SisterSong defines Reproductive Justice as the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities. We believe that Reproductive Justice is…
A human right. RJ is based on the United Nations’ internationally-accepted Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a comprehensive body of law that details the rights of individuals and the responsibilities of government to protect those rights.
About access, not choice. Mainstream movements have focused on keeping abortion legal as an individual choice. That is necessary, but not enough. Even when abortion is legal, many women of color cannot afford it, or cannot travel hundreds of miles to the nearest clinic. There is no choice where there is no access.
Not just about abortion. Abortion access is critical, and women of color and other marginalized women also often have difficulty accessing: contraception, comprehensive sex education, STI prevention and care, alternative birth options, adequate prenatal and pregnancy care, domestic violence assistance, adequate wages to support our families, safe homes, and so much more.
I’m writing this before the results are in, so can’t comment on that. What I can comment on, however, is that it’s been really weird to have my poem about voting go viral over the last 48 hours.
If you’re here because of that piece, and are new to my work, welcome! Please feel free to take a look at my about page for some more info on what I do.
Anyway, a big part of the *point* of that poem is that voting is important, and also that voting is insufficient. Voting is a small thing we can do that can make a difference on the margins—and the margins matter—but the work of building a better world is much, much bigger than electoral strategy.
So this is a post with some readings and resources that have been useful to me about that idea of “the day after.” These aren’t deep dives into tactical questions; just some potential places to start, especially for people who haven’t been involved in organizing, activism, or advocacy work before. I hope these can be useful.
Note: This post was originally just set up to share my poem, but I expanded it to share other poems that explore abolition; I might still expand it even further into a separate post. For now, find that list below.
No, no cops. Neighbors. Family. Helpers. Experts. Medics. Shamans. Scrappers. Friends-of-friends. Preachers. Healers. Mechanics. Witches. In-laws. Volunteers. Whatever. We’ll figure it out. But no cops.
A little context, for anyone interested: In my book, “Not a Lot of Reasons To Sing, But Enough,” there is a series of “tall tales” about the exile folk hero Hen March. I don’t know if I’d call them “poems,” but it doesn’t really matter; like stories and songs in our own world, they communicate a set of values about the society in which they are told.
For some real-world context, this is one of the many pieces in the book about abolition. This one is definitely the most straightforward; aside from the sci-fi conceit of “a folktale being told by a travelling poet on a prison colony moon where the prisoners have had their memories erased,” it’s a relatively blunt story about prevention vs. punishment, about how a world without police or prisons doesn’t have to be some perfect utopia; it can just be not this. Being able to imagine not this is important.
In a 2019 interview, Mariame Kaba said this about the prison industrial complex:
You’re allowed to say ‘not this.’ Your critique in and of itself is valid. You’re allowed to say ‘not this,’ and keep it moving. Why? Because we didn’t get into this problem yesterday. We got into it over time. This is a collective problem that lots of people’s hands are involved in. This is bipartisan to the nth degree. So why then is a problem that was formulated by a lot of people over a long period of time expected to be resolved by one person giving the solution to the problem or having to shut up? Because what they’re selling you is not just like ‘you don’t get it,’ it’s ‘you come up with solution or you say nothing’ and I absolutely reject that. I reject that on its face. I think that is a way to silence people with radical critiques.
So that’s a starting point. For this piece, I wanted to use the “tall tale” format as an entry point into these ideas. There’s a lot of freedom in that approach—it isn’t my voice telling people what to think; it’s a character being referenced by another character, and the different layers of voice, hopefully, create room for readers/listeners to engage with the content as a story, as opposed to a powerpoint presentation of talking points.
A big goal/project/impulse in the book is that kind of “entry point” work. This poem, as well as poems like Good Apples, Wireless It Might Scream, Why Do You Write Poems When Death Is All Around Us, and others all engage with abolitionist ideas, although that specific word is never used. That relates to another theme in the book: the idea of how individual poems, songs, or other creative efforts can contribute to a larger story, without having to be the whole story. My book is absolutely not the book you read if you’re already interested in abolition and want to learn more; my hope is that it can plant a seed, especially for people new to the concept, whether they’re Button Poetry fans, sci-fi fans, or just people who randomly saw the book in a bookstore and thought the cover looked cool.
All that being said, if you ARE already interested in abolition and want to learn more, I have some fantastic resources to share:
One more MPD150 resource: The #AbolitionReadings series is a curated selection of some of the most powerful writing on abolition over the past few years. If you’re serious about learning more, it’s a really valuable collection.
Micah Herskind put together a big list of abolitionist books; my personal recommendations would be Mariame Kaba’s “We Do This ‘Til We Free Us” and Derecka Purnell’s “Becoming Abolitionists.”
Also, I may grow this into a separate post later, but for now, here are a couple of other abolitionist (or abolitionist-adjacent) poems I’d recommend:
Just finished facilitating a six-week course for Button Poetry called “Writing to Cancel the Apocalypse,” which focused on “political” poetry: analyzing examples, sharing tools and tactics, and exploring the role(s) of poets and other artists in times of crisis (which is also ground my new book covers). I’d like to synthesize some of those discussions into a few posts here over the next few months; I already shared this updated list of poems on reproductive justice. Here’s one that uses social media as an entry point into thinking about the broader issue of how we (artists or otherwise) use our platforms.
I wrote a version of this years ago, but here’s an update. Some framing:
1. This is a tool that’s been useful to me, and I’m sharing it in case it can be useful to others. I’m not interested in policing what other people post about, or “calling out” people with different social media practices. I’ve just had so many conversations with people who want to speak out, but don’t know what to say, and my hope is that this can be useful food for thought.
2. We already know that social media, by itself, is not the work. It’s not radical. All of the platforms are owned by awful people and built to be addictive. But it is a tool that a lot of organizations, collectives, and individuals still use, for better or worse, and it can do some good when used with intentionality. (And as long as we’re talking about social media and activism, here’s a good thread from Evan Greer on digital security basics).
3. The primary audience I have in mind for this piece is people like me: artists, minor celebrities (extremely minor, in my case), people with some kind of platform. These days, however, almost everyone has “some kind of platform.” Whether it’s 100k, 10k, or just a few dozen followers- we all have access to our own specific micro-audiences, so we might as well do something with it.
I’m excited to share the first installment of what I hope to grow into a SERIES of conversations with other artists. The idea is that this kind of “dual interview” format might allow us to dig a little deeper into questions of craft and “the work” of our work, and just be a fun way to connect.
Ollie’s work is incredible, and I’m super grateful that they agreed to do this (and create the pullquote graphics sprinkled throughout); my initial thought was that these would be relatively short, but of course we ended up with… a lot. But this whole conversation is so good, and I hope aspiring/emerging writers, poets, and/or just people interested in our work can find something useful in it.
Get Ollie’s book, Dead Dad Jokes, here. Get my book, Not a Lot of Reasons to Sing, but Enough, here.
Note: I often share this link when I’m just trying to share the big bank of resources below. If you want to watch my poem, that’s fine too, but here’s a link directly that resource list.
This is actually an older piece; Button Poetry posted a version of it back in 2019, but there was an audio issue, so we decided to record this new version. I’m grateful, as always, to them for giving an admittedly… nontraditional poem/speech/thing like this a home.
It’s also a fun break from promoting my new book; the sci-fi-driven “Not a Lot of Reasons to Sing, but Enough” definitely has a thread running through it examining masculinity and its relationship with authoritarianism, but a poem like this, taking place on our world, written in my own voice, can be a lot more straightforward. I don’t think “straightforward” is a good thing or a bad thing; it’s just one way for a poem to be, and I like experimenting with multiple ways.
We’re having a free, virtual launch performance for the new book on Tuesday, April 12, 2022, at 7pm Central. This post is collecting some of stuff that I’ll likely be talking about, so they can all be in one place instead of a dozen different links.
This page also doubles as a good “how to support the book” page for people who want to; that is very much appreciated!
This is a special preview chapter from my book, Not a Lot of Reasons to Sing, but Enough. The book is more-or-less a poetry book, but it’s written from the perspective of various characters; sometimes, those characters do other things beyond writing and performing poems—they have conversations, get into arguments, tell stories, and participate in panel discussions. Since Button will be posting a bunch of poems/videos from the book (like this one) over the next few months, I figured I’d share one of these non-poem pieces here.
In this excerpt, the robot poet Gyre has been invited to be part of a panel discussion; Gyre doesn’t want to, though, so makes their apprentice Nary do it instead.
The Role of the Artist in Times of Authoritarian Brutality: A Panel Discussion
The Great Hall of Castle Whitecap, temporary host of the Floating University, the largest and onlyest center of learning outside of Heart. Our cast is seated on a bench behind a long, elevated table at the front of the room; students, faculty, and staff haphazardly occupy some 30-40 of the 200 rickety wooden chairs below. An owl tries to sleep in the rafters of the impressive, if not a bit ostentatious, hall.
Moderator: Welcome, students, faculty, and staff of the Floating University. We have some very special guests with us today for this important conversation. As many of you know, the council of Heart has been moving further and further away from the principles set into place by Hen March and the First Congress all those years ago. From the increase in propaganda, to the expanded role of the guard corps, to the ongoing saber rattling between districts—our society would be nigh-unrecognizable to March, were she still with us today. We are here today to discuss what artists can do in response to this reality. Allow me to introduce our panel.
A few extended thoughts on the quote, in the context of the last few weeks.
Lots of people have been sharing this quote again lately, partly because Brené Brown, The Conscious Kid, and some other big social media accounts have shared it, but also because of how some 70 million people here in the US decided to vote in our last election. Wanted to share two thoughts.
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