UNDER the TREE: A Seminar on Freedom

April 29, 2021

Episode # 30: Hearing the Voices of Witness

There’s a vast delusional gulf between the world as it is, and the world as each one of us thinks it is. I’m not being negative or accusatory, but simply stating the obvious: here we go, mistaking our self-constructed little world for the whole wide world. If you believe emphatically enough that the world of your perception and mental construction is in fact the whole wide world, and if you’re willing to act with full force upon that misperception—well, god help us all. Arrogance and self-righteousness, bossiness and obnoxiousness, authoritarianism, autocracy, fascism, and more. What to do? We start by recognizing the obstacle, and continuing to wonder, reflect, discuss, debate, and keep on wondering. We can talk to strangers, and assume that everyone we meet is a three-dimensional creature, just like ourselves.  We can learn to listen to other voices, and we can attune ourselves to ambiguity, doubt, skepticism, agnosticism, and uncertainty—always willing to question, and question, and then question some more. To help us along the way, we’re joined in conversation by two dazzling teachers, writers, activists, and Oral Historians, Cliff Mayotte and Claire Kiefer from Voice of Witness, editors of Say it Forward: A Guide to Social Justice Storytelling.

FROM Mike Klonsky’s Blog [excerpt]:

April 24, 2021

The Star Tribune reports that Minnesota’s police licensing board (POST) has agreed to pursue new rules for law enforcement responses to protests and a ban on officers affiliating with white supremacist groups.
But…the proposed ban [raises] two important questions. The first… why are the state’s police departments so rife with white supremacists that such a ban is necessary? The second…why are openly white supremacist and fascist groups even allowed to exist legally across the state (and nation)?
It seems pointless to recruit thousands of racists into a militarized police force, heavily arm them, point them mainly at communities of color, and then make unenforceable rules forbidding them to join outside racist groups. Like a host of other empty police reforms, this one only offers a diversion from the necessary and inevitable examination of the historic role of policing itself.
I’m also wondering if the proposed rules would bar cops from joining the…Republican Party which has once again exposed its own white supremacist character in response to the police murders of George Floyd and Daunte Wright and the Derek Chauvin trial. Party leaders did everything they could to use the trial and the protests outside to attack civil rights icon, Rep. Maxine Waters rather than the murderers themselves…Side note ~ If such a rule [were] proposed here in Chicago, they’d have to start by barring cops from joining their own union, the FOP, clearly the number-one white supremacist organization in the state


April 20, 2021

A Jailbreak of the Imagination

The capacity to see the world as if it could be otherwise unleashes yearning and liberates desire—we are freed (or condemned) to run riot. Our lively imaginations can be rowdy, and can tend toward disruption and subversion—opening up alternatives always calls the status quo into question. Suddenly the taken-for-granted becomes a choice and not an echo, an option and no longer a habit or a life (death) sentence. The seeds of discontent are sown. I’m delighted to be joined today by adrienne maree brown, women’s rights activist and black feminist based in Detroit. adrienne is the author of Emergent Strategy and Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good, and an editor of the Octavia Butler Strategic Reader, and  Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements.

Episode 28: Make Your Life a Constellation

April 12, 2021

Sometimes we ask, What can one person do? The first step is to stop being one person. Move away from “me,” and take steps toward creating a “we.” From one to two, from two to three, step-by-step toward an irresistible movement for justice and peace, powered by love—the organizer’s credo. We’re honored to be joined by Mariame Kaba, educator and legendary abolitionist organizer who’s been building social movements for racial, gender and transformative justice for years. The founder of Project Nia, author of Prison Culture, the popular blog that shines a bright light into the carceral state and the punishment bureaucracy, her recently released book, We Do This ’Til We Free Us: Abolitionist Organizing and Transforming Justice, is a powerful guide to justice organizing and abolitionist politics.