Radical Imagination for the Week After: From resistance to regeneration

The 2020 GIA Virtual Convening kicked off today, the first day after a historic week that we are all still taking in and absorbing into our minds, hearts, and bodies. Fittingly, the convening’s keynote began with a performance by viBe Theater Experience, grounding us in the expression through words, music, and movement of Black girls, young women, and gender expansive youth. The keynote panel then moved into a conversation among Sage Crump, Ruha Benjamin and Salome Asega. I don’t need to point out how absolutely right, apropos, and profound it felt to hear Black women’s leadership, wisdom, and creativity at the forefront in this moment!

And not only that, but these women who are artists, scholars, and strategists and who brought deep knowledge and insight into the topic of technology—an expansive, rooted, and visionary engagement with the meaning of technology and liberation. As Sage reminded us, “Technology is how you do a thing, whether it’s prayer or food”; tech is not just software and hardware, it is also cultural tools, and our communities are also toolmakers and world-builders.

As we stand at this juncture, making sense of the herculean effort to defeat Trump and looking to the monumental tasks ahead, this is the vision I want to seek of our communities empowered to grasp and wield the most innovative strategies and technologies of the internet age, as well as remembering and holding onto the ways, tools, worlds that we have built for survival within a world that all too often sought our destruction.

I’m absolutely honored to be invited back to observe and blog the GIA Convening this year, and I come to it again bringing the perspective of an outsider but an adjacent and fellow traveler on the journey of storytelling, community organizing, public policy, systems change, decolonization and democracy building. I also come to the convening this year having just returned from Maricopa County, Arizona, doing door-to-door canvassing and volunteering with LUCHA, Unite Here Local 11, and CASE Action (Central Arizonans for a Sustainable Economy) through a partnership with Seed the Vote.

There’s so much I’m still processing from that experience on the ground in this battle, but one of the most relevant is the visceral sense of seeing up close white supremacy’s racial terror, and of witnessing the courage of transgender BIPOC young people and laid-off, black and brown hotel and restaurant workers going door to door in this pandemic to mobilize the voices and votes that turned the state blue for the first time in decades. I only saw up close a little of the struggle in Maricopa County, but I’ll wager that across the country in these battleground places, so much of our communities’ power to turn the tide (and to save America from itself) emerges from this alchemy of the genius and discipline displayed by folks like Stacey Abrams and so many others, along with tapping into the joy, spirit, and traditions that have sustained communities over centuries.

Ruha spoke of the lightness we all feel today: “We still struggle and build, but the terrain has shifted. I want to appreciate this rather than just jumping into the next battle.” The invitation, and the offering, of this GIA Convening is to create the space for us to sit in this moment with intention. Having just emerged out of a fight for our lives, with more fights always around the corner, how do we move from resistance to regeneration? How do we nurture and pass on the torch of radical imagination that our ancestors kept alive?

Leaving you with the words of Sage: “The act of dreaming is to refuse certain choices. The decision to step into that landscape of the unknown. Resilience is our ability to be connected and move toward that which is life affirming.”