We are creating cultural innovators and sustaining cultural legacies…
no, actually we are cultivating the cultural innovators that will sustain our cultural legacies.
A little while ago, our Leader Sydnie Mosley shared a tweet (with a live drawing by Flash Rosenberg) that resonated in my soul. It suggested that most folk would rather be safe than free. Welllll….
See, I have never been good at being a humble servant. I don’t know how to play it safe just to survive. Instead, I am a challenging servant and a humble human. I push back even when it’s risky. Sometimes I lose, but I always push. My revolutionary spirit never intends to stop pushing.
What’s funny is that the culture of “shut up and do what I say” also feels like part of my legacy. For every freedom fighter there was at least one person telling them it wasn’t the right time. Is there ever really a “right” time to challenge?
I try to listen silently, but that pushback current always runs strong in my blood. Sometimes I can challenge under the radar. Other times, my disagreement is loud and clear. The revolutionary spirit is always there, and it don’t take nicely to “shut up and listen.”
“Because I said so” was never an acceptable answer to young NiNi. I’ve been told every parent is destined to utter the phrase at least once, but that is never what my Baba would say. He said, “This is the way I have learned is best” [read: this is safe for me]; or “You are too young to know the details, but understand that I speak with your best interest at heart” [read: your safety matters to me]; or “I don’t know any other way to be/do.” While his words may have been tied to perceptions of safety, that language acknowledged my power and intelligence. That language acknowledged his humanity and the reality of the moment – whether that be his lived experience or his inability to know all.
That is the kind of parent I want to be. That is the kind of leader I want to be. If you can provide a better practice, I want to listen. I don’t want to shut down vision for the sake of time. I don’t want to eliminate risk. I don’t want to tell folk, “Do it because I want it done,” or perhaps worse, “Do it because it’s safe for me.” I want my children to believe in me the way I believe in my Baba. I want my community to trust me the way I trust him. I want folk to know that sometimes I ain’t got all the answers. I want them to teach me.
This doesn’t fit the American capitalist household and workspace that we are cultivated to manifest. Even those who are not “sheep” may only challenge to a point. By cultivating cultural innovators, I am making some folks’ lives difficult. I am taking away the humble servant, the “yes” worker, the accepting supporter, and placing instead another leader. Can a leader lead a leader? (Say that five times fast, lol.) I think so. Can leaders coexist? I know so. Can leaders be challenged, communicate their position, and experience a shift in perspective? Absolutely.
That is the liberated lifestyle.
That is the praxis we are sharing in our workshop. We are training the leaders to lead, support, and sustain other leaders. We are trusting that our freedom will in fact support our collective safety. is you free yet is a space where we can all challenge and be challenged, where we can innovate and dream our cultural legacies.
I realize my individual life might be safer or easier if I “cooperated,” but the scream inside my soul might then be the death of me. My many parents had the audacity to convince me that my gut and my conviction are valuable. My nation taught me to stand up for what I believe in no matter how small. My work invites me to listen, reflect, and respond whether affirmative or contrary. I don’t know where this constant contrarian spirit came from, or rather who. Not sure which ancestor(s) enjoyed pulling that one thread that might make the whole sweater unravel. I guess that’s only bad if you don’t have another sweater.
My many parents had the audacity to convince me that my gut and my conviction are valuable.
My nation taught me to stand up for what I believe in no matter how small.
My work invites me to listen, reflect, and respond.
This is why I do not want us to dream of survival anymore. And I know that’s easier said than believed, especially when you’re hungry or cold or “unsafe” or or or…but if we could just trust in our ability to thrive – not live rich, not win, not be successful, not even to be prosperous – but to simply thrive. To understand thriving as moving through the world each day as your whole self – seen, affirmed, and supported – and to see that see thriving as simple. Then our collective liberation might be closer than we think.