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Post-class notes from Monday, November 3

jschlosser's picture


We opted to attend Mia Mingus's lecture during the first two-thirds of class. As it turned out, the lecture was hugely relevant to our discussions across the whole 360 cluster. A few highlights from my own notes (to which I'd love to hear your additions):

  • "We don't have to have a perfect history to honor it." This reminded me of Tocqueville, of course. Mingus was talking about how we need to recognize and learn from past struggles, honoring those who fought for equality even if their idea of equality was limited.
  • How being "politically queer" differs from being "descriptively queer." This distinction seemed very relevant to me as we talk about democratic organizing as a mode of politicization, helping people to see their social position (which I'm going to use instead of "identity" because I think it suggests more mutability and agency over one's place in society) as potentially political. Think, for instance, of how white college students who participated in Freedom Summer began to see their own positions as problematic and were led to found their own movements in the north, such as Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the Women's Liberation movement.
  • What would a free world look like and feel like? I'm excited to see Rosa imagine this in terms of a world without prisons. But we can also pause and elaborate the ideals informing the Freedom Struggle as advanced by SNCC. It actually doesn't seem so different from Mingus's response to Rhett's question: "collective valuing of relationship building" that creates the space for "accountability practices."

These are just a few moments from the talk, which I found very worthwhile. As we discussed it more during class we focused on some of the following themes:

  • Alternatives to prisons
  • Transformative justice (and "accountabilabuddies")
  • Building relationships
  • Anger
  • Prison abolition
  • The differences between activists and organizers.

I hope we can continue building on this discussion and perhaps even imagine "arts of freedom" relevant to the struggles Mingus described and called us to join.



After the talk and our post-talk discussion, we turned to Kieres' essay and some discussion of Freedom Summer. Kieres turned our attention to the motivations of those who participated in Freedom Summer and the role of religion in these actions. A few questions came up:

  • Should we concern ourselves with motivation or with results? That is, does it matter what motivated the participants if they increased voter registration from 7% to 64% and helped to make Mississippi the state with the highest percentage of state representatives of color?
  • What role can religious motivation or commitment play in politics?

As we return to Nelson's documentary and McAdam this coming Tuesday, I hope we can keep some of these questions in mind.



We ended by discussing some of the differences between the Thursday and Friday groups. A few themes arose worth continuing to consider:

  • How do we build trust among ourselves and among the incarcerated people with whome we're working?
  • Can we do anything about the intensity of going back and forth between class inside and class outside?
  • Are the Thursday lesson plans too controversial? Are there more indirect ways to approach some of these quetions?
  • Do we need to clarify our collective intentions about why we're doing this work?

I'll be curious how we respond to these questions in our remaining six weeks of work together.