What Does Freedom Look Like Moving Forward?

I Dare You to Dream of a World Better Than This One

To pull something from the ethers which has yet to be seen, otherwise known as to create, takes an imagination. And for a people who haven’t known freedom in generations, it’s going to take one hell of a dream to construct a liberation even greater than the half freedom our primordial ancestors knew. To go beyond and create the world we truly want to inhabit will require us to remove the shackles on our minds that make it hard to think outside of the confines of hierarchy and oppression with which we are most familiar. But it is this very task to which we are all called if we are in fact to have a revolution and not just a moment. While history is made up of but a collection of moments, it is revolutions which determine the direction of all moments afterward. If the action or praxis is the combustion that moves the car of liberation, then theory or the dream of what can be is the stuff that the fire is fueled by.

When you have a theory, your actions become governed by your perception of the cause of reality, rather than in reaction to that reality. For example, it is obvious that protesters who choose to use their demonstration to hug cops or beg them to take the knee are engaged in praxis without theory. That is to say, their actions are motivated by the symbol or appearance of progress, rather than an understanding of injustice and what it will take to procure justice. 

We are standing at a precipice, behind us lay the carnage of millennia of Western domination over the woman, the child, the foreigner, the Muslim, the Black, the Indigenous, the queer, and even the very Earth itself drawn out like a grim tapestry. Before us is the blank slate of the future waiting to be drawn. The vision we choose to model this future after can either continue the depressing struggle for power and dominion over beings never meant to be in control or captivity, or we can decide to embrace the endless potentialities that each emancipated being was destined to fulfill in their lifetime. 

Right now, for the first time since their inception, masses of people are beginning to imagine what a world without police would look like. And with this shift in mindset, comes the opportunity to dream what a world free of a lot of the injustices Black people face today would look like. Calls for abolition harken back to the early chattel slavery abolitionists movement, and even still we are met with the same level of incredulity. But, it is my hope that we do not only stop at abolishing the carceral system as it exists today, but also the inequitable structure of modern education that prepares those who remain to be cogs in the machine of capitalism; the punitive housing system, wherein people are coerced into labor for fear of being denied food and shelter; the class divide which necessitates black poverty; structural sexism and misogynoir which feeds off the suffering and erasure of black women and girls; the demonization of LGBTQi/a+ folks that leads to death and trauma; and all the other forms the denial of freedom takes presently. 

There are creators walking around with their hands tied behind their backs, chained by oppression masquerading as responsibility or restraint; in reality we are bound by the belief that we have to follow somebody else’s path to bring about change. We must lose these shackles so that we are truly free to think for ourselves and dream of something better. So many of the issues of the world could be solved if we just gave more people the power and freedom to do so, rather than limiting the right to act to a lucky few. Who knows how many Einsteins or Martin Luther King Jrs have lived and died never having been given the chance to reach their potential because of these fictitious hierarchies we have been tricked into believing. 

The truth is I want my daughters and sons to grow up in a world so free the word itself has disappeared from the collective lexicon because freedom is no longer an uncertainty. Someplace so free that nothing, no system, no state stands in their way of becoming all that they wish to be. I want my daughters to know a world where their freedom is never threatened by the risk of sexual assault, and where my sons won’t fear their freedom being taken away by the prison industrial complex or a racist with a gun. 

In this utopian dystopia, when somebody experiences a mental health crisis, instead of a state ran gang showing up to taser and imprison them (or worse), a trained mental health specialist arrives with an equally trained team to deescalate the situation and provide necessary short term and long term services to the individual. Instead of people being forced to spend all of their waking and resting time laboring for a massive corporation that pays them pennies on the dollar just so they can have peace of mind, every citizen is guaranteed housing and food, because it is a human right and a communal responsibility that we all look after each other. When my son decides to take a walk, he will be free to walk, run, or vogue down the middle of the street if he so pleases, and there won’t be a drop of fear in his heart. When my daughter dreams up the cure to cancer, she won’t need to undergo debt slavery to bring her dream into being or beg for a dime to support her research, she will already have all the resources she needs, and nobody will doubt her for her gender. When I eventually enter my golden years, I will get to be surrounded by family if I so choose without being too much of a burden on one person because the community takes care of one another. When you get hungry, you won’t have to commit acts against anyone else or yourself to find sustenance, because every street, road, and walkway will be lined with food, and the waste goes back to the earth as it was designed. 

It is neither divisive nor weakening to the movement to demand that we center all of our voices rather than just those that make for good stories and rally the public. It does not spread us to thin to develop a deeper understanding of the truly massive enemy we face, in fact, it is the first rule of war to know thy enemy and to know thyself. If we claim that Black Lives Matter, then we must first recognize all the ways that our present society denies the sovereignty of all black life, not just the black life we are comfortable with, and can fit into our boxes of respectability. We have to be willing to analyze what privileges we do or don’t hold if we are to do the work of dismantling oppression. And oppression cannot be dismantled by covering our eyes and ears to the suffering of those with less social or financial capital while we run our mouth about our own plights. We must take the time to look one another in the eye and see each other because the future I want for my children and children’s children will only come into being if first we dream it and are then willing to work for it.

I wrote this article because I believe it is time for our generation to draft our own framework of revolution and theory. We don’t have to keep listening to the old white men of the past, they don’t exist in our world anymore. In that same token, you don’t have to love everything I wrote to take away the biggest point, which is that you have a right to shape the world we will live in, and a duty to do it to the best of your ability.

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Nathan Odige