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Murmurations: Grow the Chorus
This year of writing about accountability has taught me so much. I am not the kind of writer who starts from answers. I write to share my questions, to explore them in public until I have a hypothesis for a practice or path forward. I feel the work of our generation may be to correct wrong answers that leave us hungry, to unweave crooked spells and unravel the nets in which we have caught the future. Rather than insist on answers, we must be willing to deconstruct everything until we find all the seeds of what we are meant to be, then press those seeds into restored, turned earth and see what else we can grow from our miraculous potential.
There is an idea that keeps coming to the surface in me, in a dance with Octavia E. Butler’s Earthseed concept: that we are the seeds, that our lives are the Earth’s seeds. We live these lives, blossoming, growing, learning, seeding—and then, as our DNA gets tucked back into the Earth, as our spirits fly back into the next breath, the wisdom and love and learning of our lives shapes what is possible for the next generation to come forth. As often happens, right as I get excited at the feeling of a new idea, I realize this is just my way of internalizing and making poetry out of something I learned from a friend-ancestor.
Grace Lee Boggs said, “We must transform ourselves to transform the world.” And as I wrote this column over the past year, it became clear to me this direction is the heart of my work and thinking, the heart of this period of emergent strategy. I mean heart in the literal sense: an idea that all my other ideas pass through repeatedly, a center that gathers and distributes and sets the pace of the rest of my thinking. I don’t believe any future worth living into will come to pass without an equally radical internal transformation in our self-concept of what it means to be human.
I am less and less interested in concepts that center around accountability for the choices of people who have long ago passed—accountability is something for the living, and for those to come. If our ancestors did things to imbalance the scales, our work is to seek the balance available in our lifetimes. For some of us that means reparations, and for others it means reclamation. Because concepts such as race and nation are constructs with ever-changing boundaries and rules and power dynamics, most of us have to find some balance of both reparation and reclamation in how we move into accountability with our lineages, in what we allow to flow through us into the future.
I also feel clearer than ever that we are not meant to outsource the labor of our lives to a future we cannot see and will not experience. We are not meant to allow others to use our life force like a battery for a machine that doesn’t know our names. It matters that we are creating more possibility and justice and joy for ourselves in the present. Yes, our ancestors perhaps knew more about how to be with the Earth; and yes, the more of us who find a relationship with the Earth, the better the future is. But choosing to love the Earth is not just in right relationship to ancestors and those to come, it’s also one of the most healing ways to exist right here and now.
What was unveiled for me in writing each column this year seems simple to know and immense to practice: how we do everything, every single thing, matters. Bringing our attention to each decision will unveil what kind of transformation is possible in us, and in our lifetimes. I want to pull the essence of this year of writing into a relatively simple spell:
We are the stewards of the future.
We will care for our shared home.
We believe we can heal and learn.
We will speak the truth with held hands.
We will uproot oppression from within us.
We will have fractal humility and epic connectedness.
We will let go of death-worship and learn to grieve.
We will listen to our ancestors, and let our lives grow beyond theirs.
We will make new pathways with our healing.
We will expand our we beyond humanity—to all that lives.
We will accept the gift of our wholeness.
We will call all of this love.
I think it’s all in there.
So what comes next? I want to continue these Murmurations, but I have reached a joyful place of being tired of my solitary voice.
This month, I got to share a work in progress called To Feel A Thing: A Ritual for Emergence at The Shed in New York City. One of the most important aspects of this ritual is getting to move from a culture of isolation and solitary achievement or experience, to one rooted in a felt sense of belonging. We emerge as part of a choir where every voice is different, and the shape of the whole compels us toward a future in which we can be ourselves, in which we can revel in an abundant world. I want to try the same practice here, to take this column from being a single voice to becoming a collective chorus.
I have invited a number of emergent strategists to share this column with me, and they have enthusiastically said yes. In the year ahead, they have so much they are eager to share. They want to explore questions of how we adapt together, their practices for doing so, and their grief and their brilliance and their poetry and their voices. I am so excited for you to hear from these other voices in this murmuration. I may drop in occasionally to make meaning of the thread, but no promises—I mostly want to read and learn alongside you all.
Thank you for reading so far. Let’s keep learning, and keep moving, together.
adrienne maree brown is a writer, editor, activist, social justice facilitator, coach, speaker, and doula. Her books include Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds, Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good, which she wrote and edited, and Octavia's Brood: Science Fiction Stories From Social Justice Movements, which she co-edited. She is a YES! contributing editor.