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This Juneteenth, we find ourselves in a moment that is both new, and not-new—on the verge of rebellion, with the uncertain fear of a point of no return. In the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges of anti-Blackness, police brutality, and failing safety nets at every level in a global pandemic, we know that other worlds are possible, no matter how much those in power want us to forget it.
See, we’ve been here before. This Juneteenth, we know better.
Abolition is about the “lasting truth” of change that Octavia Butler, a literal and literary Black visionary, taught us in her words and worlds. Nothing stands still, regardless of why we create it, so we have no choice but to knock down and build up, always at the same time, in rhythm, over and over again.
Abolition demands that we refuse fixed or singular worlds, or siloed modes of being. We have always been related to each other, human and other than human, always multitudinous, always carrying more than our own weight, even when we are told otherwise or think we don’t know how.
Abolition requires that we trust ourselves to remember well enough to do the extra-and-ordinary things we’ve done before as our ancestors. To remember what our descendants will do when we are ancestors.
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We believe, as our ancestors did, that other worlds are not just possible, but necessary. If abolition requires a public will to remember, and if, in the words of abolitionists Ruth Wilson Gilmore and James Kilgore, publics are “made” instead of predefined, then we are committed to sharing the kinds of stories that will shape our collective will to build up the worlds that will make us possible in the future.
We practice abolition by telling the stories about those of us who are remembering some of the things they want us to forget. These stories offer lessons that we need to remember and carry to pursue abolition as an everyday practice, rather than as any one or more defined social movements. These stories in themselves are acts of liberation.
Black remembrance is an act of liberation:
A Black kingdom in postbellum Appalachia, Danielle Dulken
The Kingdom of the Happy Land was a Black communal society in Western North Carolina during Reconstruction. Nestled in the valleys and ridges along Lake Summit near the small town of Tuxedo, North Carolina, The Kingdom embodied a larger history of Black, rural place-making and an early vision for Black settlement in the southern mountains.
Black horse culture and living in pleasure: in conversation with Wild Talk’s avry jxn, Amber Officer-Narvasa
In a world reeling from the destructiveness of white supremacy and the accumulated terrors of centuries of violence against living ecosystems, avry jxn’s ongoing multimedia project Wild Talk offers a vision of a different way to be—to place remembrance and reverence at the center, and to start from there.
See also: In Photos: Black August in the Park, Dare Kumolu-Johnson and Danielle Purifoy
Slave rebellion replaces Confederate reenactments, Tricia Towey
The largest slave revolt in American history started on the night of January 8, 1811. Led by a slave driver named Charles Deslondes, a small band of slaves injured plantation owner Manuel Andry and murdered his son Gilbert. Armed with muskets and farming tools they started a two-day march along the Mississippi River towards New Orleans. The rebel slaves that survived the bloody battle were sentenced to death by firing squad and their heads were placed on poles along the river to intimidate the other slaves. This story has been lost to history, until recently. Over 200 years later on November 8 and 9, 2019 over 200 actors retraced the steps of the rebel slaves. Lead by artist Dread Scott, the first 1811 Slave Rebellion Reenactment was six years in the making.
See also: Acts of remembrance, Danielle Purifoy
Black movement is an act of liberation:
How COVID-19 has changed the game for Black community organizers, Courtney Napier
We must take advantage of this moment to gain wins we could not have even dreamed of pre-COVID. We have to end this talk of returning to normal with nostalgia.
Raleigh’s Street Heat team knocks on doors and talks with Black workers about their needs and dreams. A look at the layers of love and tireless work of building Black political power at the local level. Find out how the pandemic and a resurgence of racial terrorism has affected their efforts.
See also: When Black voters matter as much as Black votes, Courtney Napier
As we see millions march for and stand in solidarity with Black lives around the world, with COVID-19 stay-at-home orders still in place, I question how much this moment will change the policing of our bodies. I can’t help but think about my own Black trans body. A body who has witnessed and felt more harm than good. A body that knows violence all too well.
Photographer Jade Wilson spent days on the streets of the uprising in Raleigh, North Carolina, documenting Black revolt, tenderness, and grief. “I want to play a role in making sure we are properly represented.”
See also: Young Black Missisippians join May Day protests for workers rights, COVID-19 protections, Frances Madeson
Black imagination is an act of liberation:
Finding the thread: The tradition of African-American quilting, Ellison Langford
“I’m just trying to spread joy,” Brantley says. During slavery, Black quiltmakers were obliged to encrypt messages in their quilts. Now, they are boldly political. A spirit of originality has always threaded through the evolution of African-American quilting. Enter the vibrant and dynamic world of Southern Black quilters.
See also: Sketching Wakanda: Building a world where Black creators thrive, Gabrielle Hernández
On the visibility of Black (w)holes, Derrick Beasley
“What goes unseen is how the weight of our own daily encounters with inequity in almost every arena—from health care and education to housing and incarceration—is added to the collective mass of our ancestors’ past trauma. As we sink further into our wholes, grieving and wrestling with the realities of our painful histories, our bodies stretch, becoming thinner and thinner as the gravity at our toes becomes considerably more intense than the gravity at our heads. When this happens inside a black hole it’s called spaghettification. When it happens in the lives of Black folks, it’s called the social, cultural, and genetic effects of racial trauma. Under these intense conditions, eventually our bodies and minds stretch, narrow, and divide into parts until we’re reduced to atoms. We add our mass to the gravity of Blackness.”
See also: That’s not actually true, Kiese Laymon
Black verse is an act of liberation:
Our Toni, W. J. Lofton
Toni Morrison used memory and imagination to create a family-tree for young Black readers desperately searching for themselves inside the literary tradition. Atlanta poet and writer W.J. Lofton finally picks up the pen in honor of the literary foremother.
“Toni Morrison carries our truth to us and demands that we sit with this history, these lived experiences which have built for us a home—a home she herself walked through ahead of us with deliberate suspicion of its dilapidated infrastructure, with eyes that could see into the beauty, magic, and love that existed within its walls. It was a home where she had laid a key outside, underneath the welcome mat.”
See also: ‘Holding hands at the edge of a white silence…’ Poetry from Jericho Brown, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, & Taylor Johnson
“No Such Thing as a Still Life,” a series of Black Ekphrastic poetry
Food from the Gulf Coast, with a side of storytelling.
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The experiences into which Black Southern artists dipped their brushes and plucked their strings are never still, never static. Cultural practitioners and inventors both then and now know that Blackness is constantly on the move, fugitive and fuguing. “No Such Thing as A Still Life”—A Southern Collection of Black Ekphrasis features poems with origins deeply embedded in the materiality and sonic aesthetics of Black visual artists and musicians creating in the South.
Like Blackness itself, these poems were not created ex-nihilo. A rich materiality is our mother. The fabric of Blackness, its grammars, traumas, its poverty and joy and collective resonances so often deemed nothing by the white gaze, are not and have never been no-thing. The poets and writers included in this series practice conjure, repurposement, and re-creation to discover the yet-embedded meanings vibrating the deep.
Black food is an act of liberation, too:
“It’s never made sense to me. We know slaves were farming. We know there was honey, so who was beekeeping? White people were having Black people do their farming, so chances are white people were having Black people do beekeeping too. They beat people to death to do their work, but you’re telling me white people were jumping for joy to do beekeeping? I don’t buy it. This is a whole chapter that is lost.”
Local farmer Samantha Foxx isn’t interested in “roll[ing] out the red carpet” for uninvested white farming orgs. Learn how she and other Black farmers in Forsyth County are rebuilding their own nearly lost foodways legacy.
See also: Can Young Black Farmers Save Atlanta?, Denechia Powell-Twagirumukiza
Black businesses disrupt unhealthy food system in Southeast Raleigh, Courtney Napier
For 80 years, Demetrius Hunter’s family brought fresh, healthy food to Raleigh’s Black residents. Though the political and economic odds are stacked against the residents of Southeast Raleigh, they have built their own businesses and non-profit organizations to fill the gaps. COVID-19 presents a new food access challenge that his business, Grocers on Wheels, is ready to meet.