Black Men Are Only Good When We Are Exceptional…Or Dead.

Black Women's Silence Has Never Gotten Us Free, Love.

 

All of this talk about Jay-Z has, not surprisingly, made me feel some kind of way.

I remember getting a call from my friend a few months ago, a Black woman, who lived in the New York at the time. She had been on my mind because she is a fountain of joy overflowing with the strength of truth telling. I wanted to talk to her because someone I cared about had just been sexually assaulted and I needed help processing it. I needed help figuring out how to be supportive.  Before I got a chance to talk with her about my friend, she told me about getting sexually harassed on the subway and she wanted to talk it through with me.

I listened to her story and tried, as best as I could, to be supportive of her. Eventually, she got to the point that all the Black women in my life get to in stories like this. The point where they say “but I just didn’t want to say anything because I feel like Black men are already so attacked right now, you know?” I had heard it before. It was the same reason that the person close to me did not want to report what had happened to her.

I was immediately filled with rage.

The rage of my friends being unsafe. The rage at understanding that these assaults are not isolated incidents. The rage at the reminder that they had just killed Philando Castile and it was not safe to be a Black man in America. But mostly the rage that my persecution was used to silence my sister. Rage that Black men could simultaneously be so monstrous that we need to put down for caring a pen and so fragile that talking about street harassment would tear us asunder. Rage that rage was the only feeling I knew how to feel.

I told my friend the only thing I could: “Black women’s silence has never gotten us free, love.”

To which she replied “But we keep trying it, don’t we.”

We do.

 

“If you are silent about your pain, they will kill you and say you enjoyed it.” –Zora Neale Hurston

 

Black men have survived the middle passage, slavery, sharecropping, Jim Crow and lynching. How have we gotten to the point where we think Black men can’t survive the truth? Black people need Black women to break their silence.

Patriarchy, like all forms of oppression, breeds in isolation. Black people cannot get free if 51% of our people are in chains of a Black man’s making. AND, at the same time, I can’t shake the weight of the reality that Black men are only good when we are exceptional…or dead. And let’s be honest, usually only when we are dead.

I wonder sometimes. Did anyone ever call Mike Brown a good kid to his face, when he was still alive for it to matter? Did we tell Eric Garner he was a good father for doing whatever he could to bring home some change before his daughter told us to organize? Did people tell Trayvon that he had a bright future before a white man robbed him of it? I doubt it happened very often.

Black men are mostly talked about when we ain’t shit, absent or dead. Oh, there’s Idris’s too fine ass or Jessie Williams before he started dating white women… but they are exceptional. We only talk about them in contrast to other men, especially other Black men. The serial rapist Bill Cosby had more Black people capping for his lying ass than any Black man I know personally…because he was exceptional. He used to be exceptionally respectable and now we know he’s exceptionally fucked up.

Again, Black women hold me down. They always have and history has shown that they probably always will. In private, Black men support me while holding me accountable. Yet for the most part, besides my chosen and blood sisters, even the Black women who support me, praise me for being exceptional. I’ve done “the work.” I read bell hooks. I support the women in life in visible ways. I have mastered performative solidarity. I’ve learned how to be what my friend once called “a safe nigga.”

It’s rare that I am told that I’m still worthy of being loved when I’ve fucked up, especially from other men. It’s rare that people remind me, when I come home tired and angry from walking through a white world, that I’m still worthy of being loved. Like my uncle used to say, ain’t no body going to thank you for paying the bills on time, but they sure do holla when it gets shut off.

There is some sad truth to the old Chris Rock joke that niggas always want credit for some shit we supposed to do. Imma be honest. I really need that shit. Part of my on-going journey in overcoming patriarchy is to be in touch with my pain and be real about my needs. I know I am responsible for meeting 80% of my needs myself but that other 20% can be so crucial. I need, and I think Black men as a whole need, some public validation that even when we are alive and unexceptional, we are worthy of love. We need it from Black women and Black GNC folk but mostly, I think we need it from each other.

I think honestly I’d settle for the recognition that these social expectations are literally killing me. Paying the bills on time is a struggle when the bills are more than you make every month.

Sometimes I wish people recognized that the way I used my overdraft protection and post-dated checks like credit is Black boy alchemy. Me and my brothers are stretching a week’s pay to a month’s electricity like an old testament prophet.  I wish people realized that my ability to remind my sisters that they are beautiful despite what society tells them is the art of Black male healing that my grandfather taught me.

I wish that I had been taught that my desire to push people further, to realize their full potential, could be sacred masculinity; that I didn’t have to tear folks down to build them up. I wish we talked more about Black men who didn’t need to drag Black women over the coals in order to heal and get their shit together. I wish we could have a holiday to thank all the Black men whose aggressive posturing towards white people on street corners is the only reason I can afford to live in my neighborhood.

Sometimes I’ve wished that there were more writers like Langston Hughes and James Baldwin. I wish there were more writers who could express their love for me. I wish I could tell all the little Black boys jumping rope and being carefree that they are the real MVP. I wish I was better at telling my own father that I love him. I wish everyone knew him like I did.  I wish I could explain that I forgive him for being so tired every day when he came home…cause the bills were always paid on time. I wish we knew how to do that while recognizing that my mother paid more bills that he did.

I wish there was way to be real about the fact that my mother learned how to carry all that weight and still smile and play puppet games and that the difference in their capacity for affection is real and fucked up and still doesn’t detract from the fact that my dad loved me and showed it. He showed me he loved me in the only way he knew how, until he learned to show it better, to say it better, to apologize for not showing it in healthy ways and do better to love by building us up without tearing us down. I wish we knew how to praise him for learning how to love without losing sight of the system that never taught him.

I believe, and will always believe, that Black women need to speak their truth and their pain. The truth of all those 0-4:33 women show us how much work we have to do. It forces us to be better. But I need our politics to tell the whole story: that we are still good while we are trying to get to better.

I need a politics that acknowledges the Black men who stay, who hold families and communities down. I need a politics that acknowledges the Black men who show up and quietly do the work. I need a politics that can praise Black male charisma as divine and beautiful and necessary even as it challenges its centrality. I need a politics that can hold the reality of rape culture in one hand and the capacity for Black men to address harm without causing more harm in the other. I need a politics that can hold the capacity for violence in Black patriarchy and the reality of Black male growth.

I need a politics that can hold all of me and love me even, maybe especially, when I’m not exceptional.

I need a politics that can love me before I’m dead.

The Rise of the Party for Revolution and Evolution [U.S Social Transformation in the Post War Period]

*this is the third piece of speculation political fiction in a series written with just a hint of satire in the form of a Wikipedia article form the future. You can see the first piece here. The second piece is here. The purpose is imagine what all this craziness from the White House might be building to while envisioning how peace might come out of chaos and tragedy. We should not take Trump’s idiocy or bluster lightly. When the autocrat says he is coming for you believe him! I believe we can prevent violence in the long run if we build for transformation and autonomy now*

 

Overview:

 

The Party for Revolution and Evolution [PRE] is a political party and revolutionary group founded in 2021 in Detroit during WW3. It was founded during a joint effort between the Grace Lee Boggs society, an underground political group prominent in Detroit during the Enlightened Retreat, and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement to take over Detroit’s political establishment. The party rose to prominence by taking the best practices for mass mobilization from several preceding social movements and political campaigns including Occupy, Bernie Sanders failed nomination run and the M4BL and mixing it with a revolutionary analysis of autonomy and transformation. The party was also protected and supported by its clandestine arm, the Maroon Society.

In just four years, the PRE went from an unknown speakeasy in Detroit to a major political party in America. Though the folk narrative focuses on organizers and political agents who have become legend and of the rise of the Maroon Society, most historian agree that the party was an idea whose time had come. Decades of ineffective government culminating in the Bush/Obama cultural war era created mass disillusionment with government that had two sides: apathy and anger. Bernie Sanders had used one in his failed bid to use win the Democratic Party nomination before the enlightened retreat while Donald Trump had used both against each other to get elected.

Beneath this national narrative there was a lot of work being done in smaller local third parties across the country during this time. As the enlightened retreat slowly developed spiritually grounded networks of engaged people at a time when most ideologies from socialism to liberalism were at best not clearly understood or at worst becoming irrelevant, the PRE was able to assemble many long simmering organizing campaigns together with progressive and radical organizations into a political powerhouse based on few revolutionary principles:

  1. Addressing harm without causing more harm
  2. Moving beyond non-violence
    1. Moving away from debates on violence vs. non-violence and towards seeing peace and self-determination as means not just ends
  3. Centering autonomy as interdependence
    1. organizing where you are at, with your people, for your own needs while supporting your neighbors
  4. Centering consent as radical co-creation
    1. Valuing the co-creation of political, economic, social, spiritual and sexual experiences with an eye towards addressing differences in power, resources, desire and ability so that everyone is fully powerful
  5. Repairing harm
    1. Embracing multi-lateral reparations in a diversity of forms for the history of slavery, genocide, mass patriarchal violence, forced migration and accumulation by dispossession
  6. Differential Political Movement
    1. Using the strategies of previous social movements as tactics to build accountable-power-with
    2. Embracing tradition while leaving what no longer serves us behind
  7. Being Holistic
    1. Addressing all issues holistically by simultaneous examining the intrapersonal, interpersonal, communal and structural aspects of a situation
  8. Emergent Strategy of Being
    1. Moving from a problem solving/deficient centered strategy to an emergent strategy based on embodying values and moving towards what we actually want
  9. Moving from a place of love
    1. Being gentle with ourselves so that we can be constructive with others
    2. Focusing on the power of love to remind us of our positive vision of the love, support and joy we want, not merely the hurt we want avenged
  10. Diversity of Strategies
    1. There is no one correct path to liberation. We seek to strengthen every front against oppression not to merely hold a party line. It’s more effective to coordinate everyone contributing the way they know how towards a common goal than to try and convince everyone that you have the one right path.

 

 

The key to these principles were that they were few, straight forward and fractal. It meant that they guided the interactions between individuals as much as they would the U.S government’s relationship to the rest of the world under the nearly 30 year democratic majority rule of the PRE. The principles, along with their strategy of connecting the mutual aid networks that were emerging into regional assemblies quickly made them a powerful alternative political force.

Their non-sectarianism that focused on embodying social/ethical/political values and shared visions for another possible world rather debating over how society is structured allowed for them to encapsulate many divergent political tendencies across the left-center spectrum while constructively engaging moderates on the right. It was also a key to their counter-organizing strategy to out organize far-right elements in the South and West.

Many scholars believe that the true fuel for the rise of the PRE wasn’t even political in the traditional sense. The vast majority of U.S residents cared little for political theory and much more about the food, housing, medical and worker cooperatives that the PRE stitched together. The PRE’s focus on hyper-local community-controlled direct service was its real strength.

Rather than build local mutual aid networks from scratch, PRE organizers applied the self-governing skills they had developed in their speakeasies to help facilitate meetings and complex democratic decision making processes for local groups. They were more conveners, networkers and facilitators than traditional revolutionaries. They linked the small, nearly illegible acts of everyday resistance and mutual aid that communities were already doing on their own into something more intentional on a large scale. Most importantly, they rarely focused on confronting the state they usually just out competed it for legitimacy by better meeting the needs of local people.

 

Political and Economic Context for the Rise of the PRE

For the spiritual and cultural context see the enlightened retreat

The U.S duopoly of Republicans and Democrats were so locked in a pitched battle of name-calling and responsibility shrugging that they neither party had been able to legislate a complete agenda for decades. The only faction that was consistently able to put forward its agenda were the corporate neo-liberals whose desire to deregulate, liberalize and privatize was accepted by both parties in various forms.  Even Presidents Trump bombastic rhetoric against renegotiating the “bad deals” of NAFTA and TPP didn’t lead to any substantial changes to those agreements. In fact, his Infrastructure bill was nearly entirely written for and by neo-liberal billionaires and their supporters.

However, the ongoing competition between individuals of the billionaire class and the political oligarchy of America’s ruling families meant that while they universally recognized the crisis of both capitalism and liberal democracy they had vastly different ideas of how to deal with either. This lack of class unity meant that they were slow to curtail the rise of cooperative economies and mutual aid groups nationally.

Corporations saw the threat to their bottom line but were unwilling to allow any regulatory body authority over business, even if it disproportionately affected their competitors. Attempts by organizations such as ALEC to bring about consensus on how to combat cooperatives was thwarted by the campaigns of corporate sabotage by the Maroon Society and eco-direct action groups like Gaia’s Progeny.

Movement scholar Jasmine Nwampa posited that “corporations were also unprepared for the dramatic shift to organizing at the point of consumption instead of production. Many capitalist saw the crisis of capital coming and assumed that either social democracy or some form of semi-privatized commons would have to be instituted to save industrial capitalist society. They did not expect people to merely take over and transform the market in the way that they did. By the time the writing was on the wall, they busy putting out literal fires up and down their supply chain.”

Most corporations were moving towards flexibility and sense and response supply chains that we able to respond to the market changes in record time. Amazon is a great example of this trend and its ultimate weakness. Amazon sought to use advances in internet usage, cloud storing, off shoring, automation and the gig economy to get cheaply made products, delivered equally cheaply by contractors within hours of being ordered.

They were largely successful in this effort. In addition, they were experts in trying to assess the consumer’s need in real-time and respond in addition to using big data to predict it. Their mass conglomerations of website, T.V stations and newspapers also gave them significant control creating new needs in consumerism while they forced their competitors to sell on their network.

Many contemporary scholars assumed that this model was the model of the future. Many leftist predicted an age of the super corporation that controlled the means of production and the market itself. However, few people foresaw the massive cultural shift away from consumerism that was precipitated by the enlightened retreat. While corporations like amazon were able to push forward the narrative of more and better, the cultural shift towards various self-reflection techniques made people want more autonomy and higher ethical standards in production.

It turns out that simple questions of Americans asking themselves where they hurt and what was causing it turned them away from seeing more consumption as the answer. Matched with corporate sabotage, boycotts and the rise of cooperatives even Amazon’s state of the ark monopoly collapsed into financial ruin.

While national right to work devastated labor unions, the movement for economic justice and self-determination emerged through consumer unions, cooperative associations,  CSA’s and the rise of increased worker-center and alt-labor organizing. Undeniably, the lack of powerful organized labor caused wages to drop severely and workplace accidents to increase just as fast. However, the resulting economic anxiety and anger was first expressed ass wildcat strikes and spontaneous boycotts that disrupted corporations enough to allow for the emergence of consumer unions and worker cooperatives.

Eventually consumer unions started boycotting companies with bad labor practices and launched buying campaigns for worker-owned cooperatives. Similarly, the rise of free-lancers guilds changed the face of the gig economy by widely boosting the desired prevailing wage and training workers on how and why to negotiate higher pay.

The rapidly increasing effects of climate change also devastated the political establishment and corporations. This time period in history saw an increase in massive natural disasters that devastated cities across the U.S. The Ryan Regime privatized FEMA in response to the abysmal job FEMA did during the Hurricane Jasmine humanitarian crisis of 2021. While ‘crisis capitalism’ saw an opportunity in climate change, they were out organized by far more effective mutual aid systems.

Meanwhile the rich paid millions of dollars for ex-special forces to extract them from climate change ‘red zones,’ the poor built environmental defense teams, survival camps and developed mesh networks that could be booted up in a crisis. Integration of the Rising Tide and Occupy Sandy networks with the PRE expanded these programs while building an effective alternative to both corporation and the state which in turned caused more people to turn to mutual aid.

Lastly, the PRE was also able to escape the brunt of political repression of the era due to federal government and corporative interest’s pre-occupation with combating the maroon society and by counter recruiting against fascist and white nationalist elements. The PRE’s greatest success was in creating the illusion that the PRE and the Maroon society were two separate and mutual antagonist organizations. However, it is now known that the Maroon Society was the clandestine arm of the PRE throughout most of its history. Not only were many Maroon Society members PRE members but the PRE funneled money to the Maroon Society and turned a blind eye when Maroons took refuge in their houses of hospitality.

Most historians agree that the Maroon Society created the political opportunities that the PRE took advantage of. The Maroon Societies devastating campaign of industrial sabotage, agit-prop campaigns, and prison/detention center breaks deeply unsettled the Ryan Regime and prevented them from ever consolidating power. The Maroon Societies “Rainbow Coalition” also counter recruited so effectively that White Supremacist organizations that were so powerful during the Unending March were marginal just six years later. For more on the Maroon Society visit “The Second American Revolution.”

 

 

General Strikes

 

The beginning of the end of the Enlightened Retreat was the general strike of the defense industry in 2021. Most scholars agree that the general strikes helped set the ground work for the PRE. The strike was organized by collaboration between the East Coast chapters of the Black Lives Matter [BLM] Network who partnered with International Workers of the World [IWW] across the country. While most historians agree that the general strike only effected a handful of factories and did not significantly threaten the war effort they also agree that it was a major symbolic victory.

It showed the maturation of the fight for racial justice with one the first major multi-racial attacks against racialized capitalism and imperialism. It also gave an example of effective organizing to all the networks of mutual aid that had been building over the last 3 years.

The subsequent trial of the BLM leaders was meant to instill fear in other dissidents. The leaders of the campaign were pulled from their houses at night and brutally detained. The police feared brutality against young white people would back fire against the state, especially considering that the IWW had their largest presence on elite college campuses that were doing Department of Defense research. Thus they rounded up the white IWW organizers gently and in secret. This tactic actually backfired as it showed blatant racism and racial disparities of policing as well as deep class differences.

Attorney General Rudolf [Ruddy] Giuliani charged the organizers with treason, a tactic that was meant to scare off further organizing but seemed more like government overreach as the penalty for treason was death. The trial was the most watched television event of the century and rather than discourage protests it inspired them across the country. The BLM leaders who were sentenced to life in prison all became leaders in the Maroon Society after their storied prison break in 2022.

As dead American men and women returned home from WW3, the organizing within the defense industry got more and more wide spread. After Teen Vogue released an exposé on the U.S government’s use of South African contract killers in the oil fields of Nigeria, public opinion turned against the war sharply. Despite the motion to bring back the draft failing in the house, the U.S saw anti-war protests that far outstripped the Vietnam era.

The speakeasies of the enlightened retreat planned strikes and rallies just as they had the rolling black outs. They sent messages through the farmer’s marches and during concerts. In later years, PRE workers organized churches to created packed lunch services for the workers on Easter Sunday and placed pamphlets that said “The lord commanded ‘thou shalt not kill’ don’t do the devils work for him. Strike for Peace and God on May 1st.”

Many PRE chapters sprung up in response to these mobilizations after the D.C PRE merged the analysis of the party with their own mass organizing trainings in 2023. The synergy of the PRE guiding principles with the DAT analysis that had gained popularity during the Enlightened Retreat allowed for thousands of activists to learn how to effectively organize and build political, economic and cultural power.

This allowed for distributed organizing on a massive scale as each city ran its own team of organizers coordinating thousands of volunteers also running their own campaigns. After three consecutive years of month long general strikes in the month of May, it was estimated that 35% of the industries workers took part and the United States signed the Beijing Accords ending WW3 in 2025.

 

Down But Not Out: Labor Unions and the PRE

For more on the Labor Movement in the 2020’s and 2030’s see the 21st Century Knights of Labor

 

Though devastated by National Right to work legislation, traditional labor unions played a significant role in the rise of the PRE. Most notably, the reconstructed Knights of Labor utilized solidarity unionism on an international level. Historian Stuart Le’Mark surmises their shift during the period thusly “previously ‘international unions’ weren’t actually that international at all. They usually meant the U.S and part of Canada. They were generally based on a model that could be summed at using the dues of 90% of the workers to focus on 10% of the workers; the 5% of that are active and the 5% that get in trouble. After national right to work, unions transitioned to a more worker center model of training working activists.

They disrupted production through direct action, mostly blockades on the entrances of workplaces and strategic slowdowns in which one or two key workers would stage a protest that prevented the other workers from working. Often they would do protests in stages, so that production would be disrupted for a whole day. Though much shorter than traditional strikes or slowdown’s, the shift to immediate delivery of products meant that companies could lose millions if products were delivered after their 3 hour guarantee.”

Additionally, groups like the Knights of Labor worked with organizations that managed to survive right to work like United Electricians and the Nurses Union to fund the organizing of workers further down the production line in countries that were termed “third world.” Unions were able to send money to worker centers and unions in other countries where a worker made several times less than a U.S worker and pay a whole factory to go on strike for a week.

Often times, these would be tied with boycott’s and slowdowns in the U.S. Eventually, the Knights of Labor would organize international strikes, factory blockades and work with free-lancer guilds to disrupt the gig economy that many companies relied on. These combined attacks were paired with combined demands that crossed sections of a company and locations across the world. Eventually, Knights of Labor and groups like Gaia’s Progeny would collaborate to make demands on entire industries.

All told, the smaller but still resurgent economic justice movement put capital on the defense for the first time in decades just as they seemed their most triumphant. Corporations were unable to rebound in time to stop the rise of the cooperative movement.

 

Accomplishments of the early PRE

 

By the formal end of the War in 2025, the PRE had 40 congressional seats, 6 senate seats, 10 mayoral positions, and the governorship in California. While it would not get a majority until 2030, its economic and cultural cooperatives fundamentally reshaped the country. The PRE had massive political power and used it to lobby governments at the local, state and federal level. Its deep cultural base and value of participatory democracy politicized its membership more effectively than any America political party since the communist party of the 30’s. Yet the real strength of the PRE was in the alternatives to the government it fostered.

PRE chapters run soup kitchens, childcare centers and crisis prevention teams across the country. Borrowing from the Catholic Worker Movement, chapters ran houses of hospitality that provided both affordable housing and refuge for immigrants on the Underground Railroad. The PRE’s great strength was working with ordinary Americans and taking the next step. They didn’t try to politicize people into their analysis, rather they went into communities, saw people helping each other out and asked if they could support them in any way. The mass radicalization happened mostly due to police repression. As grandmothers who opened up their homes to orphaned children were arrested, communities become more militant than any reading group or manifesto could have made them.

The PRE’s task was merely to build the infrastructure to support and develop people who were being radicalized and grow the techniques to coordinate all the projects they self-organized.  This was no small task. It was accomplished largely due to traveling facilitators and popular education teachers of the era. These trainers [often called griots in Black communities] went from city to city observing successful mutual aid programs, writing about them online and traveling to other cities to teach people how to do them. Cooperation Jackson and the British Columbia Cooperative Network played a leading role in creating best practices for cooperative development.

Due to the repression of the Ryan Regime and Proud Boy Brigades, these trainers were often travelling artists or Djays who used their art to cover the political nature of their work. Their teach-ins would often happen after the show. Some troupes like the Puppet Posse, incorporated their political education into the art itself. Despite these precautions, these traveling artist were the most often detained revolutionary actors of the period and would later become leaders of the prison riots of the 2030’s.

Most of the political accomplishments of the early PRE were at the local level. The massive increase in social engagement after the Enlightened Retreat kicked off a revolution in governance and civil society often called the “Civic Renaissance.” The PRE ended bans of rent control, instituted new local tax codes for consumer and worker cooperatives and abolished bail and ticketing as alternative sources of municipal income.

As a result, worker cooperatives went from barely statistically relevant in 2018 to nearly 20% of the economy in 2030 playing the same role in raising wages as unions formerly did. Many areas raised local corporate tax rates and, with the Financial Services Reform Act of 2026, established public banks and credit unions so that city budget would no longer be tied Wall Street’s whims. The PRE followed the blue-print in the Jackson Kush Plans and the Gar Alperovitz’s Pluralist Common Wealth for their local development schemes.

Many localities had radical experiments with different financial and political institutions. Seattle, D.C and Montgomery County all passed participatory budgeting of at least 15% of the budget in 2025. By 2035, 30 major American cities based similar initiatives. The entire states of Washington, California, New York and Connecticut developed land bonds that paid for public housing throughout the state. Oakland, CA, Jackson M.S and Washington D.C all passed Community Control Board for their police departments in 2027 and by 2035 this was a standard practice in most cities.

Healthcare saw one of the most complete overhauls under after the end of the Enlightened Retreat. The Nurses Union emerged as one of the strongest unions after national right to work legislation devastated the AFL-CIO. The nurses unions were pivotal parts of many of the community controlled direct service providers at the time and helped move America towards the Burtzorg model of homecare used in the Netherlands.

The National Patients Association was founded in 2027 as a federation of local patient care groups that forced major concessions from hospitals and insurances companies by launching a medical bill payment strike in 2028-2029. They forced hospitals and insurers to agree to medical patient’s bills of rights, which capped costs, made many services nearly free and forced insurance companies to pay for non-western medical treatments at the patients’ request.

Due to rise of Freedom Schools during the enlightened retreat and the abolition of the Department of Education under President Ryan, many localities passed voucher programs that allowed parents to choose which school to send their children and in many cases provided startup money for “small community schools” administered by local PTA’s.

When the Department of Education was re-established in 2032, 25% of children went to alternative schools of some form. Instead of returning to old system of public education, the PRE invested heavily in parent education and organizing and strengthened local parent associations and mandated parent centers at every school that received voucher money. With increased flexibility religious schools, free schools and ethno-centric educations became much more common to mixed results.

By 2040 however, there was revitalization of the American education system. With a decrease in consumerism, increase in the average wage and wide spread rent control parents had much more time to engage with their child’s education. With the mandated parent centers at each school, neighborhoods developed support systems to educate parents and support them in guiding their own children’s education.

This led to an informed community driven school model that changed from testing based, high pressure schooling to more project based learning that focused on nurturing whole children. The emphasis on math and science was replaced by an emphasis on emotional learning, appreciate inquiry and conflict resolution. As the technical aspect of educations was destressed, America saw arise in apprenticeship programs and comprehensive job training for college graduates.

In the 2020’s consumer organizing started to play a larger role in corporate regulation as organizations like Safe Food Network and Consumers Against Sweat Shops launched boycott and buy campaigns that created new markets for Fair Trade, Sustainable and High Wage industries throughout the United States. In the 2030’s, worker centers launched worker defense teams that fought for higher wages and better conditions on the shop floor. The consumer protection act of 2030 gave legal sanction and funding to these activities so worker centers, free-lancer guilds, and consumer unions replaced Worker Unions as the backbone of the economic justice movement. By 2040, the sustainable, fair trade goods produced with high labor standards had become the norm.

The progressive development of the United States was fairly uneven though much of this period and republican control areas in the American South and Midwest hampered much of the PRE’s work. However, with the election of 2030, the PRE took control of both houses of the federal government while the Democrats controlled the presidency until the election of Kelly Hadad in 2036.

With control of the House, the PRE immediately checked executive power by repealing the War Powers Act and Patriot Act in February of 2031. The PRE went on to slowly devolve much of their federal authority to states while increasing federal protections for marginalized people. Once in control of the U.S. government, the PRE would become well known and revered for its bottom up strategy to dealing with the catastrophic effects of climate change.

The PRE strategy of “empowering the people” revolutionized the role of the government in society as its general assemblies pushed for a constantly devolving of federal and eventually state authority to local mass assemblies. Often times the PRE politicians were at odds with the will of the people’s assemblies yet because the PA’s were the core of the party they won nearly every political disagreement.

 

The Enlightened Retreat: U.S Social Movements from 2018-2025

*this is the second piece of speculation political fiction written with just a hint of satire written in the form of a Wikipedia article form the future. You can see the first piece here. The purpose is imagine what all this craziness from the white house might be building to while envision how peace might come out of chaos and tragedy. We should not take Trump’s idiocy or bluster lightly. When the autocrat says he is coming for you believe him! I believe we can prevent violence in the long run if we build for transformation and autonomy now*

Overview:

 

The Enlightened Retreat, often called the DAT Revolution, is name of the powerful social movement that led to the fall of U.S Empire in the period of beginning with the Unending March and the end of WW3.  The great retreat was a direct result of the mass arrests and political show trials against socialist, communist, feminist, anti-racist and anti-imperialist organizers and artist during the Trump-Ryan political crisis of 2017-2021. Unlike the repression of the 1950’s which marginalized American communism by making it un-American, the brutality of the wave of repression in the pre-war years, combined with the deep community building in the U.S oppositional organizing lead to a mainstreaming of autonomous and transformative local organizing.

Due to fact that most political speech ended in jail time after the inauguration of President Paul Ryan following the impeachment of President Trump and resignation of Vice President Mike Pence and the economic down turn following the student loan and rental housing bubble bursting in 2018, most political dissidents went from protesting the government to building small communities of care and support. This often took the form of soup-co-ops, group housing and rapid response medical and mental health care. As housing insecurity due to loan repayments became wide spread, “take back the land” campaigns become more and more common in major Urban Areas as displaced people started squats in their own rental units.

The cultural practices of Block Parties and “Free Markets” where people shared food, music and unneeded clothes and supplies with their neighbors slowly became the mainstream as overt political speech was heavily monitored and the economic crises deepened. Eventually, larger scale cooperatives and community sourced agriculture networks started to develop as the gas shortages from the Qatar crisis lead to increased prices on food imports.

Political organizers started printing off political pamphlets and convincing CSA vendors and block party organizers to distribute them in the food and clothing giveaways at their events. As these critical connections developed, organizers would ask residents of a neighborhood to turn off their lights from 8:30-9:00pm, a tactic latter called “rolling Black outs.” The Black outs were massive acts of political disobedience that were low risks to residents but sent a clear message to government. Though they were tolerated by the local police who were still reeling from the massive Black Bloc demonstrations in Oakland, Detriot and Portland and the Afrikan blocs in Jackson, M.S and Washington D.C in 2019, it was widely believed that these small acts of wide spread solidarity, gave everyday residents the courage to take back the streets years later. Despite the increase in protests from preceding the Enlightened Retreat, the number of overt street protests went from nearly 4,000 in 2018 to 7 in 2021.

The rapid decline in street protests and the shift from digital communication to old fashion newspaper printing combined with the a disarray in the FBI and homeland security following the haphazard management by the Trump administration created the allusion of a U.S populace shocked into compliance. This allowed for a remarkable amount of cultural and spiritual organizing to happen without much confrontation by the state.

The first general strike of the defense industry in 2021, was organized by the D.C speakeasy through pamphlets at regional block parties distributed by traveling DJ’s and hip hop groups on tour. The speakeasies, or underground social clubs, where organizers meet in secret to plan campaigns and write their political pamphlets, often became the chapter hubs for the leadership of the Party of Revolution and Evolution that would grow to power after WW3.

 

The Call for Retreat

 

Most historians mark the start of the Great Retreat with the distribution of the anonymous essay “the way out is in, together” in January 2018 after the mass arrests of protestors in Portland, OR. The essay, or memo as it was called at the time, called for a “deep collective grounding in our own desire for connection, loving touch, joy  and freedom that can fuel the fire we need to burn down the aspects of the system that no longer serve us.” The essay argued the personal was political and spiritual. It resonated with many by speaking to the deep alienation that neo-liberal capitalism instilled in advanced industrial societies while connecting that feeling and spiritual sense of loss to structures of oppression. Marvin Jeffries, who would later help organize the 2023 general strike famously posited that “the memo gave us language to discuss a problem we were too afraid to let ourselves feel, while showing us that we were not alone in feeling it and we were not feeling it because of our individual actions but rather a system that was producing specific conditions of pain.”

By the time President Paul Ryan began ordering the mass arrests of 2019, the essay was well known among U.S organizers. That year it was common for posters with graphic representations of the main ideas of the essay to be wheatpasted by young dissidents at the sites of disappearances of organizers or mass arrests after political demonstrations. As protests dwindled in winter of 2019 and beginning of 2020, the posters became popular decorations at church revivals, farmers markets and block parties across the country. After the re-authorization of the Patriot Act in May of 2020 made the distribution of the posters a felony, they often lost their overt political content and took on a more overly spiritual tone which ironically allowed them to resonate with aspects of the Christian community that should have been a natural base for Ryan regime.

In this same period, the new monostatic movement of young Christians was reaching its height as rising housing insecurity and gas prices mixed with erratic weather to force many people into communal living situations. As always, desperate times called for theologies of escape as well as theologies of liberation. This helped popularize a less formally religious but deeply socially engaged spirituality that spurred revivals of Judaism, mass conversions to the Baha’i faith and an increase in socially engaged practitioners of American Buddhism particularly the Order of Interbeing.

 

The Revolution Was [Partially] Funded

 

Perhaps the most surprising role of the Enlightened Retreat was the role the philanthropic community played in it. Throughout most of its history previously, philanthropic organization were heavily tied to interests of the ruling elite. Their role had traditionally been to stop capitalism from being too brutal by providing for some basic human services the state would not and channeling righteous anger of oppressed people to movements of reform from within current political and economic frameworks so that all social change rarely threatened the status quo of the ruling class.

Not surprisingly, the rise of “progressive” billionaire philanthropist like Mark Zuckerburg and Bill Gates who criticized government austerity programs and inequality actually fueled conservatives in government dismantling the welfare state by showing that they would donate in proportion to the increased need created by cuts in government spending. Their charity actually played well into the argument that it is “civil society’s” responsibility to care for the poor and not the government. Thus, when the housing bubble burst in 2018 and the Trump administration responded with tax cuts and corporate buy-outs, the top 20% of the wealthiest Americans saw an increase in wealth while the bottom 80% saw a substantial decrease. Therefore, the amount of money in Philanthropic communities increased dramatically while the class of middle class white people who managed the social service organizations that received most of that money now saw themselves eligible for the services they delivered.

While the privatizations of social services had tremendously devastating effects on services as workers lost wages and protections, it also significantly decentralized the how social services were provided. In perhaps one of the era’s deepest ironies, the privatization did in fact allow for more innovation but not more neo-liberal individualization.

The shrinking of the middle class ironically transformed social service delivery because they people who needed services were now mainstream and no longer just marginalized communities. This precipitated the rise of the community directed service model designed to empower formerly middle class white communities that quickly made its way into urban cores around the country. Like the embattled communist who entered unions in the 40’s and 50’s, the anti-racist, anti-authoritarians of the enlightened retreat who managed to avoid jail time entered direct service organizations in droves. These influx in former political activist radicalized the industry in unexpected ways. Perhaps the most profound change was the shift from top down, massively hierarchical organized to more self-managed teams doing hyper local service provision.

These hyper local teams of food trucks, health workers and small mental health clinics developed actual relationships with the community. While the overall racial, gender and class hierarchies and pay disparities remained [frontline staff being mostly underpaid women of color] the staff in the communities had much more autonomy than they had as government workers. Many of these front-line staffers were friends and relatives to members of the more overtly political and thus clandestine speakeasies of the era. They would end up playing a critical role in distributing the political pamphlets and often became block captains for the PRE during elections.

The Black communities who were the most devastated by social service cuts became the most invested in mutual aid programs. Due to America’s historic segregation, the Black middle class saw itself once again surrounded by poverty. However, due to the lack of overt discrimination in many industries, the Black upper class retained much of income despite losing much of its wealth in the housing bubble. This ironically put the Black middle class in position of having the income to donate to social improvement, while redlining and discrimination in housing loans meant that they were unable to leave and needed to find alternative ways to have economic security outside building family wealth.

These conditions, combined with the decentralization of social services meant that Black people’s economic situation and political cohesion started to look nearly identical to how it looked at the beginning of the civil right movement. However, six years of solid M4BL organizing and increase of overt anti-Black racism meant that institutions like the NAACP and the Urban League were open to a Black politics that centered cross class solidarity rather than respectability politics. Once again, the line between the elite assimilationist Black politics and more radical, often nationalist Black politics, was  blurred as it had been 50 years before. So while philanthropic communities still gave little to overtly political social groups [some of which had also become illegal with the re-authorization of the patriot act] the established Black groups they gave the majority of their money to were much more willing able to pass some of that money onto clandestine activities. With the elimination of the IRS and increase of allowances of political activity by religious groups passed through the Tax Revision Act of 2020, this funnel from rich philanthropist to clandestine organizing groups became even more prosperous.

Prominent contemporary scholar Jasmine Banks noted that “we often forget how absurd the old political and economic order was. It would be inaccurate to say that the progressive wealthy class acted against their monetary interests because of the moral evil of inequality. Rather, they worked towards their material interests by supporting an expanded safety net versus risking the inevitable attempts to address inequality through violence that had been the strategy of the disposed for centuries. The fact that the safety net led to the co-operative economy that would replace capitalism was not something they would have foreseen and, honestly, happened on a timeline that the crisis of liberal society did not allow them to think on.”

 

The Rise of the Political Speakeasies

 

Just as prohibition had given rise to organized crime so did the combination of laws prohibiting anti-government protesting but expanding the ability of religious institutions to do political work give rise to an underground political resistance movement. These speakeasies evolved from informal gatherings were people met in national parks, community swimming pools, YMCA’s or other places where people with little disposable income could gather and be social together. It just so happened that many of these gathering spaces were places where you could be relatively sure of little government surveillance to vent and complain about the government. As the economic crisis worsened low cost activities like reading groups, potlucks, and rent parties that Black and Latinx people would throw to raise money for their rent, became more and more common.

Organizers who managed to escape the purges would often find each other at these gatherings and form small little pods or affinity groups of closeted dissidents. Overtime, they began to have their own gatherings that were spread through word of mouth or embedded in geo-cashes by hackers. Participants would show up, dump their phones in cooper and lead lined box and hang out together. The vast majority of speakeasies were barely even politically but allowed for people to “thumb their noses” at the repressive government. In places like Miami, Houston and L.A. these speakeasies give rise to the Cabal movement of small dance clubs where people escaped the Puritanatical politics of the Ryan Regime through juking, grinding and twerking.

Most cities however, had two or three regular speakeasies, often differented by racial, class, and sexual expression of the participants, that were overtly political. While these identity differences often times caused conflicts, there was generally enough of a sense of a common enemy and pre-existing relationships across groups that they could work together. In larger urban cores like NYC, D.C, and Oakland, there were often dozens of such groups that were often coordinated through spokescouncils or steering committees. Out of fear of repression, these groups generally worked to find and support comrades who had been imprisoned or deported.

Inspired by political activity in Palestine during the first Intifada however, they began to use the emerging network of direct service provides, CSA’s and block parties to launch their “rolling black outs”  and other demonstrations of civil disobedience. The clandestine nature of their work and their prefigurative, anarchist influenced politics, meant that they had to developed new ways of self-governance across racial, gender and class differences that didn’t require 6 hour meetings which would have been suspicious.

Perhaps one of their most enduring developments was political hand dancing. Inspired by Black culture in D.C., Maryland and Virginia as well as the slaves who developed Capoeira in Brazil, political hand dancing allowed for communication of complex group decision to debated and accepted in real time without speaking. Originally developed as a warning system for police raids and as way to coordinate evacuating hideouts and delegating the destruction of materials on the fly, political hand dancing or the clapping game become a crucial tool for coordinating the silent Afrikan blocs during the general strikes.

By utilizing complexity theory, hip hop culture and musical theory the clapping game was used much like war drums of earlier eras yet the call and response, “remix” and beat dropping allowed for the “orders” to be decided by swarm intelligence. Affinity groups self-organized themselves into sensors, responders and facilitators. Each role has its sound: sensors clapped, responders drummed on whatever was available while facilitators hummed or sang well known songs to different rhythms.  Sensors role were to sense police presence and warn others of raids, kettling practices or general police movement. Responders developed responses to the sensors, often directing people to go to specific hideouts [each with their own beat] or to scatter. Facilitators had two roles one was to create noises that made it hard for the police to follow what was going one and two was communicate the meanings of the different codes that the responders were using.

The codes used were often determined by whatever songs were being played by speakeasy DJays or with new lyrics that often used inside jokes, movement slang and elaborate metaphors to refer to places that speakeasies met. The complex system allowed for groups to utilize swarm intelligence to evade the police even when leaders were arrested or not decided before had. Due to its relatively simple rules and communal nature, versions of the clap game become wide spread. The rules of the clap game were innovated on time and time again to be more effective. The decentralized network and self-referential nature of the code also made it secure as the police would have be incredible skilled at the game in addition to understanding the codes to counteract in real time.

While the clap game was the most famous innovation of self-governance it was hardly the only one. In many areas, CSA were coordinated into regional council for food distribution, women’s councils were created above ground to deal with street harassment and underground to provide clandestine reproductive health after the family values act was passed in 2020 severely limited reproductive choice. As the police force become more and more overtly political, the justice system lost more and more legitimacy. Eventually, speakeasies were created to do restorative circles for community violence ranging from theft, to domestic partner violence to arson.

In Detroit, the speakeasies spokes council partnered with the Malcolm X grassroots movement to create the Party of Revolution and Evolution [PRE] in 2021. In just three years, the PRE utilized a decentralized “movement DNA” system to create chapters around the country that began building larger networks of mutual aid and eventually taking over local governments across the country.

 

Aftermath

 

The beginning of the end of the Enlightened Retreat was the general strike of the defense industry in 2021. The strike was organized by collaboration between the East Coast chapters of the Black Lives Matter [BLM] Network who partnered with International Workers of the World [IWW] across the country. While most historians agree that the general strike only effected a handful of factories and did not significantly threaten the war it was a major symbolic victory. It showed the maturation of the fight for racial justice with one the first major multi-racial attacks against racialized capitalism and imperialism. It also gave an example of effective organizing to all the networks of mutual aid that had been building over the last 3 years.

The subsequent trial of the BLM leaders was meant to instill fear in any other dissidents. The leaders of the campaign were pulled from their houses at night and brutally detained. The police feared brutality against young white people would back fire against the state, especially considering that the IWW had their largest presence on elite college campuses that were doing Department of Defense research. Thus they rounded up the white IWW organizers gently and in secret. This tactic actually backfired as it showed blatant racism and racial disparities of policing as well as deep class differences.

The attorney general Rudolf Giuliani charged the organizers with treason, a tactic that was meant to scare off further organizing but seemed more like government overreach as the penalty for treason was death. The trial was the much watched television event of the century and rather than discouraged protests it inspired protest across the country.

 

 

The Unending March [An Alternative History of Trumpism]

*this is a piece of speculation political fiction with just a hint of satire written in the form of a Wikipedia article form the future. The purpose is imagine what all this craziness from the white house might be building to while envision how peace might come out of chaos and tragedy. We should not take Trump’s idiocy or bluster lightly. When the autocrat says he is coming for you believe him! I believe we can prevent violence in the long run if we build for transformation and autonomy now*

Overview:

 

The Unending March.

The Unending March, also called the Bloody March or the March of Blood, is a series of mass arrests and political purges carried out by the Federal Order of Police and the Proud Boy Brigades in January of 2019. It was part of Donald Trump’s attempt to consolidate power ahead of the Calexit, as the California Succession movement was then known. Despite its legacy as the beginning of political purge of the American left, most of the causalities were actually political moderates and rival members of the Republican Party and the armed forces. The most famous killing was the public execution of the 26th Secretary of the Department of Defense James Norman “Jim” Mattis by John Carver Johnson on January 30th during a press conference.

The Term “Unending March” comes from a speech by then Vice President Mike Pence who, at the March for American Patriots on January 20, 2019 said that “believers in America liberty most [sic] not allow social degenerates to rule our streets. In response to marches of feminist and queers we need an unending march of American patriots in every city of this great country.” After the bombings of the New York and Chicago subway systems later that afternoon were blamed on queer anarchist supposedly funded by ISIS, the coalition of white nationalist and anti-immigrant groups called the American People’s Army began making internet memes calling for mass violence against LGBTQ people, Arabs, Muslims and Black Lives Matter activists using the phrase “Unending March.”

The morning after the bombings President Donald Trump attempted to institute a nationwide martial law despite there being fewer than 10 casualties and the suspects being quickly identified and apprehended by local police departments. On January 22nd, Secretary Mattis said that he felt a nationwide martial law was completely uncalled for given the circumstances and recommended that the America people try to heal the divides that had been growing under the Trump administration through “understanding and respectful dialogue.” This in turn caused Donald Trump to publically call for Mattis’ resignation, though he later backtracked on that call after the Joint Chiefs of Staff issued a statement against marshal law.

The newly appointed head of the Federal Order of Police, Edwardo Pena, was tasked by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to “root out the enemy where ever he may be.” Edwardo Pena began working through his newly created office to coordinate the national police response through the Fraternal Orders of Police. Though this coordination would be later ruled unconstitutional, Edwardo was able to coordinate the arrest and detention of over 10,200 activist, organizers and journalist who had been flagged under the now infamous “Law and Order” program which monitored protestors. These mass arrests triggered wide spread protests which eventually became uprisings in 13 cities.

Memo’s leaked by Wiki Leaks in 2020 later revealed that the Uprisings had been planned by the Trump Administration who increased militarized policing through the so called “War on Drugs” while eliminating human services spending hoping that the increase in crime would justify even more authoritarian actions by the administration. Despite the chaos, many Democratic and moderate republican governors and mayors refused to call in the National Guard to stop the uprisings. This led to the American People’s Army to call for a mass mobilization across the country which eventually led to the paramilitary group attacking politicians and military leaders who were openly critical of the Trump regime.

Over 300 hundred movement leaders, politicians and military leader were killed in the ensuing chaos. Though it has never be substantiated, it is widely believed that members of Donald Trump’s administration provided the paramilitary forces with names and locations of individuals to target. A series of memos leaked to the British magazine The Guardian, later known as the Trump papers or red papers, did confirm that Donald Trump personally ordered Edwardo Pena to target activists with whom he had personal enmity towards including members of the group Black Lives Matter. These memos would later led to Donald Trump’s impeachment, the resignation of Mike Pence and the criminal trials of Jeff Sessions and Edwardo Pena.

Many scholars believe that the Unending March would have sparked a Second American Civil War had the World War 3 not started with the Invasion of Qatar 6 months later and following UN Syrian Resolution Crisis in the winter. The uprisings in American cities continued for many months including the D.C uprising in May of 2019 which forced the inauguration of President Paul Ryan to retreat to Camp David and resulted in the burning of the capital building by the newly established Maroon Society.

 

Calexit and Anti-Trumpism

 

Donald Trump was elected in the “Stolen Election of 2016” in which a confluence of the archaic Electoral College system, massive voter repression by the Republican Party, Russian political influence, an apathetic electorate and the first use of psychometrics in an American election. He lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes and was inaugurated under mass protests as the least popular America president in history. Though modern scholars generally classify the Donald Trump administration as a plutocratic kleptocracy it was widely seen as proto-fascist by its contemporaries. The rise of “Trumpism” as it was called, coincided with a rise in the American left, particularly in the anti-authoritarian and anti-racist tendencies as many Americans began to view liberalism and conservatism as two parts of the same problem that caused the years of political dysfunction that had preceded Trump.

The left leaning and most populous American state of California, now part of the Western American Maroon Society, voted in 2018 to have a special election on California succession. This vote came after a heated legal battle over California’s right to stop payments to the federal government which had threatened to bankrupt the country just a few months before. In addition, the two years of Trump’s administration saw months of mass mobilizations against his agenda. This period of America history would later be dubbed the “Era of Marches”, due to the 26 marches on Washington with over 6,000,000 people that the period saw.

Trump’s attacks on women, people of color, LGBTQ communities and immigrants also lead to an historical level of cross community political activity that was rare for America at the time. After the federal government shut down of 2018 over the debt ceiling and subsequent human service crisis, this period also saw the beginning of the autonomous community organizing that would later form the basis of the War World III era Maroon Societies. The growing strength of all of these movements had led to growing bi-partisan establishment call for Trump’s impeachment.

 

Military Opposition to Trumpism

 

Despite his nationalist rhetoric, Trump was unable to coalesce military support around his presidency. While sentient beings today can’t imagine a “just military,” at the time, the U.S. military had seen itself a force for peace and stability in the world in which America led alliance kept threats at bay. Therefore Donald Trump’s short-sighted isolationism and chaotic behavior did not endear him to the military. In addition, Trump was loathe to actually listen to current military leadership and tended to rely on retired and often disgraced military leaders for consul. Therefore, those in the military who might have otherwise been emendable to his “America first” isolationism were often at odds with him for more personal reasons. Even Marine Corps, which had supported Trump’s ill planned invasion of the Philippines in March of 2018 had lost faith in him by the beginning of his third year in office.

Rank and file soldiers however were consistently opposed to the Trump administration. Even before the heavily causalities of the invasion of Manila, the rank a file U.S military had protested the White House’s defunding of veteran services. With much of the logistical support roles in the military being privatized and the controversial and short lived 12-20 program that allowed mercenary soldiers to command U.S. troops, the rank and file soldier was often of low rank and lower pay. Without the typical veteran and active duty support programs and the skyrocketing price of food do the trade wars with Mexico and China, many scholars believe that the U.S. military was nearly mutinous by the end of his term. Fragging of mercenary officers’ quarters was wide spread during Operation Island Thunder and only increased after the Bay of Manila disaster.

 

Aftermath

 

The majority of Americans were unsure of which news sources and leaders to trust after the initial terrorist attacks in New York and Chicago. As the crisis deepened, most Americans lost trust in mainstream media completely and started to see the dangers of the continual war on terror. However, rather than spurring a movement against the surveillance state, the lack of trust actually allowed the Ryan administration to launch an attack against progressives and radicals that far eclipsed the McCarthy years. When the rumors of night raids and detention centers were first confirmed by the NYT and even fox news, most Americans were no longer heeding news organizations.

It wasn’t until the Teen Vogue’s coverage of the treason trials of the leadership of Black Lives Matter after they organized a symbolically successful strike of the defense industry in May of 2021 that most Americans began tuning back into national media sources. Before the Trump administration, Teen Vogue was not seen as a news agency but by the end of WW3 it was the most respected source of investigative journalism in the world.

Overall, shock of the unending march and resulting political turmoil was devastating to the American psyche. Many leftist organizers went underground and began organizing small affinity groups of mutual aid. Alexis Pauline Gumbs, in her 2025 book “The time of great unlearning” called this period the “enlightened retreat” after an anonymous memo written at the time called “the way out is in, together.” The shift from disruptive politics to mutual aid politics ended in the general strikes of 2022 and 2023 with the rise of Differential Autonomous Transformative [DAT] ecosystem organizing. By the time of the 2024 general strike, the American left [through decentralized and relatively young] was the largest political block in America. They successful ended WW3 with a general strike reminiscent of the communist in WW1.

Despite the shock and trauma of the nearly 10 year period, DAT ecosystems focus of healing and transformation lead to a marked increase in international cooperation and what would later be called “progressive globalization.” The Party of Revolution and Evolution [the PRE] would come to power in the U.S. in 2024 and stay in power until the dissolution of the United States, and all other nation-states, through “World without Border” U.R. resolution in 2044.

The World Without Border’s [WWB] resolution is considered by most to be the greatest achievement of the leaders of the enlightened retreat as it effectively ended wars between humans and ushered in the greatest era of peace time prosperity and cooperative and ecologically conscious economic development between the last war [the battle of Jerusalem] and Alpha Centari Liberation War.

 

In popular culture

 

The WWB was a result of decades of global activism lead by members of the North American resistance movement founded just after the Unending March. A monument to these heroes was constructed in 2050 in Maroon Society of Anacostia [formerly Washington D.C.].

The human species folk anthem, “Below and to the Left” is based on this period of Earth human history.

The 2100 Kwame Jones historical drama “Unapologetically Black,” chronicles the leaders of M4BL who were instrumental who came to leadership in response to the devastation of the Unending March.

The short lived T.V series “Queer as Fuck” follows several U.S, Mexican and Canadian teens throughout these tumultuous years.

In his trilogy “Race Traitors: The Death of Whiteness,” Mark Peace argues that the virulent racism of the Unending March was the catalyst for the “Race Traitor” movement of European ethnic groups re-creating their identities through the lens of progressive globalism.

Shadowboxing My Pain

Our shadows are powerful things. Our shadows can guide our actions if we allow ourselves to chase them or we can reckon with them. Our shadows can be reminders of what we are afraid to feel and what we need to forgive ourselves for in order to stretch and grow. As my friend Rebecca taught me, our shadows are the things we hate about other people because they are the reflections of what we hate, fear or are most ashamed about in ourselves. Shadows are powerful things.

My entire political framework is based on convincing people to move past their shadow, show up as their greatest selves and walk with vision. For someone who uses organizing to push the existential dread of the ultimate meaningless of life out of my mind, this is a terrible political moment. It feels like all the world is in my shadow and our collective vision is clouded with shame, fear and pain. There is still work to be done. The work has not changed due to an election. Yet here we are, caught in a cycle of hurt and longing and fear; passing trauma back and forth.

There is a fear that has been creeping into my mind over the past few days. There is an anxiety at the base of my skull that feeds on my need for belonging and love turning itself into dread. It is a fear that strikes me so deeply at times that I manifest it into the world. It is a fear that before the oceans rise and food riots begin, before the camps and the cleansings, before the inaugurations become bloody affirmations of power we will tear each other apart while we wait for the other shoe to drop.

I see that I am not alone in these kinds of fears nor in my manifesting of the coming dystopia in my interpersonal relationships. As a dear friend recently put it, we are all expecting the repressions that are surely coming and living out our nightmares of them in real time. For some of us, for the marginalized and the oppressed, our fear is amplified by the real trauma caused by the pieces of the dystopia we have already lived through. It is amplified by the knowledge what though we might “have survived worse”– many of us didn’t. In this amplified state, we are so afraid of economic insecurity that we are fighting over money with our friends and family. We are so afraid of being alone, of our friends leaving, of being deporting or being killed that we are pushing them away before anyone can take them.

Some of us, I suspect, are just so hurt that we want to watch the world burn. Some of us are so afraid that we will turn to the devil to keep our communities alive. Some of us are merely shouting vitriol into the universe hoping it lands on someone who deserves it.  Some of us are retreating into our intellectual conclaves hoping to protect ourselves from the things we are afraid to feel. We are fortifying our echo chambers with shame hoping to create a world in which even if we are afraid and hurting we are not wrong…we are not to blame for this. Yet still, we are in pain. Our world is on fire. We are on fire and at some point, we have to admit that we are doing this to ourselves.

Of course we did not start the fire. The history of racism, sexism, genocide, classism and xenophobia are the tender. Our material insecurity and emotional pain is the fuel of course. The spark came from the rusted gears of empire turning as they have for centuries. No, we did not, as individuals, set this fire. Even the men in hoods merely lit the bonfire America built for them. Yet, this flame, this context, this system, and soon this rapist Klansman in chief is killing us. We have to recognize that regardless of who set the fire, we are burning and we are allowing ourselves to burn. We have been consumed by shadow, by what we are afraid to admit to ourselves that we feel. We are letting ourselves burn in hopes that those people in our shadow die first as we take a sick pleasure in the screams.

That is what we are doing when we point fingers, when we shame others. We are taking pleasure in the pain of those who are more at fault, more to blame, more ignorant, more privileged, more poor, more fucked, more of what we hate most about ourselves. It is a pleasure that corrupts. It is an addiction to cynicism. It is an emotional crutch that keeps us from feeling vulnerable. It leaves us feeling dirty and alone in our shame. As MLK stated, it is a guilty broken act that we double down on in an attempt to drown out our sense of shame. That is how addiction works. It is a pleasure dipped in the most profound pain. Yet it is the only pleasure we can see for ourselves. We are so blinded by hate, fear, hunger and loneliness that we have convinced ourselves that this pain is all there is. Now, I know our pain is not the same. In many cases it is not even similar in degree or kind, nor are our reactions to it. There are some people responsible for this pain and they must not escape justice. Yet we are passing bits of this pain around.  This pain is shared by all.

It is the pain of our hunger, abandonment, victimization, confusion, violence; it is the pain of vulnerability, the pain of hypervisibility and invisibilization, the pain of domination and forced submission, the pain of expropriation and exploitation; it is the pain of privilege and oppression. The causes of our pain are as dissimilar as their degree. Yet the existence of our pain is universal. It connects us. It ties us together in web of death. It is the black shroud of mourning for the joy of our highest selves, of better days, or another possible world, that even those in pickup trucks screaming racist slurs at their shadow wear. Yet it is not all that connects us and not all that can.

I am not writing this to convince anyone to love their enemies. I am not writing this as an attempt to unify with words rifts that have been caused by genocide, conquest, enslavement and deprivation. This is just me shadowboxing my pain. It is my plea to the universe. It is me asking that those you are able to close your eyes and remember that we deserve something better than this. Remember the joy we felt when we embodied our greatest selves. Remember that love can connect us and that light can push away the darkness. Remember the cracks in your soul that you have been told are weakness but are really how the light gets in…and shines out.

Share your light with me please. It’s cold and dark and I’m in pain and more pain is coming. I need your love. I need your light. I need to get rid of my shadow. I need you. Share your light please.

On Autonomy: Building Transformative Engines for [R]Evolution pt 3

*This Essay is the third in a series on my framework: Differential Autonomous Transformation.*

**The first essay is here and the second essay is here.**

“The revolutionary struggle against a colonial, racist, hetero-patriarchal capitalism which has for centuries separated us; arranged us in structures in opposition to each other; reduced our bodies to raw resources for abuse, exploitation and manipulation; and, in the words of Frantz Fanon, occupied our breathing, is today the struggle for a world—no, many worlds, where we might exist and thrive as each other’s beloved.

It is the struggle not only for a social universe that is meaningful and just, but lives that are inherently precious. It is the struggle against our elimination, our disappearance from each other.

Mothering is a primary front in this struggle, not as biological function, but as a social practice.”

Cynthia Dewi Oka

Mothering As Revolutionary Praxis

Revolutionary Mothering

“Autonomous projects are initiatives not supported or organized by the government (state) or some variant of monopoly capital (finance or corporate industrial or mercantile capital). These are initiatives that directly seek to create a democratic “economy of need” around organizing sustainable institutions that satisfy people’s basic needs around principles of social solidarity and participatory or direct democracy that intentionally put the needs of people before the needs of profit.” Kali Akuno “Until We Win”

‘No Man is an Island’

No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Devotions upon Emergent Occasions
John Donne

“The extension of the commodity form to every corner of the social factory, which neo-liberalism has promoted, is an ideal limit for capitalist ideologues, but it is a project not only unrealizable but undesirable from the viewpoint of long-term reproduction of the capitalist system. Capitalist accumulation is structurally dependent on the free appropriation of immense quantities of labor and resources that must appear as externalities to the market, like the unpaid domestic work that women have provided, upon which employers have relied for the reproduction of the workforce. It is no accident, then, that long before the Wall Street meltdown, a variety of economists and social theorists warned that the marketization of all spheres of life is detrimental to the market’s well-functioning, for markets too, the argument goes, depend on the existence of non-monetary relations like confidence, trust, and gift giving.6 In brief, capital is learning about the virtues of the common good.

We must be very careful, then, not to craft the discourse on the commons in such a way as to allow a crisis-ridden capitalist class to revive itself, posturing, for instance, as the environmental guardian of the planet.” Silvia Federici in “Feminism and the Politics of the Commons”

Autonomy

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I once spent a year at a Catholic Worker on the South Side of Chicago. That year taught me more about radical social change than almost any other experience in my life. A Catholic Worker is a radical community based off of the work of Dorothy Day. Day was a political radical, rebel rousers and devout catholic who believed in radical solidarity with the poor and began organizing in the great depression. In Catholic Workers across the country, people come to live in community and work for free in service to poor people. At the Catholic worker I lived and worked in, we ran a house of hospitality for women fleeing domestic violence who were also undocumented immigrants from Latin America.

These women were often single mothers who escaped poverty or civil war in South and Latin America only to find abuse and neglect here in America. I learned a lot in my two years as a Catholic Worker. Perhaps one of my most influential lessons was how wrong my pre-conceived notions of a domestic violence survivor were. So often we hear stories of broken down women who are rendered powerless by years of abuse and manipulation. While trauma and cycles of abuse can and does render many domestic abuse victims unable to break themselves away from controlling partners and force them to be submissive that is not the only kind of survivor. Similarly, being submissive in one aspect of your life does not mean you are submissive in all others.

Many of the women I met were some the best self-advocates and aggressive defenders of their children I have ever met. These women eschewed the stereotypes of passive and submissive immigrant women. Though years of abuse and fear had taken a physiological toll on them and a lot of healing was necessary to help them start new lives, they we by no means helpless. In hearing their stories I was struck by how many of them stayed from depressingly practical reasons. They stayed with abusive men because the men, as terrible as they were, would not dare harm their children and they simply could not afford to leave.

Even for the women who desired to leave their partners for the sake of their children often stayed because homelessness could have been worse than the abuse. Despite the incalculable benefits of providing a healing supportive community, the most valuable thing we provided some families was simply a concrete next step. We provided them with an alternative that was not being cast out into the cold Chicago winter or being broken up by child and family services. We often could not provide the long term solutions that families needed yet time and time again our Catholic Worker provided a the first step that allowed families to begin a path towards self-determination.

The physiological toll of domestic abuse is in many ways unlike any other thing one can experience. However, the cycles of abuse that families live through and the remedies that people need to regain their agency are remarkably similar to many other types of human suffering. We will attempt to endure anything until we are presented with a concrete alternative that leads us to something that appears better. Even the strongest and most determined among us will often chose the devil we know over total uncertainty. The goal of revolutionaries is to present such an alternative to the abusive social relationships of white supremacy, capitalism and patriarchy. Once such an alternative is presented then we must provide them with the love, support and community to get stable enough to create healthier, more supportive relationships and contexts.

In their book Black Against Empire Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin, Jr utilize Antonin Gramsci’s definition of revolutionary in regards to the Black Panther Party that resonates deeply with what I saw at the catholic worker. They state that “a revolutionary theory splits the world in two. It says that the people in power and the institutions they manage are the cause of oppression and injustice…Further, it asserts that nothing can be done from within the dominant social institutions to rectify the problem–that the dominant social institutions must be overthrown.”  I believe that as their best, the differential politics of today’s social movements contain such revolutionary ideas. Like a social worker counseling a survivor of domestic violence, a revolutionary must work with the people to connect their plights to long string of abuses and show how the abuses will not stop until we leave our abusers home, or the confines of this current system.

They go on to say that “a movement is revolutionary politically to the extent that it poses an effective challenge…It must seize the political imagination and offer credible proposals to address the grievances of large segments of the population…But when a movement succeeds in this task, the dominant political coalition usually defeats the challenge through the twin means of repression and concession.” In other words, it is not enough to name the problem and show that the system must be overthrown. For something to be politically revolutionary it must challenge the status quo for legitimacy and somehow survive killings and jailings and reforms meant to weaken coalitions. We have to show that our vision can provide for the human needs of our base better than the status quo. We also have to build coalitions and transformative relationships with our allies who that we can survive cosmetic changes to the system.

cycle-of-abuse

Here we see the state mirror the same tactics as any other abusive relationship. There are periods of tensions building, an act of violence and repression followed by a reconciliation where the abuser promises not do it again and changes their behaviour for a time. We can see this as clearly in Nixon’s violent repression of anti-war and Black liberations movements followed by concessions on the draft, a de escalation of the war and the extension of affirmative action as Trump recent “walk backs” of his previous statements and the corresponding calls from his opponents to give him a chance. Yet we know by now that reconciliation is always followed by a brief calm before launching back into more mounting tension and violence.

I believe that social movements have a lot to learn from the differential human technologies that women supporting women fleeing domestic violence have mastered. People need to be loved and supported into self-determination. The best way to do this is in a supportive, tight night community removed from your abuser. In these communities we can heal and build personal strength and individual and communal autonomy. People also have to agitated, educated and supported in moving past a personal narrative of victimization into one of being co-creators of their own experience.

Yet this is much more easily said than done. Autonomy is a hard thing to create and even harder to maintain. While the Catholic Worker in Chicago did and continues to do phenomenal work it was also plagued with profound problems. Issues of race, class, gender, age, ability, status and language all created obstacles that were difficult to manage. There were power dynamics between the families and the workers that were problematic and slowed families gaining autonomy. There were profound differences of both personality and politics that almost destroyed the community several times. It also took resources both in terms of money but also in terms of countless hours of work that it was impossible to track much less compensate.

This essay, like the essays before, seek to illustrate these challenges and the solutions that folks in movements are finding. It is my hope that it expands of the previous essays to allow people to see how we might survive the next four years without the support [and for many against the will] of federal and local governments. How might we engage with our terrible, oppressive political system from a place that is not dependent on its resources, values or organizing logic nor under its control and supervision.

What is Autonomy?

When I speak of autonomy I mean it as a verb, noun and an adjective all at once. It is a praxis, a state of being, and a quality of social movement. It is both an ends and a means. Autonomy is something to be built and practiced. It is the ability to achieve resiliency by balancing mutual aid and encumbrance with self-reliance. Autonomy is self-sufficiency that recognizes the self as one part of a communal experience. The individual cannot be seen as separate from the community nor the community from the individuals that comprise it. Autonomy is the durability and sustainability of the I/We-inseparable-Ubuntu.

To be autonomous in the DAT sense of the term, is to find strength, sustenance and freedom in a network of mutually beneficial relationships in which our individual strength is nurtured by and fortifies our collective power. Unlike a capitalistic version of autonomy, DAT sees solitude and isolation as vulnerabilities and liabilities. Unlike a patriarchal/hierarchical view of autonomy, if your support system is overly reliant on you to direct them it will be unable to survive your own human failings.

If we continue to build our societies as a collection of pyramid schemes stacked on top of each other, we will continue to have crisis every time the tops of the pyramids make mistakes or fall into the inevitable potholes of human failings. Likewise, a castle surrounded by a moat is going to be less capable of handling life’s challenges than a network of villages spread across a diverse terrain. A centralized system where all information and resources are directed at a core group or person is often unable to deal with crisis as well as a deeply connected decentralized network based on shared values where information and resources move in many directions. Of course, decentralization has its own challenges. Decentralization is easier talked about than done. It calls on us to take full ownership of our lives, experiences and communities in ways that can be challenging and at times onerous.

For this reason, many of us would rather follow in many aspects of their lives than take responsibility for our lives. We often feel like if we take responsibility for our lives than we have no one else to blame if we fail. Because of this, when we do take responsibility we tend to want to have control over the situation to ensure that we do not fail at our task. Unfortunately control is not only dangerous to attempt but also practically impossible. The only thing we can truly control in life are our responses to it. The more we invest in the illusion of control as leaders or followers, the more likely we are to suffer from unintended consequences. As the saying goes: “man plans, god laughs.” There is so much in this world that is not only beyond our control but also outside our view. If we are invested in control we will be unprepared to deal with challenges just beyond the horizon.

I see this in my own organizing in DC all the time. I invite people to work on a project based on a vision I have. When I attempt to have people add to that vision or reframe it they are hesitant. Because it is my vision I become a defacto leader in it. This is often true even when I invite other people into leadership. We are so unfamiliar with co-ownership that we almost alway revert back to a singular owner of vision/leader. As I lead I then feel responsible for my vision being completed. Eventually this means that I want control over the process. In attempting to control the process I lessen other people’s feeling of ownership. It then becomes a positive feedback loop of control and disinvestment. Even as I try to interrupt this loop I realize that both leaders and followers have to be willing to do the work of disrupting the control loop. Autonomy is a two way street. You can offer and support people to step into a co-creator position but they also have to willing and able to accept that role and responsibility.

I believe that instead of control based organization, the kind of autonomy that many movements are trying to build now is an autonomy aligned with the theories of emergent strategies.  It is an autonomy based in the belief that communities that work together with intention and shared values can manifest abundance for themselves and their neighbors. Even with our communities as disinvested and disjointed as they are it is still possible for us to come together and meet our individual needs with collective support. We all must rise to challenge of understanding we are responsible for our lives even if we cannot control our circumstances. It is on us to build a world capable of meeting our needs. No one else can do it for us and we cannot do it alone.

Autonomy means accepting the mantle of co-creators of our world.

What Does Building Autonomy Look Like?

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Building DAT autonomy is building a movement commons. Rather than seeing the revolution as a thing perpetuated by one strong organization that gets the masses to seize the system, DAT autonomy views each person as a historical actor. DAT sees the work of organizations as bringing resources into a commons space that can be used by all who share their broad vision or points of unity. For instance, the commons of M4BL includes energy of that direct action stirs up. When BYP 100 shuts down Homan Square, individuals around the country get activated and want to join the movement. BLM DC can then tap into these energy by sharing the news of the action and including a “this is what you can do in DC to support the movement.”

The goal of DAT autonomy is to name this dynamic and increase the amount and variety of resources that are held in common while also increasing accessibility to the commons. What if artist allowed their stencils and graphics to used by anyone under creative commons? What if one group decided its role was to create an online curriculum for people who are eager to get involved to start educating themselves? We would we a larger pool of activated folks for other groups to organize. Similarly one group could offer healing to the ecosystem of organizers so that the work is sustainable. One group might launch social events that keep the spirit up while also building relationships between different organizers and acculturating new organizers into the politics and revolutionary social relationships of the movement. I think most local movements could be supported by a logistics team who helps coordinate food, locations, equipment and volunteers for events.

If we can bring all of these different activities and roles together we can free each collective or organization from belief that they have to do everything. We can also open up the movement to variety of different roles and move away from the current hierarchy of privileging activism and organizing over support roles, fundraising, culture building, childcare, logistics, education, healing etc. It would also bring all the work that makes “movement moments” possible into the foreground. This would in turn help in removing the mystique of organizing that causes some people to defer to visible leaders and set them on pedestal forgetting that they are all too human.

“This is what we are about.

We plant the seeds that one day will grow.

We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.

We lay foundations that will need further development.

We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.

This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.

It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an

opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master

builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.

We are prophets of a future not our own.”

Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw

Homely for Oscar Romero

 

“We are prophets of a future not our own.” Our movements spaces can become whatever we need them to be. Eventually these ecosystems can be developed into autonomous spaces which are polycentric spaces in which individuals come together for the common good in resistance to Empire. Autonomous spaces are places where the whole life of a freedom fighter is supported outside of any reliance on and or supervision by the state. It could be networks of cooperates that provide food, clothing and communally owned and accountable financing and capital. It could be religious communities that support the independent investigation of the truth and communal support, transformative and spiritual growth. It could be housing through community land trusts not private property. It could be social clubs, sports leagues, WOW tournaments etc in which consent, affirmation, nurturance and empowerment are embedded with politics of anti-racism, feminism, and class consciousness. By sticking all of this together we can create a new liberated culture.

Such a culture is crucial to the use of a differential action by oppressed people. It helps foster what Chela Sandoval calls “oppositional consciousness.” Oppositional conscious is the revolutionary outlook needed to use things like the liberal strategy tactically which is to say, as a means and not an end. Put another way, liberated culture allows for organizing from a vantage point outside of state centered capitalist ideology, values and paradigms so that we can strategically demolish them while dismantling the structures and interests they serve. Autonomous spaces are needed to foster increasingly strategic differential movement.

Where Do We See Autonomy Being Practiced?

The current struggle of Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota is perhaps the clearest example we have today of DAT autonomy. Comprising over 4,000 water protectors, elders, allies, lawyers, spiritual guides and future national leaders, it is verifiable modern maroon society. It is supported by the offerings and mutual aid of nations who have come together for this common cause. It has a kitchen, spiritual center, living quarters and even a free school where first nation children can learn their history, culture, spirituality and skills for resistance. Here seeds of oppositional consciousness are planted that can sustain a multi-generational struggle for national sovereignty. People are drawn to the spiritual energy of the place and once there dive right into becoming co-leaders of the space. It is a generative space in which people can bring their whole selves and in so doing, create a different, more powerful way to be in the world. It is an autonomous space in which one of the most significant transformative campaigns of my lifetime is being waged. The actions of BLM Atlanta, who shut down a train bringing supplies to standing rock, shows how autonomy spaces can generate the multi-frontal campaigns that were talked about in the essay on differential politics.

The sort of autonomy and solidarity built at Standing Rock is also being built in the Black only spaces that the M4BL is building, though diffused through many different spaces. Spaces like BLM DC’s Black Joy Sundays are a solution to disintegration of Black communities that was a direct result of racial integration. It is our response to neoliberal assaults on our autonomy by the Reagan and Clinton administrations.  As Ruby Sales mentioned in her interview on “On Being”, an entire generation of Black youth feels abandoned by our elders has we were sent into a white world that did not love us. Though we should be wary of “Jim Crow nostalgia” we should also be real about how unprepared whole swaths of Black America was to face the brunt of U.S imperialism at home without the parallel power structures that segregated society allowed to thrive in Black communities.

Key Human Technologies for Revolutionary Autonomy

Building, maintaining and expanding this kind of autonomy is incredibly difficult. Fortunately different movements have developed human technologies that support this kind of revolutionary autonomy.

The first such political technology I want to explore was developed by BLM organizer Elle Hearns called “collaborative solidarity.” It says that in order to have powerful coalitions we must invest in the leadership capabilities of the most marginalized while decolonizing our own praxis. Often times groups trying to be helpful to under-resourced communities end up reproducing a paternalistic narrative in which the community is treated like children. Paternalism is both an internalized belief of the oppressor and also emerging power dynamic that arises when one side has the skills, resources and relationships needed for sustained strategic action. To have truly collective broad based movements, the most marginalized communities need to be invested in for the long term. Then they can create their own vision for the future and strategies to achieve in collaboration with other communities. Then and only then, can we build a new world with the space for many worlds.

Another human technology we will need is that of radical identity reformation. We see this in the popular creations of Black Girl Magic.  Black women are reframing their identity not through the lens of struggle but through the lens of the lessons and skills that resistance has taught them as well as their achievements against the odds of Empire. So often, Blackness is defined as the opposite of whiteness. Whiteness is defined as being worthy of dominating and Blackness as worthy of being dominated. We have to realize that we cannot take either identity as it stands into liberation. However, this does not mean that we can simply overlook our socially constructed identities any more than we can overthrow capitalism by pretending money doesn’t exist. It also doesn’t mean that the Black culture, which is in many ways a product of Black resistance, should be disregarded or not valued. Rather, we have to be willing to allow our very identities to be transformed in service to the work.

That personal transformation, like all positive transformations, happens when we are supported by a community. Personal autonomy does not being removed from others but merely changing our relations to ourselves in order to transform our relationship with the world.  To transform, we have to tell ourselves new, empowered stories of ourselves and exist in a community that accepts, nurtures and supports that empowered narrative. Personal autonomy is achieved through a praxis or a habit of balancing vulnerability, service, and self-care with boundary setting and standing in our own power. Your personal freedom comes when your community is free but you don’t have to allow people the freedom to walk all over you. Thus you can learn to see your personal desires as existing at their greatest in their communal form without becoming a martyr for a communal experience. This is how we can become the strong people Ella Baker talked about, the ones who don’t need strong leaders.

In his illuminating essay “The Dragon and Hydra” Black intellectual and political Prisoner Russel Maroon Shoatz provides useful historical context for radical identity formation in resistance to domination.

“Consequently, from the 17th century until the abolition of slavery in the U.S., there were also Maroon communities in areas stretching from the pine barrens of New Jersey, down the east coast to Florida, and in the Appalachian mountains and later to migrate to Mexico’s northern border regions. The best known (but little studied) ones were those that occupied the dismal swamp of Virginia and North Carolina and the Seminoles of Florida, which contrary to popular belief have never been an Amerindian tribe, but instead – from their beginnings – an ethnic group made up of Africans and Amerindians who came together to form the ethnicity: just like the Boni Maroons were formed in Suriname.

All of this replicated the decentralized organizing forms of the Maroons in Suriname and Jamaica. And although their political histories fall short of them winning and maintaining the degree of autonomy achieved in Suriname or Jamaica, the descendents of the Seminoles in Mexico and the U.S. still fiercely guard their communities against the Mexican and U.S. governments: in Florida they’re recognized as a semi-autonomous tribe, and the Africans (Seminole negroes) in Oklahoma, Texas and Mexico also distinguish themselves from their neighbors – while calling Blacks in the U.S. ‘state negroes.’ According to New Afrikan nationalist cadre from the U.S. who have worked around them, the African Seminoles never considered themselves citizens of the U.S. like African-Americans do.”

I know it is a controversial proposal, but I firmly believe that we must use this human technology of radical identity formation to not only reframe our existing identities but to create new ones based on shared revolutionary values and shared struggle. As Cathy Cohen argued in her seminal essay “Punks, Bulldaggers and Welfare Queens: the Radical Potential of Queer Politics” there is a deep value in creating new identities based on the simultaneous affirmation of marginalized ways of moving through the world and vision for better future. Dr. Cohen suggest queer politics encompass not only same gender loving people but also low income people, kinks, asexuals and other people whose consensual sexual expression and enjoyment is curtailed or denigrated in society. They should be included in a vision for a world of sexual and economic liberation. I believe that we need a similar radical identity formation for people interested in co-creating a world capable of meeting all human needs where all of life can focus on thriving rather than just surviving.

I believe that this could either be done through expanding the term Black to include anyone invested in co-creating a world rooted in the Black Radical tradition or the creation of an entirely new maroon identity. Some first nation organizing standing in solidarity with standing rock have even suggested an identity based not only being a first nation person but also folks who “think and act indigenously.” That is to say, those who support community autonomy and rooted in the knowledge that we cannot own the land, in fact that the land owns us. I believe that such radical identity formation forged in the fires of resistance while being rooted in the values of the world we want is a crucial component to building and sustaining a revolutionary engine of the size and scale we need.

This brings us to the next central technology of interpersonal autonomy: a radically democratic version of consent where consent is seen as the active co-creation of experiences whether they be sexual, spiritual, emotional, economic, political or all of the above. Our thought is constructive of our experience in the sense that we interpret our experience based on our disposition, emotions and ideology. One person’s tragedy to wallow in is another person’s point of activation. Further, our lived experiences are based on our actions and how we conceptualize the actions of others. We have all had relationships in which we felt there were unspoken and unfair expectation being forced upon us. Sometimes those expectations are societal and sometimes we are projecting them onto our interactions because of where we are mentally and emotionally. Either way it affects how we engage with each other and thus how people react to us. We already co-create all of our experiences yet it tends to be subconscious and non-consensual.

Whether it is our work schedules or our sexual experiences we are often not given proactive choices and only allowed to choose our reaction. This is why consent is important. However rather than merely allowing people to make informed decisions, radical consent as co-creation is working together the transform the options available to us so that there are multiple ways for individuals to get their needs met together. This radical version of consent as co-creation is the lubrications that allows the revolutionary engine to run without grinding itself down and the shock absorbers that allow the revolution to cover rough terrain. This level of radical consent involves a practice of transformative love utilized by a differential consciousness so that one is aware of the intersection of all parties needs in their spiritual and political contexts.

It must be said that a whole lot of healing and self reflection is necessary for this kind of radical consent to be practiced in a society based off of domination. We have to heal from the deep often childhood wounds that instill in us a need for validation, an unhelpful yearning for certainty or other deep seated fears and unmet needs. It takes years of self reflection to name and accept that hurts that compel our destructive actions. It takes a autonomous community committed to healing to work and free from at least some of the instability and alienation of mainstream society to work through this pain and hold us as we stumble. Only then can we stop passing our hurt back and forth as we organize.

Radical co-consent means developing a habit of stating our needs, naming the tensions in our relationships and making requests of each other directly, clearly and respectfully. It means hearing these requests when they are offered. Rather making yes or no decisions about them it means asking clarifying questions and offering ways that you can meet those request while also getting your needs met or clearly stating that we cannot meet those requests. Too often we ask for solidarity in terms of a specific ask whether it is in terms money or turn out or a role in an action. While this can be effective, it can also lead to their only being one strategy or groups feeling like solidarity means following blindly and putting your campaigns on hold. With this radical consent we can allow for flexibility in how we support each other in our differential political tactics and swarm our common enemies. It also helps us navigate the minefield of emotions, egos, and silence due to shame and hurt that often disrupt collective action, derail organizations and ruin relationships.

Related to this, the last human technology needed for Autonomy is caucusing. Caucusing is a process in which people gather around shared identities of race, class, gender, ability, sexual orientation etc. They are microcosms of autonomous spaces where people have the ability to look critically at how their identities shape their experience and analyze the complexity and fluidity of those identities. Here we can examine the structures that perpetuate the fictions identity and brainstorm how we can transform them.The Black only spaces that BLM is known for like Black Joy Sunday is an example of caucusing.

These types of autonomous spaces are key to building the cross-class, genderfull and multi-racial coalitions we need to build in order to overthrow capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy and state domination. So often we see Black people and other marginalized groups rush into coalition with white people or other privileged identities and still end up being dependent on the whims of ours oppressors who, due to systemic privilege, have the free time, resources, professional credentials and connections to dominate the coalitions. Without internal solidarity, Black people often feel that holding their white allies accountable puts them at risk of losing the skills and resources that they bring. Just like how without the separatist aspects of the second wave feminist movement [itself derived from the feminism of Black women within the Black Freedom movement] many women would not have had the self-actualized autonomy to demand respect and dignity in their coalitions with men.

Similarly in order to be invested in transforming the context in which we live, people who have systemic privilege need spaces to de-colonize their investment in systems of oppression and develop a positive vision of how they will be better off after collective liberation. White people must be able to imagine a world without whiteness worth fighting for. Men must have a taste of a world without patriarchal expectations that often cause them to transfer the violence of capitalism and white supremacy to women and children. This allows us to build unity that is not merely forced homogeneity. It allows us to build a shared democratic vision worth sacrificing and dying for.

Caucuses and single identity autonomous spaces that celebrate the diversity, complexity, fluidity and intersectionality of every identity are therefore crucial to building coalitions with poly-centric intersectional leadership in which our differences can be leveraged as strengths. Yet it is crucial that we never lose sight of the goal of collective liberation and the beloved community lest we end up reifying the same social constructs and self-limited binary identities [black/white or male/female etc.] that oppress us. We must find the delicate balance of acknowledging the impact of our socially constructed identities without reinforcing them.

How Can We Challenge the System and Survive Repression and Concession?

black-against-empire

 

It seems to me that the goal of our autonomous spaces is two fold. The first to support our revolutions and provide a launching place for campaigns beyond the confines of our oppression. The second is provide people with a viable alternative to status quo. We have provide a space where we can show people that leaving capitalism does mean that they will be homeless and starving. We have to create a world in which the hurt that people feel in the outside world does not exist. At the same time we have to provide them with alternative ways of getting their material needs met as well as emotional needs like belonging, safety and self esteem.

I believe that we are going to see America society go through a series of crisis over the next four years that the Trump administration will not be close to equipped to handle. We already know that climate change is going to mix with our crumbling infrastructure and growing migrant crisis to wreck havoc on our society. In addition, a Trump administration is likely to underfund the very non-profits and civil society organizations who would traditionally deal with these problems. While this is a prospect as terrifying as mass immigration raids and increased hate crimes it is also a potential opportunity if we rise to meet the challenge.

The organizations that generally provide services to those in need tend to disempower communities and make them dependent on the state or wealthy people for their welfare. As these organizations are defunded and unsupported by the state under a Trump administration there are many possible consequences. I think two are crucial to examine here. One is that some of these organizations will be more interested in doing empowering work not tied to service delivery but rather to advancing justice. While there are legal limits to how far these non-profits can go we also see examples in attempts like Service to Justice or the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond to move organizations closer towards advancing justice and being community run. Perhaps more usefully though less likely, we might see grassroots funded and embattled organizations like labor unions step up to support programs that meet their members needs like we saw during the strike funds and food programs during labor’s heyday.

The second and infinitely more promising option is the rise of survival programs, social programing and alternative education spaces modeled after groups like the Black Panthers or the SCLC’s Operation Breadbasket. Networks like Black Lives Matter and Standing Up for Racial Justice could develop collaborations to fund and run programs in communities most likely to be hit by federal disinvestment to ensure access to healthcare, food and education. We say a little of this happen with the Occupy Movement and in particular Occupy Sandy. We have seen it with BLM chapters doing aid work in Baton Rouge. We also see it done masterfully at the four camps in Standing Rock. Eventually these networks could launch alternative economic systems modelled after the Malcolm X Grassroots Movements Operation Cooperative Jackson.

In most cities across America, bits of autonomous spaces and survival programs exist in isolation. DAT suggests that we begin to connect all of these different spheres into several holistic communities. For DAT, autonomous space is what it looks like if we merged our folk schools and movement retreats with our worker cooperates, urban farms, spiritual centers and intentional communities. We must provide the next step for people abused by the system. We must let them know another way of living is possible. We must protect these communities like maroons protected their mountainous villages of runaways [hide, flight or fight]. We must bring other activist, artist and social change agents into them to allow them to grow. They should be spaces in which we can raise families and retire or be taken care of when we are sick.

We can build the kinds of communities where restorative justice is possible. We can build spaces where a culture of critique is supported. We must build spaces where the deprivations of capitalist accumulation and horrors of oppression do not rob us our ability to work together in mutual aid. Within these autonomous spaces a liberated culture can emerge in which individuals can be transformed. Here we can be our full authentic selves and have our personal failings countered by the strengths of others. In essence, in these autonomous spaces a revolution can happen that can birth the organizers of the revolution we need.

We need to invest in the leadership and personal growth of the most marginalized members of our community so that they are equipped to engage in the radical co-creation of our new world as equal partners. We need to move beyond trying to build mass organizations that can run these programs and towards autonomous ecosystems where several different collectives work towards meeting different communal needs. We need to build a movement commons where goods, funds and services are thrown into a large pot open to all and replenished by all.  We need build movement ecosystems based on shared values and identifying with the world we want so that we can avoid co-optation and the dissolution of our coalition through small concessions that neither end human suffering nor change the fundamentally unequal power dynamics that underlie the system.

Of course we must also have a plan for surviving repression. Both the Tulsa Massacre and MOVE bombing in Philadelphia show us the potential fate of such autonomous spaces. The current crackdowns of the Standing Rock Occupation are another. Isolated autonomous spaces are appealing but isolation makes repression easier. That’s why I think we should never lose sight of the need to gain power, outlast repression and constantly rebuild in order to create a broad base woven into the fabric of civil society. However, it would be disingenuous to say that I have a theory of how we survive repression. The lack of a clear framework to survive the repression that we know is coming, and in many ways has arrived, is a serious gap in this emerging framework. Yet I do think that Bloom and Martin do make several conclusions in their book Black Against Empire that might prove instructive.

The Black Panthers reached the height of their popularity during the time that they were undergoing the most repression. There is an extent to which oppression breeds resistance. However, not all types of resistance breeds support from broader social bases. You resistance has to be contextualized to what your base of support sees as credible not merely what is morally, ethically or otherwise justifiable. Bloom and Martin put the success of the Panthers in using the right tactics at the right time. They highlighted an existing contradiction between the land of equal opportunity and the land where poor people were getting sent off to die or killed by police at home. Armed resistance was easily supported by a broad social base of the respectable Black moderates and anti-war whites.

Bloom and Martin continue by saying “The nixon administration responded by attempting to repress the radicals, on the one hand, and making broad concessions to moderates, on the other. Nixon was the one who rolled back the draft, wound down the war, and advanced affirmative action. In the 1970’s, black electoral representation and government hiring ballooned. As a result of these changes, the Panthers had difficulty sustaining broad support among blacks and antiwar activist…The hard-core right wing was not the main threat to the Party. Rather concessions to blacks and opponents of the war reestablished the credibility of liberalism to key constituents.”

I think that this analysis could be useful in our thinking. If we are to look at Standing Rock, one can see that the more police repression they face, the more people are interested in going out there. Yet, what will happen if the Obama administration moves the pipe-line off Native Land? Has there been sufficient ground work to highlight other social contradictions in addition to Native Sovereignty and by whom? It becomes an environmental justice issue will you still see BLM chapter sending support? Will it feel as urgent a call as indigenous rights?

At this point, my preliminary framework suggests that the key to surviving repression is highlighting the key political, ethical and even spiritual contradictions at the heart of an issue and building engines that are centered on multiple contradictions with multiple tactics that illuminate them at a time. BLM’s State Sanctioned Violence lens must work to highlight mass incarceration, police brutality, gendered violence and economic injustice simultaneous. Multiple tactics should be used to highlight the contradictions underlying each issue.

At the same time our ally work must continue. We must continue to agitate, educate and support white allies to fight for a world that is not simply “more just” but outside the confine of the current system. We have develop a shared vision that justify the multi-front campaigns that were discussed earlier. In this way, the concessions Bloom and Martin suggest are needed to “re-establish the credibility of liberalism to key constituencies” are much more massive than the cosmetic shifts in power that we are used to getting.

With autonomous spaces, we have the potential of creating a shared vision at the intersection of so many movements that no capitalist state solution could possibly satisfy the people fervor for change. This to me, is the radical possibility of DAT autonomy and why we should treat it as much as an end in and of itself as means to liberation. In short, our counter hegemony [alternative status quo] must use bits of the old world as protection until it is strong enough to rival aspects of the state. We will gain legitimacy not only by challenging the legitimacy of Empire in dramatic moments but also by providing for our broader communities in times of crises. Like the Brazilian slaves who created Capoeira, we might need to make ourselves ungovernable while hiding in public and preparing for the final escalation in tactics which may or may not mean self-defense.

“Perhaps the kind of home we need today is mobile, multiple, and underground.

Perhaps we need to become unavailable for state scrutiny so that we can experiment with reorganizing our social relations in revolutionary ways.

Against the rallying cry of freedom, I propose to embed revolutionary struggle in a politics of necessity and responsibility, a politics that enhances our encumbrance upon each other while rejecting the extension of our dependence on state and capital.”  — Cynthia Dewi Oka “Mothering as Revolutionary Praxis.”

Accountability is a Gift

Accountability is a gift. Even, perhaps especially, when it comes in a form that it is difficult to handle. When I was kicked out of BLM:DC last year, Khadijah approached me and gave me the best advice about accountability I had ever gotten. She said that it’s possible to rebuild from this kind of damage but only if you apologize and only if you apologize what’s actually yours and not more than that. Good advice, but hard to follow.Coming back into this collective was tough and it took the whole group a lot of effort to heal.  I think that most criticism has a kernel of truth to it and it is hard to decide how big or important that kernel is.

The truth is my actions and inactions hurt people I care about. I’m sorry that I have disappointed Schyla, an organizer who I respect, who has defended me and who I have defended to others. I’m sorry that I did not reach out to Melanin Uprising earlier. I’m sorry that I let some of you down and that you feel that my actions did not live up to my rhetoric. This is objectively true. I talk about learning to hold each other, to care for each other, being vulnerable and loving each other in order to get free. I talk about supporting Black women. A lot. Like all the time. I’m never able to live to my own standard. I don’t believe that I say that I do, I think that I try to be clear about my faults and complicity but clearly not enough. Learning to love people in a world that only teaches you how to hate is difficult. Learning to express and receive that love is even more difficult.

I love Chichi. I loved her when we argued over process and I loved her when she walked away from me in Virginia. I wish that she could have heard me in those moments when I told her I love her. I did tell her though. And I did try and show that to her by trying to come up with a process to resolve our conflict in the park that day. That was not how Chichi wanted me to show my love and that’s real.

I do need to say though, that I also love my self and the other members of the collective. When people who love each other disagree and are hurt and angry with each showing love for each other in ways that each other can receive gets real complicated. As I said on Tuesday, Chichi is a phenomenal human being who hurt me and who I hurt. I do feel however that we do all of us, including Chichi, a disservice by making this about an argument in a car in Virginia. This is about hurt people hurting people while trying to get free and the Beautiful Shit show that has been and will always be Black Lives Matter: DC. The was a lot that came before and after that car ride that led us here.

Most of the people who talked only to Chichi before the event assumed she was the victim and came away feeling like we attacked her. I understand that but I do not believe it is true. Most of the people who talked us before the meeting [the handful that asked us questions] saw that there was no victim just hurt people hurting people. For the record, all sides had the opportunity to change the format and invite who they wished. I choose to invite people who I organize with, including non-Black people. I advocated for people with whom I have personal beef with and do not organize with not to be there and I’ll own that, even when they came anyway. I did not want them to use my vulnerability against me. Perhaps that was small of me.

I wish there had been time for community input but we started late. I do realize and own that I did not really look into how to make the process be or appear fair. I did not have the emotional energy after the back and forth of getting it scheduled. I wanted a chance to tell my side of the story because I knew that there was a narrative that, according to some, made me look “foul” that was already out there. At the same time I did not think of my self as the offender.

It was, and is to me, a she said/ he said situation where I decided to wait to say anything until the circle. I waited until the circle to speak out because it seemed like the most constructive thing to do. It still seems that way to me. I’m not sure given how we all felt how this could have better. I was surprised at how gut wrenching it was. I did not expect that to be the case. I now also realize that my silence hurt people in ways I still do not understand. I am sorry if my not reaching out harmed you. I was a lot and I did not know, still do not know, what to do.

Those who are criticizing us now are doing it for all sorts of reasons, most of them seem very valid. We should be real though and acknowledge that most of these criticism existed about BLM:DC before there was any public circle.

BLM:DC is shit show. It always has been. We never quite get all of our ducks in a row. There is always something missing. Something we didn’t know we misunderstood. There is always a better time for us to act; a better way for us to build, share and grow power. We have done some stupid shit. We have not always held people accountable in the most strategic or constructive way [thought there is never a perfect time for critique]. We are not the organizing collective that city deserves [which is why we are not the only one!]. At times I’ve been extremely naïve and sometimes even a bit arrogant. At times I’ve organized from a place of feeling like a victim and feeling disempowered and it was not healthy. I own that. I’m sorry for the hurt that caused.

But it has also been beautiful. We have built something incredible. I feel with have done some things that have never been done. Not alone. Not without the help of the community, this moment, the uprisings in Ferguson and Baltimore and with the people who are now holding us accountable. But what WE have built is beautiful. I believe that at our best we have done this city that I love proud. We have leveraged this moment to bring changes to DC. I believe that Erika, Omolara and April and I have helped shift power to Black people in many spaces throughout this city. I think that Chichi was a crucial part of that work and will continue to build power for Black people in DC. Because of that work and because of the work of other chapters and the movement which bears a similar name, BLM:DC is really visible and we have clout. With that clout and visibility comes responsibility. It is a responsibility that I was not, am not, prepared for.

I believe, and I can only speak for myself, that this visibility and the mantle that we have been given was not the kind we asked for. I believe we have never claimed to be the only or most important M4BL group in DC. I think most people who look critically at the work being done would laugh at that suggestion.  Nor have we claimed that our movement, the Movement for Black Lives, is the only thing that matters. I think we used visibility as a tool and resource to try and build Black power. I think we tried to gain visibility for the cause and were not always prepared to handle the type of visibility we got.

I also know that I personally am not ego-less. Getting credit for my work matters to me. I think that the work I do is important and sometimes pretty dope. I believe that it is undoubtable that my ego, and my desire to get credit which stems from so often having people steal my ideas and take credit for them, has made me show up in some ain’t shit nigga ways at meetings. I did not show up to this movement fully formed. I am not a self-less saint. I am still not fully formed. I hope my growth never ends. I’m just an organizer trying to get free and learning on the [unpaid] job.

Yet there is still is these other expectations. I was naïve to not foresee some of them and others still surprise me. And, I still believe that every time we have been given credit for something that we did not deserve we have named that. I also believe that we have tried to use visibility and clout, including that which came from the name and not directly from our actions. I believe we did this to try and get our community free. I believe that the clout of the movement is a common good and we should all have personal use of it. I do not believe that we tried to own it or claim it for our private use. Some of these criticism seem to assume that power or clout or visibility are scarce resources and that if BLM has them no one can get them. I believe community power exists in abundance.

I do know that I tried to use the movement for personal gain, mostly to shut down white people who wouldn’t take me seriously without naming who I organize with. I think that displaying and leveraging personal power is an important tool for this work. I used my visibility, my writing and my organizing to get speaking gigs of $150-$300 to pay my rent [I do not have a 9-5]. I think my speaking engagements are work that furthers the movement and allows me to continue doing all the unpaid work I do. If you disagree or feel I do this in a harmful, disingenuous way, then let’s talk about it.

Also, BLM:DC is often called elitist. Personally, having grown up in this society I am constantly realizing the ideologies of capitalism, white supremacy and patriarchy that I have internalized. I have internalized a lot of anti-Blackness so its impossible that elitism does not show up in my work. I’m sorry if it showing up in my work has hurt people. It’s not me but it is mine.  That said, some of what folks are calling elitism seems off the mark.

People assume things about me that are not true about how I was raised, how much money I grew up with and have access to now or what I think about people based on their perception of me. That hurts because so much of their perception and valuation is wrong. But it will continue because I will not perform my trauma for people just because they called me out. I will not list the ways that I’ve been oppressed, apologize for not liking to process in public, how I speak or how you perceive me in social situations. I speak a good game because it has always given me power. My ability to write and articulate my thoughts has saved my life. I will not apologize for it or accept your narrative about it means about me. I write a lot, use big words and connect lot of shit to theory because that’s how I think. Just like there are always typos in the shit that I write, because that’s how I am.

I am beautifully flawed human being. I do dope shit. I do dumb shit. I make phenomenal things manifest. I open minds and change hearts. I also hurt people. I let people down. I do strategic things. I have a lot of privilege which I need to be held accountable for. I do amazing things that most people can’t while somethings everyone else does are a real honest to god struggle for me. I put in work. My work, our work, is flawed. If you can do it better then do it better. I’ve always believed my work was necessary but not sufficient. If you think I should stop trying to organize for liberation and you are putting in work [seen or unseen, organizing, art, child care etc] then please reach out to me.

The last thing that I want to say is, I joined BLM DC because I didn’t see anyone doing the kind of organizing I wanted. I hope that this criticism removes whatever pedestal folks have placed us on and cause more people to join the movement to organize how they think it should be done. Transformative accountable community power exist in abundance, it is all of our birthrights.

Going forward I will try to hear the criticism that folks are making about me and my work and about the collective I love. I will reach out to people to hear your thoughts. Please remember that communication works both ways. I won’t have the time or energy to reach out to everyone. I don’t know who all feels some kind of way. I want to do better. I will do better. But I will always falter. That’s what community is for.

Thanks for bearing with this long post.

In love and solidarity,

Aaron

 

Reflections on Korryn Gaines

Last week, a black man died of over-heating in a jail cell/slave quarters in my own city. Last night, a few hours away in Baltimore, a Black woman is killed and her child shot over warrants. Yet, there are few calls for action. There is little national fanfare. Those of us who could do nothing other than take the streets for Alton and Philando are nearly mute in comparison.

We must ask ourselves, in what ways does our relative silence assert consensus with the state over what bodies and lives are disposable? Why are we still holding on to the hope that there is enough justice in this system for it to absolve itself of the blood of the most marginalized among us? Why are we so hesitant to admit that we are in a deadly struggle for the very soul of humanity in which the slow, obscured genocide of Black people by the state is merely one devastating front.

I am torn in a whirlwind of opposing forces. Shame, anger, hypocrisy mix with dread. Where do we go from here? What do we do? How can I be safe if the rules for safety are being obedient to genocide? How can I have agency if my actions do not accurately determine my life chances? Do we keep saying the name of our dead even if it means chipping away at the integrity of our soul? How much of this anger is justified? How much of this anger is blind rage pushing me to become like the institutions I try to dismantle? Do we let our family members die in silence to protect our mental equilibrium? Do we have the courage to say that we too have made mistakes for which we did not deserve to die, that we too wonder what would happened in we dared to threaten to shoot back? For those of us who pride ourselves on speaking truth to power, do we have the courage to speak the truth that scares us? The truth we are not yet ready for? The truth that fills us with the Molotov cocktail of fear, shame and righteous indignation; burning us up inside?

Here is my truth: I do not like to organize, talk about, or strategize around police killings. It tears at my soul. It scares me. It leaves me feeling torn asunder by anger and fear. I am afraid of the police. I only turn up in community to overcome the fear, I organize in the hope to build the community power required to keep my family safe. I shout at protests because it is the closest I can allow myself to come to crying.

I do not often turn up for the deaths of Black people whose lives I feel I have to defend. I sometimes struggle to stand up to this particular white gaze that I feel, projecting that it is unreasonable for a Black woman to defend herself against an occupying army. I am afraid of being the monster that I know they already think I am. I am afraid of the part of me that wants to burn it all down. I am afraid of the part of me who thinks that every crime against the state that we commit is a holy act. I am afraid of the non-rational part of my being that has had enough, and is not interested in being strategic, moral, measured or respectable. I am afraid that saying this will be the justification for the state coming for me and my chosen family.

I’m afraid, and ashamed to be ashamed of the part of me that just wants to be free.

I had to pause to meditate on that. To work through that shame. I had to once again resolve myself to sit in this complexity and know that these forces welling up inside of me are what it means to be human. I had to resolve to hold love and anger in my heart and know that they are not opposites. I am angry because I love myself even when my country doesn’t. I am angry because I love my community even when I am unable to express it.

In this complexity, I am also sad because I love people who do not see my humanity and it renders my soul to pieces.

I am ashamed that I still love people who cannot handle my full humanity, because I feel like I am allowing this world to torture me. I am ashamed that I am so afraid to express my full range of feelings because it makes me feel broken , helpless and bestial at the same time. I am ashamed that I have not routed out the vestiges of the lie of Black inferiority and bestiality from my mind. I am ashamed that this fear allows Black women to be killed in their homes and Black children to wake up in hospitable motherless because I try and am known for supporting Black women and children in my work.

Yet I will not internalize this shame, I will not let it incorporate itself into my being.

I resolve that I will forgive my self of this hypocrisy, elitism and sexism once I refuse to continue to perpetuate it. I resolve to love myself in spite of the obstacles the world throws in the way. I resolve to sit in this complexity of emotions and revel in the humanity they foolishly believe they can strip away. I resolve to stand in solidarity with all other freedom fighters waging a war for the soul of humanity from Syria to Palestine to South Africa to Brazil. I resolve to build a world in which the names of the Black women and formerly incarcerated folks I say and venerate are alive and free. Until that day, I will light a candle for #JoyceQuaweay, #KorrynGaines, #LesterIrby #SkyeMockabee #AllBlackPeople.

 

Eulogy for the parts of us that died with #AltonSterling

 

When we return in the whirlwind we will burn everything.

Burn the police stations where they strap their guns on

Burn the corner store where they get their coffee

Burn the laundry mat where they wash our blood off their uniforms

Burn the bank that foreclosed on our mother’s house and where they cash their paycheck

Burn the schools where they teach us to hate ourselves then arrest us for not attending

Burn the American flags they will wrap their bodies in when they die in their beds 30 years after they put six shots into ours backs

Burn the courthouses where they will not be indicted

Burn the doors to the prisons they will not pass through

 

We will burn down the system we were not meant to survive

And rub the ash on our skin and let it make us darker

Rub it in until we are as Black as the truth they are not yet ready for

Rub it in until we are so Black that all the enemies of negro liberty will tremble in terror

 

When we return in the whirlwind we will burn this mother fucker to the ground

This nation will be torn asunder

Its sins finally exposed to the purifying evening air

And then we will go boldly into that good night

Finally Free. Unapologetic. Self-aware.

Armed with the swagger of a nation whose time has come.

Feminist Reflections on My Spiritual Sabbatical pt2

Now in the second week of my spiritual sabbatical I am doing a lot of work to think about who I am, who I’ve been and who I am trying to be. Specifically, re-thinking this notion that I have internalized that I am what I do and accomplish. As I take steps back from organizing and trying to publish my art and writings, two things that I [used to] use to measure my self worth, am starting to re-think how I should conceive of my self and my contributions to the world.
I want[ed?] to be published in a journal or magazine so that I can be validated as a writer by a system that I do not respect and do not esteem enough to trust its judgement but have internalized its authority over my work. I have internalized a dual desire to own my work and be validated as an individual of great worth and genius. That is at odds with a deeply embedded, powerful subconscious desire to share and remix and collaborate with a community of artist, loved ones, lovers and friends.

I know that worship of the written word is a part of white middle class dominate culture and as a written artist [separate but related to being a writer] of color I struggle with this. Thanks to my dear friend and comrade and spiritual teacher Erika Totten I came across this talk by an amazing artist, dreamer, feminist freedom fighter and academic Dr. Alexis Pauline Gumbs. She ties together so many things that I have been thinking about. Teasing out strains of thoughts that have been unraveling in my mind and connecting them, beautifully, to deeply held and unprocessed feelings of belief [or things I feel to be true on a subconscious level.]

Please find the time to listen to Dr. Gumbs talk! It will change your life.

There is a part of me that hates when people publish things I have been thinking about before I do. It makes me feel less original and less unique. Which it should. Yet, being less unique makes me feel less valuable, which is a capitalist internalization if I’ve ever heard one!

So, I want to thank Alexis Pauline Gumbs for giving me the language to say, I have so many things to unlearn! There is no need to be a snow flake! Think of what we could accomplish as indispensable but interchangeable cogs of a glorious communal machine of change!

I have such powerful dreams and imaginings. I have things that exist in the beautiful intersections of my intellectual genius, my fantastical imaginings of other possible worlds and my deeply held feelings of belief. Over time I have realized how internalized lies of capitalism and cis hetero white supremacist patriarchy have kept me from pulling gems out of those intersections.

The dreams of a Black man are not often worth much on the open market. Men are not supposed to feel as deeply and uncontrollably as I naturally feel. In order for such things to be of any use, they must we fully written out in perfect grammar, vetted by editors and etched in the stone of publication. And above all, the thoughts must be complete. They must be full and brought out to a compelling conclusion.

Yet, my ideas are never complete. My essays and articles and podcasts are not either. I merely force myself to keep them to myself for as long as possible, fixing and writing with fresh eyes until I can no longer contain them and send them out into the universe edited but with grammar mistakes galore.

Instead of feeling bad about this or holding it in longer, I have decided to merely continue to add on, remix, mash together and rewrite my works. I am going to let my works be works in progress. I am going to be more comfortable with myself being a work in progress. If only because it will let me forgive myself more easily and unlearn more of what I need to unlearn.

So, below is a poem that I remixed this morning after hearing Dr. Gubman’s keynote. It reminds me of something a dear friend told me recently: “You are from the future. You are so far ahead of this world.” It is, probably, the best compliment I have ever heard and great testament the internal work I have committed myself to since my last birthday that I was able to [half] belief it.

There is an intellectual story of how we got here, a myth of how we got here and truth of where we are going. This poem is an on going reflection of that, of the three parts of me [intellect, dreams and spiritual feelings] and trips I take, have taken and dream of taking.

We are prophets from a future not our own.

 

 

The Cyclical Triduum of the Undiscovered Prophetic Artists
Or If History from the Bottom Had a Greek Chorus

I.

Know thou that God is a Black Woman.

She is a river goddess
Fluid and running and powerful
Old and dark and reflective of your truest beauty
She is terrifying when you are first immersed in her
Unlearned of ways in which our bodies can move in her majesty
We fear her because she wants subsume us
We fear she wants to drown us
To fill our lungs with her essence
We fear her because we cannot process her brilliance
We fear her because we never want to leave her
Yet but cannot breathe her in

We want to own her
We want to incorporate her into us
But have forgotten how to drink

Perennial Last Supper [47th Street,Yonkers]

img_1292

A photo I took from the hudson line in Yonkers last spring. The trip that inspired most of the following poem.

Street acolytes paint the oxidized steel bridges a bright green,
neon spray painted codex
that guide the observant travelers
down rust gilded train tracks–
a Middle Path along the Hudson—
that ends in art galleries beneath underpasses,
temples to their mantra that another world is possible,
where they sing that art is short
but these tracks,
their canvasses,
stretch for miles.

They jaunt through imaginal spaces
of post-industrial cities,
like 19th century frontiers,
whose souls were marched-
in exodus-
ever westward
pushed by pharonic prospectors
and urban homestead acts.
Economically castrated by redlining
and forcibly sterilized by urban renewal.

Here in this forgotten levant
where Hughes and Ginsberg pondered their mothers’ infinity
on illuminated Black Mecca roof tops
Poets and Vagabond Philosophers
made homeless by forced false choices
feast on visions of a divine counter culture
and discuss the aesthetics of 21 century wanderlust
to the melodic beat of train engines.
A Last Supper set to an industrial rhyme
whose beats and breaks
bring the stockbrokers to work every day.

Tomorrow’s Heroes are marginalized immigrants of the status quo
who destroy the logic of hegemony with the visceral illogic of being.
They are the dread-locked and conscious prodigal children
cast out of Eden by Adam for refusing to eat the fruit
and questioning why g-d placed the tree there in the first place.

We will immortalize them in song only after they are martyred.

Their holy lands are the street corners of yesteryear,
Where the burning buses are headphones
Emanating the sacred beats of Blackened God.

Later they will lay themselves down on the crossroads
bedding down on iron tracks
for a nightly die-in
and sleep on deferred dreams of resurrection.
Praying, out of habit, to a god they no longer believe in
to be awoken in wake of the next train.

They have no designs of death
but feel that art works in mysterious ways
and are creatures of creative habit.
Like their fathers they’ll ritualize their identity crisis
and pass off their PTSD as sacred tradition.

In the morning,
these listless apostles will follow Her
re-claiming and renaming spaces.
Re-authoring themselves
under the guise of supersession
in order emerge from the Bum Fuck Egypt Upstate
and re-create modernity.

II.
Her Maat is simple:
I am love.
Love and be loved by me.
My love will surround you and hold you.
My love will transform you into who you need to be.

My love is change.
All Wisdom is through me.

Sleep and be transformed.
Be awoken by the eternal truth:
through me you are divine.
Dream yourself fully into this world.

The Art Work On Calgary

Its Easter Sunday and every American’s an artist.
A forsaken poet scribbles Her name
Over large
On every surface
naming and claiming greedily
conquering the urban Oasis
like a barbarian On holiday
in half desperate, fully human creative attempts at agency.

She writes the name Her mother gave Her.

Overgrown Oval letters proclaim Her existence to the world
like birth certificates reissued whenever One doubts their Object permanence.

Doubts that creep into Her mind like the fog that licks the steel of the Hudson line at dawn.

It creeps
gently,
unnoticed,
every morning,
only to dissipate as She reissues Her edicts of existence ever higher and brighter
like the sun.

Brushes become the broken bits
of national ideology weaponized that
underpaid janitors use to pierce her sides,
Her blood-
the paint that bleaches
this metropolitan palimpsest daily,
washes away enough of our sins
to call the gentry in.

Washes away our pasts
leaving just enough history-
like exposed brick-
to make condos out of artist plagued tenements.
Neighborhoods thoroughly white washed in blood,
until all that is left is an after image
burned on the inner eyelids
of the consumer hive-mind.

Every three days She resurrects herself
re-writes Her name on Her city-canvass.
Her revelations are progressive,
Like the art of Her aunts before Her.

Torn between a desire to know and be known
educated between a crack rock
and the Iron Shod Chico’s of a modern Empire
Her followers mistake Her articulations of cognitive dissonance
as the second sight through the veil.

Behold your prophets laid bare!
Your Messiah is a creatively maladjusted
Steam-Punk who rocked Chucks and Sun-Ra
And cultural anachronisms before their time!

She is no missed place time traveler,
Born of a world which knew her power.
Her futurisms are lessons you have forgotten!

She leaves Her calling card on old abandoned buildings
deserted shipping containers
and atop water towers
like a young, viral Quixote
schooled in the art of war.
Challenging spring into being
with visual encryption
spray painting Her territory with a vision of a thousand exploding suns.

Her cypher melts away the last bits of snow
washing the feet of the sleeper cars
soothing the anxieties of the unknowing weary and constant travelers.
Her Passion flows like the river
And the devil himself couldn’t tempt Her to stop.

III.
When she spoke she said:
You will know me by my daughters.
You will know my daughters by their magic.
You will know their magic by what it calls you to be.
Your nightmares are merely the dreams you are not ready for yet.
When my daughters break their silence, listen, learn, heal and be transformed.

Aside:

All across the valley, Khaki’ed hipsters and Afro-ed Punks
ride ragged commuter rails
With trolleys labeled working class hero.
As the rolling hills and steep gray cliffs inspire their minds to wander,
She is the canary bird of democracy,
Her prosaic poems draw their psyche back to the moment
And seeing Her name they are reminded of their own needs to be seen
To be acknowledged
To be known
To be loved
To have truly been.

 

 

Resurrection Isn’t Always Rebirth

Its Easter Sunday and the dead are rising.
Its Easter Sunday and Lazarus is giving speeches to
workers in the Montana coal mines.
Its Easter Sunday and the Ticonderoga jets from Philipse Manor to Grand Central
as fry cooks fight for 15
and the fog creeps into our minds
forcing us to forget who we once wanted to be
by the time the sun burns away the sins of who we once were.

Its Easter and the creative spirit of every tourist
with a smart phone rises like Lazarus.
We all collectively create.
We all collectively consume.
We all creatively destroy one another
with likes and smiles.
and with the same gloved hands
we shake off the last bits of winter
-memories of a darker, colder time-
like dandruff off our shoulders.

Its Easter and the dead are rising and every American is an artist.
Suburban tourists video The B-Boys
no longer from Brooklyn
pulsating on the ground
like corpses being struck by lightening
gasping quietly as their bodies come alive
and the neighborhood watch grooves to the beat.

Rejoice as your former slaves delight you!
Sleep well as the Visigoths learn your language
And dance outside your door!
Laugh as your daughter falls for the boy you redlined out of your community!

Its Easter Sunday and the dead are rising.
Everything is reborn at its own pace.
The fog returns every morning,
covering our narrative landscape
with the bitter-sweet vapors of yesterday.
Even with this haze obscuring our history
everything is derivative
and every culture is appropriated.

We are the lambs of a deaf god,
following ancient blind mystics
who are merely futurist and malcontents,
while the philosopher kings spray paint tomorrow
on the brownstoned masonry of the cave.

Where is your G-d when the ocean rise?
Where is your God when the civilization that created him crumbles?
Rome is burning all around us
And Nero’s bankers plan mansions on the ashen remains of our culture!

Don’t wait for the apostles of a future more livable to be torn apart,
limb from limb, in a coliseum market place
before you let yourself believe.
You deserve more than bread and circuses in lieu of democracy.
We deserve more than our father’s share cropped
copping mechanism turned institutions.
Moments only seem pregnant in hindsight
and it doesn’t feel like a revolution until your friends have brought the drums.

It is time to join the egalitarian euphony articulating the future!
The era of prophecy has ended.
The time for tomorrow is now!

I.
Her daughters are here to teach you what you have forgotten.
Do not fear who they are demanding you to become.
Know that they love you because you deserve to be loved.
Know that because they love you, they make you conscious of what you are not yet aware.
This consciousness is my gift to you.
It will allow you dream even as you walk through the waking world.
It will allow to dream and stay woke.

The Future Is Unwritten:

Write it.

 

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