Fight Like Ida, Octavia and Mari

Fight Like Ida, Octavia and Mari

These are challenging times:

  • The “coming out of the closet” of white nationalists in the United States and the world
  • The unrelenting impact of climate change on our communities
  • Growing economic inequality here and abroad.

In these circumstances it’s easy to become cynical and hopeless.

As our academic scholars continue to provide the critical analysis and quantitative proof of all of these crises, where do we turn for hope?

The future is created in the present and the actions we take in the present are better informed by a clear understanding of yesterday’s perspectives.

These historical perspectives should be grounded in looking at examples of agency, in other words people who took action to create the future they wanted to see even in the face of violent and seemingly insurmountable oppression.

Let us not forget the memories and stories in our families of our uncles, aunts, mothers, fathers, and grandparents that possessed the personal strength to stand-up for their beliefs and lived their lives in service forged by love for their family, community and world. These stories are the best hope we have of reigniting agency in our own lives, families and communities.

Out of the African American experience there are many heroins and heros that fit this description. Fannie Lou Hamer, Ida B. Wells, Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Mari Evans and Angela Davis are some examples of bold and courageous leadership across time and space.

Journalist, Activist, Organizer
Ida B. Wells

Ida B. Wells is an underrepresented historical figure whose activity as a journalist in the 1890s (130 years ago) can inform us in the present on how to create the future. Following Reconstruction and the withdrawal of northern troops, lynching was used to terrorize African Americans and enforce Jim Crow apartheid.

In 1892, three African American men who had opened a grocery store in Memphis were lynched for taking away business from the white-owned store in the same neighborhood. This inspired Ida B. Wells to make a personal commitment to highlight the atrocities of lynching.

She spent two months traveling around the the south to gather information on other lynchings and published articles that brought national attention to the issue. In 1893 she was forced to leave Memphis when her office was raided by a mob and her equipment destroyed. She continued her writing and work from New York and abroad.

Her life and work amounts to more than I can do justice here. You can watch a documentary about her here: The Legendary Ida B Wells

Writer, Visionary
Octavia Butler

"Things are changing now, too. Our adults haven't been wiped out by a plague so they're still anchored in the past, waiting for the good old days to come back. But things have changed a lot, and they'll change more. Things are always changing. This is just one of the big jumps instead of the little step-by-step changes that are easier to take. People have changed the climate of the world. Now they're waiting for the old days to come back." -Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler

Octavia Butler is a well known black female science fiction writer and is considered one of the leading voices in the the Afrofuturism movement. Afrofuturism is a movement of art, culture and literature that seeks to explore dilemmas faced by black people and theorize possible futures.

Her work The Parable of the Sower the first of the Earthseed Trilogy, written in 1993 uncannily depicts the present moment in time in which a zealot elected president vows to make America great again (read a New Yorker article about the book).

We will explore this book and others creative works starting February 9 as we kick off our Afrofuturism Fridays discussion series, which will take place on the second Friday each month at the Kheprw Institute.

Poet, Activist, Mentor
Mari Evans

"The not so simple Truth is that we must be psychologically free in order to resist and we must resist in order to be free, and all of this requires an understanding of what bondage has been, of what it continues to be and of its ramifications for the future." -Mari Evans, Clarity as Concept: A Poet's Perspective : a Collection of Essays

A locally based and internationally renowned writer, activist and artist, Mari Evans modeled the kind of resilience and strength all of us could learn from. As an early mentor of mine and a life-long mentor & critic, she has been and continues to be an inspiration to my ongoing effort to create, support and sustain independent voice in our communities.

While known for many creative works her collection of essays Clarity as Concept that had the most profound impact on me as an activist.

While she had many opportunities to move out of her community, she lived and worked in her neighborhood until her transition. We miss you, but we won’t ever forget you.

Ideas, Action, Resources
Creating the Future

We must rediscover these stories of courage that we can use as a catalyst to renew our hope and strengthen our resolve to make change.

In 2018 the Kheprw Institute will continue to provide space and time for critical dialogue and critique of the existing paradigm and model. Of equal importance, we will focus on highlighting alternative worldviews and concrete examples of grassroots communities that are creating the futures we want to live in.

In the words of Cooperation Jackson, “We will build and fight.”

Look for continued community conversations where we will highlight examples of historical and present figures and communities that demonstrate agency in the face of adversity.

If we are to take any kind of informed or strategic action we must start by re-educating ourselves to understand the roots of the current crises. Members of the Kheprw Institute suggest these books and articles as starting points for our 2018 reading list.

This intellectual underpinning will be sterile unless matched with the core practice of engaging with other members of the community to create the future we want to see. This practice will require that we take on the challenge and opportunity to engage with people who don’t look, think, or feel the way you do

While books are only one tool to create create the future, they can provide the intellectual understanding required to build relationships across divergent communities, which is fundamentally needed if we are to survive.

Reading List for 2018

Clarity as Concept

By Mari Evans


An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States

By Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz


Trump is the mask torn off of who we white people are and have been

By Dr. Jim Scheurich


Learning to Die in the Anthropocene

By Roy Scranton


Parable of the Sower

By Octavia Butler


The Case for Reparations

By Ta-Nehisi Coates

Read the Article

The Souls of Black Folks

By W.E.B. Du Bois


A People's History of the United States

By Howard Zinn


The New Urban Crisis

By Richard Florida


Creating Breakout Innovation

By Joanna Levitt Cea & Jess Rimington


Emergent Strategy

By Adrienne Maree Brown


Engaging Emergence

By Peggy Holman