As a part of my sabbatical commitment, I am trying to read about two books a week and write some responses to what I have read. Rather than looking at a whole text, am going to choose one quote from each text that I read so as to limit my analysis and response and allow me to still have the time to continue with my task lists. The picture above was posted on Instagram after I finished the book. Baby heard a few passages on black feminism.
In How we get free: Black feminism and the Combahee River Collective, edited by Keeanga Yamahtta-Taylor, the original Combahee River Collective is reprinted. Some of the most powerful quotations within these statement are these (emphases mine):
“The most general statement of our politics at the present time would be that we are actively committed to struggling against racial, sexual, heterosexual, and class oppression, and see as our particular task the development of integrated analysis and practice based upon the fact that the major systems of oppression are interlocking. The synthesis of these oppressions creates the conditions of our lives. As Black women we see Black feminism as the logical political movement to combat the manifold and simultaneous oppressions that all women of color face.“
“We might use our position at the bottom, however, to make a clear leap into revolutionary action. If Black women were free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all the systems of oppression.“
“This focusing upon our own oppression is embodied in the concept of identity politics. We believe that the most profound and potentially most radical politics come directly out of our own identity, as opposed to working to end somebody else’s oppression. In the case of Black women this is a particularly repugnant, dangerous, threatening, and therefore revolutionary concept because it is obvious from looking at all the political movements that have preceded us that anyone is more worthy of liberation than ourselves. We reject pedestals, queenhood, and walking ten paces behind. To be recognized as human, levelly human, is enough.“
The CRC statement has been published in various places and analyzed deeply by many scholars. I am interested in a statement that Demita Frazier made in her interview with Dr. Taylor. It’s on page 132 of How we get free: Black feminism and the Combahee River Collective:
“Most truly radical organizations, when you’re that – when you’re the edge of the sword – you burn out. It’s like a supernova, right? It bursts onto the scene and brings illumination. But like most things that are like that, they burn themselves out. And in the end, one of the things that I regret is that we did not have a deep, deep ongoing conversation with the African American community in Boston, so that we could continue undermining homophobia in that community and continue to ask the hard questions about class war and race war in Boston.”
The CRC met for seven years, I learned from the text, engaging in retreats, shared reading discussions, collective actions within their group and in solidarity with others. The women of the Combahee River Collective continued to be deeply involved in activist and revolutionary action, from demonstrations to setting up programs and a press and others. I am interested in this idea of burn out in radical and revolutionary practice, particularly as an educator and mother. What is it about the revolutionary mothering as Alexis Pauline Gumbs, China Martens, and Mai’a Williams hold space to in their edited volume, Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines that allows for radicality to continue to be nurtured and nourishing? I think of Staceyann Chin’s Living Room Protests with her daughter, Zuri, and how dynamic a model those videos have been for engaging in complex analyses and age appropriate actions with a child. I’ve never asked Staceyann about the process of making these videos with her daughter, but I imagine how fulfilling it is to be a part of the future. As Alexis writes in several books when she talks about writers being ancestors in their work, in the case of Staceyann to be a walking ancestor who holds their biological legacy as well as ideological, theoretical, analytical, social, and political work in her hands as child and created video for engagement with an audience far beyond the limits of her living room.
I am thinking of how, a radical organization, can burn out and how I often talk to teachers who are being taught within a social justice oriented program to be intentional about their self-care. The reality is that the teacher burnout rate for all teachers is about 50%; I expect that may be higher for teachers with a social justice orientation who are radical, transformative workers within an educational system that was not designed for the flourishing of all, an educational system that is populated with embodied ideologies of white supremacy, misogyny, homophobia, ablism and more who counter the liberation potentialities of a free and public education.
I am thinking, too, of my own occasional burnout, being at tension with my own political and social practice in the education of educators and writers. I believe burnout can be mitigated by engagement with others engaged in radical and revolutionary practice as well as through the active incorporation of healing and ceremony practices. But how? I find myself often weighted about all the work to do, how often I say, “There is still so much work to do”, and dedicating myself to another small piece of it. Here is one success and yet another countless series of battles I can see along the way. I have lately begun to rethink the communities of which I am a part, preferring predominantly POC spaces in which the educational work of talking about concepts and realities of oppression is not necessary; rather we can get to the work of dreaming and building and becoming ancestors in spirit and knowledge. That said, I find myself identifying conferences to attend and organizations to take part of … my list of new organizations to be a part of is very long … but the reality is that there is too much of a good thing. I am still deciding how to nourish and be nourished in my work: writing and educating. I am still working on how to have deep and ongoing discussions within my communities of choice and love. No one wants to be a supernova, beautiful, raging, and ultimately dead, scalding of all other, and worse becoming a black hole that devours others even beyond death. Of course, Frazier didn’t say all that in her metaphor – and CRC, even though it only lasted seven years, offered fertility and inspiration in movements that continue to ripple out – but organizational death and death in individual action can burn out so cataclysmically as to rip apart others. For my life, I want transformative love in action; for my son, I want the same.
#1of52, #twt, #howwegetfree, #thisisthebeginningofanessay, #thisisanessay, #52essays2019,