The Road to Hope
On Letting Go and Building a Better Future
Mariame Kaba, the great prison abolitionist, is known for many things, not the least of which is her repeated statement that “Hope is a practice.” In these dark days, I find myself reading Mariame’s words closely– including her Twitter feed which she only opens to new followers a few times a year– and turning over and over in my mind her perspective and her advice.
Yesterday, she wrote about how bad news is often dramatic, and good news takes time to develop, and how that impacts our viewpoints and our sanity.
Yes, the bad news these days is dire.
But also: there is hope in the current moment, if you’re looking for it.
Last week, I attended a program run by the National Network of Abortion Funds (to whom you should donate before any political candidate), on the topic of Building Power with Abortion Funds, that blew my mind wide open.
It was by far the most inclusive organizing call I’ve ever attended, down to the speakers opening their talks by describing what they looked like for those who might have visual disabilities, with ASL translators for every segment, and with continuous acknowledgement of the occupied indigenous land on which we all sit.
It was also mindfully constructed to honor the bodies, minds and spirits of everyone leading the call and everyone attending it. Mariame Kaba co-authored a digital self-care guide for this event, which you can find here.
Not surprisingly, all of the speakers were women and non-binary Black folks or non-Black people of color.
The purpose of the call was to guide activists and organizers through the challenges associated with the end of Roe. From discussing how to best be of service to those most deeply impacted by the end of legal abortion in their states (namely Black, brown and indigenous people), to how to address messaging that makes it plain that Roe was the floor and what we should really be after is free, safe and accessible abortion on demand because that’s freedom, the call was beautifully run, profoundly helpful, and left me with more hope, not less, by the time it was done.
At the end, one of the organizers announced that there were more than eight hundred people in attendance on the call. Eight. Hundred.
A small group of people, in defiance of all the odds and all the claims of mass media and all the purported authority of the Supreme Court, were right there, in real time, strategizing on how to save rights and build power and a truly free future.
It was humbling, and brilliant, and a space I’d like to occupy more often.
If all you’re paying attention to is Twitter, it’s a space you might think doesn’t even exist.
Over the past few days on social media, I’ve observed a phenomenon that I associate with a lack of imagination. It is the phenomenon that says “you can criticize Democrats all you want, but in November, you’d better vote for them.”
I’m not going to tell you not to vote. Long-time readers and followers know how hard I’ve worked my whole life for the democratic party and its candidates. That said, for reasons I’ve expressed here and here and here (among others), I have doubts about the future of this ideological entity known as America.
What I will say instead is this: if you can’t imagine how much better it could be, you will cling to whatever residue of a failing empire you think might provide for your survival, without realizing that your survival depends on all of us working toward something better, something more than this.
The current moment requires that you engage in the practice of hope, both in spirit and in action— something akin to holding hands with people you love, leaving the past behind, and taking a step into the unknown.
Almost six years ago, I left an abusive relationship. The physical departure was hard, but the emotional one was another thing altogether. The compounded trauma of the reasons for the exit is something that lives in me to this day.
One of the hardest things about leaving, however, was that it required me to give up on all the dreams I had for us, the future I had mapped out for our family, the intimate space in which I thought I was going to live for the rest of my life, flawed and violent though it had become.
It required me to leave behind the mythology of that relationship, and deal instead with the reality of it.
It’s hard to step into the unknown when you’ve believed your life was going to look a certain way for the remainder of it.
Sometimes, though, the present changes course, or becomes too much to bear in ways that make remaining on that trajectory impossible, or that render you unwilling to continue on that path, damn the costs.
Sometimes, you decide that you deserve something far better than this.
Last Thursday, a scant six days since Roe died, I followed a directive from a friend to go climb a mountain. Particularly, she told me to go somewhere where I could see the peak from the valley, and see the valley from the peak.
This was good advice.
I set out for Griffith Park in Los Angeles, mountainous though it is not. I arrived at the pinnacle of the park shortly after it opened, and though it was hot, the park was sparsely occupied, and the view was immediately grounding.
So many people, and so many experiences, and so much expanse of possibility spread out before me. Challenges seem trivial from that high up in a city.
Toward the end of my visit, I walked through the front of the Griffith Park Observatory, up the stairs where Adele recently held a concert.
Ringing in my ears as I walked out to the observatory deck were the following words from her most recent album:
I opened my lungs up wide singing that on the way home.
For here’s the thing:
You can’t find a better future if you don’t let go of the one you’re heading toward, the one that, yes, you sank everything into, that promised you so much that it failed to deliver, and also, the one that will likely kill you if you don’t change course.
Let it be known that we tried.
There is hope in the current moment, if you’re looking for it.
In the middle of the night, when anxiety wakes me up and I find myself searching for strategies to calm my mind and rest, I turn toward the idea of an active love, a practice of love, that creates a whole new future.
That new future can only be built in community across every identity, community that elides over all that separates us and brings us back to our common needs for survival, for dignity, for freedom, for care, for love.
It can only be built if we abandon the framework that promises that we will be given safety if we capitulate to power, or that safety can only exist if we capitulate to ineffective and/or violent leadership (they’re two sides of the same coin), and instead decide that every single one of us is worthy of safety, and that no one will be left behind.
It can only be built if we get in community with one another, if we take care of one another, in ways that we have never done before.
The time for change has come, whether we like it or not.
The call that I attended with the National Network of Abortion Funds began with one fundamental principle:
NO ONE, ANYWHERE, IS EXPENDABLE.
We have a choice as to how we proceed.
Will we cling to a failed and failing system that insists that we are separate, that our humanity is not shared, that we deserve what we get if we don’t capitulate to the current system, and that the cost will either immediately or eventually be our freedom, if not our very lives even if we do?
Or will we find the places where together we’ll insist instead that we have the power to change our future and our collective destiny?
Begin here: NO ONE, ANYWHERE, IS EXPENDABLE.
And in the words of Cori Bush, go here next:
We will live, we will stand tall, we will rise up, we will do this work together. We won’t allow anyone to push us back and tell us we can’t have it, we’re not good enough. We will do this together, we’ve already started the work. . . .
[I]f I love you, I care that you eat. If I love you, I care that you have shelter, and adequate, safe housing. If I love you, I care that you have clean water and clean air and you have a liveable wage. If I love you, I care that the police don’t murder you. If I love you, I care that you make it home safely. If I love you, I care that you are able to have a dignity and have a quality of life the same as the next person, the same as those that don’t look like you, that didn’t grow up the way you did, those that don’t have the same socioeconomic status as you. I care.
And so regardless of whatever was, this is our moment and this is our time and that’s how it will be. So when you walk away from here, you walk with your chest poked out that change has come.
It is possible. Hope is possible. Trust that it is possible.
The Road to Hope begins with letting go.