Revolution is not a one-time event
WE SEE THE HORIZON: ABOLITION NOW!
Abolition is a perennial and open invitation to take the potential of revolutionary love seriously. In direct opposition to carcerality, abolition is a life-making principle: one concerned with creating new practices, spells and rhythms that make planetary life habitable for all. Abolition is the desire for more; a rejection of all the tenets of the world sustained by the catastrophe of policing, carcerality and their rootedness in anti-Black, anti-queer, anti-trans, white heteropatriarchal, racial capitalist state power. As this moment of upheaval unfolds, abolition has taken centre stage, expanding the realm and threshold of potential. This state of emergency has always been forever. Abolition reminds us that the world has never been habitable and that everything is possible.
In daring us to demand more for ourselves and others, abolition orientates us towards what Mariame Kaba describes as a horizon. We see the abolitionist horizon just beyond burning police cars, abandoned prisons and open borders. The time of abolition is both in the distance and already present. In the words of Ruth Wilson Gilmore, “abolition is presence”: a form of faith that we can and will change everything. Abolition is the gift of the unfinished Black freedom struggle and its constant radicalisation, its ceaseless extension.
In Revolution is not a one-time event. activists, academics and artists reflected on abolitionist praxis and thought, exploring covergences with gender, poetry, technology, performance, speculation, aesthetics, film and culture.
Revolution is not a one-time event was a programme held throughout August 2020 organised by Che Gossett, Lola Olufemi and Sarah Shin in collaboration with Arika and hosted by Silver Press.
The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House: Abolitionist Feminist Futures — Gail Lewis, Miss Major, Zoé Samudzi and Hortense Spillers, chaired by Akwugo Emejulu
“What the world will become already exists in fragments and pieces, experiments and possibilities,” says Ruth Wilson Gilmore. In conversation with Black feminist forebears, such as Audre Lorde, abolitionist scholars and activists Gail Lewis, Miss Major, Zoé Samudzi and Hortense Spillers, chaired by Akwugo Emejulu, explore how to dismantle the master’s house — its material edifices and ideological architecture — and the construction of abolitionist futures in the present.
Lorde noted in 1984 that hegemonic, stratified forms of feminism can also constitute the master’s house. How can fugitive forms of organising and thinking continue to confront white feminism, racial capitalism, the violent gender binary and the carceral state? From Black Trans organising for post-incarceration re-entry services and against criminalisation, to Black feminist scholarship and psychoanalysis, to Black radical imaginations and political formations, the panel asks: What new tools and instruments can we fashion to help us dismantle the master’s house and build architectures of freedom?
Poetry is Not a Luxury: The Poetics of Abolition — Saidiya Hartman, Canisia Lubrin, Nat Raha and Christina Sharpe, chaired by Nydia A. Swaby
“Poetry is not only dream and vision; it is the skeleton architecture of our lives. It lays the foundations for a future of change.” Poetry crystallises our visions for the future. It is the arena in which demands come to life. When we proclaim that poetry is not luxury, in the spirit of the revolutionary poet Audre Lorde, we make clear that its incantatory power should not be underestimated. Abolitionist desire and imagination are rooted in the poetic, while abolition is an act of sym-poesis, of creating in concert and in collectivity, moving towards living together without carceral separation.
With readings from poets Canisia Lubrin and Nat Raha and reflections from critical thinkers and scholars Saidiya Hartman and Christina Sharpe, this panel chaired by academic, curator and writer Nydia A. Swaby explores the poetics of abolition, “for it is through poetry that we give name to those ideas which are, until the poem, nameless and formless-about to be birthed, but already felt.”
System Errors: Abolitionist Technologies and Aesthetics — American Artist, Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley and Juliana Huxtable, chaired by Legacy Russell
The radical potential of technologies lies in fugitivity and opacity: their ability to obscure, to make it impossible for us to be known, to render us untraceable by every arm of the state even under the all-consuming spectre of surveillance capital. Within the current matrix of violent governance, the abolitionist project is about gaming the algorithm: rewriting its rules and scrambling the encoded binary. Glitch feminism is one such method. It recognises the glitch as a necessary erratum, a site of positive departure that enables the creation of new worlds.
With curator and writer Legacy Russell in the chair, artists American Artist, Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley and Juliana Huxtable, discuss their artistic practices through an abolitionist lens, considering questions around policing, the body and the digital image. How does art engaging with queerness, digital media and performance intersect with an abolitionist aesthetics of liberated blackness? Can networked virtual life, video games and radical image-making be tools for agency and resistance against the techno-industrial complex?
Happy Birthday, Marsha! — adrienne maree brown, Black Obsidian Sound System and Tourmaline, chaired by Lola Olufemi
Abolition is the work of care. Care is the fabric of the abolitionist promise of freedom: freedom from the carceral, and capitalist state grammar of ‘liberty’ and ‘justice’. The abolitionist dream is one of new intimacies, speculation and healing.
On the birthday of Marsha P. Johnson, this event brings together several elements that celebrate the radical care and kinship characteristic of the Trans revolutionary. A screening of Happy Birthday, Marsha!, a speculative short film about Johnson's life in the hours before she ignited the Stonewall Riots by Tourmaline and Sasha Wortzel is followed by a sonic intervention, weaving together meditation and elemental soundscapes, by Evan Ifekoya and Mellowdramatics of Black Obsidian Sound System, and a reading by organiser and writer adrienne maree brown.
To close the ‘Revolution is not a one-time event’ programme, a discussion with adrienne maree brown, members of B.O.S.S and Tourmaline, chaired by Lola Olufemi, explores militant revolutionary love and queer and trans desire as central to abolition. What is the radical potential of care and community? What new forms of kinship can we build that finally lay the nuclear family and state control of communities to rest? New forms of life begin in speculative gestures: how can performance and artistic practice help us anticipate and craft what we seek to build?