Ending 2016: Updates and Review

I appreciate all of the personal newsletters that people share updating friends and family about what they’ve been doing and their plans for the near future. I don’t have the patience or discipline to do that regularly. But since we are nearing the end of the year and I am preparing to take a break for a couple of weeks, I decided to share a short update about what I did in 2016 and a preview of some 2017 plans.

First and foremost, I moved from Chicago back home to NYC in May 2016. I had no idea how difficult this would be (in so many different ways). The logistics of moving after you’ve lived in a place for over 2 decades cannot be overstated. Add to that, the emotional toll and it was just so hard. I built an organizing and life home for myself in Chicago. I made friends who are now family. I will always miss the people and city. Since my move, I’ve been working nonstop so I haven’t yet had a chance to re-settle in NYC. I still haven’t had a chance to fully process how my life is going to change. My friends and comrades gave me all sorts of beautiful parting gifts, among the most meaningful is this video goodbye. It brings tears any time I watch it.

I was awarded a Soros Justice Fellowship this year. It was unexpected so I’ve been trying to balance earlier commitments with the requirements of the fellowship. I think that I’m managing to find some balance. I’ve spoken around the country this year and have written only a little. I’ve also been quoted in and appeared on various media platforms in 2016. In 2017, I would like to write more and speak less. I plan to start regularly blogging again.

I am hoping to make more things in 2017. This year, I collaborated with my friend Tom Callahan to produce three videos: one about the #Justice4Rekia campaign , one about the #ByeAnita Campaign and the last one about #FreeMarissaNOW. It’s been a lot of fun to produce these time capsules documenting our various struggles for justice and transformation. Over the summer, I invited artist friends and comrades to participate in and contribute to the Restorative Posters project. I also worked on two writing/curation projects that will be released in 2017. One is a publication with Jacqui Shine and Half Letter Press about feminist consciousness-raising. The other is an art book with my friend Rachel Caidor based on our 2015 Making Niggers exhibition to be published by Featherproof Books in 2018.

Through Project NIA, I did digital and some on the ground community organizing as part of the #ByeAnita campaign to help oust Anita Alvarez in the March primary. I am so proud of the work that so many did (especially young Black women and femmes) to make this a reality.

I co-organized a pop-up Black women’s radical free library event in February. I raised 10s of thousands of dollars for organizations that I support including the Chicago Community Bond Fund, the Chicago Freedom School, Assata’s Daughters, Crossing Water, Flint Rising and others. I organized a holiday gift drive for children/youth at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center that collected $6000 worth of donations. Over the summer, I joined with others to launch the #FreeBresha campaign.

In 2017, I’d like to travel less but that already doesn’t seem to be in the cards. I will complete my Soros Justice Fellowship. I will to continue to organize with Survived and Punished. I am co-organizing an S & P Network Convening on June 15th in Detroit. I’ll still be working with my colleagues in the Just Practice Collaborative. I’ll be speaking at Depaul, Bard, Tufts and the University of Rochester. I also have several other projects on tap (including another potential idea for an exhibition that I want to curate).

Finally, though this year has truly been bittersweet, there have been several personal highlights. My friend and comrade Sol Patches wrote a wonderful song and dedicated it to me. There have been many a day when I have blasted the song and danced around my apartment. It’s been a form of audio therapy. Enjoy it here! This year as part of the 3rd Annual Women to Celebrate event, friends and comrades created a special honor called the Kaba Award. I was so moved by this gesture and I was thrilled to be able to select the first awardee, Page May. My friend, talented artist Monica Trinidad, created a beautiful art piece that was given to Page. Separately, Monica has also created a set of lovely #MariameTaughtMe postcards with some of the proceeds benefiting the Chicago Freedom School. To be recognized and loved by your friends, comrades and community feels indescribably affirming and good. I plan to hold on to those sentiments for the hard year ahead.

I hope that next year will be better for all of us. See you in the New Year.