1 : the act of liberating : the state of being liberated
2 : a movement seeking equal rights and status for a group
Our current system* breeds dichotomies in values — goals vs. competition, communalism vs. individualism, and altruism vs. self-interest. Not to say that either side is absolute, but you see contrasts within these ideals that are fueled by a colonial, capitalist, patriarchal society. These dichotomies keep us sick, depressed, and oppressed.
We use this graphic in several of our workshops to visually differentiate terms used in social justice. Many folks have only ever seen this graphic with the first two boxes, but we insist that justice work be taken further and strive towards liberation–where there are no oppressive systems at play (the fence) and everyone is able to not just survive, but thrive, because they are human beings.
A society not based upon capitalism would more align with community-centered traits. Those who are able to use their assets for their community do so, with the shared desire for the wellness of others and filling roles/taking on public projects as needed. There’s a shared sense of family and everyone within the community takes care of one another. Regardless of whose parent needs help, whose children need caretaking (and so on), we are all invested in each other’s well-being.
There are no simple solutions, but when we aren’t driven by competition for resources, we are able to be more humane towards one another and build community with one another.
*Our colonial/white supremacist, capitalistic, patriarchal society
Liberatory movements have been happening for decades. From the Suffragettes and the Civil Rights Movement to Stonewall and the Sunrise Movement, folks have been calling for liberation from systems of oppression.
One thing has been consistent through movements is the inability for people to sit on the sidelines and hope liberation just happens — liberation demands action.
Liberation is a verb.
However, we would be remiss to ignore the fact that social justice work is exhausting, especially for those who hold minoritized identities. In a society that was built on stolen land with stolen people and continues to profit off exploited workers while destroying said land, sometimes the most revolutionary thing you can do is rest. And dream of liberation.
Let Your Why Drive You
If you have ever found yourself looking around and thinking, “there has to be a better way,” we encourage you to start thinking about what a better way looks like to you. Let that vision fuel you.
If we do not always engage in social justice work with our why at the core, it is easy to get discouraged and derailed. What are you doing this for? What dreams do you have that feel unobtainable in an unchecked colonial, capitalist, patriarchal society? Let your vision guide you in this work.
Here is what liberation looks like for folks we have on staff:
I would create a foundation to fund research and education around the topic of social justice in comic books, highlighting and studying the ways the medium helped drive social change, but also reinforced negative stereotypes and societal norms. A collection of artifacts could be displayed in a museum and in traveling displays and present the information in formats applicable to all ages. Creators and scholars could conduct StoryCorps-type interviews to discuss ending content with negative impacts and that broke boundaries in a positive direction. Trailblazers in the field would be profiled and interviewed about what it was like being the first Black person to write Black Panther, the first woman to write Wonder Woman, etc. —Buck
I would convene small a queer commune. ~5 families, all living and co-creating a slow life in flow with the Earth on several dozen acres. We'd farm using regenerative ancestral practices, raise and unschool our kids together, attune to the seasons and our bodies, and dance under and howl at the moon. Obviously it would be divine and I literally never stop thinking about this. It drives pretty much all of my decisions. —Shaun
My grandmother would talk about aspects of her indigenous history and her wish to return to old ways. I feel in a way that is my vision as well. Similar to Shaun, my dream would be to have a village of my family and loved one’s families. My friends and I used to joke about living on the same block and just continuing to grow together. I would love to have a community like that, where we’re not bound by making life choices for the sake of money, but for our fulfillment and the true betterment of those around us. I would teach about humanities, fitness, and arts and to be a carpenter of sorts and help care for the youth. I dream of a reality where my family and friends (and their family and friends, and so on) can feel safe, secure, and fulfilled. This is not something that is promised within this current system. —RaShaun
As long as Shaun’s queer commune is near a large body of water, the Evans family will be filing our application to join. In our family’s liberation dream, we are all using our talents to serve the greater good. Zeke, our 4 year old son, would be using his sense of curiosity and joy to explore and learn through the natural world — leading him to find a new, previously undiscovered species of non-carnivorous dinosaur. Our family matriarch, Dr. Kadesha, will be using her skills of creativity and craftsmanship to build all our furniture and share them with the community (and she probably won’t be able to stop herself from doing some community healing on the side #OnceANurseAlwaysANurse). Finally, I would thrive being able to combine my love of community and scholarship to attack the seemingly unsolvable problems of today. Using community-based action research, and putting those on the front-lines at the center of the scholarship, I would love to work in collaboration to help address problems that keep others from liberation. As Audre Lorde said, “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.” —Meg
So, if the world was truly a liberatory place, what would you spend your time doing? What is your why?
Our liberation is dependent on one another. Even with whatever privilege you may possess, you will never be truly free until we ALL are free. Use your why to fuel you in this fight and keep the hope alive that one day, we will all know liberation.