The Revolution and the possibilities of beauty

cover of "The Revolution Will Not Be Funded; Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial ComplexI’m reading The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the non-profit industrial complex (edited by Incite! Women of Color Against Violence), and I am feeling hopeful. It’s so scary to imagine being truly non-competitive, remembering that I am a part of a movement and that I am not alone, not reinventing the wheel, that there are all these communities, like circles of friends – and sometimes like cliques – that I am a part of: anti-violence movements, anti-rape movements, movements challenging sexual violence, power of words movements, sex educators, pornographers, writers, racial justice activists, movements questioning abuses of power and hierarchy, queers, and anti-conformity communities…

I have all this energy and the coffee is making me impatient with the movement and slowness of my hands, this physical body. So, while reading, I am also thinking about how to do this work. I don’t feel it’s necessary to shape my mission to feed funders’ language requirements – I have just seen that so many times, seen people lose jobs and others lose services/communities/programs because of an ostensibly-surprising loss of funding. I see organizations losing track of who they’re there for – not funders, right? Aren’t our non-profits supposed to be in the service of/to the people?

Of course, this has changed radically, this idea that all non-profit organizations exist to serve the people, rather than those foundations paying the bills. So what do we do, we organizers and activists and social change workers who want to somehow keep a roof over our heads while also devoting our lives to doing the work we believe in, to changing our communities, to engagement with others doing the same?

I believe in the power of words to save us and to transform us – and I believe that individual transformation is an important and necessary ingredient of larger social change. I believe in the mantras of One at a Time and that real, lasting change is slow steady, persistent change: like practice. Change isn’t a one-time thing. It’s an every-day, collaborative and individual (both) bit of consistency. I believe that change is relationship-based, that change happens through connection and through the reality of hearts recognizing each other, no matter how different we thought we were on all of our various surfaces.

We don’t have to do what everyone – i.e., the “mainstream” – says we have to do to survive; we can create new possibilities through our words, through our sharing, which create fissures inside of and alongside the systems that have shaped and snared us. My stepfather (and perpetrator) was very fond of the spaces in-between. He believed in shiny surfaces and lies, taught me to look critically at what hides in plain view. This was unfortunate for him. We saw him hiding there because he revealed himself to us (ah, the way entitlement eventually hangs itself!), and we held him to account (to some extent, anyway).

I am not someone who *believes* too much in shiny things. Now, shiny and polished are nice, but I recognize that they’re fronts.

I do not believe in hiding in plain view. I believe in visibility. I also believe in using what’s available and loving all the spaces we exist within: that is, looking at our whole world and admiring not just the storefront, but also the back alley and the unweeded side yard, and the spots that need paint and repair. I like seeing the real, the spaces still dirty, the smudged mascara, the pressed shirt with a stain, broken fingernails, chipped teeth – the broad possibilities of beauty.

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