Jac Sm Kee reading Plenary 3

Our Final AWID Forum Report Out: “There will be no future if it’s not feminist.”

During the third plenary of the 13th International AWID Forum, Co-Creating New Futures, Coumba Toure made a powerful statement: “There will be no future if it’s not feminist.” 

Hearing this statement, I immediately imagine a beautiful future where no one ever has to take the streets to demand their humanity; where land and water are always more sacred than profits; and where our bodies are never policed. However during the plenary, the Fearless Collective, an international collective of activists fighting gender violence through art, challenged participants to understand that in order to create that feminist future we have to suspend disbelief.

But what does it mean to suspend disbelief? According to Shilo Shiv Suleman, founder and member of the Fearless Collective, it’s the moment we cross from the threshold of reality into a world where anything is possible and the unbelieveable is accepted as real. Many of us have known how to do this since we were children, when imaginary friends were the norm and the boundaries of reality didn’t confine us. As adults, we become stifled by fear. As Shilo said during the plenary, it takes “pure imagining, a ton of collective effort, and the right remedy to create a shift.”

While the Fearless Collective’s call to suspend disbelief is revolutionary and radical, it is not unfathomable. There are people around the world who building new futures by disrupting their fears.

“One night, fear came to eat my children.” – Shilo Shiv Suleman

There are people across the world building new futures this way. For example, Mothers (and Men) Against Senseless Killings’ (M.A.S.K.) is an organization dedicated to saving Chicago’s children from what can feel like an overwhelming wave of gun violence by prioritizing community safety models over community policing. M.A.S.K. understands that gun violence is not unique to low-income, Black and Brown communities, but an issue impacting our country as a whole, particularly when put into the context of mass shootings such as Aurora, Colorado and Sandy Hook.

One of the ways in which they keep children in Chicago neighborhoods safe is by running “peace patrols“, in which MASK members march through the streets spreading messages of peace. Their grassroots model has mothers walking the streets, identifying dangerous situations and trying to de-escalate them, forming a line of community defense instead of calling the police for safety. By prioritizing community safety even in the face of devastating rates of gun violence, M.A.S.K. is demonstrating what Dilar Dirk describes in the AWID plenary as choosing not to expect “freedom and liberation from forces that are completely detached from our realities.”

“Fear ate my tongue. Fear told me that my sex was weaker.” – Shilo Shiv Suleman

Fear can work to silence us, but in the face of intense violence from Israeli occupation, Janna Jihad using her voice to fight for freedom and liberation for Palestinian people in the West Bank. Following the death of two family members in her village, Nabi Saleh, Janna began to document the occupation that she was witnessing in the West Bank. Just 10-years-old, Janna is now one of the youngest journalists in the world. She recognizes that most media outlets do not cover the violence that’s happening in Palestine and definitely not from the perspective of Palestinians, so she uses her platform of 200,000 people to break this silence.

“I’m afraid that because of the realities that suffocate us, we are no longer able to imagine the beautiful futures that we could.”  – Nida Mushtaq

Fear can prevent us from dreaming and being creative, but M.A.S.K. and Janna Jihad show us new possibilities when we ignore our fears and suspend disbelief. While living within oppression is scary, choosing not to fight for our liberation is even scarier. We cannot allow fear and doubt to strip us of our voice, our spirit, or our dignity when working to build new realities that were once unfathomable.

Dilar Dirk invoked the words of Ursula Le Guin during the AWID plenary and I will leave you with these words to reflect on:

“You cannot buy the revolution, you cannot make the revolution, you can only be the revolution. It is in your spirit or it is nowhere.”

Photo Courtesy of the 2016 AWID Forum

Quita Tinsley is a fat, Black, queer femme that writes, organizes, and overall is working to build sustainable change in the South. She holds a B.A. in Journalism with a minor in Sociology from Georgia State University, and is currently pursuing an M.A. in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from her alma mater. She is a member on the board of directors of Access Reproductive Care – Southeast, and is a former content creator for the The Body Is Not An Apology. As a femme, feminist, and queer Black woman, it is through her lived experiences and complex identities that Quita has come to believe in the power of storytelling and the validation of lived experiences.

Quita Tinsley is a fat, Black, queer femme that writes, organizes, and overall is working to build sustainable change in the South.

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