ovember 15, 2023

Dear Alexis, Dear Andrea, Dear Harsha, Dear Heolimeleikalani, Dear Jade, Dear Karyn

Dear Sarah, Dear William;

We could not even begin to imagine this world without you, your work and words, and we know your organizing  will be crucial to steward in what may be possible in the times ahead.

We wrote, in Rehearsals, invoking the words of Senegalese film-maker and writer Ousmane Sembène: “Everything they do is to destroy the land.”

Yet it feels as if the destruction has accelerated since we wrote it. The destruction feels increasingly, still, unprecedented in scale and scope.

Nearly 10 million hectares of forests –Indigenous peoples’ homelands in Canada –burned between January and July 2023.  Police have continued to arrest and brutalize Stop Cop City protestors, murdering Tortuguita, a non-binary Afro-Indigenous land defender for daring to protect the Atlantic forest, the very lungs of the city, from a $90 million dollar facility designed to produce more police.

As Black Folks exclaim “Hands Off Haiti,” the US, NATO, and Core group are working to intervene, this time with the support of their neocolonial henchmen in Kenya, Jamaica, and Barbuda, to reoccupy Haiti once more. Haiti, punished unceasingly since 1804 for daring to insist that Black peoples could, and would, create a homespace free from enslavement and racial domination.

Dear Gaza

Dear Gaza

Dear Gaza

Dear Gaza

Dear Palestine. We see you. We say No. We’ll organize and fight and stand up without fear so we will know that we did everything we could to protect Palestinian life against the on-going spectacular violence of the Israeli apartheid regime.

We asked “what does it mean to make life in the wreckage” and we ask, still, in more wreckage.

What does it mean to make life in the wreckage in a moment when the wreckage seems to be expanding exponentially with every passing hour, every bomb dropped on Palestinian children, every rise in police budgets by those who grinned through the lies of what they told us was a Racial Reckoning? We can only think here in polyphonic chorus:  with you, with our ancestors, and the glimmers of liberatory futures they may offer us.  

Yet we hear you, William, as you caution, that we need more than “return to radical rituals.”  And so we think, too, with our children and the generations to come, for glimmers of newness that can break with the shadows of crumbling empires that threaten to take us all along with them.

We are thinking with you Sarah:  to break with the recursive time of colonial repetitions, of wreckage upon wreckage at the end of this world, requires seizing time.

We hear you and your ancestors Heolimeleikalani when you ask “is this really as far as we can dream?” How can we break through the cages and the foreclosures and dream farther? We hear Harsha, teaching us that liberation and life-making institutions, and constituted through each other, they are relational. We understand this as a collective, communal dreaming.  Karyn reminded us that this work, not just the writing, but the sharing and the talking, the thinking through together, the organizing for different, is a “choreography of being in good relation” and that this work extends beyond the book and us and through all the communities we are a part of. When we meet each of you, we meet all of your ancestors and influences, and you, meet all of ours.

We are grateful to all of you for as Andrea compels us to experiment in dreaming, and “attempt to orchestrate what Mariame Kaba and Kelly Hayes call a ‘jailbreak of the imagination’ and “make a run toward an abolitionist horizon” in their book Let This Radicalize You.  We love how effortlessly Rehearsals for Living flows into Practicing New Worlds.

Alexis, thank you for teaching us to listen, and thank you for seeing our Black Indigenous love story, and asking:  “What if the most loving adaptation to realities of enslavement and genocide was to come together as ancestrally reverent lovers and survive? What if the whales themselves gave instruction for my ancestors to do what they had to do to create a Black feminist wild enough to listen for this?”

Jade,  you remind us, “to be in good relation is a responsibility to care deeply, to acknowledge one another’s heartbreak, loss, and grief in ongoing and unending catastrophe.” We are grieving with you.

We are interested in making new worlds, that refuse the state, enclosures, borders, racial capitalism, heteropatriarchy, antiBlackness, Zionism and colonialism. Palestinian worlds. Taíno worlds. Uyghur worlds. Tibetan worlds. Nuba worlds. Jewish worlds. Black worlds. Queer worlds. Worlds that honour the diversity of life forms, and living, and feed into each other to produce more life and more kinds of life. Worlds where our unique abilities are cherished. Worlds were children are precious and at the centre of our decision making. Worlds where we communally care very deeply for each other as an intimate and daily practice. Worlds that weave themselves into the ecologies and planetary cycles of which all life is a part.

All of you continue to hold us, inspire and challenge us, and we feel so lucky to be on the planet at the same time as you.  Together we will be strong. We will speak out. Organize and dream, and take good care of each other and all the life we share on this planet.

From the ashes of crumbling empires, we commit to you that we will honour our dead, reject the forces organized tyranny, fight for the living, and rehearse new worlds. We will breathe for one another, and we will breathe for you, too.

In Solidarity and Love,  

Robyn + Leanne

Robyn Maynard is the author of the bestseller Policing Black Lives and an Assistant Professor of Black Feminisms in Canada at the University of Toronto-Scarborough in the Department of Historical and Cultural Studies.

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson is a Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg writer, intellectual and musician.