toshi, she gather me (artists talking)

context from amb: i have been trying to keep the presidential election at bay because it’s embarrassing and stressful, and i am a post nationalist, which means i think this experiment in nation building, founded in mess and betrayal, grown through horrific generations of slavery and mass murder of indigenous and black people, with a dysfunctional economy that yields a richer and smaller minority each year, has already failed at every meaningful act of society. i am interested and invested in growing healing ideas, experiments and formations that move us through the inevitable collapse and restructuring of peoples on this land, with indigenous leadership.

but after the first presidential debate, as is often my rhythm, i had a moment of regressive panic about the state of electoral affairs. my ambitious heart turned towards my capacity to generate a better band aid. 

like many others, i have assessed biden to be medically and politically unelectable for some time now, both because of his disjointed behavior in public appearances, and because of his persistent, violent support of israel long after it became clear (to every international body that tracks such things) that they are (and have been) committing war crimes and have crossed the line into genocide. 

after the debate, mainstream news was posting their questions about his candidacy, and juxtaposing it with the terrifying project 2025 overview. one day, someone will study how neither genocide nor a multitude of convictions were enough to disqualify these men from running for office, and how that inability to practice accountability was made official when the supreme court made presidents into kings. 

in the present, i keep running the case study in my head: if i was at the dnc right now, if there was an opening to propose possibilities for who i think could win, what would i suggest? i know it’s fantastical, but imagination is actually my job…if i ran the dnc and was still in touch with some sense of historical responsibility, i would (have already) test run a variety of tickets that could gather people from the left to the center right, the widest possible counter against the authoritarian/fascist directives rolling through the far right and currently swallowing our national infrastructure piece by piece. i would put together an all women’s ticket and aim for the anti-genocide/war, climate and body autonomy votes, knowing I could count on liberals, organizers and black women to mobilize. i would try to pull women from the cult of patriarchy with reproductive rights, with a campaign message that you don’t have to tell your husband who you voted for. to earn back some of the uncommitted vote, those who are righteously needing an option of someone who isn’t a genocide enthusiast, i would include a third party candidate from the left who can advocate for people impacted by genocides driven one way or another by u.s. spending. no one would get a pure political victory, everyone would be in some compromise, but if the goal of this fantasy DNC was actually stopping/ slowing fascism/authoritarianism from easy entry into the white house or securing more seats on the supreme court, the strategy couldn’t be about personal satisfaction. so i screenshot a pic of these ideated combos (Kamala/Jill, Elizabeth/Claudia, etc) of women from center to third parties who i would test for viability. here’s what followed via text messages and voice memos.

amb: toshi — i want to post this. i want to at least say/seed a women’s ticket with third party, poc etc represented.

Toshi: This is what we always think.  ❤️ so posting this along with a movement strategy is important. CNN is not the root of this idea. They are not our friends. I think we can uplift the importance of the senate/ congress and local elections. And how each of us can show our collective unity by registering and participating as a way of life. So few people vote. So no matter what, register and know what is happening locally. No matter who is running, we could participate and be in this dangerous business of politics.

I’m also thinking of the parables (Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents) timeline (which starts in 2024) and how much we lose locally and how much easier it makes everything fall. And how long it takes to pull ourselves up into something else. So seeding that something else is so important, and I believe we can do it and bring people to the polls.

For BLM in 2020, the Floyd uprising was the engine. Our uprising is global, and in the US we can do our part by being a powerful presence and activator in many ways, including the election cycles of the next two years in our country.

That is not to say don’t post, by the way. Offering additional context and forward movement. Because these are our ideas we been saying forever and I don’t trust commercial media to care.

amb: thank you my love. i really appreciate your mind and reminders. i actually want to publish some of your wisdom…can i ask you another question or two and publish our conversation? i think that would be helpful.

Toshi: Yes, I’m driving now but will reply when I stop.

amb: what i hear you saying is to cast our seeds wide, into the voting process as harm reduction, and into our local political and community experiments as long term solutions.

Toshi: Oh my goodness. Yeah. So looking at our teachers and our ancestors, I think we kind of forget that our ancestors’ first opportunities to be a part of systems that our kidnappers and slavers and rapists created, were around war and organized religion, around the idea of equality and rights which those same people would not offer to all the humans. Right.

So I think our ancestors knew something about being of the earth, and being so close to the earth, and being so close to these people; knew the value of interrogating and taking up space. And I think we think right now that we have taken up a certain kind of political space. And I think we have, but we haven’t taken up all that we can.

The machine of governing is really designed to keep these particular people in power. And we can see how successful it is. And our frustration is as it should be.

I am not telling anybody to register to vote because I think great things will happen. I am just thinking about strategies. I am just thinking about taking up room and taking up space and moving lines. And we can drop it when we want to, but I’m thinking about how much they hold on to these things and how much we let go, and how many weapons they have and how it’s not in our nature to accumulate weapons.

So there’s just all of these kind of strategic lines. And I think of Octavia and other people; I think about the way that Fannie Lou Hamer interrogated the political system. If she had not died, what would have happened? She’s like, I’m going to keep this land and you’re not going to take it from me, you know?

So I’m asking us to use some things that are broken in a way that might hold lines, might strategically move us forward. And I don’t think everybody has to do it. I’ve been challenging my people over 40 to stop talking about what the young people are doing and hold some of these other lines that young people might not be interested in — because they’re too busy trying to tear them down — and to give them resources.

So, yes, cast our seeds far and wide — I think we actually have a wide territory already. I think it’s an intergenerational, gigantic territory. We need to see all of it. And there are so many local movements happening all over the country.

I think this presidential election, which is diabolical, is maybe taking a lot of our energy where we can hold ourselves and move ourselves steadily.

amb: it’s deep for me to notice in myself that feeling of being in a failing group project. i have to remind myself not to keep investing hope in any existing political infrastructure because they have shown they will not make the best choices for the most people. i know that. i have to remind myself we have to steward ourselves through these cumulative effects of late stage capitalism and absurdist politics, as octavia knew we would.

Toshi: Oh, my beloved, you are not failing, but I understand that feeling. It’s awful. To be on planet earth right now is to really acknowledge the people who have weapons, this cisgendered male society of humans that are geared towards war and destruction and ownership and violation and all of these things — oh my goodness.

You feel like you’re failing because you can’t stop it. And it’s not failure. Cause it’s not that you don’t try with every fucking sense of your spirit and being to do this.

You do, we all do, so many of us are trying. This is not the civil rights movement. This is an intergenerational, evolved evolutionary movement. They never looked out for each other the way that a lot of the groups I see organizing are looking out for each other.

They didn’t have rest. They didn’t ‘watch out for our own patriarchal natures’ and all of this stuff. There’s a reason why a lot of those people died young. We are doing so much and we are, I believe, a part of a foundational evolution for humans on the planet.

But this awareness is: this violence has got us.

So we are in the war zone. And I think anybody who’s in the war zone feels that sense that you’re feeling, like we’re all here together trying to make something change. And we can’t, because that’s what it is, it is war and then creating the laws that support war and taking all of the resources to support war.

It feels like a failure because its intention is to make us feel like we’re failing, and its intention is to keep us quiet, and its intention is to steal. You feel the way that they intend for you to feel. The difference is, we know that we are not just here on this particular plane doing this particular work — we are a wider circle.

We need to cast into that energy of our spirit and our ancestral and our future selves. That’s what I’m holding on to.

amb: do you feel fear? what do you do with it?

Toshi: I feel fear on a daily level.  I’m accepting it. The thing I fear the most is the violence that can come out of anywhere at any time. I have a hard time staying in places like upstate where there’s a lot of woods and things like that.

I know that there will be an intentional call for violence against us. And I really very much fear that. I think we all need to be as ready as we can be for those kinds of situations.

And I fear the diabolical-ness of our government. The stealing of all kinds of resources. The currencies, the nature, the water. That everything that is valuable is seen as valuable if it serves some one person’s company that they run. And that we will not divest from these companies fast enough. That they have really got us — Netflix, Amazon, all of the companies.

I do think we will need to divest if we want a chance. Let’s pick one and kill it. Like we just need to do something very dramatic. I think we think that we can have them all exist and that they won’t kill us. And they will.

I fear that we think we have time. If we could see ourselves as a part of a global community, then we would see that we don’t have any time. We are some of the freest and most wide ranging people on the planet. And we need to use it, like immediately, and in very fast and strategic ways. The internet is great, but there needs to be more done.

So we’re upset about the debate and we’re like, Biden’s not going to do it. Okay. Well, go vote in all the local elections. Go get mayors and governors in some of these places, go get senators and congresspeople. With some local officials, some congresspeople, some senators, you can have a dumb president, as we have seen over and over again.

Vote the way you want to vote for the president. But at least your ass needs to be registered and consider: You’re not just voting for you, for us. We’re voting for the whole fucking planet.

I fear so much, my love. The one thing that is keeping me going is there’s so much joy and abundance and love and creativity and vibration and life and death. Anything can happen at any time, just fall down and bump your head.

So I try to put my fear right now in the perspective of what is actually happening in my life  and give thanks and praise when that is like a good and safe thing.

I don’t know if this helps, but you can always call me. I’m going to go see Nona Hendryx tonight.  But you can call me. I love you.

amb: you are so smart and i love you. after we started talking i realized i have this rhythm of going to live my life and make my art and feel the larger interconnected world…and then looking back at the narrow electoral path and being dumbfounded by what’s unfolding. and then after the first debate i’m like, hey y’all here’s what seems obvious and still legally possible to me, then everyone tells me nothing matters or is possible. when i voted uncommitted in the primaries, it was the most aligned feeling i can remember having as a voter, no compromise. i almost forgot what having an american vote needs to be about…and then i turn to you. and you remind me we work on many planes, and that i know abundantly creative community, and we are practicing fractal freedom already, and we need to vote as global citizens while continuing our world-making work.

Toshi: Yes we are the living breathing truth of the matter. These heavy heavy heavy heavy blows come at a magnificent and extended crescendo of our sight.

We are aware folk.

We are multi demensional.

We are so sensitive and heartbroken.

Because we can taste and feel and hum into a grand and complex future.

amb: thank you for your steadiness and humanity friend. i want so much love and safety and earth for so many people.

Toshi: Seriously fuck these murderers.

amb: seriously. i want everyone to want to live. and be able to really live.

Toshi: We won’t all live but we will all be alive. ☀️ I know your name and you know mine.

Alive, alive, alive.

amb: right…we won’t all get to the other side, but love will help the most of us hold each other through this moment. 

Toshi: Also. We have not failed.

We have expanded our possibilities.

I don’t know how they did it but my ancestors from the minute captured



Saw me beaming a light

A forever light

Don’t forget.

No matter what

Don’t forget.

I been listening to HELD Chant And Meditation, LongWaterSong by Marine Mammal Meditations (Toshi with Alexis Pauline Gumbs) on #SoundCloud.

amb: i been listening to ancestors, use me and they just keep saying look back, and look forward, farther back, farther forward. oh and the spell for the present moment – i wrote this with beverly glenn copeland and i sing a variation to myself every day. it helps.