March 17, 2017

No Regrets (or: How We Can Build, and Build Even Stronger)

Through my practice as an artist and educator over the years, I’ve looked for ways to maintain a sense of hope while doing resistance work, which as we know is a long-term effort with results we sometimes rarely, or even never, experience firsthand. This has been on my mind the past few months in particular, not only because of the election and its effects, but because of my involvement in a community which has experienced deep and profound loss alongside this political upheaval. Here’s a collection of things keeping me going.

Reading lots of post-Arab Spring dystopian literature, like Basma Abdel Aziz’s The Queue, and continuing to explore how black science fiction and fantasy writers like Samuel Delany and Octavia Butler re-imagine the future (or the past — there’s a reason why everyone you know is reading Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad right now).

The Rojava Revolution, where HISTORY IS HAPPENING IN THE PRESENT (I’m currently reading A Small Key Can Open a Large Door for a short overview up to 2014).

Hold Tight Gently: Michael Callen, Essex Hemphill, and the Battlefield of AIDS: there’s so much my community can learn about activism in the face of loss through the history and legacy of the AIDS epidemic.

The Oakland Public Library and its Advice for Readers blog (which includes brief monthly roundups of new releases and spotlights like activist fiction).

Artists like Emory Douglas and Corita Kent, who harnessed the power of print as a tool for activism but often used graphics and text in unconventional ways. I can never get enough of Felix Gonzalez-Torres or Kerry James Marshall. Also, while in New York recently I was glad to see Beverly Buchanan—Rituals and Ruins at the Brooklyn Museum.

More than ever, we need to invest in the future by giving time and/or money to organizations and programs which cultivate youth leadership and activism, along with those which support radical educators. Remember that teenagers will lead the revolution (and teachers will help them do it).

Five albums I listened to obsessively while coping with loss — all folk, mostly by women; three of these artists only recorded one album (this obviously says something about how I process grief):

Jackson C. Frank – Jackson C. Frank

Connie Converse – How Sad, How Lovely

Sibylle Baier – Colour Green

Bridget St. John – Ask Me No Questions

Vashti Bunyan – Just Another Diamond Day

A small sampling of resistance in music and art, very much in the present:

Yerba Mala Collective

Malportado Kids

100 Days Action


Movements still need heroes: thank you, Yvette Felarca (Our Lady in Dogma).

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