Gratitude: December 2018

The last few months have been tricky for me. In some ways they’ve been super fulfilling and in others they have been exceedingly frustrating. But through it all I’ve been grateful for my family, friends, comrades, and even strangers who’ve been eager to grab coffee or lunch and talk, offer help, or just join me in little adventures. I’m also exceedingly grateful for literature, music, culture, the pulse of humanity. Here are are few things in that vein that have keep my spirits up.

Panic At The Disco – Pray for The Wicked
I rediscovered this band (Well, it’s only one guy and a bunch of hired guns these days really, right? But whatever..) this year and this album is kinda corny but fantastic. Brendon Urie’s voice is gorgeous and the whole album never fails to lift my spirits.

Direct Action by L.A. Kauffman
This book was invigorating in a way I did not expect. As a person that has participated in direct action in the past, it was great to see myself and my peers reflected in this story as part of a legacy of global resistance.



Palestine Underground

Palestine Underground is a short documentary by Boiler Room about the lengths the young folks in the Palestinian hip hop and techno underground will go to get together and party. I was moved and inspired by their spirit and love of life despite the hardships of life in disputed territory.

Cindy Milstein on The Final Straw Radio
This is a long but crucial interview with a preeminent anarchist thinker on the topics of death, grief, mourning, care, and institution building. A lot of the things she has to say about building circles of care are close to my heart and the work we are doing in my collective CoLET.

Angélique Kidjo sings Blewu in front of world leaders for Armistice Day

I was exceedingly proud to receive this video of Angelique Kidjo singing this song in Ewe (my family’s language!!) to world heads of states as part of the Armistice Day Celebration. May the spirits of the ancestors do their best on this lot. Ay yi yi.

Here are the lyrics in English and then below in the original Ewe.

Blewu (by Bella Below) (lyrics translated into English)

Slowly slowly,
Gently, we will make it safely home,
Gently, we will make it safely home,
Slowly ;
Slowly, the leopard does not press his steps;
Softly, gently, the leopard does not press his steps;
The animal with tail does not jump over the fire;
Slowly.
God in whom we confide is the only one who knows our problems;
The Rich man we trust is the only one who knows our problems.
Stay awake, pray;
Stay awake, pray;
Even with a long life, one can not escape the Hereafter;
Even with a long life, you can not escape the Hereafter.
Gently, we will make it safely home,
Gently, we will make it safely home,
Slowly.

Blewu (by Bella Below) (in the original Ewe)

Blewue, blewue
Blewue mia d’aƒe lo
Blewue mia d’aƒe lo
Blewu
Đɔɖɔɖɔ Kpɔ̃ me yɔna azɔli o
Blewu, blewu
Kpɔ̃ me yɔna azɔli o
Lã to asike me da ata dzo o
Blewu
Mawu si me mieleeya koe nya mia agbemenyãwo
Tsuito si me miele, eya koe nya mia agbemenyãwo
Minɔ ŋudzɔ, mido gbe ɖa
Minɔ ŋudzɔ, mido gbe ɖa
Agbe nɔ kaka megbea Tseƒe mayi o
Agbe nɔ kaka megbea Tseƒe mayi o
Blewue mia d’aƒe lo
Blewue mia d’aƒe lo
Blewu

Fund What You Love

I’ll be honest: I don’t love my job and I don’t think I’ve ever truly loved any job I’ve ever had since I began my working life in earnest. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had several lovely work environments in beautiful offices with truly fantastic co-workers — many of whom I still count as my closest friends — but I’d still not call that loving my job.

No, I’ve had jobs from unbearable to perfectly survivable, and the older I get, the more I realize that here in late-stage capitalism, a job I love is not the goal, –being able to put time and money and resources into things I want to see flourish is. I don’t do what I love, I fund what I love.

By this I mean, I am a donor of my money and time and skills. I currently do unpaid work for at least five different groups and give money and/or advice to dozens more. I don’t work on the front lines of any efforts to cure the sick or free the encaged or smash the empire, but I do my best to give to groups that do. And I’m finally coming around to realizing that funds and funders matter.

I recently facilitated a dinner event attended by people from both the commercial and nonprofit spaces, and I noted a distinct snootiness towards people who hadn’t committed their lives to radical struggle defined as working in a cooperative or a foundation-funded NGO. I’ve encountered this sensibility throughout my journey as an independent activist/organizer and it’s lame and wrong. The “revolution” will no more be funded by large non-profit donors than it will by Silicon Valley venture capitalists.

The truth is that the struggle has and will always require a diversity of tactics, as well as a diversity of funding and energy sources. The more we radicals understand and accept that, the easier it will be to start building cultures and structures of support that help us better share responsibilities and promote self/mutual care.

Activist guilt, that feeling that you constantly should be doing more for the movement, is real. Survivor/thriver guilt is real, but so is activist/organizer burnout and illness. If we embrace a model of funding what we love rather than doing what we love to death, we just might move our lives and efforts into balance, and begin modelling that new world we seek.

Gratitude: December 2017

A few things that have been making me happy recently.

The Improbable Dome Builders

charascover

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the brilliant thinker and architect R. Buckminster Fuller fell in with a ragtag group of Puerto Rican teenagers on the Lower East Side that came to be known by the name of CHARAS (a nonsense word combining the first initial of each member). Fuller would come down to the neighborhood and teach the young people geometry and how to build his geodesic domes.

They went on to revolutionize the neighborhood with a community-empowering eco-minded project of build renovation and self-education.  Last weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the soft release gathering for the re-release of this magical project here in Brooklyn at Pioneer Works where many of the original members spoke about this magical experience. You can read more about and buy the book here.

Build An Ark – “Dawn” (2007)


I’m revisiting the beautiful Build An Ark 2007 album “Dawn”. Good 70s jazz vibe. Highly recommended! Just click play above.

The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself by Michael A. Singer 

Laugh if you want, but this old white man is saving my life daily. I heard about this book I think from Russell Brand, and I got it on audiobook. It first felt like a gut punch, but then I woman’d up and felt such relief. I’ve been recommending it to people left and right.

Chisholm ’72: Unbought and Unbossed

In 1972, Shirley Chisholm became the first woman to make a serious run for president. She was underfunded and underappreciated but courageous and brilliant. Watch this document to learn your history and be reminded of the long history of liberal and Democratic “lesser evil”-ism that continues to lead people nowhere.