exciting lessons from yes on 2

I woke up this morning thinking about the Yeson2 campaign in Minneapolis. The campaign, instigated and organized by people I adore, was a call to replace their municipal police department with a Department of Public Safety. It was visionary, comprehensive and timely. And they got 44% of the vote.

And I want to say as an outsider, supporter, and abolitionist why I am feeling so inspired by this campaign.

1. The center of the campaign is in movement and community, not in the electoral process.

I have said before that electoral spaces cannot be our political homes. One story of this year’s election is that at this incredibly high stakes moment for our species, the Democratic Party, in an underwhelming repeat of most of its existence, took the road most traveled by (run towards the center right!) and now expects people to be surprised that they ended up in the same place of lost political ground. We live in a corrupted electoral system meant to serve whiteness, serve our nation’s elite, and even as we watch this campaign we know others throughout the nation were shady. As India Walton said of the Buffalo mayoral race, “Every dirty trick in the book was tried against us. We knew that would be the case. When you take on the corrupt and the powerful you can’t expect them to play fair.”

But the heart of Yeson2 was not centered in the electoral process – the electoral process is a way to see tangible results from all the other culture shifting work to demand a humane system of care, protection and justice, work that has been unfolding for years, escalating in the wake of George Floyd’s May 2020 murder. This multipronged work will continue.

2. The campaign used a multitude of tactics and strategies that allowed for broad participation and alliance in solution thinking.

The same energy that took people into the streets last May, confronting the mayor and demanding justice, ran all the way through this campaign. That period of massive protest was informed by both lived experience and by excellent research and historical grounding on the 150 years of punitive policing specifically in Minneapolis. There was well-informed grief and rage in the uprising, and it was harnessed into cultural and political strategy. It was harnessed into visionary organizing that helped people see beyond the righteous NO at the root of last year’s uprisings, through to a possibility, to a YES that would actually make everyone in Minneapolis safer.

3. It was a locally grown experiment advancing a national conversation. The abolition of prisons, policing and punitive justice is a dream that has moved through generations, and Black organizers have escalated it in the face of this past decade of police brutality and killings. In order to take the next steps, we need to create a possibility for people to look at, practice, borrow from and be inspired by. The Department of Public Safety is such a solid proposal – a shift that allows for many experiments to emerge, that focuses on responding to those in mental health and economic crises with compassion and care instead of violence and punishment.

4. It was a pleasure. It was irresistible.

Again, I am speaking as a comrade from afar, but I couldn’t resist this campaign. Everyone I know was excited by it, and many people found ways to participate from a distance, or went to be on the ground. I supported a fun, well organized phone bank with my friends Junauda Petrus and Miski Noor, and, inspired by Junauda, I made a not-tik-tok. I watched well informed, creative videos from Lizzo and Ryan Ken and many others. It was an easy campaign to say yes to and support and to feel great about participating in.

5. The data is clear.

Now the organizers understand exactly where to focus their efforts, who still needs to be invited into this vision, and where the tendency to cling to a dysfunctional system is still stronger than the desire to cocreate something that works. The city is an organizing map, and the cultural shift will continue both in the city and all over the country. When we are working at the level of systems change, we don’t get discouraged by a loss in our first attempt – it’s data.

Understanding just how outstanding the organizers of this work are to have made all of this headway in such a short period of time, I’m thrilled to see what they will do with this data, what pleasurable visionary spaces they will invite us into next, what local experiments they will devise to practice in the here and now with that 44%, what complex strategic community they will build, and how they will continue to grow the center of transformative justice through and beyond the cycle of elections.

dreaming an adjustment

just woke up from an odd little busy work dream. in it I passed president Elizabeth Warren in a hall and showed her the resolution notes of a mediation I had just finished. it was something Black people needed and she didn’t have power over it, just eyes on it. she quickly scanned it and said ‘nice. precise, fair, to the point. good work.’ I felt her partnership. she walked off and I went on to do other dream things.

I woke up like…oh. a Warren presidency would be one I wouldn’t just vote for, but would be proud to serve in some way.

this is as opposed to my current feeling, of not wanting to be associated in any way with the u.s – I’m out of country and feel the mark of the devil on me – of having a president who is disrespected and destructive to everyone I meet. it’s hard enough with a good president, to travel, to feel proud. I know I am a post capitalist who believes in the emergence of many vibrant ecosystems that collaborate to live on this planet, and yet to anyone I meet, I come from a capitalist superpower trying to take all the labor and resources of the world for our own even though we don’t need it, a taker-nation that still has extreme poverty and homelessness (I still rarely see homelessness outside of western nations).

anyway, tangent…i wouldn’t just feel proud to vote for Warren, I’d feel like contributing to her vision, having her contribute to ours. and I feel the same about Sanders.

but something that feels important in this is that if neither of them makes it to the final four, then I will vote for whoever does in the run against drump, because I recognize the difference between this feeling of alignment and desire to serve and my actual citizen duty.

my citizen duty is to give future generations a fighting chance. to protect those who are most vulnerable: our collective children, those from muslim nations, trans people, those living in poverty, those who are deployable, humans who are breathing and thus might be somewhere a gunman lashes out or the climate implodes, etc. my duty is to vote for the best available option to ensure that our basic humanity is given a chance of advancing.

feeling enthusiastic is not a guarantee. it’s a miracle to feel excited about two candidates this far into the race.

I’m reminded that the other morning I ran into someone I respect who is supporting Bernie. we uplifted each other, honored that we’re publicly supporting different candidates, then touched briefly into what we’re learning. there was only respect and interest and a sense of possibility. that’s how I want political engagement to feel. we are fighting over which employee will best suit the needs of an important job. it isn’t political home – we both have those outside of the electoral process, places and people to whom we feel accountable. this is for mass strategy, mass protection, high level policy protection of the communities we love.

purist debate is important, honing how you feel and having a place to practice it fully is important. make sure you have a political home. don’t get that confused with the American experiment, with shaping the conditions of this experiment such that the most vulnerable stand a chance of surviving and changing it themselves. do not make poor people and immigrants and women and our babies the collateral damage of purist ideologies. your theoretical happiness is not more important than the earth’s and species’ tangible survival.

I think that’s all my dream demanded I share with you.

it only needs a million hands

the task before us is impossible
the scale of the many tasks before us is incomprehensible
we cannot agree on the tasks before us into the abyss
there is no way enough of us will change in time
some things may never change
we cannot keep up with the data
and we cannot keep up with the grief
and no one is trustworthy
not all the time
we cannot be trusted with this gorgeous place
with this gorgeous miraculous life

it would take so much direct and real talk
but no one learns that language at birth
it is easier to lie to each other’s faces, to keep quiet
or to rant about nameless villians
and by the time you unlearn lying
and realize the person was never reading your beautifully constructed critique
there is so little time left

and the people in power want a world of walls
and the taste of power, its rotten and sweet-tho
as we argue about how much shit to throw in the sky
and how fast to use up all the earth
and if this miracle is more worthy than the other
some babies grow up to be monsters
we argue about the words someone else used to speak about everything
and we create defiant new languages that we all learn to say
but there are no definitions, and there is no way to hear each other
the surface of the world is shifting, turning to catch the change in a mirror
did we look righteous enough, do we sound radical enough
flitting from flower to philosophical flower, or meme, or crisis
hurting ourselves, as if we are unworthy of this beautiful home

but we are of this place, it is us and home always
and even though we are overstimulated and tired
and there is no way to do what needs to be done
we have done it, and taken deep breaths, and done it again
and so we will do it, by which i mean
give ourselves to it, fully, and faltering, and then a bit more
only ever able to carry our part
learning slowly it is enough, just enough
it only seems impossible
it only needs a million hands