It’s flying graduation caps season! We’re not post-pandemic, but graduates are embarking on a world stage that looks different from what it was two or three years ago. Some of those differences are alarming. Conservative pundits writing book banning and censorship into local legislations. (White fragility much?) SCOTUS dangling reproductive rights on a thin thread. Another round of racist gun violence, this time in Buffalo, NY. Oh, and COVID is still hanging around. How to step forward in this brave new world that has such people in it? We look to the words of wisdom in these recommended titles. Words that give you a frame for understanding what the heck is happening, the means to envision the person you want to be, the inspiration to build a better society.
Disaster is an opportunity to change the world. This is the first lesson of this book. You can expand democracy for the majority in times of crisis. Luckily for us, there’s a rich history of activists, intellectuals, and artists navigating the treacherous terrain of the unknown and unseen, and living to tell their stories in a new world they both helped create and, at times, never thought would be possible. . . . From them, you’ll learn how to resist successfully, speak emphatically, organize collectively, memorialize ethically, dream poetically, write prophetically, occupy vigorously, build durably, and act decisively.
To be alive, and to touch all the wonders of life within you and around you, is truly a miracle. We need only to open our eyes and to listen carefully to enjoy life’s richness. That is why the present moment can be the most beautiful and wonderful moment when you know how to be aware of your breathing to bring yourself back.
—Thich Nhat Hanh
We spin, then come down in a spiral,
a high flying twirl, a spiral, a straight line.
If done justly, the flow lifts both wings,
understanding, of course, that at least half the time
we’ll each find a higher velocity
and then a subtracting tip speed.
We try to arrange the spinning, the spiral,
to control the curving along the unbalanced
elliptical path, the spiral
that returns us to our point of origin.
Giramos, luego descendemos en espiral,
une giro elevade, une hélice, línea recte.
Si se hace correctamente, le flujo levanta ambes alas,
entendiendo, por supuesto, que a le menos le mitad de le tiempo
cada une conseguirá une velocidad más alte
y luego une velocidad de punta reste.
Tratamos de arreglar le giro, le espiral,
para controlar le curvatura a le largo de le desequilibrade
camino elíptique, le espiral
que nos lleva a nuestre punto de origen.
—Achy Obejas, “Boomerang”/”Bumerán”
Permission to fully inhabit our humanity isn’t something we need to ask anyone for. It is our birthright. When you dare to live wholly in your humanness—to extend luxuriantly into its every crack and corner—you will likely discover that every seemingly unified front conceals a few defectors-in-waiting. Should you find yourself shouted down by a majority, their unanimity is an illusion more often than not.
with a foreword by Imani Perry and an afterword by Eddie S. Glaude, Jr.
It has always seemed much easier to murder than to change. And this is really the choice with which we are confronted now.
I used to envision my graduation day when I sat in the Motel 6 as a way to help me make it through to the next day. When I pictured it, the scenes and faces were a blur, but now they were in front of me, each smile, wrinkle, and tearful eye exact and clear and just as it should be. Now I tried to envision what was next for me and [my daughter Nerissa], and it was hard to think of an existence that didn’t involve me functioning in a constant state of scarcity. I also couldn’t imagine leaving my experience here in Williamsburg and not doing something for the millions of other young mothers and fathers out there who could do the very same thing and just needed the support and resources to get there.
—Nicole Lynn Lewis
When I think of change, I consider the re-minding of ourselves and I mean that it is time to consider other kinds of intelligence and ways of being, to stretch our synapses to take in new ways of thought. As an Indigenous woman, I look toward our Native knowledge systems, the times when our relationship with the earth wasn’t the disjointed connection most of us have learned from our Euro-American education systems. I am one human animal who wants to take back original meanings and understandings in ways that are possible and are necessary.
Try as we might, we cannot disentangle ourselves from the concerns of others who make up this diverse nation. The work of democracy is incomplete, but the fight is certainly not over. As Hamer reiterated time and time again, we still have the power to make these ideals a reality. Our individual futures, as well as our collective future, in the United States depend on it. We must keep pushing for change. We have a long fight ahead.
—Keisha N. Blain
Tell a story of America where we all belong; build civic spaces where we can all contribute and feel connected. You want people who are being their worst selves to be their better selves. And truthfully, you want to be better too. All of us need to be better.