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Mnookin: Sustainable Activism

Megan Monday
Abby met activist author adrienne maree brown at a signing event for her book 'Emergent Strategy.'

I’m a white person living in a predominantly rural, white state, and a queer mother, doula, writer, organizer, educator, and facilitator living in perilous times.

Daily headlines of horrors like immigrant children in cages can lead to despair.

With activists being told to prepare for a marathon, not a sprint, pleasure and joy must have a role in this movement for justice.
This led me to Detroit for the 20th annual Allied Media Conference, or AMC, where social justice organizers, artists, healers, and media makers were invited to “address the roots of problems and advance holistic solutions towards a more just and creative world.”

It was invigorating to feel the power of shared identities and visions of positive change – not to mention the energy of an urban learning environment centering people of color.

In part, I was drawn there by adrienne maree brown’s book Emergent Strategy, described as “radical self-help, society-help, and planet-help designed to shape the futures we want to live.”

In it, Detroit-based brown writes, “I suspect that to really transform our society, we will need to make justice one of the most pleasurable experiences we can have.”

During a live recording of the podcast “How to Survive the End of the World, learning from the apocalypse with grace, rigor and curiosity,” she expanded on this idea by observing that a “fat, black, queer woman who wears glasses,” experiencing pleasure “right now in [her] body” can be seen as a 'radical act.'”

This might include great food, parenting, dreaming, music, meditation, sex, or simple connection, so long as the resulting pleasure “keeps us going” and enables us to continue “carrying the burden of our communities,” which organizers and oppressed peoples commonly do at the risk of depression and burnout.

The AMC was an opportunity to learn, grow, and recharge. I also gained practical tools, such as anti-oppressive facilitation skills and citizen science techniques.

Joy and pleasure were supported through connecting with friends. We enjoyed a pop-up “Kit an’ Kin” dinner prepared by three generations of women celebrating their Caribbean roots; an impromptu sing-a-long to Destiny’s Child; and dancing late into the night – all of which will help me be a more effective community organizer.

One message we chanted together was: "be brave, be strong, and in all that you do, do it in love."

And now I feel better equipped to do just that.