Study in the Dark
The quality of light by which we scrutinize our lives has direct bearing upon the product which we live, and upon the changes which we hope to bring about through those lives. It is within this light that we form those ideas by which we pursue our magic and make it realizedAudre Lorde, Poetry Is Not a Luxury
Call the mixtape oracle and flip the tape. A Side: Flight. B Side: Feeling. I offer to you here a mixtape of stories of possible futures of how we get free and how it will feel. The mixtape is a disciplinary intervention. The mixtape is a map. The mixtape is a flight path and a celebration. The mixtape is a jam session of worlds and words. The mixtape tells the truth.
There is repetition, and breath, and belief all up and down this project. It is purposeful, and rhythmic and opaque for a reason: I hope you learn to read between the stars—the stories constellated, connected, and tethered by truth. I hope you find the door.
The mixtape’s narrators tell us about the worlds they are trying to produce through their organizing, and in so describing, breath by breath, they bring those worlds ever closer to the flesh. Their words constellated recall the memories of what the future must become. Take their truths as testimony and breathe into the future that you can.
And I know that it is hard. It is hard to see that which has been rendered impossible, naive, optimistic. But outside of the canonical realms of reason, outside of whatever purported light that the enlightenment provides, we can locate a luscious dark: like earth-soil well tended, it is good ground and will bear what it must. We will study in the dark the flight paths and possibilities that we receive and create. In that fertile dark we will find forms of illumination far more sustainable, and of far greater quality than that which we have left behind. For we can constellate the stories we hold of the future so that they glow like stars in the dark of our study. After the future, where all black life lives anyway, the worlds in which we hope to bring into being come into view, they are a gorgeous spectacle of life constellated, revealing gleaming doorways: our way out. Those constellations become a new form of light and warmth and fire with which to scrutinize our lives, our hopes, our dreams. So that our imaginations will become what they must: flexible and strong, and load bearing, capable of bearing witness with love.
The mixtape is not naive optimism but is presented that we might bring rigor and craft to the art of listening and dreaming, that we claim our capacities to imagine not only in order to access a potentially pleasurable medium for ideation, but also in order to access and activate that place in each of us which gestates other worlds.
I speak here of imagination work. Where we work to explore those ontological frameworks which impede and atrophy our imaginative capacities and we work to grow beyond those frameworks, to make room for the performances, the practices, the worlds, and possibilities that we must in order to usher in the futures that we deserve.
Imagination work asks the questions: how can we learn to be deliberate and rigorous in the labor of imagining libratory futures? How can we widen our imaginative scope to understand a pluriversal economic universe, where diverse modes of relation and exchange and care are possible? How can we hone our imaginations such that we are able to recognize and hold one another’s worlds and hopes and dreams in the gaze of a loving witness? It is in an effort to advance such questions that I offer to you not only a mixtape of stories but also a method for listening to those stories. If we can learn to listen, we can learn to dream, we can learn to hear the worlds and futures that are calling to us. We engage in libratory study in the dark. We can exercise our imaginations and build the elasticity and stamina necessary to imagine expansively about the spatio-temporal possibilities of our love.
We were never meant to survive, so I recall that our surviving flesh here and our capacities to love each other so, is the miracle against the terror. Our capacities to be present with one another in loving witness becomes the proof we need to testify to what is coming. Breathe. The mixtape recalls the memory of just what the future must be(come). Listen.
A Side: Flight
I saw things I imagined. I saw things I imagined. I saw things I imagined. Taking on the light.Solange, Things I Imagined
B Side: Feeling
I wish I knew how it would feel to be free. I wish I could break all the chains holdin’ me. I wish I could say all the things that I could say (when I’m relaxed). Say ‘em loud, say ‘em clear, for the whole round world to hear. I wish I knew how it would feel to be free…how sweet it would be if I found I could fly. I’d soar to the sun and look down at the sea and I’d know, yes I’d know. Ah yeah I’ve got news for you, I already know. Free. Free. Free. Free. I’m free and I know it.Nina Simone, I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free (Live at Montreux, 1976)