recentpopularlog in

robertogreco : stuggle   3

Mariame Kaba: Everything Worthwhile Is Done With Other People – Adi magazine
'Eve L. Ewing: Let’s talk more about organizing and activism because I think that that is a really important distinction. I do not identify as an activist. I am very frequently identified as an activist, which I find very puzzling. What do you see as the difference between those things?

Mariame Kaba: I think that people who are activists are folks who are taking action on particular issues that really move them in some specific way, but activism only demands that you personally take on the issue. That means signing petitions. Being on a board of a particular organization that’s doing good in the world.

That way, activist is super broad, and that’s why people call people activists. Your individual action, for example, of writing, can be a form of activism in the sense that it wants to educate people and get them to take action in their own way. You are in that way potentially being activist in your orientation, at least, if not in identity.

Organizers, however, can’t exist solo. Because who the hell are you organizing? You can’t just decide to wake up one morning and be like, “I’m just going to do this shit.” If you’re organizing, other people are counting on you, but more importantly, your actions are accountable to somebody else.

Organizing is both science and art. It is thinking through a vision, a strategy, and then figuring out who your targets are, always being concerned about power, always being concerned about how you’re going to actually build power in order to be able to push your issues, in order to be able to get the target to actually move in the way that you want to.

I have been an organizer for a big part of my life in the sense that I’ve been involved with other people in campaigns to move various things. But sometimes I’m just an activist.

But [in that case] I have no accountability to anybody, and that’s kind of dangerous. Because there are a lot of people doing a lot of shit that nobody can call them on.

Eve L. Ewing: Who is failed when that happens?

Mariame Kaba: I think that the people who are most directly impacted by the things people are doing are failed. Because they should have a say, and be part of the shaping of that thing that is about them. That’s critically important. But I also think that you yourself are failed if what you’re trying to do is do a hard large-scale thing and you don’t have any people.

Eve L. Ewing: Or you’re just trying to do it by yourself.

Mariame Kaba: It’s like, why?! You’re going to burn out. It’s not humanly possible for you to just be your Lone Ranger self out there in the world. Ella Baker’s question, “Who are your people?” when she would meet you is so important. Who are you accountable to in this world? Because that will tell me a lot about who you are.

And how much hubris must we have to think that us individual persons are going to have all the answers for generations worth of harm built by multi-millions of people? It’s like, I’m on a 500-year clock right now. I’m right here knowing that we’ve got a hell of a long time before we’re going to see the end. Right now, all we’re doing is building the conditions that will allow the thing to happen.

Eve L. Ewing: Furthermore, people who came before me have left me things that mean a lot to me that they will never live to see the fruition of. And so therefore it’s unreasonable for me to expect, “I’m going to fix this.” I think one of the biggest things we can do for ourselves is to recognize how, even as oppressed people, we have internalized the narrative of individualism.

Mariame Kaba: Capitalism is what helps us figure out the individualism part. It’s so married together. The itemization of everything into its own little sliver is capitalist. The other thing I learned from my friends, Mia Mingus and Leah Lakshmi and others who are disabled people in the world, is this notion of crip time. Folks who are disabled have to operate in the world in such a different register. That’s what Mia says all the time: the notion that we supposedly are not interdependent on each other can only exist in an ableist world. Because if you have any sort of disability, you desperately need a relationship with other people—you can’t be on your own or you will die. You have to recognize the interdependence, or build interdependence. You don’t have a choice. Crip time means, “We’re just going to get to it when we can.”

Disability justice gives us that real insight. I am not visibly disabled, but I’m chronically ill. Having lupus was a moment for me. The things I felt were super important were actually not that important—a re-frame of my whole entire existence—and I was like, oh, okay. “I can’t do this” meant something.

Eve L. Ewing: I want to circle back to visibility, and who is uplifted and not uplifted in movements. I sense you increasingly choosing visibility in different ways. I saw a picture of you in the New York Times and I was like, “Oh, my goodness.”

Mariame Kaba: I know.

Eve L. Ewing: So, I would love to hear your thoughts around why you generally choose to not be photographed, and some of your other choices around naming yourself, not centering yourself. And then ways in which that is changing, and why?

Mariame Kaba: That’s a really good question because it’s one of my struggle areas internally as a human being.

I grew up with mentors who taught me that the organizer is never up front. I would write things anonymously. I wrote a hell of a curricula, which I see still circulate today, with no attached name to it.

When I was in my 30s, I was doing a big curriculum project with a friend. She’s a white woman. We were finishing this project and I was like, “Oh, I don’t need to put my name on it.” I’m a believer in information access, free information access. I also don’t think my ideas are these original ideas. They belong to a lineage. So I always felt not proprietary.

She said, “It’s interesting to me. As someone who a lot of younger people look up to, younger women of color in particular, and your own interest in history, it’s so interesting to see you erasing yourself from history.”

Eve L. Ewing: She hit you with the “interesting”!

Mariame Kaba: Like daggers. She’s a very good friend of mine. But the fact that a white woman said that to me just messed with me. And did it from a place of real care, you know?

Eve L. Ewing: Yeah. “I just think it’s funny how…”

Mariame Kaba: “I just think it’s funny how you’re willing to erase yourself from history when you’re always recapturing histories of all these black women in your multiple projects, and you’re always talking about how you had to find them in the archives, right? And you’re literally erasing yourself at the moment. Also, it’s interesting that the younger people are seeing you do that.”

I was like, “Oh, wow.”

I took a breath, I thought about it really, really hard, and I was like, “You know what, actually? In part, she’s right.” In part, I still believe in just not centering myself. [But] she’s right in this sense: how are people going to be able to trace the lineage of ideas if I’m writing a whole bunch of things that no one knows I wrote, right?

That began the shift in my life around putting my name on my stuff. They email me from New Zealand and they’re like, “Thank you for putting out this thing. We’re using it.” I also know that the ideas are traveling, and that makes me feel good about that work, and I never got that before. So, that was a gut-check moment for me around being like, “At least put your name on your shit.”"

...

"Eve L. Ewing: When you say litigation focused, you mean specifically around litigating Jon Burge [the Chicago police commander notorious for torturing people into giving false confessions]?

Mariame Kaba: Yeah. Prosecution, jail, and all these cops going to jail. Then, Joey Mogul [a Chicago-based attorney at the People’s Law Office, known for representing victims of police torture] came to me in late 2010 or early 2011 and said, “I hear you. We had these conversations for years, and everybody’s left empty now that Burge [was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice]. The survivors who remain haven’t gotten anything, and the statute of limitations [for torture victims] has run out, and we have no court recourse. It’s got to be political, and also I have evolved on abolition myself.”

It wasn’t a mea culpa; it was just a recognition that we need something else, and what can we do? That’s when art was the offering. We said, let’s ask people for [ideas for] secular memorials, and that reparations ordinance was one of the secular memorials.

All the things people talk about are in the abstract, but it’s not. It is about listening to feelings from our imaginations, right? Art can be uniquely situated for that. That’s why cultural work is an organic part of organizing, even when organizers don’t know it.

Eve L. Ewing: Artists are always there.

Mariame Kaba: They’re there. They’re there as the people to help us think through it. Why does this have to be? It doesn’t have to be like this. You can think of something totally fucking different. Why are you all stuck in the presentist moment? You can dream a future. We need that so desperately in the world.

Eve L. Ewing: Who are your heroes?

Mariame Kaba: God, I have so many touchstones. I believe in touchstones, people who you go back to in particular moments where you need something.

I turn to Baldwin a lot. I read him when I’m feeling a sense of despair over the world that I’m in. I find a sentence that he wrote and it’s like, “Ooh, yes.”

I think about so many of the black communist and socialist women of the first part of the century. If they could go through what they went through, if Marvel Cooke could go through the Red Scare and through being fired by… [more]
mariamekaba  eveewing  prisonabolition  prisons  sociology  knowledge  relationships  organizing  stuggle  activism  restorativejustice  transformativejustive  angeladavis  history  education  community  accountability  ellabaker  capitalism  individualism  mutualaid  miamingus  leahlakshmi  disabilities  diability  visibility  anonymity  information  access  accessibility  erasure  self-erasure  reparations  jails  incarceration  touchstones  heroes  jamesbaldwin  marvelcooke  redscare  idabwells  ruthwilsongilmore  bethrichie  camaralaye  waltwhitman  poetry  colonialism  criminaljustive  police  policeviolence 
9 weeks ago by robertogreco

Copy this bookmark:





to read