who saw me on a scale of subservience, enslavement and consumerism (aren’t these all the same?). 

what i mean is, the idea of nation has distracted us, fatally, from the idea of species, of planet, of oneness, of global responsibility, of sharing what we have, of seeing each other’s fundamental humanity. 

i don’t think it has always been this way, i have studied nations rooted in humanity and peace…but at this moment in our history, i think nation, as an action and a structure, has become a master’s tool. 

in our nation, our systems and structures were founded within the confines of a toxic and inhumane worldview: slavery. there is rot in the foundation so it isn’t surprising that the master’s house has always been rickety, shaky, temporary. and we live in it, around it, seeing it, but not always clear on what to do. forgetting to trust the land to hold us when the house inevitably collapses, we keep doing small upkeep, trying to hold it together one banister at a time, one pillar, one compromised policy shift. we reform when we could and should revolt.

and i have compassion for that, because reform always seems safer from a short term perspective.

and we love to tell each other what’s wrong with the house. and even tell each other what’s coming, what’s going to break down next (that roof needs mending). we were not prophetic when we foresaw ALL of this supreme court nonsense coming – we watched the court get shaped into this specific monster. 

we weren’t being cliche when we said voting is harm reduction. voting is not exciting, not to me anymore at least. it’s security, storing rations while we seed the next crop.

and, voting is not a master’s tool. its just a method of decision making for large groups of people.

confusion and bureaucracy, corruption, intentional and lucrative incompetence – these are master’s tools. when bad systems continue after they have shown their dysfunction, we know that master’s tools are in effect. when we are told to put down our means of making decisions over the commons, the collective space – when people, who are radical and want to see governance by and for the people, when we are like fuck voting, the master has won the day. especially if we say fuck voting and aren’t engaged in other effective methods of resourcing and protecting our people. 

the supreme court today is the result of strategic, generated apathy. strategic, targeted, produced loss of faith in the electoral system. 

if you have a bunch of people you never wanted to have power anyway, but you can no longer straight up enslave or deny a vote to, what do you do? you make the system so frustrating to participate in that people give up. you create a million hurdles between where they are and where you are. and you raise the price of entering the game.

now, sangodare reminded us that if we aren’t careful, we end up just remodeling the master’s house while thinking we are building something new. 

this is why i love the term abolish. when a system is dysfunctional, harmful where it purports to help, unjust where it is tasked with justice, we abolish it. 

abolishing means do away with, get rid of, eradicate. i want to abolish the supreme court, the electoral college, the prison industrial complex, capitalism. which really means i want to abolish any systems that are fickle and punitive, profiting from our pain, suffering, conflict and apathy.

the u.s. was founded on two things – the idea of freedom and the practice of lucrative dehumanization. so the systems that were implemented in its founding? they likely all need abolishment, cause they are all variations on punishment, as control, in the name of freedom, for a tiny elite.

for isn’t that how the supreme court is being used now, to punish a nation with legalized regression? because the tiny elite is mad! and they’ve been playing mind games on a massive scale, so that a lot of people who do not benefit from elite privileges feel committed to protecting those structures, that elite existence, as if it’s their own. protecting it with their lives. (running up on obama’s house, at war.)

they are mad because we have been winning. we are continuously creating new tools and methods and strategies and connections, “making a way out of no way”…we are creating new ways of shining light on the world so our people can see it, we are creating portals for our people to slip through to a future. we are in the slow steady process of abolishing systems that do not serve the people – and those whose identities are in some way defined by power over others are panicked

so, once again, humanity will endure panic-based fascism, only possible because we never collectively attended to the rot in the foundation. 

i have good news here. 

i have at least a small piece of good news, factual and important: as a species, so far, we have always survived fascism. it has always been at great cost…the cost is overwhelming and debilitating grief and suffering. generations of pain and trauma. but we have survived. they have never won, they have never eradicated the human need for, and capacity to be, free and in community. we have created possibility amidst impossible circumstances. organizers and futurists and lovers of earth and humanity are immensely creative. 

but we only do it together. with each other.

isolation is a path toward fascism.

self policing and peer policing are paths to fascism.

right now policing and peer surveillance are so normalized in our culture that we don’t even realize when we are doing it to each other. i just got to be out of the country for a few weeks and i noticed – wow, people aren’t afraid to speak, to say what they think. who they are. slowly it dawned on me that that’s how it looks when there isn’t a culture of constant policing and surveillance and cancelation and disposing. they still have major issues, but there is also a sense of holding onto each other, being able to hear each other, in community. 

community is an antidote to fascism.

when i think about surviving this moment in history, as a nonconsensual nation inside of an interdependent species, i find myself asking what needs to be abolished in us?, and what needs to grow?, for us to survive and thrive beyond this tiny fascist portal – their portals are ever shrinking, ours are ever growing.

(you may have guessed that i think) what needs to be abolished is the instinct toward punishment. i have been learning and practicing this – to hold boundaries because i need them, but not as punishment of others.

and to stop avoiding boundaries…like, i have not set the boundaries i needed, as a way to punish myself for past mistakes, i have believed that i made the mistake and now i have to stay in it, stew in misery.

but life is too short for tolerating avoidable misery.

and not punishing means not moving thru the world with a side dish of talking shit about others, those beyond my boundaries, publicly, so that others feel compelled to judge and punish them. outsourcing punishment is still participating in punitive culture. this means i am often holding boundaries with people i am still in community with, often people i still love, even if i need a clear space between us.

my boundaries, my no makes a way for my yes. your no makes a way for your yes.

our rage is a deep embodied no.

every time you hear some bullshit, feel it all.

this news?

feel it.

and! and, your rage also means you can feel that another way is possible. find an increasing amount of time to think about and practice what you want to say yes to. harness your rage towards vision. 

no to the masters tools. but we live in a world of compost and recycling, we are repurposed stardust and sea and bacteria and story. all that is is made of all that ever was, and all that will be will be made of our reimagining and repurposing and reshaping what is. 

so, what is the compost for this time? how do we embody the rights that are being stripped away in the commons? how do we practice affirmative action with each other, beyond and within the institutions? how do we practice body sovereignty with each other in a state which is attacking our bodies all the time?

this is our work.   

and here is where i can testify from my good life – i just came back from a festival ritual with people singing songs that came thru my body! and we invited the benevolent ancestors into the ritual with us and they came, palpably, distinctly. they were so excited to be invited. and we touched a future worth fighting for.

and then i got to cohost a sacred, healing journey for writers, the kind of gathering i wish for all humans to have, to unleash their parts of our future story.

and then i was with beloveds and family, and came home to my incredible, growing durham community. and into this home space of pandemic joy.

and here’s what i know:

we build our own containers. 

we build choirs. nothing wrong with preaching to the choir, but we need to learn to BE in the choir.

so we sit in circles. we sing together.

we change the vibration of the world.

we ask our benevolent ancestors to come into the room with us. and they come. in this way we walk with generations at our backs and sides. we are multitudinous! we are thick!

we give each other permission to be whole. we let love be easy. 

we sit still until new stories can pour from us, and then we tell them, in every medium we have access to, to anyone who will listen, we tell the story of a future where living is good.

through all of this, we generate a peace deep enough within us that it cannot be disturbed by demonic shenanigans. 

and if all of this seems out of reach?

put your feet in the dirt and ask which way to go. 

and trust the land, trust life itself, to hold you, and guide you home.