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February 16, 2023 89 mins

Saving our democracy isn’t just about registering people to vote, ending gerrymandering, and so on. It’s about getting back to the basics of living together well through micro, everyday moments. To kick off season four of the show, Baratunde talks with writer, activist, and fellow Virgo adrienne maree brown about how we can learn to practice democracy in every space we’re in and how our small, civically-minded behaviors in society create a culture that isn’t easy to shake. Stay till the end to hear questions from our live audience. 

 

SHOW ACTIONS

Internally Reflect - Make a plan to share your power

What communities are you a part of right now, from the smallest to the largest, the most local to the most global? Build that list in your mind. In which of these communities do you play some role in decision-making and resource allocation? Can you think of ways to bring others into those decisions more? In other words, can you think of ways, even and especially small ways, to bring more democracy to your existing communities?

Become Informed - Study the work of Grace Lee Boggs & Octavia Butler

adrienne was mentored by Chinese American philosopher, writer and activist Grace Lee Boggs. Learn more about Boggs in the documentary American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs

Explore the power of fiction to affect our vision of what’s possible by reading adrienne’s book, Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements. And her newest book, Fables and Spells. You should also read the Parable Series by Octavia Butler to see why adrienne is so obsessed with this writer. Most books cited in the show are available on our Bookshop.org page

Publicly Participate - Practice collaborative ideation

Return to the communities you identified in the personal reflection. It could be your household, classroom, office department, or group chat. Within one of these groups, have members identify some challenge you feel is hurting or impeding the group. Then ask folks to imagine what things would be like years out if this challenge were fully resolved. How would they feel? What would they be able to accomplish? Write this down in short form, perhaps a corny movie trailer to make it fun. “In a world, where none of us carries student debt…” or “In a world, where everyone in this house is able to access the bathroom for as long as they need without preventing others from doing the same…” It doesn’t have to be super serious. The point is to try, with others, to imagine a better future. If you don’t have someone to play with, try this by yourself but look for ways to share your ideation with others, maybe in an email to a friend or a post on social media. 

 

SHOW NOTES 

Read the poem Home by Warsan Shire and check out the book Brave Community: Teaching for a Post-Racist Imagination by Janine de Novais. 

Find How To Citizen on Instagram or visit howtocitizen.com to join our mailing list and find ways to citizen besides listening to this podcast! 

Please show your support for the show by reviewing and rating. It makes a huge difference with the algorithmic overlords and helps others like you find the show!

How To Citizen is hosted by Baratunde Thurston. He’s also host and executive producer of the PBS series, America Outdoors as well as a founding partner and writer at Puck. You can find him all over the internet

 

CREDITS

How To Citizen with Baratunde is a production of iHeartRadio Podcasts and Rowhome Productions. Our Executive Producers are Baratunde Thurston and Elizabeth Stewart. Allie Graham is our Lead Producer and Danya AbdelHameid is our Associate Producer. Alex Lewis is our Managing Producer. John Myers is our Executive Editor. Our Mix Engineer is Justin Berger. Original Music by Andrew Eapen and Blue Dot Sessions. Our Audience Engagement Fellows are Jasmine Lewis and Gabby Rodriguez. Special thanks to Joelle Smith from iHeartRadio and Layla Bina. 

Additional thanks to ou

Mark as Played
Transcript

Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:02):
Welcome to how to citizen with baritone day, I'm bar
tune day. What's up? If you've been a listener? Is
good to have you back? If you knew, Welcome to
the journey. This is season four, Who Who Now? In
season three, we focus on technology and how our relationship
with it could help us citizen. In season two, we

(00:24):
took a similar topical approach, but with the economy. In
our first season, we sampled a buffet of awesome people
who embody the idea of citizen as a verb and
just a quick refresher. We've identified four key pillars upholding
what it means to citizen. One to citizen is to

(00:45):
participate assume we have a role to play beyond outsourcing
that participation via voting. Number two to citizen is to
invest in relationships with ourselves, with our communities, and with
our planet. We are interconnected and there was no way
to citizen alone. Number three two citizen is to understand

(01:07):
power and the many ways we have to generate and
express it, from spending money and gathering in groups to
spreading ideas and giving our attention to something. And finally,
number four, to citizen is to value our collective self interest,
not just our individual self interests as we practice all
the above. In this season, we're exploring how we create

(01:31):
a culture of democracy, and we'll be highlighting ideas that
inspire us to think differently and more deeply about this word.
This word we toss around so easily and frequently but
rarely defined. Democracy at its root is literally people power.

(01:56):
It's people wielding our power to govern ourselves, to manage
our resources, and to benefit our communities. And as you've
probably heard by now, we are in a crisis of democracy.
Democracy faced its most serious crisis and debt. Democracy in
democracy is facing a crisis of confidence. So he's American

(02:18):
democracy in crisis. I think a lot of what we
end up arguing over and fretting about with this democracy
crisis is the mechanics. How does the constitution determine who
the president is? What's the makeup of the court system?
Where are the boarders drawn between voting districts? Hey? Do

(02:39):
we even count votes anymore? And don't get me wrong,
the mechanics and the structures are important, but we need
to go deeper. We need to dig into the soil
out of which we grow the democracy we experience. I
think of that soil as culture, the collective norms, behaviors,
and attitudes that establish the conditions for the ways we

(03:02):
practice democracy. To me, a culture of democracy is one
that encourages, incentivizes, and prepares us to practice democracy and
to engage in people power in a healthy way. A
healthy culture of democracy helps us citizen, and to help

(03:22):
us launch this season's journey, we have writer, activist, and
movement facilitator Adrian Marie Brown. I first came across Adrian's
work nearly twenty years ago, back in two thousand four,
through this group she co founded called the League of
Piste Off Voters. We were both part of a wave
of activists trying to prevent George W. Bush from winning

(03:44):
a second term as president. And I just love their swagger.
I mean their logo was the statue of Liberty with
a baseball bat. I'm like, yes, that's how you get free.
Years later, I started hearing Adrian Marie Brown's name all
over the place when her book, Emerging Strategy came out.
In that book and her work since, Adrian focuses on

(04:08):
that second pillar too, citizen is to invest in relationships
with ourselves, our community, and our planet. She sees that
relational work as essential to any political work. In this conversation,
Adrian helps us see democracy as a personal practice, and
she and I get personal in ways I didn't see coming.

(04:29):
After the break, Adrian Marie Brown talks practicing democracy at home. Writer, facilitator, activists,
science fiction super nerd Adrian Marie Brown has been organizing
with various movements for justice since two thousand and one.

(04:50):
We're talking the League of Young a k A. Piste
Off Voters, the Ruckis Society. Writer of seven books that
I Know of fiction and non fiction, including of Course,
Emergent Strategy, Pleasure Activism, and her latest Fables and Spells. Currently,
Adrian is a writer in residence at the Emergent Strategy

(05:10):
Ideation Institute, which she established. Also, she co hosts two podcasts,
Octavia's Parables and How to Survive the End of the World.
We've got a live virtual audience here with us, so
without further Ado, welcome to our podcast. Adrian Marie Brown,
how do you do? I'm so good, It's so exciting

(05:31):
to be here. UM, I feel like you hunted me down.
I've never had so many people like I don't know
how you did this, but you reached out and I
had so many people like Barrow Tune Day wants to
talk to you. And I was like, well, if there's
a Virgo man out there trying to talk to me,
then I need to answer that call and figure it out.
So what's up? How are you? What's up? Virgos? This?

(05:53):
I'm great and our birthdays are very close together. Yes,
you're a September I am a September baby. We're the best.
Thank you. I've been telling my wife, I've been telling
anybody who can't tell them all, especially the significant others.
They need to understand, they need to recognize our grid. Um.
It is just really really an honor and a beauty

(06:14):
to exchange this time with you. So thank you. I
feel the same. Thank you. All Right. You often use
this term right relationship in your work. Can you provide
an overview of that? Well, how do you define right
relationship as distinct from something else? Yeah? I heard that
term when I was working with indigenous communities for the

(06:37):
first time, like really embedding myself and trying to understand
really in the biggest picture way, what went wrong here
on this land, Like what has happened and how do
we get ourselves back into a relationship that is not transactional,
not abusive, not oppressive, not even you know, now, I

(06:59):
think distracted, Like I think a lot of our relationships
are ones where we're barely there. We're always passing in
the night, passing in the night, passing in the night.
Everyone's so busy with living lives that they're not even
satisfied by So this idea was taught to me that
it was like, there's actually an order of things. There's

(07:21):
a right relationship between humans and the earth that we
live in, and humans amongst ourselves and humans with all
the other creatures that are here, and my sci fi
throws and probably humans and other life forms. But there
is a way that we can be in relationship that
is not you know, just peace and blessings all the time.
But there's a way that they can have equanimity, that

(07:42):
it can have justice in it. And I got really intrigued,
like it instantly, it resonated throughout my system that I
was like, Yes, at that time, in movement work, everything
was very siloed. So you were either working on environment,
or you're working on racial justice, or you were working
on electoral or aizing, or you know, everything was very
separated out, and so it's very easy to be like

(08:05):
to see all the problems as these distinct, separate things.
And right relationship is this idea that there's a wholeness
to it all and there's a way that we can
drop into a whole world perspective and see ourselves as
a part of that world. And Yeah, that sent me
down a whole other life path. I want to rewind
into that path, and I think part memory, yes, oh,

(08:28):
we're gonna have some tunes. I don't know if we
can license these things, but we can not. Capello. It
so exactly your journey into getting into right relationship with democracy.
I'm old enough Adrian to remember the League of piste
off voters. I had y'all stickers. I'm pretty sure it
was a statue of liberty with a baseball bath. There

(08:51):
were some there was some emotions through that attempt to
stop George W. Bush from gatting a second turn. And
so can you take us back to this effort that
you co led to get President George W. Bush out
of office? What motivated you to do that work back then?
And where you just trying to get Bush out or

(09:13):
were you trying to accomplish something more or different than that.
You know, I thought of myself as a very young,
feisty revolutionary, Like I was like this, we've got to
figure this out. And I had been doing harm reduction
work with active drug users and sex workers through the
Harm Reduction Coalition, and George W. Bush had cut the
funding for all that work because he was only funding

(09:34):
absence related work. Right, you had to be cold Turkey,
no sex, no drugs, or you weren't going to get
any support. So I was upset. And then the build
up was happening. You know, you know it's nine eleven, right,
So nine eleven happened, and then we're having this reaction
from the US that was like we've got to go
to warm, We're going to bomb Iraq, We're gonna bomb Afghanistan.

(09:55):
I got moved into direct action through that because I
was like, we've got to stop this, like we're misunderstanding
what this moment is or misunderstanding our role as a nation,
and he's foolishly leading us into a vengeful, fatal situation.
We've got to stop him. And so it was about him,

(10:16):
but it wasn't just about any one issue. It was
like I can see how he's impacting my work. I
can see how he's impacting all of us. And his worldview,
which was this, you know, white male, conservative worldview, I
was like, this is dangerous for all of us. So
I didn't really know anything about electoral politics. I always
say this, like, coming into that, I was just like,

(10:36):
I know about organizing. I'm learning about how we move people.
And at the time it felt very innovative right to
be like, we need to bring everything we know about
organizing into how we do electoral work. And I still
think that I don't think we've mastered that bridge, you know.
I do think that I came to understand the placement
of these different strategies as part of all larger way

(10:58):
of doing the work. But at that time, it was
actually really invigorating to go. You know. I ended up
book touring that book because we had like something like
twelve or thirteen authors and hijinks and sued a lot
of people. I didn't plan to book tour. I thought
I was just gonna be editing, But then something happened
when I got up in front of people, like a
spark would come through me. And that's where I learned

(11:20):
that I could get up in front of people and
that I could channel something of the moment into a
room of people. But yeah, we were lit up about
this idea that electoral organizing should be part of a
larger strategy for how we build community and how we
change policy. And we just had this moment of like
none of us even know how to, Like we're trying

(11:42):
to we're trying to change the world, but none of
us understand how policy gets developed. None of us understand
how our electoral system even works. None of us understand
where the loopholes are, and so we're getting you know, redline,
we're getting misdirected, we're getting disenfranchised from a system that
has actually lot of power over our daily lives. So

(12:02):
I felt really hopeful. I thought we were going to win.
We didn't, as everyone knows, but yeah, I felt like
I learned a ton about organizing there, because you know,
the way election organizing works is cyclical, and so it's
the cycles where you're like, we're gonna go do our
thing and oh now, community, hey, hey, community, we didn't

(12:23):
forget about you on the back. We still need to
support and then forget about it, and so it's like,
how do we make this a sustainable process, like something
where the people who are elected see themselves as every
day a part of a larger movement of change. It's
holistic politics in some way, holistic power contention. You, um,

(12:44):
just thank you for Emergence Strategy book. We have it
in our house. My wife quotes you like all the time,
and the word emergent is just like a part of
our relationship. I'm glad. Yeah, it's very cool. Yeah, And
I want to you know, on your journey to publishing
that book, you were publicly chronicling what I would describe

(13:07):
as like the evolution of your your thoughts and practices
around this right relationship concept, around emergence itself, and in
you wrote the following on your blog. The invitation of
Emergent Strategy is to come together in community, build authentic relationships,
and see what emerges from the conversations, connections, visions, and needs.

(13:28):
I don't see this as creating something from scratch, but
rather innovating from need. So I want to share a
brief thing and then ask you a thing. You know,
our podcast is how to Citizen and developing it, we
developed core principles. One of them is that to citizens
to invest in relationships with yourself, with others and the
planet around you. And so I just I feel very

(13:50):
SYMPATICO right now we're swimming in similar waters and honestly
probably influenced by you. But this overlapping key that relationships
come first. They're like an input into a development, not
an afterthought or just a money raising content. How did
you arrive at this inside of prioritizing these authentic connections

(14:13):
And is there a line from your stop bush work
into a deeper respect and prioritization of community and relationship
as the first step. Yeah, for sure. You know, I
think that loss taught me a lot because we were
surrounded by people who were supposedly the most strategic people.
We were getting trainings and we're getting you know, we

(14:33):
were going through so much work to try to understand
how this all work. And and I was like, something's
not working, and there's a what at the time I
was really calling manipulation. It felt like there's a sense
of manipulation inside of this, that we're only engaging in
relationship to the degree that we can manipulate people to
do what we've already decided they should do, which is

(14:55):
to vote for this person, whether or not that's of
most service to them, whether or not we understand what
their needs are. And again the cyclical nature of it meant,
you know, by the time I wrote the book, you know,
it was like ten years of different kinds of organizing
and direct action, all this stuff had passed, and I
was like, do we even know how to do democracy?
And I started asking this question to people. I would

(15:16):
be in a room full of people and be like,
how many of you practice democracy? And I would have
everyone like, raise your hands if you think you practice
democracy like in your actual life. And I would be like,
and people, sometimes, so what do you mean by that?
You know? Do you sit down together and talk about
how you're spending the resources of your home and your community.
Do you talk about how you're agreeing to keep each
other safe? Do you talk about how you're agreeing to

(15:38):
share time and who has decision making power? And do
you make those decisions together? And all this right, So
there would always be like these confident people would raise
their hands. I'd be like, do you do this in
your household? Right? And I was like, are the kids involved?
Hands come down? Right? Are your parents involved as anyone
else involved? Right? And that's just in the household. So
I was like, okay, great for the people who still
have your hands up, do you practice it in your neighborhood,
like just on your block, And by practicing democracy like

(16:01):
on your block, more hands come down. I almost never
made it to community, right, that people in in whatever
they think of as their community, they weren't practicing democracy.
Most people in our organizations aren't practicing democracy. And so
something about the fractal nature of that clicked for me,
right because I was learning this concept of fractals that
were each these small cells of something much larger than ourselves.

(16:24):
So I'm like, we're trying to change was at the
very top of the structure, the president. You know, we're
just if we change that. But I'm like, but no
one's actually practicing democracy. So even the people running for
office are often people who have never actually practiced democracy
in that way, right, and they're not practicing it intimately.
So I got kind of excited by that problem because

(16:44):
I was like, well, that's something solvable, Like there's practices,
all right. I'm like, I respect that there is a problem,
and any problem is solvable. Yeah, Like once I was like,
got it, Okay, so we need to figure out how
to practice to myocracy, small D democracy. And I was
definitely influenced by my mentor Grace Lee Bogs. I had

(17:05):
moved to Detroit. I was learning from her, and that's
one of things she was often talking about, is we
need to get people back in the practice. Like she
would say, democracy is a really beautiful thing if you
actually practice it, but very few of us do. We
opt out. We find ways to reinstate hierarchy, to move
around having to actually do democratic practice. So that piece

(17:26):
around like, well, who am I in relationship with enough
that I would want to practice democracy with them? Very few?
You know, I have a very high standard for who
I want to make decisions with, And that's actually not
how the world is structure. You don't just get to decide.
And if you were to boil down your definition of
democracy with the practice of it, is it as you
seem to imply just now, shared decision making, joint decision making?

(17:50):
You just said, who am I in community that I
don't want to practice democracy with? So how do you define?
There's this group called Movement Generation who I adore, and
they defy economy as the management of home, the management
of the resources of home, which I really love because
they're like, anytime we're talking about how we manage our
shared resources of the earth, of our community, of our family,

(18:13):
that's an economic conversation. And so to me, democracy is
in that vein right that I'm like, we're talking about
how do we make the decisions about our resources, including
the resource of time, the resource of money, the resource
of land, the resource of food, the resource of water,
the resource of air, the resource of education, And fundamentally,

(18:33):
I think that's what governance is about. You know, we're
living our lives, but at a certain point we have
to say, there's finite resources in a finite lifetime. How
are we going to make the decisions related to that?
And for me, I don't enjoy debating for the sake
of debate. I know some people do. I'm always like, Okay,
what's the most logical, practical way that we can share
these resources that everyone can actually share them? And this,

(18:58):
I'll say, braided into also the science fiction work and
reading that I was doing at that time, because Octavia
Butler said, you don't know who you're going to end
up in the apocalypse with, and so that always felt
like this like oh am I going to be a
good community with who am I going to have to
practice exactly? Right? So I was like, right now we
have the privilege many of us are getting to choose

(19:20):
who do I want to live with and who do
I want to make decisions with and how do I
want to do this? But actually, long term, we need
to learn how to just do this whoever we land with.
And that got me excited because I was like, Okay,
what is the future I actually want and how can
I start practicing a democratic way of being that moves

(19:41):
me towards that the fractal thing and the democracy thing
are so intertwined, And I think for me it's been
a relief, honestly to hear someone describe the value of
the small Yes, Like so much of our save democracy
conversation is a lot of words and debate and not
actually a lot of practice. It's inches column inches of

(20:04):
thoughts and our beds and whatnot, but it evokes large
scale structural reforms. And you're based question You're basic, not
in the insult, but in the true, like elemental level
question of how are we practicing democracy? And the communities
were part of what communities are? We are part of first,
how are we practicing? What are some of the small practices,

(20:26):
the small activities that you think reverberate upward into the
larger structure. Yeah, I mean one thing I always say
to people because sometimes the binary come the people are
large versus small, and like everything large is made up
of small parts. We live in an atomic world, so
every single thing that you can look at, from another
person to a superstructure, to our governance, to a nation,

(20:50):
everything is made up of smaller parts. So it's not
an either or, it's saying, if I want to impact
something large, I have to be able to tune into
the smallest practice of that large thing right and then
be able to judge it up right. And this has
really guided a lot of what emerging strategy has focused on. Right.
So conflict, being able to be in conflict with integrity.

(21:12):
I call it generative conflict, which I learned from generative somatics.
But this idea of like conflict, if we do it well,
actually generates more possibilities for us. It really makes it
clear that, oh, we can have differences of opinion and
we can work through them and find a way for
so generative conflict. Our nation is basically broken when it
comes to this idea of generative conflict. Right now, conflict is,

(21:36):
you know, dropping to the lowest common denominator, throwing insults
at each other and seeing the person who you're arguing with,
you're trying to dehumanize them. Actually, the democratic process of
that generative conflict would be, how do I humanize you
even if I totally disagree with you? How do I
find the places where there's some potential alignment? And you know,
the thing I always come back to is like, we

(21:56):
only have this one planet, so we have to figure
out how to get along enough to keep going on
this planet. Right right, it's the ultimate resource. We're figuring
out how to share exactly right. And as much as
I pray every day, I'm like, aliens, you know, just
help us. You don't even have to come rescue us,
just let us know, like if you know a little
bit more about how to do this. Um, but generative

(22:17):
conflict feels like a really big one. And then actually
being able to talk openly about power dynamics is another
one that feels really important in most of our organizations.
So a lot of my work during this time was
facilitating organizations and I would come in, and what always
surprised me was the people in power didn't seem to
know they were in power, or they didn't seem to
be um comfortable talking about how much power they had,

(22:40):
and often they would even take a victim role. It's
so hard being me trying to just do what I'm doing.
And I know as I've ascended into more powerful positions
how quickly this happen. Because you're like, no, it really
is hard. It's hard, and it's this dirty word. The
dirty word comes with baggage of undeserved nous. So you're like,
I don't want this thing that I don't deserve. I

(23:00):
don't want to feel like I have more than you,
but I do exactly, and we also don't want to
We both don't want to have it and we don't
want to give it up. Like once you have a
little bit of it, you're like, um, I'm not sharing
this with you now, like mine is kind of nice.
So that and then I think we need to get
really good at like redistributing resources, and that is actually

(23:21):
very difficult, especially if you're right now. We're socialized in
America into a capitalist worldview that says, accumulate as much
as you can, as individually as you can, and that's
how you know you lived a good life. Um And
even though we see that doesn't seem to pan out,
we see a lot of people who are very wealthy,
who are very depressed, very isolated, spinning out all the time.

(23:44):
Now we get to see it all on social media,
taking over social media, ruinning it. You know, all kinds
of fun things are happening for the wealthy. But what
we see is they struggle deeply with actually relinquishing, you know,
the amount they've gone over what they need. So those
are some of the things that I'm like, Oh, do
I know how to redistribute my resources? Do I know
how to share decision making power? Do I know how

(24:05):
to have integrity and a fight? Do I know how
to decentralize power and make decisions with others? I'm great
at it in some contexts. I'm not great at in
all contexts. And I think even being able to be
clear with ourselves about that is useful, you know. Merger strategy.
I had a friend reflect back to me recently that
so much of it is can you become self aware

(24:25):
of your like where you are in the organization of
all things, can you become self aware and from that
self awareness have agency over the choices and the decisions
you make and how you operate, the way you do
your relationships and the beauty and the challenge of that
is it requires internal assessment, internal work, and other than

(24:46):
our training and hyper individualism and growth at all costs,
we have an external training to go out there, be
active out there, like activism is an external thing. You
find an enemy, you find a villain, and you protest them,
and you go against them. Yeah, point at them and
the me and the us and the eye. It said, well,

(25:07):
I'm fine, I'm the activist, I'm overlord, I'm the virgo
pect I mean literally perfect, Yes, I mean well, this
is what my mentor again, Grace Lee Box said to me.
You know, we must transform ourselves to transform the world.
And can you briefly remind us of who Grace Lee

(25:30):
bog I would love to. Grace Lee Boggs was a
Chinese American activist who threw her lot in with the
Black liberation struggle in Detroit, and she was an incredible
thinker and writer. She was always finding a new learning
ground and when I met her, she was nine two

(25:50):
and she lived to be a hundred and so those
eight years of overlap, we're really meaningful years for me.
But yeah, she started a ton of organizations. She was
always starting new experiments and projects. And she and her
partner Jimmy Boggs in Detroit and they started Detroit Summer.
They started a bike cooperative. They helped with the Avalon

(26:10):
Bakery getting off the ground. But they were always figuring out.
Like the mayor at one point said, you guys are
a bunch of naysayers, and she was like, oh, yeah,
we can create stuff too. We're not just saying no
to you. We can also create, and so really abundant
creative force and thinker, um, you were bringing up grace
in the context of this internal work and the world

(26:32):
we have to be internally well. I think when I
first heard her say that, I was like, we've got
such big problems out here, Like I don't need to
go meditate and be quiet with myself. That's not what's necessary.
Like we've got to save the whole world. And what
has happened as I have matured and been humbled by

(26:52):
life has been this recognition that the front line of
all these systems is actually inside of me. And again,
just like there's not a mall versus large, there's not
an in versus out that's an illusion. Right. It's like
all these systems I'm trying to fight against live within
me as well. And so even as I'm doing the
external work, I also have to be noticing where it's

(27:13):
showing up within me. Right, And I'm like, oh, I'm
yelling at Jeff Bezos for his billionaire behaviors, but using
Amazon to buy my holiday packages. Like I really look
back at my life and I'm like, oh, transphobia had
taken root in my life. I've had to work to
clear that in my heart and to be aware of it.
Fat phobia landed in my life. I had to work
to love myself. I had to feel how do I

(27:35):
heal that? Capitalism, patriarchy, all these things are within us.
And that's why we're not able to succeed when we
just go with this external fight, because they call out
our hypocrisy, and our community calls out our hypocrisy. I
think right now we're in this very tender moment inside
of movement space because everyone's pointing in every direction like wait,

(27:56):
you're the you know, It's like yeah, we're all out.
If we like this idea that some of us are
good and bad, we could get so much more done. Right,
It's like we're all infected by these viral systems, and
we can actually infuse our networks, are my cilial networks
with other energy that actually helps us heal. So if

(28:18):
the inside is the outside and the small is the large,
these ideas come from your obsession with fractals, and I
just want to spend a beat on My memory of
fractals goes back to probably high school, maybe middle school, something,
some pubescent times where my hormones and physiology or confusing
my ability to locate it in time specifically. But I

(28:41):
remember pretty pictures, you know, and I remember the idea
of this like small pattern replicated to this large and
beautiful scale which had the exact same pattern in the meta.
How are you defining fractals and tell me a little
bit more about the importance of the from the science
to the application of movement. Yeah, I mean, I feel

(29:04):
like I'm still constantly always trying to understand it scientifically,
and sometimes I'm like to have it. It's this it,
you know. But there's the way I understand fractals is
this the way that we can understand patterns that replicate
themselves in the same way no matter what scale you
find them at, So from the very small to the
very large. And we live in a fractal universe, so

(29:25):
there's patterns that we can find all over all around
us that replicate from the smallest to the largest. And
it's like simple stuff like looking at broccoli or ferns,
or looking at the way the roots of a tree look,
and looking at the way our lungs look, looking at
the way delta's um look from the sky, looking at
the way blood moves through our systems, Like we are

(29:48):
fractal representation of the way the Earth looks and works
and the universe. It's really exciting, right, I always say,
I'm like the we have these the same shape on
our fingerprints as a galaxy. It's really cool, right, Like
you could just geek out and be like, who you know,
I can't stop exactly right, But the revolutionary potential inside

(30:11):
of that is what makes me even more excited, almost titilated, right,
is that, oh, if these patterns replicate, then when we
notice a pattern, we could start to shift it at
a small scale and possibly change the what is able
to even replicate up into the largest scale. That excites me.
Do you have a brief story that exemplifies where a

(30:35):
small pattern shift rippled out and led to a bigger
pattern shift a demonstration of the power of fractal theory
and movement. Yes, I do. So. There's a young black
woman that I hired to work for me back at
the Leaga Piste off voters and stuff was a mess.

(30:55):
The organization was trying to figure out how to organization.
She did not get handled well. But I knew she
was a genius. I knew she was brilliant. I knew
she deserved every chance that she could get. So when
I went to ruck At Society, I hired her again.
I was like, I know that they didn't treat you well,
but I'm bringing you to work with me. And she
learned she was a black strategist, and she learned everything

(31:17):
about direct action, and she was like, black people need
to have this skill set, and I was like, yeah,
run with that, like build it out. She ended up
becoming one of the co founders or something called the
Blackout Collective, which trained all these people in black direct action,
including tons of people who were part of the Black
Lives Matter movement. So when it was time for Black
Lives Matter to escalate and do all this action, they

(31:40):
had some of the best training that you could have
that came through the channel of this black woman who
stays behind the scenes, like she's like, I don't want
all the attention, I don't need all the light on me.
But because of her, they were some of the most coordinated, brilliant, effective,
and media delicious right the mean it was like, oh,
my goodness, this action. I'm like, yes, and I look

(32:00):
at to me like those stories where I'm like believing
in one person and seeing how one person has a
particular bridge available in them that maybe no one else
can see, and letting them build that bridge leads to
a whole movement being supported and effective and changing the
conversation of our time. Every time I see anything about

(32:21):
Black Lives matters impact and you know, people on the
cover the magazines and everything, I think about her. You know,
I think about that trajectory. Thank you for that clarity.
And I think there's such an interpretive tension where someone
could say, like, oh, she's saying I don't have to
worry about the big stuff. I could just be me,
myself and I in my little abode, in my nuclear
family situation and kind of disconnect, and I think, what

(32:46):
what I'm hearing is, it's all connected. Everything is everything, Hello,
Lauren Hill. And so if we start to adjust at
the small it can ripple out. It's the opposite of
trickle down. Yeah, and it actually it's like more than
it can, like it does all the time. So part
of it, part of fractal awareness, is just starting to
take responsibility for what am I currently putting into the pattern.

(33:11):
If I'm not paying attention, if I'm mindless, like if
I'm just operating by what I was trained to do,
or if I'm just reactive, most of the people who
are operating that way are putting unhealthy conflict, unhealthy patterns,
passive aggression. Like I tell people, look in your family,
what are the patterns of emotional behavior and conflict resolution

(33:32):
you see in your family? That's usually the same pattern
that you're then helping replicate in the world. Right, all
these people coming from places where fighting is either done
through extreme violence and yelling and anger and awareness or
extreme repression. That was my way, right, push it down,
put a smile on it, keep it moving. And if

(33:52):
those forces are trying to come into relationship, it's going
to be a total mess. And so what needs to
change on both sides? You know, in my family we
been in this practice now, Like I'm upset with you,
Like it's a shock to my system every time I
have to be like I'm upset, and I'm trying to
close the gap between when I feel upset and when
I can express that I'm upset, right, And then I'm

(34:16):
also trying to work from that Buddhist principle of is
it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary? When I
communicate that? So it's like I'm upset, and I'm not
trying to smash you or harm you, or or denigrate
you or shrink you. I'm trying to tell you so
that we can adjust, so that we can find that
that right relationship again. And I always bring up my
friend Princess himp Hill, who teaches us that boundaries are

(34:39):
the distance at which I can love you and me simultaneously. Right,
You're gonna make me cry up in here. I cry
all the time about this stuff. Like when I'm like,
oh my god, Like you know, I'm in my mid
forties and I'm like, what would it look like what
my whole life look like if I started out learning
how to fight fair and how to have good boundary race,

(35:00):
and that it was okay to express us something hurt
my feelings? And then how would that lead into the
kind of governance that I have done in my life?
What kind of leader would I be if I wasn't
all the time trying to run away from conflict and
I could really say how I felt? And then what
would my city look like if we weren't punitive with
people but instead we're like, oh, there's some harm here.

(35:23):
How do we bring it to the surface and adjust
and hold it as a community? I mean, it's all connected.
It's all connected. The that conflict avoidance and desire not
to fend offend or push away by stating needs, by
stating hurt resonated deeply with me. And so that's where
the emotions coming from shown up for you. Oh, I

(35:48):
think you know. I have a very sacred story around
my own mother and all the things she did for
me for me to survive and just be here and
be able to talk to you. It's a little too
simplistic and binary in the like good person, She was
a good and so I didn't allow her a lot
of shades of other ways of being or any real fallibility.

(36:12):
And so I grew up very sensitive to her needs
and stall my role as like assisting in that and
so not really articulating my own like I'm a good
and so I didn't have conflict, you know, I accommodated,
I supported, I stood by, or I smothered, you know,

(36:33):
my own sense of conflict. At at some level, I
was worried that this one person who was taking care
of me would it, So that fear prevented in my
own full expression and prevented my own full reception. I
think of her expression, which was more than just good person,

(36:53):
because there's no such thing. She was just person capable
of all kinds of things. Yeah. So I've been feeling
through and growing through and emerging from kind of that
story and and trying to shift my pattern so it
fractals out and and become something else. Yeah. After the

(37:15):
break Adrian Marie Brown on using fiction to see democracy
not just as crisis but as possibility. As I was
looking through the principles of emergence that you all have
listed on the Emergence Strategy Institute site several of them

(37:35):
resonated with there's this you know, changes constant, be like water,
and trust the people. If you trust the people, they
become trustworthy. And I'm gonna I'm gonna take you on
a brief journey through my mother or Anita Lorraine Thurston,
because I saw where you got that from loot Zoo,
the each Ing, the Chinese Book of Changes. I grew

(37:58):
up with that text. My mother was a practicing Taoist, Divenor,
she consulted the Eaching. I literally have like six translations
on my desk right now, and so when I was
looking up, you know the origin and that hexagram's kind
of the chapters the verses that this practice points to

(38:21):
in terms of this line, if you don't trust the people,
they become untrustworthy, which you all flipped. If you do
trust the people, they've be contrustworthy. That's made of two tails.
That's made of the top one is essentially a water
or a lake. The bottom is thunder rumble, and they
can symbolize like joy on the top and movement on

(38:42):
the battle, and the harmonious intersection of joy with movement.
That just represents a lot of my mother, as I
more fully see her. It certainly represents a lot of you,
and so you're like, you're all up in my fractal
right now, I'm glad in terms of seeing seeing that connectivity.

(39:03):
So I just share that first as a as a
point of connection, as a point of gratitude. I just
love the ways our moms were like and our parents.
You know, I'm like I always it took me so
long to be like, oh, you have culture like you
you have culture, like you have things that you bring
into the house, you know, Like my mom had Khalil
Gibron's the Prophet around and we read it every year,

(39:24):
and it's just certain things. And I'm like, oh, that's
infused into my system in ways that I will never
be able to, like even pull apart. And so I
love that the eaching is in there and the Tao
is in there for you. Um I want to add
an addendum is the people will become trustworthy or the
boundaries will become clear. I feel like I didn't understand
that until I was experimenting more with emergent strategy, that

(39:47):
not everyone will become trustworthy in my lifetime. Right, I
have practiced hard at extending my trust to people in
spite of my intuition or in spite of their being
and being like, oh, you know what, I have to
also trust myself. I have to trust myself to know
when a boundary is needed. So I just wanted to
I always try to make that sure that's added on there.

(40:09):
Thank you. The other principle that I want to ask
you about is there's always enough time for the right work. Yes,
in this time when we think about shifting patterns and
practicing democracy and creating a healthier culture of it, what
do you see as the right work right now? You know,

(40:31):
listening back to the book or like listening back to
things from the book, I can feel how my virgo
was such at the front, Like the word right is
everywhere in it. And what I mean by right there
is meaningful work, transformative work, the work that is radical
in the sense of what Angel Davis talks about, like
going to the route and actually trying to pull something

(40:52):
up from the root. And so when I was facilitating
as my main way of spending my time, I was
always looking for that. I'm like, Okay, we're having a
conversation up here and it's petty and it feels chaotic,
but could we go deeper? Could we go underneath that?
Like what's actually at stake? And you know there's something

(41:12):
really tender and what you just said about your mother
where you're like, if I had a conflict with her,
what I stopped being cared for? Like it goes so
deep actually, and for most of us, that's what's happening
is if this thing breaks, is my survival on the line?
Is my fundamental belonging on the line? Like, and we
don't want that to be what we're talking about when
we're having an organizational struggle, when we're having a familiar struggle,

(41:36):
we're having a community struggle, but usually that's what we're saying,
am I going to be left out? And am I
not going to live? Or is no one going to
love me? Am I unlovable? Like it's really deep territory.
So as a facilitator, I was always like, can we
get to the twenty leagues as quickly in the meeting
as possible because that's where the shift will happen that

(41:56):
will allow this thing to move. Um. I I was like,
I don't want to be the kind of facilitator who's
like making a very beautiful deck chair arrangement on a Titanic, right,
I really want to be like, if the ship is sinking,
what do we have to do? And I think we're
in that moment of human history, human existence, and particularly nation.

(42:16):
You know, I call myself a post nationalist, which doesn't
mean that we won't be citizens of something. I think
that we have to learn how to be citizens to
each other, citizens of something that we can actually belong to,
and the cares for us and loves us. I'm not
sure that the US experiment will be that right, and
I feel like we have to be able to say that, Like,
if this ship is sinking, but we're all still alive,

(42:37):
and there's still an earth here, there's still a way
to live. How quickly will we tune into that? How
quickly can we have the right conversation? And that's what
I'm now trying to affect on the largest scale, Like
most of my writing, most of my books are like,
the climate condition is no longer pending. It's just a
matter of your level of privilege in terms of how

(43:00):
much you're experiencing it. And the climate situation is not
the only thing, but it is a big, potentially unifying
human condition, and we're being distracted from it. You know,
Tony Morrison talked about racism is a distraction, but there's
so many others as well. There's so many things that
we are being distracted from our best selves to stay

(43:20):
battling for our right to exist, and it's like, no,
we have the right to exist. The Earth gives us
everything we need. Can we accept the gift? Can we
get back into that right relationship? Can we spend our
time on the right works. That's what that arc is
mm hmm. Thank you for putting voice to the possibility
that the story that we've created of something like the

(43:42):
United States or nation in particular, isn't the end of
the communities we can define for our own survival and
our own thriving and to get deeper than that. Empires fall, empires, fault,
humans continue, people continue. Yeah, so far and we can
see us continue. Am really into hum is my preferred

(44:05):
my strong preference for a planet like my strong preference too.
I'm like until we find like other Earth situations, um,
you know, but I do think like throughout human history,
it gives me some kind of peace to be like, oh,
the Roman Empire, the British Empire, these empires, like things
change but then humans are so wonderful. I mean, you know,

(44:25):
we do awful things to each other. But I really
have also been really trying to say, how do I
bring my attention to what's best in us? And how
do we grow that? You know, I always say what
we pay attention to grows, And so I'm like, that
moment you're talking about with your mother, I'm like, that
might be the best part of you, right, is that tender,
vulnerable part of you that loves your mom, And like,
from that place is learning how to love in your life.

(44:47):
You know, I feel that way with my parents and
my grand I'm just having a major breakthrough with my
grandmother after a long estrangement, and I'm like, I mean
it's just really yeah, it's really fresh. But it's like,
can I give possibility for this woman who's ninety to
love me still, you know, or love me again or

(45:08):
fall back or come learn how to love me in
spite of all her beliefs And it's so tender. It's
like everything about love and humans is in those moments.
Thank you for sharing that and where you're at right now.
And this word possibility kind of coincides with the sci
fi world that you're also so deeply embedded with and

(45:31):
inspired by and contributing to. Now, I mean China Meavil's
work and inspiration shows up. I remember from the Scar
the Possible Sword, So I want everyone. I'm like, I
can't believe we're not all talking about the Possibiley Sword
all the time, the cost thing that ever happened than
anyone ever wrote. I really yeah, please make all your

(45:53):
people read it. Okay, hold up, wait a minute, we
interrupt this black nerd moment to offer an explainer tune
day about the Possible Sword. Back in the early two thousand's,
a friend introduced me to China Mieville, this British science
fiction and fantasy author who writes incredible supernatural and speculative

(46:15):
world I read three of his works, all set in
the same world of boss Log, and in one of
those books, the Scar, this thing called the Possible Sword
was introduced. According to the boss Log Wicki, you gotta
love the Internet, a fake place with a real Wicki
entry quote. The Blade minds possibilities from the swordsman's motions.

(46:35):
By injecting controlled uncertainty into his or her movements, the
swordsman is able to land an arbitrary number of solid
possible hits in addition to the factual hits. The effect
is that the swordsman's arm appears to blur and the
swords targets suffers several dozen cuts with each swing of
the sword. So basically, the possible sword is this object

(46:57):
that represents both what we do with it and everything
we could do with it. And China Mievil didn't stop there.
The possible sword is powered by a possibility engine. This
is some magical quantum technology. Obviously not real or is it?
To me? It just means that we all have more

(47:18):
possibilities within us than we often acknowledge, and sometimes we
need fiction to remind us of our ability to change facts.
And knowing that Adrian Marie Brown has read and incorporated
ideas from authors like China Mievil, it's simply dope to
me and hopefully to YouTube. Now back to my giddy

(47:40):
nerd out moment over sci fi writers, Please make all
your people read it because it is the coolest thing
I've read, because it gives shows up. But but but no
one shows up more than the name. You've already sided,
the woman you've already started, Octavia Butler. You've got a
whole podcast dedicated to sharing her work. Thank You were that.

(48:00):
I dove into the parable of the solar and parable
of the talent during COVID lockdown, as I was traveling
the country heavily alone making the America Outdoors PBS series,
writing my relationship with nature, with this system in my
head during the apocalypse, choosing community. But what stood out
to me is the possibility of growth and community and democracy,

(48:24):
even and especially in an apocalyptic setting. You know this
this acorn community that that is featured, and the way
people show up for each other. What do you think
Octavia Butler can teach us about citizening as a verb
about practicing democracy. Mm hmm. Yeah. One of the reasons

(48:45):
I go back to her over and over again is
because she was writing from a place of despair, like
she was paying attention enough to be like, yeah, yeah,
this is very upsetting and a lot of we call
her profect, many people say she's prophetic, but really she
was like, I'm just paying attention and this is the
inevitable place that things lead to if we don't change

(49:07):
our behavior. And I love that because that seems to
me like a fundamental citizen skill is to be like,
can you actually take in what's really happening and and
just follow that thread and just be like, oh, is
that the Am I down with that? Am I down
to participate in that? I think if more of us
thought that way, they'd be interventions we would make in

(49:27):
the immediate because we're like, oh, I don't want us
to get there. But she also said so many things
around who we asked to lead us or who we
allow to lead us, and what are the qualities of
what we think of as leadership. So I think right
now we've gotten very comfortable with having people in leadership
who lie to us, and we give a lot of

(49:49):
money to people to campaign in ways that we know
are dishonest and saying things that were like the they
may or may not ever do that, and then when
they get in office they don't do it, and we're like,
you know, it's like the normal thing now is to
be like, who's the best, most charming, maybe somewhat attractive,
married liar that we can Yeah, I want my liar,

(50:11):
not your liar, right exactly, you get me. So I
think one of the things Octavia is often pointing to
is what does it mean to be a leader? Who
tells the truth. What does it mean to be a
leader who especially when the truth is hard and it's like,
this isn't the truth you wanted to hear. I'm really
interested right now, and like, who are people who are
willing to lead and say things are probably going to
get worse? Like we're heading into a period of human

(50:33):
history where what we're experiencing now, a lot of the
shock of it is because those who could have prepared
us for it have not nowhere more clear than climate exactly.
I'm like, you don't want to there's no positive pitch
to the amount of pandemic we're heading into. There's no
positive pitch to the amount of climate crisis we're heading into.
But there's possibility in it if we actually say we're

(50:56):
heading into it. The storm is directly ahead for some
of us were already in it, and we can make
adaptations right now that increase maximum survival and that actually
make it so that survival could be generative and pleasurable
and fun. But it requires letting go of some of
the ways we were imagining this time. So Octavia was like,
what if we let go of even the idea of

(51:17):
having to stay here at Earth? Like, what if the
possibility for human life is to take root amongst the stars?
And that felt like a viable possibility for her. Something
I know from studying some of the papers in the
drafts that she's done of the Parable of the Trickster,
which would have been the third book in that trilogy,
was that all the other planets that she could imagine
depressed her, Like she couldn't actually finish the next book

(51:39):
because she was like, I think trying to write other
planets made her love Earth so much. Then from reading that,
my conclusion is taking root amongst the stars would also
mean taking root here, like this is our place amongst
the stars, and if we don't take root here, then
the Earth will have to cast us off. You know,
everything else goes extinct and the Earth continues. Has been

(52:02):
the pattern, And I'm interested in leaders who are like, hey,
let's not go extinct, right, Let's make the adaptations we
need to make to not go extinct. What does that
look like? And I also think that she she believed
in the small community. So you mentioned the Acorn community
where they were practicing, but Acorn, you know, spoiler, I

(52:23):
feel okay spoiling it because it's been out for so long.
But spoiler, that community gets destroyed by the Christian right
in her book, and her people don't give up. Right,
their children are kidnap from them, they still don't give up.
They change their strategy to a Zapatista model where they're
going door to door and saying, let's build a shared vision.
Here's what earth seat is, here's what the practices are,

(52:44):
and all we need is a small and mighty crew
that believes in this and we can actually hold on
to some possibility for humanity. Right. And that has been
really meaningful to me as an organizer because I'm like, oh,
some of my comrades go the biggest bucket and I
love that, and it's I get really moved by the
work that they do. But what I have been drawn

(53:07):
to is how do I approach every single person I
interact with as a potential freedom fighter, as a potential comrade,
and whatever location they're in is their front line, including
the front line within themselves and wherever they are, And
I find really interesting people ready to roll and play
and experiment with me in that way unexpected, right. And

(53:28):
I'm always like, yeah, I think we really underestimate folks
who are at the barbershop. We underestimate the person on
the bus, We underestimate the stranger we meet on the plane,
We underestimate our coworkers. You know, I'm like, you're not
just the job title you have, Like how are you
going to survive? Let's talk about it, right, And I'm
trying to encourage more people to have those conversations. You know,

(53:51):
There's been these moments for me. I was in Italy
when COVID nineteen, like when it hit, was like, oh,
this is a crisis and like everything's about to shut down.
There's these moments in history where you're like, oh where
am I Am I with people that I can trust
right now? Will these people keep me safe? I was
in Italy. I was like I don't speak the language.
I mean this little world town. I have to go

(54:12):
back home. I was like, I need to find people
that are my people enough to starve in your own earth. Yeah.
I had to go find my earth right, which was
with some whales in Hawaii. But it was like this
is what it Also, the whales have a lot to
tell us. There's also seems like that's the consistent message.
Everyone has a lot to tell us. If we're able

(54:33):
to listen, and there's this fractal link I'm feeling between
you and someone like and say who fought you know
who reminds us the way you talked about the barbershop
person or your coworker. We underestimate them, We don't ask
much of them, we don't see much potential in them.
But if we shifted that and saw the opposite, we'd
have so much more access to power collectively. And so

(54:58):
the whale, the harbor, the co worker, the non voter,
these are all possible allies and community members to help
us practice democracy with exactly And you know, in our nation,
I would also have to say the non citizen, right,
the person who can't vote, the person who you know.
I think of that Worrisonshire poem all the time, and

(55:20):
it's like the person who had to leave where they
were to come here, because this felt like the safest
possible option real quick for anyone wondering. That Worrisonshire poem
referenced is called home now. Worrisonshire is a Somali British
writer and poet, and she wrote that poem inspired by
a visit she made to the abandoned Somali embassy in Rome,

(55:40):
which some young refugees had turned into their home. We've
got it linked in the show notes if you want
to check it out. Hint, you want to check it
out now? Back to Adrian felt like the safest possible option.
Powerful poem. Yeah, I get reminded often. I'm like, you
don't understand the privilege of this place. And I think

(56:03):
about that. I'm like, how would I operate if I did?
How what would change if I wasn't complaining all the
time but figuring out what do I have the freedom
to practice? I've been saying this lately that I feel
like one of the freest people to ever live, and
it kind of that's daunting to me, because I'm like,
do I deserve this freedom? Am I doing the right
thing with it? But I think the right thing is
to be in it, right, to actually be in it

(56:25):
and feel what becomes possible inside of that um And
I want to invite everyone who's listening. I'm like, it's
not just me, it's also you, Like we are amongst
the freest people to ever live, and I don't think
we're taking it seriously enough. Yeah, Imagination Battle, you have
used this phrase and said that we are inside of.

(56:49):
Essentially we're engaged in an imagination battle. Can you explain
what you mean by that. I learned this from my
friend Terry Marshall, who does a project called Intelligent Mischief
in Boston, and it was this idea that everything that
we live inside of right now was imagined by someone,
because especially the stuff we were like, I'm not inferior
to a man, like I can tell I can feel

(57:10):
it in my body, but a man. Yeah, I've met men,
and you know, I'm not saying I'm superior to all
of them, but I do recognize that or white supremacy. Right,
It's like the idea that whiteness is superior to everything
else as someone imagined that. That's not how the world
is actually set up as a fictional concept, but when
that person imagined it, they were so compelling, right, and

(57:32):
whiteness was their fear was so compelling to them. The
story addressed some of their fear of coming across people
that look different from them and not knowing how to
process that. That story is still compelling. You know. When
I wrote Emergent Strategy, one of the vignettes that I
included in there was the fact that if you look
at what happened with with a Mike Brown, is that

(57:52):
he was killed because of the white imagination that sees
him as a threat, that sees him as a danger
as an unarmed black young person, right, And that now
it's not unusual that those who have the authority to
be armed and policing our communities can go into a
court system or can take this to their boss and say,

(58:13):
I imagine they were dangerous, and that's considered a qualifiable
defense to why they murdered someone. Right. So the power
of the imagination in that context has to be taken seriously,
and it means that then we have to take our
imagination seriously for moving our way out of this. And
my friend Jeanine d Novaje is working on a book
right now called Brave Community that's going to come out.

(58:34):
She talks about the post racist imagination. I think about
this all the time, like, how do we harness our
imagination to actually advance the world we want and to
invite people into a compelling space to practice that world
rather than staying stuck in someone else's imagination. Jeanine is
a regular member of the how the citizen community is

(58:56):
here literally right now you're probably feel love it. I
love you. We'll probably see if we can bring her
up in a moment. Yes, excited about about Janine's book,
But that imagination work is the thing right that. It's like,
right now, are we able to imagine? You know? I
also think about this with what stories get told. They're

(59:18):
all the post apocalyptic movies and everything, kind of like,
who's putting out those stories that can imagine us surviving?
I really loved the story of Station eleven, so hoping
you were going to say that, I had my fingers
and toes crossed, but I didn't want to be loved it.
I thought it was such a beautiful imagination of what
it could look like. Yeah, I totally agree. I'm on board.

(59:38):
Imagination is powerful and we need to imagine better, essentially
for ourselves with each other. What are some ways that
we can practice that. I feel like we've stifled our imagination.
We are very good at adopting other people's stories and
other people's fictions and finding freedom within that. But that

(59:59):
feels really sma all when you expand the canvas and say,
but what about a whole another premise? So what are
ways we could practice flexing our imagination, stretching our imagination
in the domain of what do you even means to
practice democracy? Yeah, I mean I have this practice I
call collaborative ideation, and it's really having people sit in

(01:00:20):
a community, sit in a circle and say, what in
our community needs are the medicine of our imagination? The
medicine of our imagination? Where do we feel so stuck
that we can't figure out the policy way forward? We
can't figure out this five year plan, like we can't
figure it out? And have people I D eight together
place yourself in the future. You know, however far you

(01:00:46):
can most of us about ten years is how far
we can actually go out. Anything beyond that is like,
let's stretch and actually say if we had landed this,
if we had applied the medicine and this thing was
actually healed and it was functional, what would that look like?
And the ideation is like what would housing look like,
old transportation look like, how would we talk to our kids?
What would be the normal values and principles? And so

(01:01:09):
we kind of build a world together and then ask
everyone to write short stories in that world, and a
lot of people are like, I'm not a writer. I
don't write fiction. I'm like, you lie to yourself all
the time. You write fiction all the time, You come
up with stories about when someone else is thinking about.
Everyone is writing fiction all the time, right, But it's
taking that harnessing and just making you could tell about
the story. Sometimes that's the way. Just tell me, like

(01:01:30):
in a movie of this, what would happen, and then
have people share that with each other, and you're it's
amazing how much is living inside us already. But it
requires setting down the scroll, putting down the social media,
putting down all that external incoming doom news, and actually
sitting down with people that you love and care about
and just being like, can we just imagine what it

(01:01:51):
could look like if this was no longer a problem?
Which is also what Octavia did was she was like,
let's have new problems. I resolved this one, but now
there's new ones that are emerged. Because we're humans, there's
going to be more. But I love that practice, and
in a small scale, the fractal practice. It's in a
conversation when you hear someone stuck asked them, could you
imagine what it would be like if this was resolved?

(01:02:13):
Like what would it feel like in your system? Let it.
Let yourself feel at first, and then tell me what's different.
That's a powerful practice. I'm gonna I'm gonna practice at dinner.
I'm gonna practice at drinks with friends. Yeah, especially people
who have kids know this. I'm like, we are the
creators of anything that comes beyond us. It's all in
our bodies. Were born with everything about the future all

(01:02:34):
in our bodies, So we have to believe that's also
true for our ideas. Yeah, it's all the same stuff.
It's all energy. That's a whole another chapter. Look, you've
been flexing your imagination. You've been not just facilitating people
bringing out their short stories and fictional stories, but writing
your own your latest book and from the Emergence series
Fables and Spells Collected and new short fiction and poetry.

(01:02:58):
What are you hoping to emphasize is with this collection
of loved as well as new works. Ah well, I
mean first, it was the most fun book that I've
pulled together. Um, I really let myself like, I just
gave myself permission to lean into my witchy, magical spell
casting self. And you know I talked about when I've

(01:03:19):
learned what I could do in a room, and now
I look back and I'm like, oh, I can cast spells,
Like I have an energy that moves through me and
I know that I have to be responsible with it.
And it's the same thing that happens when I write
a story. So I'm just like, this is a spell.
We're casting spells all the time, so fables of spells.
I let myself write about extraterrestrials. I let myself write
about water women and witch magic, and I wrote Spells

(01:03:42):
to the Moon and yeah, I just was like, what
are all the things that I'm doing to try to
transform how I think about the world. And most of
the stories are about people coming into their power, because
that's what I'm very interested right now, is like how
do we come into ourselves? Because I think when we
come into ourselves, we necessarily come into our power. And
I was like, oh, I know who I am and

(01:04:03):
now no one can take that from me. Like that's
the beauty of I think aging. But I also think
it's the beauty that babies have. Like when you meet
a kid, they're not like, oh, what are you going
to think about me? They're like, you think I'm awesome?
And I just pooped all over the place. And like,
I'm the cutest person to the fullest, so true to themselves.
I'm like, how do we return to that that. I'm like,
even coming to this podcast with you, I'm like, let

(01:04:25):
me not assume that bartun days trying to catch me
in something or you know. I was like, let me
assume that I can just be myself and you're going
to meet me by being yourself and magic will happen,
because that's what happens when humans are actually being themselves,
you know. So the book is basically one story after
another of that, you know, moments of people claiming a
little bit more of themselves and their power. And I

(01:04:48):
created an entire extraterrestial species, says Virgos. So I hope
that you that I'm starting with that story. I'm jumping
right to that one non linear story consumption. Yeah, I
really like non linear books too. I'm like, please put
this in your bathroom and just open up to whatever
pages right for you at that moment. Jump around. So, um,

(01:05:11):
we ask all of our guests, if you were to
define citizen not as a legalistic noun but as a verb,
what does it mean to citizen? How would you interpret
that to me? To citizen means to take responsibility for
the fact that I'm part of something larger than myself
and to be a contribution of life moving towards life

(01:05:33):
in whatever structures I'm a part of. Mm hmm, thank you,
thank you. We have reached that moment in our show
where we bring the people into the fray. So first up,
Alison Mosqueta. Hi, Alison, I'm Alison Mosqueta. I'm here in Denver,

(01:05:54):
Colorado and cerious about how do we citizen in fun ways?
So how to citizen has really stretched my thinking about
our collective responsibility as a member of society and ways
that I was never taught, especially around policy, government, democracy.

(01:06:15):
Um never learned any of those things growing up in school, right,
never learned exactly what it means to be involved and
engaged and be a democracy. So how do we do
that in fun ways that are exciting and energizing, especially
maybe in private sectors like nonprofits in my own community.
It's really exciting to think about if we do this

(01:06:35):
now and we start instilling this in younger and younger generations,
what is the next thing going to look like? Right? Yeah,
So you know the thing that comes to me is
like you have to stay in touch with the part
of you that knows how to have fun, which I
think is one of the things that often we accidentally
set down when we become an organizer because I must
save the world and I must be so serious. So

(01:06:59):
part of it is just apping back authentically into the
part of you that knows how to have fun. But
I have to tell you, when you first said the question,
I heard fund raise and I was like, um, that's
a whole another podcast, but fun ways, I'm like, yeah,
I think most of it is what actually brings you joy.
So recently I've been building out this project that's a
musical ritual and it's because I like singing in groups

(01:07:20):
with people. And I remember I've been like, oh, yeah,
I used to love being in a choir when I
was a kid, like coming together and singing, like just
everyone's sitting down the house and have a good time.
Not because you're trying to sound the most beautiful are perfect,
but the singing with is the thing, right, And we
always talk about preaching to the choir, but I'm like
the choir these reminders on how to be a choir,

(01:07:42):
like how do we harmonize, how do we find the
right volume so that we can all be heard and
make something larger than ourselves. So for me, that's a
super fun way to have people come together and do
what could be important serious work also, but it's doing
it in a way that's really enjoyable. I also find
adding celebration, like doses of celebration into any community is

(01:08:04):
really helpful. So it's your birthday, Like, let's take a
moment and actually celebrate that you just got a divorce. Yay,
I'm sure it was the right decision. You know, something
happened with your kid, You've got a new degree. Like
taking the time to celebrate each other in community because
and then also celebrate the small winds. You know. Back
when I was a facilitator, I always lift this up

(01:08:24):
because I'm like, this is so funny to me. But
I had a group that was like they could not
make a decision, Like they just could not make a
decision together. It was like, we're how we're gonna save
the world. We can't even And we figured out how
to order lunch together, and I was like, you know
what we wanna do is gonna pause and we're gonna
put on Mary J. Blige we're gonna just sing. You know.
Adding music into anything I think improves the fun capacity

(01:08:47):
of it. And then I think having fun that's not
tied to transaction, so really being like, oh, we have
bowling nights that are not about trying to raise money.
We have movie nights. You know. There's a group here
in um North Carolina in Durham where I live called
Spirit House, and like every time a big black movie
comes out there, just like we rented out of the
theater and we just go and we're like Wakonda forever,

(01:09:09):
Like it's all of us. We have shared values. Everyone's
wearing a mask. We don't have to worry about all
this stuff, and we can just enjoy each other and
there's no organized component to it. It's really being together.
So to me, that part of being with your community
is super important because that's what actually forms the connective
tissue that makes you even want to act as a community.

(01:09:30):
Team building. Yeah, in a fun way. Thank you all right,
Next up, we have we've heard this name once already.
Please welcome to the stage. I had to do my
my live event MC voice for this one. I love
the way you did that. That was so exciting. My
name in silly. What's up everybody? Hi? And Marie Brown? Hi.

(01:09:56):
My question is everyone from the Boys to Marry m
Kaba that has attended to black liberation and had like
a home and the politics of it found the need
to go to the culture and the arts of it. Everyone.
So I want you to talk to us about what
that's looking like for you. Because I heard that you're

(01:10:19):
making music. Now I heard Oh, I love this question.
One thing is I think that there's a huge overlap
between the poetic force within us and the part of
us that wants to save the world. A lot of
people who I meet who are like, I love the earth,
I love the world, I love humans. It's because we're
paying attention to what's beautiful, and we're paying attention to

(01:10:41):
what hurts. We're empathetic, we're letting it in. I meet
so many people who are organizers, are activists, and then
like one step under that, they're like, I'm a poet,
I'm a singer, I'm a writer, I'm a rapper, I'm
writing plays, and I imagine a future often where one
of the ways we know that we've healed from a
lot of these oppressive tendencies that we're actually spending most

(01:11:01):
of our time making and sharing art. But I also
love what happens when people are able to just drop
into the cultural space. And I've been allowing that for myself.
So I have an album coming out that's related to
the Fables and spells work. It's all like spell songs
and songs that feel like magic to me. And then
I just did this huge music ritual that I'm work

(01:11:21):
shopping and taking around the country to be like, can
we create a portal into the future through songs that
we sing in choir in chorus together, and can we
create a space and opening for ourselves through music? And
I think the reason that there's this direct pathway from
trying to change the world too into that culture space

(01:11:43):
is that eventually you recognize that what we're trying to
shift is culture. Is we're trying to change the culture
through which people see themselves as a part of this
whole you know, Audrey Lord said that we don't live
compartmentalized lives, right, We don't live in these little silos
apart from ourselves. We are whole us. We are whole people.
And I think what we want to invite into the

(01:12:03):
public sphere more and more often is spaces where people
can come together and be whole. And when I'm singing
a song, my political self is there, and my insecure
self is there, and my little girl who knows I'm
the ship is there, and my grown up who has
pain and heartbreak is all there. And I'm only interested

(01:12:24):
in being with people when all of us can all
be there, right, And the cultural space for me is
where that opens up. And it has been amazing to
look around and see so many of my comrades also
doing this. So I look over and I'm like Charlenne Carruthers,
who is part of the YP one hundred for a
long time, has made a film, and Patris Colors is
doing all these arts installations, and I know so many

(01:12:47):
people who are writing books, writing fiction who are like
Toronto Burke is like, I've got fiction out ahead of me,
like right, because we're imagining the new world. These are
all people who have spent a ton of time imagining
the world and now we're trying to find ways to
share it with everyone. And yeah, I will say it's thrilling,
Like I'm still vibrating off of the musical portal that

(01:13:08):
got opened on Saturday in New York and for me,
as someone who people are like they look at and
be like, oh, you know things, you're so wise. It
was so incredible to get to come into something and
be like, I'm also a part of the choir, so
I can sing with my own solitary voice. But what
makes me feel the most alive is when I'm singing

(01:13:30):
with four people in a circle and we're catching each
other and we're vibing off of each other, and like
we remember that we're bigger than just our solitary selves.
It's very healing. It is. You've reminded me of a
middle school experience singing in a school production with a
bunch of other black kids that was mostly white school
and white kids were singing with us too. Was doing

(01:13:51):
some kind of gospel song. I'm not even Christian like that,
but the song was so moving and were like thugs
were happy, you know what I mean, Like, that's that's
listen okay, because there's something universal that taps you into yourself.
And I will say the music, the musical ritual is
basically taking the technology of gospel music and interacting it

(01:14:12):
with the ideas of emergence, strategy and pleasure activism and
transformative justice. So it's absolutely unlocking that place. Like people
come in there like oh hold up, I don't know
if we could do this, and it was like, yeah,
we can feel really really really excellent together, and like
that's medicine we need. It's getting to that under level
that you talked about earlier. It bypasses. Yeah, I had

(01:14:34):
people crying. I can't imagine you may compeople. I love
is having people like being able to grieve together, because
I do think in this period of history, we have
so much to grieve and so few places to actually
let that grief come through, and we need these collective
spaces where we can actually let the grief come through
because it also helps us figure out what we can do.

(01:14:55):
Like the world we're going to build is one that
is built from our grief as much as it is
built from our visions. It's like what am I done losing?
And what am I accepting? And what am I dreaming?
So all right, we have Carol Wombledorff. You will correct me, Carol,
you will say your name and where you're at and
get to your question. Hi, Carol Wommeldorf. Is that German?

(01:15:17):
Oh yeah, yeah, I was raised. I was. I grew
up in Germany, Like half of my childhood was in Germany.
You know, there's an S between the L and the
D if you're in Germany. So, um, how do you
respond to folks who say voting is irrelevant and rigged?
And I mean, it's such a mundane but it's a
real day to day kind of question when you want

(01:15:38):
to help people understand that it is rigged and it's
still matters. That's right, that's beautiful, Carol. Where are you
geographically before when makes Cincinnati, Ohio? We're really batters? Yeah, okay,
well I hear that all the time. I think it's
a little bit of a both end. Like I never
tried to take that away from people. I'm like, you're
very smart, you're not wrong. Is rigged and it is unfair,

(01:16:03):
and it still matters. I think of it as the
harm reduction strategy for this period of history, as we're
in the shift, so harm reduction for those who may
or may not be aware of it. As the idea
with drug users that you're like, you might not be
able to make it all the way to abstinence, you
may not be able to live a sober life. But
you can reduce the harms that come from your drug use,

(01:16:24):
and you can reduce the harms in ways that make
sure you still have a home and you still have
access to your kids, that you still have the maximum
health in your body, and you can learn to trust
yourself without judgment and be in that So I approach
voting that way where I'm like, if we're going to
get to a different way of doing nation state, if
we're going to get to a practice where we do

(01:16:45):
have multiple viable parties, for instance, that give us actual
options to express ourselves politically, we won't get there by
fully giving up on participating in the current system. And
I actually encourage people when they say, I'm like, you
probably actually need to be voting more rather than not
voting at all, because a lot of times people say

(01:17:06):
that around the national elections and they're upset because we
only have a two party system and it's a party
that is like central and right, like we don't really
have a strong left at the national level, and I
mean from a movement perspective, right, I'm like, my dad
would argue differently, but I feel like when I hear that,
I'm like, yes, And the reason that exists is because

(01:17:28):
we're not necessarily engaging in the electoral process at our
local level. That feeds up into what's possible at the
national level or was possible at the state level. Right,
it's all fractals. Elections are a very fractal process. Like
what happens at any federal or national level is only
possible because it was happening at all the local levels.

(01:17:49):
And part of why I moved to Durham was because
I was like, very excited about what's happening at the
local political level here. I had a friend who was
a black trans person who was elected to school board.
I have someone else who I met who was elected
as the d A. I met all these folks who
I'm like, getting themselves into the city council, getting this
like being like, actually, we're going to grow our political

(01:18:11):
power up right. And it's only by that growing up
that you see things like oh, Georgia having a blue election,
things where you're like, that's not ever going to happen.
It happens because someone like Stacy Abrams is like, I'm
going to take the local electoral process seriously as seriously
as anything is happening on the national, federal level. So
that's often the response I give, and I say, if

(01:18:34):
you can't figure it out for yourself, do it for
someone else, And like, I love to keep some of
those in my back pocket. I'm like, there are a
lot of people who don't have the right to vote
who are going to be negatively impacted by what feel
like small scale differences, like there's no difference between the parties,
And I'm like, that's because you're not a citizen. If
there's no difference between the parties, that's because you're not
reliant on medication for your well being. If you don't

(01:18:55):
see a difference between the parties, Like, there are places
where there are distinct differences. This is one of my
everything I've been saying lately. There's also a lot of
fake orgasmic policies. So there's a lot of policies they're
not actually the thing we want, they won't actually satisfy us,
but we're being given the fake orgasm version of it
right where it's like this kind of sounds like it's

(01:19:15):
moving us towards climate something good. Right, we have to
actually be engaged to be able to make the distinction
and be like, no, I'm not satisfied by that, and
we're going to build policy that actually is effective and
satisfying for our future. And we're going to build that
up right. That's the other thing people often don't realize
is that policy builds up right. Being able to enact
a good policy at the federal level is because good

(01:19:38):
policy has been built at the local level. Adrian Marie
Brown advocate for real orgasmic policies, real orgasmic policy, true
satisfaction in our small D democratic lives. That's the only
small D that needs to be there. That I was

(01:19:58):
going to ask if you have anything else to add,
I think you just did. Is there anything else you
want to say? I mean, I have this book out,
Fables and Spells. Please get it from a K Press directly.
I put a single out called Ancestors Use Me so
you can hear me sing to you about the ancestors.
And if you're interested in bringing the musical ritual to you,
you can reach out through the website and we'll find

(01:20:20):
a way to come to you because it's it's an
in person healing experience and bar tun Day. Thank you
for finding me, Thank you for hunting me down and
opening this portal. I'm excited for our Virgo friendship to
begin and and continue. So I echo all of that,
I fractal that back to you. Thank you for giving
us ways to grow up yeah, and to be, you know, inside,

(01:20:45):
the way we want to be outside, recognizing they're all
the same thing. So appreciate what you've done and how
transparent you've been in your own growth. Thank you, Thank you,
thank you, bye y'all. By Marie Brown by There is
so much that we think we have to do to

(01:21:07):
preserve and extend our democracy. We have to register people
to vote and in gerrymandering, and get money out of politics,
and expand the Supreme Court and end white supremacy and
in the patriarchy. And it is just a giant task list.
What Adrian Marie Brown reminds us of through Emergent Strategy

(01:21:28):
in particular, is that what we need to do is
be together. We need to practice being together, humanizing each other,
being in right relationship, working towards having generative conflict with
each other, and through that let the resurgence, the expansion,
the preservation of democracy emerge in order for us to

(01:21:53):
have any chance at achieving that task list. And it's
a worthy list. We've got to go deeper. We've got
to till and regenerate that soil, that culture with a
focus on our relationships. And there's something else. The Octavia
Butler line that Adrian shared woke something up in me.

(01:22:17):
There's nothing new under the sun, but there are new sons.
Mm hmm. I admit that there are times when I
have felt stuck, uninspired, and depressed about where we go
from here, and that feeling needs to be shaken and
jolted and released so that I can see new possibility again.

(01:22:40):
And I think that's true for many. We are stuck
so often when we think how do we save democracy
because a lot of the time we limit our efforts
to restoring the past, and the past is not necessarily
the model. America is a long standing democracy in very

(01:23:00):
thick quotation marks from most of its history, most of
its people were legally not allowed to participate in most
of the mechanics of democracy. So where we really If
we limit our imaginations to our existing past, then we're
limiting our future to what has already passed, And so

(01:23:21):
invoking the words and vision of people like Octavia Butler
can help push us beyond the bounds of what we
already know. Over the rest of this season, we will
push those bounds with you in this podcast. All the
episodes that follow growth from seeds planted in this conversation

(01:23:41):
will explore the strengths and limitations of voting within Saufa
of the New Georgia Project will push democracy beyond elections
in an episode focused on citizen assemblies. Will imagine bigger
and better versions of our economy with Kate Rayworth, will
explore how we build tech with Ruhab Benjamin, will rethink
how we participate in and shape our communities with Christian

(01:24:03):
Vonnazette and Alek Jang, and so much more. We can
create a healthier culture of democracy. And all these people
were bringing you this season, they're helping us build it.
And now it's time for some action. Let's practice imagining.

(01:24:23):
Imagination is a muscle that we need to exercise in
order to envision the reality we want to create. Adrian
reminded us of that. Today we've broken these out into
three areas, personal reflection, getting more informed, and publicly participating.
Now for internal personal reflection, ask yourself, what communities are
you a part of right now? From the smallest to

(01:24:46):
the largest the most local to the most global. Build
that list in your mind. In which of these communities
did you play some role in decision making and resource allocation? Now?
Can you think of ways to bring others into those
decisions more? In other words, can you think of ways,
even and especially small, ways to bring more democracy to

(01:25:08):
your existing communities? In terms of actions you can take
to be more informed, we want to prepare you to
flect that imagination of yours. Adrian was mentored by Chinese
American philosopher, writer, and activists Grace Lee Boggs. Learn more
about Bogs in the documentary American Revolutionary The Evolution of
Grace Lee Box. It's available on Amazon, Prime, YouTube, and

(01:25:31):
other sites for just a few dollars. Explore the power
of fiction to affect the factual by reading Adrian's book
Octavia's Brood, science fiction stories from social justice movements, and
her newest book, Fables and Spells. And you should check
out the parable series by Octavia Butler to see why
Adrian and so many others are so obsessed with this writer.

(01:25:53):
Don't have money, that's okay, grab a copy from your
local library. Finally, in the realm of participation, we want
you to practice collaborative ideation. Return to those communities you
identified in the personal reflection. It could be your household, classroom, office, department,
or group. Chat. Within one of these groups, have members

(01:26:16):
identify some challenge you feel as hurting or impeding the group.
Then ask folks to imagine what things would be like
years out if this challenge were fully resolved. How would
they feel, what would they be able to accomplish? Write
this down in short form, perhaps a corny movie trailer
to make it fun. In a world where none of

(01:26:37):
us carry student debt, or in a world where everyone
in this house is able to access the bathroom for
as long as they need without preventing others from doing
the same, You get the idea. It doesn't have to
be super serious. The point is to try with others
to imagine a better future. If you don't have someone

(01:26:58):
to play with, try this by your self, but look
for ways to share your ideation with others, maybe in
an email to a friend or a post on social media.
If you take any of these actions, please brag about
it online and use the hashtag how to citizen. Also
tag our Instagram how the citizen. I am always online

(01:27:19):
and I really do see your messages, so send them.
You can also visit our website, how a Citizen dot com,
which has all of our shows, full transcripts, actions and more. Finally,
see this episode show notes for resources, actions and more
ways to connect How the Citizen with Barritton Day as
a production of I Heart Radio Podcasts and Row Home Productions.

(01:27:41):
Our executive producers are Me Barrittuon Day Thurston and Elizabeth Stewart.
Our leave producer is Ali Graham, Our associate producer is
Donia abdel Hamid. Alex Lewis is our managing producer, and
John Myers is our executive editor. Our mixed engineer is
Justin Burger. Original music by Andrew Eapen with additional music

(01:28:03):
by Blue Dot Sessions. Special thanks to Joel Smith from
my Heart Radio and Lay Labina. Next on How to Citizen,
Adrian went deep on the power of fiction and stories.
And for years we've all been living in a story
that isolates us from each other and sees our only

(01:28:25):
power as that of a consumer. But in our next episode,
we'll talk with someone inviting us to live inside a
citizens story, one that reorients us towards connection and collaboration.
In ways I am sure would make Adrian proud. The
important thing to recognize when you start to see these
as stories, when you start to see it in this way,
is that you're not just talking about like the problem

(01:28:47):
is consumption, the problem is advertising like. It's much more
about the storytelling of our society. It's the fact that
what I would describe what we live in today as
a consumer democracy where our only agency is to choose
between a fix set of options that are offered to us,
where we're actually encouraged to make that choice on the
basis of our own individual self interest. John Alexander tells
us how learning to see the story of consumption we've

(01:29:08):
been written into can change our world, and how stepping
outside that story could help save our democracy. Row Home
Productions
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