Adrienne Maree Brown
Adrienne Maree Brown, often styled adrienne maree brown (born September 6, 1978), is a writer, activist and facilitator. From 2006 to 2010, she was the executive director of the Ruckus Society. She also co-founded and directed the United States League of Young Voters.
- so much has changed there because of the work of Octavia, because of the work of Nnedi Okorafor, because of the work of Tananarive Due.
- Interview with Democracy Now (2021)
- Afrofuturism, I will say, is a thrilling — to me, a thrilling arena. And now there’s African futurism. There’s Black speculative fiction. There’s all these arenas where, basically, Black people and people of African lineage are saying, “We were almost erased from the lineage. Right? People wanted to erase us and have us just be labor. We’re writing ourselves back in. We’re writing ourselves back in. We’re creating stories that are rooted in African heritage and that articulate an African future.” So, it’s an exciting place. It’s an exciting arc to be inside of as a creator.
- Interview with Democracy Now (2021)
Not Too Late: Changing the Climate Story from Despair to Possibility edited by Rebecca Solnit and Thelma Young Lutunatabua (2023)
- If we were able to unshackle our imaginations in this moment, I think our compatibility with the Earth would become possible.
- When I imagine the world in a right relationship, it's a love story between our species and this Earth and amongst us.
- Some of the things that have most astounded me that have come to pass in our recent history have been the ways we have galvanized and changed the culture and conversation around sexual harassment, harm, assault, and violence through the #MeToo movement and understanding that that change was made possible because of a lot of people at a relatively small scale being willing to tell their stories, tell their truths, and begin to make interventions for themselves by stepping out into the light. Concurrently, we've seen a major shift in the culture and the conversation around abolition and prison systems and the preciousness of Black life through the work of Black Lives Matter and the Movement for Black Lives. And with both movements there have been massive learning edges.
- Imagination is a muscle that, for many of us, will atrophy if we don't use it, especially under the pressure of constant fear. Fear and imagination often can't be in the same room. So, one of the things I think to strengthen that muscle is, first of all, reading. Reading visionary fiction, reading visionary texts. I often recommend Octavia Butler to people because it's reading things that are hard. Walidah Imarisha always says, "It's realistic and hard, but it's hopeful that change is possible." How do we be with what is and keep our eyes up?
- the stories I think we need to tell are ones of what it is like to be in a relationship with the Earth. What is it like to live on an abundant Earth? What are communities that are thriving by being in relationship to the Earth? What does enough feel like?
- I know that I'm not grieving because death is unnatural, I'm grieving because love has overfilled my banks, and I can no longer just pour it into this other person. When I'm angry, it's because I love something, and I want to defend it. When I am feeling fearful is because I love something.
- I want my lineage to be a lineage of someone who fought hard for human existence on this planet. My despair and grief and fear and anger informed that, and they're powerful parts of that fight, just as much as my love.
- in that process, I started the work of emergent strategy, started to listen to what is up with the natural world — what can it teach us about how to be humans and how to be humans in a better relationship with each other? And what I realized is it is the work of radical imagination to do so, but also that we’re living inside of imaginations that other people told us were true and told us were like, this is how the world is. And I always uplift my friend Terry Marshall. He was the first person to say this to me, that we’re in an imagination battle, which just blew my mind. And I think about it often — that we live in this abundant world, and we’ve been told it’s scarce. And then we’re given all these stories of scarcity. So, so much of the work, for me, of radical imagination is like, what does it look like to imagine beyond the constructs? What does it look like to imagine a future where we all get to be there, not causing harm to each other, and experiencing abundance?
- organizing is a way of saying, We are going to put our hands directly on the future. But it’s also time-traveling backwards. So much of organizing is looking back at, what did our ancestors try? What did they learn? What were they up to?
- Everything dies, but that’s kind of good. It makes for a very rich world. All the richness, all that fecundity, all that beautiful miracle of life, it happens because we live in cycles, not perpetuity.
- we can begin to see there are no isolated patterns. The universe has some favorites, and they repeat and they repeat, at every scale.
- can we be honest — at least honest that there’s not love in the way we’re doing it now? Because I think that was also what was hurting my heart, was people being like, Yeah, we just have to love each other — and then we’re doing the most awful, awful dismissals and disposals of each other.
- We’re losing leaders left and right, because people are making mistakes and now there’s no room for making mistakes.
- Octavia Butler said that “[t]here’s nothing new / under the sun, / but there are new suns.” We are in a time of new suns. We’re in a time of new suns. We have no idea what we could be, but everything that we have been is falling apart. So it’s time to change. And we can be mindful about that. That’s exciting.
- you are a personal front line. What’s happening in your life and in the relationships you have with your family and how you treat people when you’re upset with them — I always ask people that, when I talk about transformative justice: Are you punishing anyone right now? And could that punishment be shifted into a boundary or a request? Is there a courageous conversation that needs to be had? How do you personally begin to practice whatever’s in alignment with your largest vision? Abolition is something we practice every day in our lives. Liberation, emergent strategy, all of these are things to practice every day. And I guess maybe to bring it back to the first question of spiritual practice — to me, that’s the ultimate spiritual practice, as well. It’s not about the bombastic meditation retreat. It’s about, can you sit every day? Can you bring mindfulness into every activity?
- Life moves towards life, you know. That’s the trick.
- I think we're in this really important, beautiful phase where we're learning so much can happen even at a distance. But it's a double-edged sword because so much of what is happening is happening on platforms that were not necessarily designed for us to use them to foment change and to bring down systems of harm. They were designed to serve capitalism, which means they want as many clicks and likes and as much engagement as possible. And what gets a lot of engagement is drama.
- how do we start to retune our attention towards things that are solution-oriented, things that help us build? And this is a hard time for that. We've been immersed in a culture of destruction for such a long time.
- I'm thinking about abolition all the time, trying to understand how we bring it to pass: How do we defund policing? How do we defund the prison system? How do we actually break those patterns in ourselves in order to break them in the larger world? So a lot of it for me is connected to that.
- How do we ensure that the survivors' needs are actually getting met? What would actually create the boundaries and the spaciousness that we're trying to give to survivors for their healing, while also helping the person who has created this offense to break the cycle of harm within them? And some of what seems to help is to have a sense that all of us get harmed, and all of us commit harms.
- White supremacy has a certain view of who the villain is. Patriarchy has a certain view of who the villain is. Capitalism has a certain view of who the villain is. Ableism has a certain view of who the villain is. And throughout history, we have notoriously been wrong about who the villain actually is, or what concepts are actually villainous concepts to our species.
- What I'm making a case for is that disposability is a concept that might be the most villainous for our species: to think that there's some way we can get rid of people who commit harm, and that will remove the harmful behavior and the harmful belief systems from our communities. And when it doesn’t—it hasn’t—at a certain point we have to ask ourselves, what are we doing? And what are some alternative ways we could be spending that time to help us actually stop harm from happening, deepen our relationship with each other and grow movements that can hold difference, that can hold conflict, that can recover from misunderstanding, that can fundamentally make a case that abolition is really possible?
- I don't think that we're quite at the place where we can do a prescriptive framework. I think we're so early in the experiment of this phase of abolition. That said, I point in the book to resources that I think are able to do a lot more of that. Fumbling Towards Repair by Shira Hassan and Mariame Kaba is an incredible resource. It's a workbook that basically supports people who want to go through a transformative justice process. And Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha [and Ejeris Dixon] put out a book called Beyond Survival that really is like a grand gathering of transformative justice stories, case studies, lessons from people. Patrisse Cullors is releasing An Abolitionist Handbook this year, which which has this 12-step program of what it looks like to actually take abolition on as a practice.
- This pandemic has unveiled for a lot of us just how small our reliable communities are, and how much we need to deepen those relationships so that they can hold change and conflict and differences.
- The first interactions I had with the ideas of abolition work were around the system of slavery. [For people living during that time,] it felt impossible that that system could end and there could be some other way of functioning that didn't rely on Black people being enslaved. And I think we're in a similar moment now. It's impossible to imagine what our societies would do, what cultures would do, what communities would do if we didn't have prisons.
- Mariame Kaba has given incredible talks about this, that we've had 250 years of this well-funded prison system experiment. And it hasn't stopped rape. It hasn't stopped robberies. It hasn't stopped drugs. It hasn't stopped anything at all. All of those things that we think of as harm, they continue without the responses they need...One of the other things that Mariame points out—what would it look like if the experiment of transformative justice was as well funded as the experiment of prison? We have no idea what things could look like at scale because we've never actually had the resources to even experiment at any kind of scale. We’ve had to argue over every penny.
- I think we are very aware now that a ton of people who are in the prison industrial complex actually need mental health support.
- I think that transformative justice is something that happens at an intimate level. It happens in a community that knows each other.
- I look at my community: When is it my turn to mediate? When is it my turn to show up for someone who needs to get out of an abusive dynamic? When is it my turn to show up in community as someone who names that I have caused harm and takes accountability for something that I've done?
- One of my other teachers, Danielle Sered, said that no one experiences harm for the first time when they're doing harm. As a society, as a species, but specifically in our communities, we have to start asking ourselves those questions like, what caused this? Can we get to the root system?
- Each of us is going to have to start to say, in my own life, can I navigate and operate as if no one is disposable?
- I want to lift up the book Mutual Aid by Dean Spade
- I think ultimately that mutual aid is going to teach us a ton about how to be in communities that can be accountable to each other, because mutual aid only works when you're able to say, "I have a need," [and someone else says] "I have something to offer to that need. Being in conflict is just another need.
- Going through an abusive situation just creates another need. And if we can stretch far, we can say even the person who's caused abuse has some unmet need, and they think it can be met through harm and domination and manipulation and gaslighting. And they think that's going to meet some need in them, but the need is not met. The abuse continues. They just find new people to take it. But mutual aid suggests those needs can be met. Maybe they need a different therapist, maybe they need a different kind of healer or a group of healers, maybe they need to see that people who were structured and shaped to be abusive found another path.
- (White supremacy) is a fundamentally mythological state. Human beings are not supreme to each other based on the vagina we came out of. That’s not what determines our worth and our well-being or miraculousness.
- If you are born into an abusive identity, there's another way possible. If you were shaped into being someone who is driven towards conflict, causing harm to other people, there's another way possible.
- I had to surrender so many wrong thoughts to begin to see.
- I remind myself I can't be good at something I'm doing for the first time, and that reminder helps me humble into learning mode.
- My pleasure icons are... Marla Stewart of Velvet Lips. Rihanna, obviously. Lizzo too, the pleasure she gets from just confronting the world with her excellence and then laughing.
- I appreciate the chaos of unplanned time. I find unorganized human time particularly intriguing.
- My most subversive joy is... that internal knowledge that I am not inferior to a man who is simultaneously thinking that he is superior to me.
- I don’t avoid the “activist guilt” that’s tied to devoting yourself to justice, but... I certainly examine it. I believe it's tied to the truth that, as an individual, I can never do enough in the face of all the intersecting injustices of my life and time. But I sometimes look at how far I've come, in my lifetime, in my lineage. How much repression I have cast off, how much oppression I have negated, how I went from homophobic to pansexual, from military brat to post-nationalist/post-capitalist. I feel free a lot, I surround myself with good revolutionary people...and I think, ok padawon. This may be an insignificant life in some grand epic scape, but in the scale of my life, I am doing my best and really getting a lot done for a lazy weed lover.
Outro to Octavia's Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements (2015)
- We hold so many worlds inside us. So many futures. It is our radical responsibility to share these worlds, to plant them in the soil of our society as seeds for the type of justice we want and need.
- Science fiction is the perfect "exploring ground," as it gives us the opportunity to play with different outcomes and strategies before we have to deal with the real-world costs.
- The stories we tell can either reflect the society we are a part of or transform it. If we want to bring new worlds into existence, then we need to challenge the narratives that uphold current power dynamics and patterns.
"The Green Generation" (2007)
Anthologized in The Global Warming Reader edited by Bill McKibben (2012)
- There has been one constant, as far back as we can understand: The world is always changing.
- So far, the only thing incremental about climate change is our American response to it.
- We might be learning slowly, but change is coming fast.
Quotes about adrienne maree brown
- “What a time to be alive,” adrienne maree brown has written. “Right now we are in a fast river together — every day there are changes that seemed unimaginable until they occurred.” adrienne maree brown and others use many words and phrases to describe what she does, and who she is: A student of complexity. A student of change and of how groups change together. A “scholar of belonging.” A “scholar of magic.”