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Erin Williams   

This week
Today on CYG, we spoke to organizer, educator, and abolitionist Mariame Kaba, who has been working on issues of police and prisons for two decades and therefore has a lot of great context for the words and images that have been flying across social media all week. What's the difference between reforming, defunding, and abolishing the institutions of prisons and policing? How do we turn personal problems into public ones? How can we build the world we want to live in?

Mariame says that we must practice for the world we hope to one day inhabit. Practice doesn't make perfect, as the adage goes. But it does, slowly, make a new reality. She quoted another activist who once told her that hope itself is a practice.

Hope is a practice. We get to choose it every day. 

I'm reading
Lauren Michele Jackson questions the value of the anti-racist reading list. Zoe Haylock on how #BlackOutTuesday went wrong and Christy DeGallerie on the pressure around performative internet trends. Wesley Morris on the ghastly video mosaic shot by Black people’s cameraphones. Jamil Smith on overlapping plagues, and Adam Serwer on what happens when you attempt to impose "law and order" without justice. Jamilah King looks ahead to the long summer of 2020. Rep. Maxine Waters on why this is an insurrection, not a riot. Mia Birdsong on reclaiming community and how we can be accountable to each other. William C. Anderson on how revolution does not happen in an instant. Maiysha Kai on why the revolution will not have a dress code. Journalist Jimmie Briggs, a new father, addresses his white colleagues, and poet Honorée Fanonne Jeffers writes a letter to a white friend about endless mourning. Claudia Rankine asked white men about their privilege. Toni Morrison on why artists must never choose silence. Evan Nicole Brown on a legendary hip hop archive. K. Austin Collins on the anniversary of an entirely forgettable Best Picture winner, Crash. Latoya Peterson on 10 TikTok creators who are calling out anti-Black racism. W. Ralph Eubanks on literary life in a plague year. Brit Bennett on finding your own consciousness through writing. Ashley-Devon W. on having dreams of a womb-less body. Devita Davison on food apartheid. Roxane Gay on moving in with her fiancée.

Pie chart
Ok, so this is NOT a pie chart. This bit of writing began as a pie chart about types of lists I was seeing circulated, but I realized I had a lot more than a few slices to say. So you're getting words instead. 

Last weekend, I posted on Instagram, "The question I've been sitting with is this: How can I make it a more central part of my life—in an ongoing, systematic, and sustainable way—to counter the racist structures that I benefit from? Especially on the particular issue of police violence." I got a lot of messages from my fellow white folks asking for action items and resources on how to do this. 

This is a way we have been conditioned to "take the next step" beyond posting or liking on social media: Lists. Checklists. Reading lists. Action items. Black creators to follow. (Did you read the piece I linked above, by cultural critic Lauren Michele Jackson?) These documents are full of great information, yet many of them have a one-size-fits-all feeling. I haven't been sharing them because, when I examine why I haven't been doing more to live in accordance with my beliefs, what I find is laziness. A failure to sacrifice my weekend hours, a failure to take the extra time to have a difficult conversation, a failure to pause and think a little harder about a choice in front of me. To address this, I know I need a specific interrogation of my life that goes deeper than a resources list.

Practicing for the world I want to inhabit (thank you again, Mariame Kaba!) requires a plan that is aligned with my skills, my life, the power I hold, the people I'm invested in, the communities I'm part of. And while I am definitely reliant on outside sources (yes, some of them found on lists) to craft this personal plan, most of these actions have come from asking myself about all the ways I can better live my values.

What resources do I have to contribute? Money. In many cases, I have shifted to make smaller-dollar recurring payments rather than large, one-off donations. 

Who is accountable to me, and who am I accountable to? I see myself deleting emails from national organizations when my schedule gets busy. But I do not hit snooze on a message from a friend asking me to send an email, carpool to a public meeting, or make a donation. My friends and I are sending more of these emails, and blocking off time on our calendars to do this work together.

What institutions am I invested in, and how can I change them from within? Here's just one example: I have a book publisher, which means the publishing industry and I are in bed together. It also means I have direct access to powerful people at one major publisher and can ask what they are doing to address the overwhelming whiteness of the industry.

Who am I amplifying, week in and week out? There's a lot of power associated with being a gatekeeper of the primary platforms I work on, this newsletter and Call Your Girlfriend. I can commit to devoting more attention to Black writers and creators—and not only when they're making work that directly addresses racism and its effects.

I'm aware that it might come across as self-congratulatory to spell all of this out here. But explaining my resource-list aversion, and a bit about my own still-developing practice, feels better than offering you a flippant pie chart this week.

I’m looking & listening
70 Million, a podcast about criminal justice reform that's taught me a lot. "Divesting from People Pleasing," a miniseries written and hosted by NK on The Heart podcast. And a short documentary about Alice Coltrane (I was frustrated on how much this focused on her husband, but the footage of her playing the harp is transcendent).

"Fannie Lou Hamer says she is sick and tired of being sick and tired."

I endorse
Celebrating Breonna Taylor's life by taking action for her today, which would have been her 27th birthday. I'm sending her birthday card to:

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron
Office of the Attorney General
700 Capital Avenue, Suite 118
Frankfort, Kentucky 40601-3449

(Above image by Ariel Sinha. You can support her work with a purchase from her shop on Etsy or Society6.)

I am also celebrating Pride Month by donating to provide cell phones, rooms, and other support to Black trans women.

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