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adrienne maree brown:
possibility is beginning to enter again

adrienne communicates the power of vision. What would it take, she asks, to create a positive vision of the future that becomes our muscle memory; something so powerful that we act on it even when we are under pressure or when we are scared? She works with whatever is necessary to do that – words, pleasure, sci-fi, singing, birthing… to pose the question: “how do we relinquish power so that we can share it?”

Made by Jo Barratt. Conceived by Jo Barratt and Gemma Mortensen, with Iris Andrews and Lily Piachaud.

Music is made for New Constellations by Art School Girlfriend.


Test test test. This is adrienne maree brown for New Constellations

I really think so much of what we’re dealing with is that we are steeped in a society that has been trained to lie. Lie to ourselves, lie about the conditions we are actually in and lie about the changes we’ll need to make in order to actually have different conditions produced. I feel like part of my work at the smallest scale is to bring deep authenticity and honesty into every relationship. And then at the larger scale, I believe we need to be vision oriented. We need to not just be a ‘no’ telling people what we don’t want when we’re tired of what we’re beyond. We need to be articulating ourselves in the form of a yes. What is it that we deeply believe in? What is it that we deeply long for and love? And how do we want to organise ourselves to practice that every day right now? So that it becomes the muscle memory, that it becomes what we do under pressure, that it becomes what we do when we’re scared. How do we practice our vision, so the vision is what has produced under any pressure?

For me, I do that through the work of somatics, through the framework of emergent strategy, through the framework of pleasure activism, through the framework of transformative justice and abolition. Those ideas for me create a container, through which I can understand what it is I’m longing for, and then what I need to practice every day. Being authentic, telling the truth, believing that people can change, creating the boundaries I need to navigate those pace of changes, paces of change, right? If they’re not at the one that aligns with mine. And then centring my yes, centring my joy. Reclaiming my pleasure as someone who has a lineage of oppression has experiences in this life of oppression. How do I reclaim what is mine?

I think we have to leave behind the myth. That satisfaction is tied to money and that only if we accumulate and accumulate as individuals, will we be able to experience deep satisfaction. This is a hard one to leave behind, especially for those of us who have experienced not having, not having enough, not having a safety net, not having something to fall back on, not having a home, not having enough food, not having a way to go to school, not having a way to travel. I think it becomes really scary to imagine leaning into cooperative, economic future, leaning into just transitions of our economy, leaning into collectivism, trusting that actually there’s enough of we structure and orient our society around sharing what we have.

And then I think we have to leave behind as much as we can, our orientation to supremacy. And that orientation shapes us in different ways. So if we are of the groups that benefit from supremacy, we can be in an orientation that says hey, you know, no matter what situation we’re in, I should be the leader. I should be in charge. I should be the one taking up space. I should be the one being heard. You have to let that go. But also it can shape us in the other way. We can internalise a sense of inferiority. If we are outside of those chosen groups, those socialised superior groups, we can be socialised into inferiority. We can be socialised into thinking that the only way that we have power is by taking others down. Or the only way that we can be participants is if we are working for someone else’s vision, someone else’s dream. How do we step in to take shared power, right? How do we relinquish so that we can share power? That is the work right now.

I love this question. How will the transformation you seek happen? I believe that it happens at the scale of relationship. I believe it happens in each authentic expression of self being received by another. One of the practices I’m personally in is one of a thousand percent honesty. Being emotionally honest. How am I feeling? How am I feeling as those feelings shift and change throughout a given day? How can I be honest about that with my partner, with my family, with my friends, with my co-workers? How do I stay authentic and connected and respectful, but still very much true to what is actually possible and available and capable – what I am capable of in that moment.

I am not interested in a future in which the only way we can survive is by being so hyper-local that we don’t even lift our eyes and know of, and look to, and understand, and play with the other cultures, the other foods, the other ways of making decisions, the other spiritual belief systems, the other beauties of the natural world. I’m not interested in giving up the whole earth. I’m interested in how do we preserve what we have developed as internationalist global citizens? How do we be in those relationships, but in the right way, in a way that is not, you know – those who have more privilege taking from those who have less across borders and national lines. I also think we need to preserve as much as we can, the relationships to Indigenous wisdom that still exist. And I think that looks like uplifting those who are current leaders with Indigenous wisdom, and lifting up everything that we can of those practices.

When I worked on Emergent Strategy, it was really trying to pay attention to what are some of the oldest rhythms of the earth? And for more direct contact with that, I really recommend Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. And there’s just so many resources like that available right now, that kind of guide us back to original relationships, back to original instruction. It’s not too late to preserve those. And our work is to figure out how we preserve them and let them be current. Let them be current in this generation, echoing back seven generations and echoing forward seven generations. How do we sit in that timeline, right now, being present today?

Possibility is beginning to enter again. After a long period that felt foggy, traumatising and too fast. There’s some transition. There’s some respite, there’s some peace, there’s vaccines. It’s Spring. There’s some possibility. I feel it in my jaw. I feel my shoulders relaxing. I feel it in my throat. I don’t have to constantly be looking over my shoulder. It’s not just COVID, it’s also the political conditions of the country. We are beginning to remember that we don’t have to be fighting each other, constantly. Speak the truth more easily more clearly.

What gives me hope is the youngest people, babies and children, and the fact that they have moved through this past year, this past four years with play at the centre of their motivations, that they have adapted and taught all of us how we adapt to find the possibility inside of closed spaces. I also feel hope at the movements who relied on relationships to move through this trying period of her history, the movements who are still able to support uprising, support learning, support growth and expansion during this period. I look at the Movement for Black Lives. I look at The Rising Majority, I look at We Joined the Front Line, I look at the work that Mijente is doing. When I think about those populations who are directly being targeted and how they came together, leaned on each other to move through this time, it gives me hope.

What I fear is mostly that we will be unable to stop turning against each other, that under the pressures of change and of having difference, that we will emulate the practices that capitalism and patriarchy and white supremacy and other kinds of supremacy have trained us to practice, which is to turn against each other, to tear each other down, to publicly shame and humiliate each other. I fear that we will keep doing that until we can’t trust our belonging in any space. And I think belonging is something we need to feel as a species in order to have a reason to continue to feel compelled, to continue.