Adrienne: This is where the numbers do matter. I'm like, "I want those three billion people who signed a petition. I want that to actually be real because there's children that I love in this world who rely on us succeeding at something." When we were not trusting each other, it was nearly impossible to move anything. And then once we started to really do the work, drop in, build trust, have real conflict, move through it, know that there are lines we could hold and lines we could give and compromise on, then the work began to move very quickly.
Kerri: My name is Kerri Kelly and we are back with a new season of CTZN Podcast. CTZN is working at the intersection of well-being and justice. We're not afraid to ask hard questions and have radical conversations about politics and patriarchy, white supremacy and worthiness. And we're talking to some of the most bad ass and brilliant change makers, like our guest today, the amazing Adrienne Maree Brown, feminist, community organizer and pleasure activist. She's the author of the best seller, Emergence Strategy, one of the most formative books in the progressive movement. And her latest book, Pleasure Activist, is sure to shake things up some more.
Kerri: As always, if you love this podcast, tell all your friends. An engaged community of listeners keeps us honest, inspired and sustained. Rate us on iTunes and check out our campaign at patreon.com/CTZNWELL.
Kerri: The think I love about working with Adrienne Maree Brown, is that she is never satisfied with the obvious, the visible, the surface, but rather endeavors to dig deeper, to go underneath and to venture beyond what we think we know about ourselves and one another. Her book, Emergent Strategy, has been a disruptive force in the movement in all the best ways, challenging us not just to do better, but to be better. As you will see in this podcast, being with Adrienne is like being on a journey. She takes you to places you have never been and paints a picture of humanity that you never thought possible. And she draws out of you your best self in spite of yourself.
You will hear me tell my own story of humiliation and the harm and how I was held to account by my community. But Adrienne says that “accountability is community”, it's how we hold one another in love and justice. And if we can understand that we are both whole and broken at the same time, we can learn to love ourselves and one another that way. We are writing our future with each and every relationship we repair. And Adrienne encourages us to surrender to the flow of humanity and let it take us beyond what we already know. I am all in for that journey with her and I encourage you to come along. Enjoy the show.
Kerri: I just want to share with you that I was totally overwhelmed getting ready for this because I just wanted to talk to you about everything.
Adrienne: Oh cool. Well, we'll do our best.
Kerri: I know we'll do our best. I think that's just a testament to how rich, not even your content is, your existence is.
Adrienne: Oh sweet.
Kerri: And the impact that you're having on the world. And anyone whose worked with me or spent time with me over the last two years, knows who you are.
Adrienne: Oh beautiful.
Kerri: And has experienced your work and I think that that's happening in a lot of different places, not just through me obviously.
Adrienne: Well, we have to tell your listeners that we go back, we go way back.
Kerri: We don't even know how to count anymore because we're at that age where-
Adrienne: I feel like it might be 2010 or something. Like I feel like it was when I was still in the Bay.
Kerri: Yeah, eight years.
Adrienne: I lived in the Bay and that was ... I lived in the Bay ... I left the Bay in 2009.
Kerri: I think you were in Detroit, actually, at the time.
Adrienne: Was I coming back?
Kerri: Because I remember you were coming back for it because it was our community of practice.
Adrienne: I know. Oh, I think that was the transition year, actually. So it was 2011 because we finished and then I went on my sabbatical.
Kerri: That's right, and then you came back. You talk about it in the book as like a time where this was really emerging for you.
Kerri: So we're here, I should say your name. We're here with the amazing Adrienne Maree Brown.
Adrienne: That's rich.
Kerri: That's who were here with.
Adrienne: That's what's happening.
Kerri: And if you don't know, she is the author of Emergent Strategy: Shape and Change Changing Worlds, which if you don't have this book, just get it because it's all the things. I know a lot of people call it a handbook for organizers and it has so much to offer around how we respond to this moment, how we work together more effectively. But for me it's been how we be together, it's just straight up how we be together and move through the world together. And it's been that fundamental, I think in my life and in the work that all of us are doing to try and navigate this moment, whatever that is. And so I want to know, I'm sure this book has been emerging for you forever and ever and ever but what are the markers that you point to around when this book really revealed itself to you and it had to be written?
Adrienne: Well it's interesting because a lot of it was on that sabbatical that I took. So I had been doing social justice work my whole adult life and I had done a lot of different things. I had done electoral organizing and I had done direction action-
Kerri: With League of Pissed-Off Voters which is-
Adrienne: Yeah, with the League of Pissed-Off Voters.
Kerri: I totally didn't know you were associated with them until I read today.
Adrienne: Oh that's hilarious.
Kerri: In a blog.
Adrienne: Yeah, that was one of the first projects where I was there at the ground floor, as they say, right? And watched it grow and got really like, "Oh, this is both exhilarating and disappointing." Right? And then I went to the Ruckus Society but I had started in harm reduction. So I started out in Harm Reduction, which is working with active drug user and folks who are doing sex work and other things, to reduce the harm that comes from drugs and sex in your life.
Adrienne: And it was at that moment, it was the Bush presidency, it was a big push towards abstinence only everything, denying the body, all this stuff. And that actually is what kind of kicked me into wanting to do the electoral work. Because I was like, "Well we have to have our fingers in the electoral process if we want to even just hold the line, hold the barriers around the things that we are learning and liberating ourselves into." And then went to do that work and I was like, "Oh it's a dirty game." Right? It's a really dirty game and I don't know if that's where I can be the most effective.
Adrienne: And then went to do Direct Action which is so exciting and so invigorating. And the Ruckus Society is this small and mighty engine that could it's still that way, it's just like the ferocious body, this ferocious institution. I think it's like if you look what's happened at Standing Rock, if you look at a lot of what's happened with Black Lives Matter, it's one of those things where you can't say, "Oh Ruckus trained all those people." But you can say, "Ruckus has kept that field ripe and kept the skill ripe so that all these folks who have come through that network, and associated networks I have been a part of, building those skills."
Kerri: It's like there's DNA-
Kerri: -in all these movements.
Adrienne: Exactly. And so I get excited about that and also like, "Hey, make sure not to forget Ruckus." I'm always like, "Don't forget, Ruckus is actually training these folks." So I got to do that for five years and in that process, I learned a ton about what executive directorship is and isn't and should be and should never be. And just the funding games, the philanthropy. I was just like, "Oh god. This is not going to get us free."
And then I went to work on the U.S Social Form, I was a co-facilitator at National level for that which was like 60 organizations, 20000 people in Detroit. And by the end of that I was just like, "Okay, I think I can clearly feel what's broken and what's hurting in our movements." I feel like we're longing for each other and then we are constantly competing with each other, manipulating. We're doing all this stuff that I think comes from being steeped in capitalism and steeped in patriarchy and steeped in these things that we say we're fighting against but we're just embodying them all the time.
Adrienne: So went off on my sabbatical and I started thinking about who was saying and doing and practicing other way. And it was like, Grace Lee Boggs, Charity Hicks. Margaret Wheatley had written this book, Leadership of the New Science and those ideas were blowing my mind and I was like 20 years old at the time but I was like, "We have not been reading this." Either the folks I've been moving are not reading that. And then I was like, Octavia Butler's characters are all of the kind of leaders that I would like and I want us to support.
Adrienne: And then while I was on that trip, I was just in the ocean, I was watching birds, I was watching cats, it all started to click together. And I think I had to think of it as being for organizers in order to take the risk of writing it because otherwise it was like, "Oh this is actually all of how to be a human." And it was too much, right, for me even, It was like, "I can't write-"
Kerri: The textbook for how to be a human.
Adrienne: I was like, "You can't write that."
Kerri: And yet you wrote it.
Adrienne: Well, towards the end I did have to say to myself, "If you release this, you have to be willing to let it change everything, right, it could be that also. And you have to be willing to let that be what's coming through. And you have to be willing to let it change nothing like it could be." I always say that I had 12 weirdo friends read it they're just like, "This is great, I love you, whatever."
Kerri: And it changed the life of 12 weirdo friends?
Kerri: And that was enough.
Adrienne: It's also like it changed me to write it. The day that I finished, I was like "This is my great offer to the world." I felt a completion in me that was ... it still brings ... it makes me emotional to really feel into it because I was just like, "There's other things I want to do and other things I want to pursue in my life." But there was something about that, and I was like, "This was a piece of your life's work, and you did it." And I feel satisfied. And I had lost a few people during that time. I've also had this real sense of mortality and a real sense of a lot of people don't get to complete something in their life and that's not what their destiny is. And I was like, "I'm really glad that my destiny included completing this book." Yeah.
Kerri: One of the things that you mention as a fundamental principal in this book is this concept of moving at the speed of trust. And every time I name that in a meeting or a facilitation or a yoga class-
Adrienne: Yeah, it's yoga.
Kerri: Yeah, it's yoga. It stops people in their tracks. And I think part of it is, we're yearning for that and part of it is, it feels impossible in a culture of productivity, in a culture of outcomes and a culture of speed and urgency. And so how do we embody that? How do we roll when we're moving at the speed of trust and coexist in the world that we live in?
Adrienne: That's great. Well I first heard it from my friend Mervyn Marcano who started something called Black Bird which is this brilliant ... basically it's a group of brilliant black people who have been supporting all kinds of black movement work that's happening. And it was just his birthday yesterday. But I first heard it from him and I remember being blown away because I thought of him and all the folks around him, those folks who are moving at the speed of light. But then I was like, "Oh yeah, they are all ..." There's so much trust building that happens amongst teams that are able to move quickly. And I wanted to draw that out.
Adrienne: And then when I started writing about it and looking, there were all these other people who had also said it. It's one of those ideas that feels like it sort of sprung up from the soil from a lot of places, right? And I was like, "I think there's a reason for that. I think it's something we all know that we need right now." And what I had experienced at Ruckus actually, was that early ... when we were not trusting each other, it was nearly impossible to move anything.
Kerri: Yeah, that's right.
Adrienne: And then once we started to really do the work, drop in, build trust, have real conflict, move through it, know that there were line we could hold and lines we could give and compromise on, then the work began to move very quickly and could move quickly. And so I think when people initially think it's impossible, it's because they can't imagine getting to the trust place, right? And they don't realize once you're in the trust place, it's not like you're processing all the time, you trust so you're able to do a lot really quickly. You know your roles, you know your skills, you know how you respond to pressure. There's all these things, I'm like, "Then you can really move." Right?
Adrienne: And so when I offer it to groups, it's not saying, "Move like a snail who trusts the Earth." And it's just like, "I'll get there when I get there." It like, no, take the time to build relationships that will last under pressure. Because what happens is, folks build at the surface level, like we ideologically agree or at least we agree on part where we agree enough to sign a petition together, right?
Adrienne: This is my favorite thing. It's like, "Well we've got three billion numbers, people, that said they're down for this." And they all showed up maybe on one day of marching but they didn't sustain as a movement. Its like, yeah, because there's nothing for them to sustain on or towards. So those things that help build trust are really understanding a shared vision, not as an outcome orientation but as a, this is how we want to be. And if you share that, you start to practice being that way. That builds trust. You really to be able to do conflict.
Kerri: Yeah, you call it generative conflict.
Adrienne: Generative conflict, right? You have to be able to be in conflict that generates new futures, new possibilities, new options-
Kerri: And trust.
Adrienne: And trust. I mean it's amazing. I was on this panel last night for the Spiritual Resiliency Fellowship I just finished at Auburn and I was talking about how ... They would ask, "What is the toxicity in our movements right now?" And I was like, "A ton of it because the people don't know how to fight." They don't know how to fight with integrity.
Adrienne: And because of social media, now you cannot ever directly confront someone who you're upset with, right, and just be like, "I'm fucking pissed. You really messed up." Instead, you can just be like, "I wrote a whole article on medium and I sub-tweeted about this person and I took them down, and we should cancel them. I'm like, "Wait, wait, wait, but did you actually call this person and just say ..." Right? "Did you hire a mediator to sit down and be like, 'We're having a possible conversation, we can't find our way through it.'" I'm like, we owe movement that much to learn how to fight well and to ask for support to have that conflict because we don't have the numbers actually, right?
Adrienne: This is where the numbers do matter. I'm like, I want those three billion people who signed the petition, I want that to actually be real because there's children that I love in this world who rely on us succeeding at something. And we can't succeed if we're in-fighting all the time and getting caught in these dramas stagnant pools instead of actually flowing toward a future where we can all survive.
Kerri: Well and I think it's also a cross-fighting, right? Because I think about the kind of power building you're talking about needs to cross difference in gender and race. And to me, that kind of conflict and language and then understanding for one's self, our particular social location and how we come into connection and relationship, and the messy.
Adrienne: And the messiness, I feel like this too. I will say this has been a really big thing. As the Me Too stuff has been unfolding, I'm like, the desire to cancel gets really turned up, right? You're just sort of like, "That person caused harm, and they caused a harm that feels very familiar to me." I'm also a survivor of that kind of harm and so I want to see that person, I want to see that person pay for what happened to me and what happened to everyone who's ever survived.
Adrienne: And I see this tearing apart of us and the sense of that now we separate ourselves in perpetrators and into victims. I'm like, even there we need to learn new ways of being. And I'm really excited for the leadership of Tarana Burke and excited for the leadership of movement still in these spaces where it's not like there's not the sense of, "We just throw them away." It's more like, we want to hold them in the light until they say, "I can be accountable." And then what does accountability look like? Accountability looks like finding your way back into community. It's not saying, "Go sit on an island somewhere until you die." Right? It's like, "We care about your ...." On a basic level, it's like, "I care about your soul, your essence, your central being. You have caused a great harm, you need to come right with it, you need to come right by me and by yourself and by community and weave it back in." And so to me generative conflict also has the capacity to do that.
Kerri: For harm reduction.
Adrienne: For redemption, it's just like, "You can find your way home." We can all find our way home because we're all causing harm.
Kerri: That's right.
Kerri: That's a part of our human experience.
Adrienne: That's why to me, that's why it's interesting and important. It's like we all cause harm. We cause it to different degrees, we cause it with different levels of intention but we all do it. And thank goodness someone’s not holding what I was doing and thinking at 16 or 21 or 25 or yesterday against me forever, right? I'm like, thank goodness there's people who've been patient enough to be like, "That really hurt me." I mean I regularly hang out with friends, I'm like, "We hurt each other. We really fucked each other up." And then we got it right and then we kept coming ... Is it okay to say the F, is it okay?
Kerri: We say fuck all the time.
Adrienne: Okay, good. I was like, I don't know.
Kerri: Shit, fuck.
Adrienne: Shit, fuck, bitch. All right.
Kerri: Well, I just want to name, because I was telling Trevor about you last night and I was talking about your idea of not canceling people. And I was describing my experience of being in the cohort with this amazing group of human beings, Anasa, Taj and you, Navina, Jidan, Jodie…
Adrienne: I look back now, like I can't believe that group of people, actually, got to kick it together.
Kerri: Oh my god. And I remember coming into that group and being like, "How did I make the list?" Like who said it was okay for me to be in here. And it did a lot to affirm ... it called me up quite frankly, to who I needed to be in intersectional relationship in this sort of bigger meta movement. It was just so ... it just really shifted everything for me. But one of the things that changed my life, especially in relationships-
Adrienne: Well, actually, just let me say really quickly, the cohort that you're talking about is we did this cohort and it was a year of learning about decentralization and networks, I think.
Adrienne: And it was really -
Kerri: With the engaged network and move and Strategy center.
Adrienne: And Movement Strategy Center. So everything was like 9 or 10 people in it and we just spent a year in learning together. And I was kind of loosely like the guide of that learning journey.
Kerri: It was Emergent Strategy.
Adrienne: And it really was Emergent Strategy-
Kerri: Before we knew.
Adrienne: but before I knew that articulation, right? But it was like, "Let’s just play and learn and show each other what we know about this stuff." And I learned so much from that year. So that's what we're referring too when we talk about be a cohort.
Kerri: And the cohort. And it stays with me, like the relationships have stayed with me but I learned what I didn't know there too. And I remember this one experience where we were all sort of sharing our work with one another. And I was sharing my vision for collective care and for the role of yoga and mindfulness in transformative healing and in that typical well-meaning white girl well-intentioned way. I remember that in doing that, in my deep yearning of wanting to make change through these practices, I caused harm in that room. I don't know if you remember this.
Adrienne: It's coming back. I'm like, "Oh yeah. There was that sticky moment."
Kerri: I don't even remember what I said but I just think it was just where I was coming from and who I was being and what I knew at that time. And I remember the group really pushing back.
Adrienne: With questions.
Kerri: Yeah, with questions and curiosity and just lovingly challenging me. But it was in that moment that I really got clear about the perspective and the location that I come with when I enter a space of healing justice from this sort of white body, from this white privileged able-bodies ... I mean all of the checklist. And I'll never forget. And I remember feeling crushed I think because I realized that I had caused harm and because at the time, I still didn't understand white fragility, like I didn't understand my fragility and so I was broken but I'll never forget this.
Kerri: And I was telling Trevor this last night and I started to cry. And I haven't really articulated this story to people, but this is sort of how I remember it. Is after that experience, you had everyone come up and surround me and bless me and pray with me even before I could even process ... I mean, this is while it was still happening. And never one did anyone cancel me. Never once. And in fact, many of those folks showed up as an ally in my anti-racism work, in my becoming clear and taking responsibility for my whiteness and my perspective and my impact and have stood feistily by me ever since. So I just wanted to share that with you.
Adrienne: I love that.
Kerri: That it has totally shaped who I have decided to become in this work and also what my role is.
Adrienne: And those kinds of moments, for me, I think this is where I get ... There's anti-racism work and there's anti-blackness and there's anti this and there's anti ... And I'm like there's all this against energy that happens and then it makes it very hard to actually figure out how do we walk with each other through unlearning these systems of oppression that we've all learned and they're holding us all back from our humanity.
Adrienne: So I look at this because I'm like ... I often will tell folks ... This year I did a whole series of Emergent Strategy trainings and I was like, "White folks can come but I need to know that they're doing some of their own work already. That they've gone through catalyst project programs or they're trying to join SURJ…They're doing something that's just like, "I'm aware that witness is part of the burden of this time, that it's something that needs to be kind of unlearned and deified or all these things." Right? And I'm like, "If you're not already on that path, this coursework is not for you. My work is not going to do much for you because it does take that level of self-reflection." Right?
Adrienne: I'm like then in spaces where that self-reflection is present, right, we have to all be able to look at each other as human beings and say, "Where's your work? Where's your edge. And if you're cause harm ..." My thing is always, if you cause harm, and you're like "Oh, I can see that I caused it and I can weave myself back in and I want to be woven back in." Cool. And then the place where I'm like, I don't know what to do about you. If I cause harm and I was told and it was brought up to me and then I continue to cause it. And then it was brought up and then I continued.
Adrienne: So that's where we end up with the Harvey Weinstein or the Bill Cosby or something like that where I'm like, "You caused harm and instead of changing your behaviors to not cause harm, you changed your behaviors to hide the harm. And you created a whole system so that you could continue the harm." Which that's the dramatic, like I've got money to cause harm level. But I think a lot of people do that just on a interpersonal level.
Kerri: Well there's subtle versions of that inside our movement.
Adrienne: All the time, right? I see a lot more people like, "Oh I'll move from one organization to another rather than accounting for the harm I caused here. I'll just go start a new project or do a new thing…
Kerri: I'll separate.
Adrienne: or whatever." Exactly.
Kerri: Since the 2016 election, we had CTZN Well have been hustling to help people navigate who to trust, what to do and how to thrive. So we created WELLREAD, it's a free activist toolkit curating the most important news to read, actions to take and practices to keep you grounded. Every week we turn to the words and wisdom of frontline leaders, spiritual activists and artists and let them guide us towards greater understanding and more conscious action. So sign up to get WELLREAD in your inbox by going to CTZNWELL.org.
Kerri: I saw something that you had said when I was looking through this. You said, it might have been in a blog or I don't know.
Adrienne: I write a lot.
Kerri: And I was just consuming so much of your content when I was getting ready for this which I had already done but it was like I was just trying to re-immerse myself. Anyway, you said, "I see in your trauma, in your relative experience, and I see your whole self beyond that."
Kerri: And to me, I don't even know I would define my spirituality, but it's that. People are like, "You're so spiritual." I'm like, "I don't even know what that means. I'm a recovering Catholic. I practice yoga, I meditate, I believe in humanity, I believe in the world beyond. But when I read that from you, I was like, "That, to me, is the articulation of my spiritual-
Adrienne: That's beautiful.
Kerri: ... belief."
Adrienne: Well and I think this is the thing, I know that I'm both whole and broken all the time. And so I know that I want to be loved in that way, like I want to be loved as a creature that is both and. And if I want that for myself, then I can't deny that to any other being.
Kerri: And vice versa, if you want that for other, you, actually, can-
Adrienne: You can't deny it to yourself. And I think there's something so interesting for me about being a black person in this country or being a women in this country, being a trans person in this country. Being something that has, at some point, in this county been a distinct marker of your less than and you will suffer for being less than a human, right? It's like, "You will not be able to vote. You will be subsumed by these roles, these traditional matriarchal roles and that's all you're going to get access to. As a black person, you will literally only come here enslaved and you will work until you die and you will breed, you will not have children, you will breed." Right? I mean, to survive that and to try to make a comeback into a full humanity, it's like you have to be like, "Someone has to see through the narrative and the messaging to my humanity. And I have to see it. I have to be in it fully in my dignity or else it's never going to work."
Adrienne: And so then we go through these cycles right now. I love this, Michelle Alexander just wrote this piece in the New York Times-
Kerri: I saw it.
Adrienne: Oh, it's so good. And it's basically, we are not the resistance but it talks about how there's this sort of flow of humanity towards being able to see the wholeness of ourselves and towards really being a liberated people in all of this. And it's not right to call us the resistance when actually the resistance is those who are regressing and trying to pull us back into the cave, pull us back into the extreme patriarchy and extreme racism and extreme hatred. And it's like, that regression, that is the resistance towards what's flowing towards change.
Adrienne: It was so compelling to me that I've been doing this tarot reading for the last couple years, I posted a card every day. Since the election I've been posting a card every day that's just like for movement, right? And I started calling it resistance tarot because I was like, "We are the resistance." It was so compelling. I was like, "I'm not calling it the resistance tarot anymore." I call it resistance tarot and movement tarot, I'm going to call it movement tarot because I'm like, we are the moving force that is taking us forward. And it's not that I don't believe ... It's like the park rangers and stuff, I was like, "There are people who are positioned where they also need to resist the resistance." It's not-
Kerri: And we can be both things.
Adrienne: Exactly. But I'm like, at a fundamental deep level, we have to understand that we are actually moving the future, we are moving the future and towards the future. And we are up against people who want to move us towards the past. It's literally that kind of simple timeline.
Kerri: Well and you see that playing out in the Supreme Court.
Kerri: I laid my body down across the Supreme Court yesterday because it's like we're at this, sort of, moment of “will we go back?”…
Adrienne: Did you get arrested yesterday?
Kerri: I got arrested yesterday.
Adrienne: Someone came up to be at the event last night and they were like, "Kerri was going to be here but she got arrested." I was like, "That must be a different Kerri because I'm meeting with Kerri in the morning."
Kerri: No, I got home last night because I was like, "I got to get back for this interview."
Adrienne: Thanks for this arrest -
Kerri: But it's like, that's what it feels like, right? Like it's a fever pitch and we're at this precipice where it's like, will we move back or will we move forward? And I want to-
Adrienne: And every individual action really matters right now, right? So I keep trying to uplift, where I'm like, "Yeah, this is the time where you can be a racial postal worker, a radical banker. How you are in your place of work, how you are with every other person, you're either affirming this regressive move or you are affirming a future."
Adrienne: My parents run a State Farm Insurance office in New Hampshire and they have become the, "They're the LBGT friendly office and they're ...." They're these little ... It's like the mom and pop shop but I'm like watching them and it's, yeah, how you are is really important. That queer people feel safe coming into your office at this moment in history is really freaking important. So like all that small stuff really matters. And that's the whole thing with Emergent Strategy, it's like all the big things that we're longing for are only made up of a lot of small personal radical brave choices.
Adrienne: So it starts to get exciting where you're like, "My whole day is ... I look ahead at a whole day where I get one option, one chance, one chance, one chance, one chance to be my most radicle self."
Kerri: And imagine that happening collectively.
Adrienne: And then happening, right? We're all getting that chance and we all feed each other. I do want to say this is my dream for social media is that instead of it being a catalog of all the crap-
Kerri: Like the wrongdoing, the calling out.
Adrienne: Regurgitating of all the, here's the bad stuff. Just read the New York Times, forget the bad stuff and then we should be, of course, uplifting all the radicle, powerful moves that takes us forward. And I really wish that we could learn to make that pivot and use these structures in that way to lift ourselves up and echo chamber the good.
Kerri: And have that be a part of how we move -
Adrienne: Yes as a distinct move. We're just like, we put our attention-
Kerri: It's like a river.
Adrienne: What we pay attention on grows so let's put our attention on our radical moves towards the future we want. Let's put all of our attention on that. It's like bet the house or whatever it is.
Kerri: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So I want to talk about where we're going.
Kerri: Where are we going? Because I know that you often encourage us to imagine better and to even bring Sci-fi into our visioning of what's possible. And I know you have a new book coming out, Pleasure Activism, The Politics of Feeling Good. So I have lots to say about pleasure enjoy and how it's, for me personally, and I think this is indicative of the movement, how it's fallen away because of the urgency, and the gravity of what we're facing. How it feels hard to do that, how to be joyful, right, given what we're facing.
Kerri: And I also think that a lot of the benchmarks of what we're moving towards, because of how back we've fallen, are things like equality and equity, that's often what we're naming as the thing ... when we win, we'll be equal as if that's not the baseline. It's like, we should start equal and then when we win. And I'm wondering if when we win, will it feel like pleasure? When we win, will it feel like radical expression? When we win, will it be fulfillment? And so how should we be visioning forward? What is this book ... How will this book point us towards the future we want to become?
Adrienne: I love this question, obviously. When I started writing the Pleasure Activism book, it was before this election. And it was like, this is just what's puling, what feels alive in me. It's just like, oh I really want to focus in on ... I'd been listening to the Audrey Lorde “Uses of the Erotic” - you can go on YouTube and listen to her read that essay. And just listening to this part of it where she talks about once you've really tasted that full erotica liveliness, it's becomes impossible to settle for anything less than that, any suffering, any selling yourself short.
Adrienne: I was like, "That feels so important. We are settling for such crumbs right now and calling it, we're victorious." It also got me ... Something I started exploring in Emergent Strategy and I'm continuously exploring, is how we get off the hamster wheel of win/lose, win/lose, win/lose or a pendulum swinging or whatever it is. But it just feels like we're constantly figuring out the next victory and it's so short-sighted. It's just like, the next victory ... We have someone whose actively out there working for their next victory on the other side and how do we scale ourselves out to what we're talking about is not about political victories, but about existence
Kerri: Human evolution.
Adrienne:... existence. Like do we get to go forward, have we earned our place on the planet? And so to me, pleasure becomes one of the measures by which we know, "Oh, I am free. I feel alive in this moment. I am accessing the best of the human experience and that's available to me." And so looking back and history and be like, "Okay, how has people, how has pleasure."
Adrienne: And it's so funny because when I say pleasure, people kind of look at me like, the Bacchanalia, it's just like everyone's having sex and doing drugs. I'm like, sex and drugs are a part of it but it's much simpler than that. It's really joy, happiness and satisfaction. And do we have access to those experiences? And some of that is the erotic, some of that is having that in the realm of the sexual, right? Some of that is drugs, I talk about week and ecstasy and mushrooms and stuff like that in the book. And just like go on those journeys, explore if it feels good to you or not, do it with harm reduction.
Adrienne: But a lot of it is really, do you feel satisfied in your life? Do you know how to feel satisfied in your life? Who sets the standards by which you measure your satisfaction? How do you articulate what would satisfy you? Do you feel contentment and happiness and do you know what that feels like? Or are you constantly ... Capitalism teaches us, we can never be content, there's always something else we have to have and we have to work for it.
Adrienne: And I see then generation of my parents, and all of our parents, I see how they can't stop working. They've reach the retirement age, they should be able to retire and the setup is like, no, you're old enough that you should be able to retire, and we once understood that humans should be able to retire at this age, you can't. You can't imagine doing it on a financial level but also on a spiritual level. It's like, "Who am I if I'm not working?" And I don't want to have a generation after generation feel like. I want to feel like, "I worked hard and now I get to do something else." And I think a lot of it is creating. I'm like, "Mom, I want you to write novels. You've got novels in you." And it's a different kind of work perhaps but it's also like we spend so much of our time just being a cog in a wheel without realizing it. And so stepping off the wheel and being like, "What is satisfying to me? What is pleasure to me?" So I'm asking a lot of people.
Adrienne: To me, that's the future we should be moving towards, is not just surviving, we can do that. Not just being equal or having equity because it's like equal access to a shit show is not the greatest achievement in life, right?
Kerri: That's right.
Adrienne: And equal access to a dying planet or a planet that we have harmed is also not the win, right? So it ties back to Emergent Strategy in that way too, that I'm like, "There's a relationship were in with the planet, that can provide a lot of this satisfaction and pleasure."
Adrienne: To me, the most contentment I've experienced has been being in the ocean, being in the woods, actually sitting down with the trees... I just rearranged my house so that I could sleep with a tree right near me outside. I was like, "I need that." And I think we all do. So there's a pleasure of being of this planet that I think so many of us are so far from tapping into. And I don't even think it's like a hippie dippy thing, it's just like, we really do live on a miraculous gorgeous stunning and essentially alive planet. And then it's like, we're all nature too. It's like sex shouldn't just be like kind of, "Let's get it done." Right? I'm like, how do you slow it all down and really be, "We get to have sex." Where we are cognizant of the pleasure. That's not even what most creatures do, right? We're not just procreating, there's more to it.
Adrienne: So all of that feels like it's tied up. And in this political moment, it felt like I kept doubting myself, like, "Is this the right project to do next, right now?" But every day it just feels more and more like this is exactly what we need right now, is to recognize that in this moment, where it feels like were kind of in a dark ages, dark ages is descending on us, that there's still this deep underground mushroom like existence that we get to be in that is fungal and primal and beautiful and sensual and pleasurable. And actually, if we can tie together at that level, we will be unstoppable, right? Like we are growing something that can't even been seen by the eyes of this 24 hours new cycle.
Kerri: It's beyond, beyond, beyond.
Kerri: I could talk to you forever, and ever and ever and ever.
Adrienne: I mean that's how ... To me, this is a also why I like trying to get more people to tap out of anything that's not really lighting your system up.
Kerri: I totally agree.
Adrienne: Right? Because then we get into those conversations, we're like, "This is lighting me up." James Boggs is one of my kind mentors through mentors, his wife Grace Lee Boggs was my mentor who I got to experience and she taught me, “transform yourself to transform the world” and all these important things. But Jimmy Boggs talked about how we get stuck in this thought of leaving the impossible alone and just doing what's possible. He was a labor worker, he was an auto worker, auto industry making cars. And he was like, "I don't think that we're supposed to be doing this. I think technology should serve to take care of a lot of this baking. And we should be able to then use our minds to-
Kerri: Oh, I love that.
Adrienne: ... to something beyond." Right? And I'm like, "Yeah." I still want to continue that expansion where I'm like, "That's the way I want to be in relationship to technology." Right. It's like, let's automate the things that can be automated, that can be done by a machine. But there's some things that cannot be done by a machine.
Kerri: Well, and I love that…like Silicon Valley, you take care of the automation and let humans though, be the innovators, the dreamers, the “imaginators”…
Adrienne: Right, and I know that there's some space. Because I'm like, so many of the structures that we're communicating with each other are created by people who are machine-thinking oriented instead of soul-thinking oriented.
Adrienne: Right? And so we started to connect with each other in the online sphere but in a very machinery way, right? We’re it's just like-
Kerri: We embody the machine.
Adrienne: ... “I said what I felt, you said you liked it, that was”…Like whatever it was, instead of like, "Oh we found each other, we actually got to ..." I think of slugs hanging from a tree and they're having sex and they wrap around each other and it becomes this one gorgeous mass. How do we create-
Kerri: How do we become that -
Adrienne: ... structures for connecting that kind depth that way? So that to me, I'm like, how can humans figure out, "We need to be off doing something on a whole different level." I've been re-watching Sense Eight and I'm like, there's other levels that we need to be exploring and playing and moving.
Kerri: Sense Eight, right. Oh yeah.
Adrienne: It was so good. And it's so good in that way of like, this is Emergent Strategy, this is what I pictured-
Adrienne: How do we stop seeing ourselves as individuals and start seeing ourselves as a part of one much larger organism? How do we communicate inside that organism? How does that organism survive and feel pleasure? And really earn it's right to be a part of this universe?
Kerri: I'm so excited for where you're going to take us next in this way in which I feel like we deserve better and we can reach further. And so I'm so freaking grateful for you and for the way in which you've just gifted us, this book. And you're about to gift us another one and you gift us your words and your tarot readings and your facilitation and your spirit all the time. And we are better because you are with us. Thank you.
Adrienne: I have to say ... I mean I really want to say, I feel like such a conduit life, like in a really good kind of way because I just really get to interact with such high quality beings on a regular basis and just so much of what moves through is saying yes to that. And if you want to have a great life, just say yes to the most interesting people. Just keep pursuing that line. You don't have to say yes to the job that gives you the most money, you can say yes to something else and it'll actually feel better in the long run.
Kerri: Say “yes” to the people.
Kerri: Say yes to the people. Thank Adrienne Maree Brown.
Adrienne: Thank you, thank you, CTZNWELL. I mean the whole thing, this is really exciting.
Kerri: While this podcast is coming to an end, our work in the world is just beginning. This week’s call to action is to embrace pleasure in your activism. Were often so caught up in the urgency and gravity of what's going on in the world, that we deny our right to joy and pleasure. But authentic pleasure is a measure of liberation. So go get Adrienne's book, Pleasure Activist at akpress.org. And for more liberatory portions and magic, follow her at adriennemareebrown.net.
Kerri: Special thanks to our producer, Trevor Exter and DJ for the amazing soundtrack. You can check out his music at djdrez.com. And thank you for being here today. You can stay in the know and engaged by subscribing to our weekly newsletter, Well Read, at CTZNWELL.org. CTZN Podcast is community inspired and crowdsourced, that's how we keep it real. Join our community on Patreon for as little as $1 per month so that we can keep doing the work of curating content that matters for CTZNs who care.