Over the weekend of July 6th, over sixty leaders from around the country gathered at Mack Market to participate in the second immersion offered by the Emergent Strategy Ideation Institute.
Facilitated by adrienne maree brown, we co-created a space to slow down and dig into the principles of emergent strategy in order to learn together what it can look and feel like to embody them in our lives and organizing cultures. Inspired in part by Octavia Butler’s science fiction stories, adrienne wrote Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds for those “who want to radically change the world… [and] tap into the most ancient systems and patterns of wisdom as we build tomorrow.” (brown, ES, 4).
To me it felt like that’s exactly what we did all weekend – co-creating spaces for vulnerability and deep connection to ourselves and each other, holding space for time traveling and healing ancestral wounds, and more. We divided into six smaller groups, one for each of the emergent elements, in order to create something we could offer back to the larger group. Part of what made the experience so incredible and challenging was the diversity of experiences and perspectives present, especially with regards to race, gender, and age. For example, in the smaller group I was a part of, we faced real tensions when it came time for the white and non-Black people of color to take responsibility for the ways we’d been both silent and silencing. And when we did begin to hold ourselves accountable for how we’d let problematic dynamics slide by unnamed, it was only after the queer and cisgender Black women had done the emotional labor of breaking down their experiences of our collective process. As our time together closed, the air had been cleared, but we didn’t end with a warm and fuzzy group hug. Some of us exchanged contact info, and we said goodbye without taking a group photo like others did, but that’s okay too. Overall I learned a lot about social justice work happening around the country and about the gaps in my own efforts that need attention.
A couple of points I took away (although the learning I could glean from this experience seems inexhaustible) that feel relevant to DJJ are these:
(1) white people need to do their own emotional work: this means figuring out for ourselves how each of us carries and upholds white supremacy in our thoughts and actions (and in the case of choosing silence over speaking up – active non-action) in our daily lives, and owning up to why it is we hold on to such terrible lies. We may show up to meetings and hit the streets for racial and economic justice, but if we continue to do this without taking responsibility for our own complicity and white skin privileges, our most genuine efforts will be performative at best. Dangerous and harmful at worst. We must pay attention to who is centered in our work and on whose labor we rely. We can do better and we need to because peoples’ lives depend on it.
(2) honoring all of our lineages is crucial: without honoring and naming all those whose past and current efforts we actively benefit from in our work, we contribute to the silencing and erasure of their fiercely loving spirits from the story. We do well in remembering some, but can do better in honoring that we are here because of the many Black, Indigenous, and non-Black people of color who have given life to and continue to sustain struggles for freedom in so-called America. For example, let us also remember and honor those like Ella Baker and Dr. Pauli Murray, Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, and the Oceti Sakowin leaders at Standing Rock, whose bravery, love and innovations made the movements we’re in today possible!
There was a sentiment that many, if not all of us who participated shared on the last day. It was the feeling that the immersion had been exactly what we needed. At times I couldn’t believe I’d been invited to share space with such incredibly wonderful and brave leaders, and now I’m committed to making sure that it wasn’t a mistake. We in DJJ ought to open ourselves and our organization to the wisdom found between the covers of Emergent Strategy, especially if we intend to show up fully in all the work that lies ahead and for which we’re responsible.
The image above is a screenshot of adrienne maree brown's Instagram post following the completion of the retreat.
The caption of the image is: "#esii2 is complete!! (emergent strategy remix of Hezekiah Walker classic gospel gift)
The image is a photograph of song lyrics written on butcher paper posted on a column in a room:
I need you, You need me
We're all a part of one body
Stand with me
Agree with me
We're all a part of one body
It is our will that every need
You are important to me
I need you to survive x2
I Dream of you
Please dream of me
I love you, I need you to survive
I won't harm you
With words from my mouth
I love you
I need you to survive
If you want to follow adrienne on instagram: look up @adriennemareebrown
Original image can be found at this link