Two ideas from Emergent Strategy that are sparking thoughts in relationship to Disability Justice principle #2, “Leadership of those Most Impacted.”
1. Imagination. amb talks about how we are in an imagination battle. “Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown and Renisha McBride and so many others are dead because, in some white imagination, they were dangerous. And that imagination is so respected that those who kill, based on an imagined, racialized fear of Black people. are rarely held accountable.” She talks about our need to imagine beyond fear, to “imagine new worlds that transition ideologies and norms, so that no one sees Black people as murderers, or Brown people as terrorists and aliens, but all of us as potential cultural and economic innovators. This is a time-travel exercise for the heart. This is collaborative ideation – what are the ideas that will liberate all of us?”
2. Critical Depth. “Many of us have been socialized to understand that constant growth, violent competition, and critical mass are the ways to create change. But emergence shows us that adaptation and evolution depend more upon critical, deep and authentic connections, a thread that can be tugged for support and resilience. The quality of connection between the nodes in the patterns.” And a few pages earlier, “If love were the central practice of a new generation of organizers and spiritual leaders, it would have a massive impact on what was considered organizing…we would understand that the strength of our movement is in the strength of our relationships, which could only be measured by their depth. Scaling up would mean going deeper, being more vulnerable and more empathetic.”
This, to me, is where Disability Justice principle #2, “Leadership of the Most Impacted,” takes flight. It doesn’t mean those who are most impacted have to do all the work. But it does mean that those who are most impacted are the only ones who can truly say whether the imagination that’s guiding us is one in which we/they are truly free. And it is through depth of relationship that imaginative collaboration will happen, both among and between people and communities. So what I’m getting here is that one vital leadership role is in listening, exploring, developing and sharing the revolutionary imagination. And to support leadership of the most impacted, we must always be listening to make sure the imagination of the most impacted groups is fueling our own imagination, and is central to the imagination that is guiding us.
I’m thinking of the vital role of artists here — Sins Invalid, crip artists, and fat liberation artists whose revolutionary imagination opens a world of possibility in which each body-mind is valued, and has a miraculous range of powers, gifts, teachings, magic to offer. And in which the access of each body-mind need not be prevented by limited imaginations. Is this the powerful and loving imagination that is guiding us?
I’m thinking of the conversation happening in some of my communities right now about the role of white-only racial justice groups. The question of accountability to POC keeps coming up. And this contemplation is making me want to add another frame, in addition to that one, around what/whose imagination is guiding us. As a white racial justice activist, I want to know that my racial justice work is truly rooted in a revolutionary imagination in which people of color truly feel free, and I cannot know unless I ask people of color. Depth of relationship across the white/POC line makes that sharing of imagination possible. (I have more to explore here about the role of white-only groups but that is for another post!)
I know these ideas are already well rooted for many of my comrades, and I don’t at all mean to represent them as new! This is the expression of how they are converging and awakening in me. So grateful for the brilliant and revolutionary deep thinkers in my life around this stuff, and so many of our conversations. Sondra Solovay, Patty Berne, Nomy Lamm, Cholla Soledad, Katie Loncke, Stacey Milbern all come to mind, but there are so many more. Thank you Adrienne Maree Brown for helping me see the teaching in something that has been right in front of me all along.