The AfroFuturism of the Fifth Dimension: Freedom Dreams in the Age of Aquarius

By Joseph Orosco (July 28, 2021)

I was listening to the interview with Questlove on NPR the other day.  He was talking about the new documentary he produced (Summer of Soul) on the Harlem Cultural Festival in 1969 and discussing the performance of the group, The Fifth Dimension.  The Fifth Dimension, for me, is always connected with the songs from the musical, Hair, namely “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In,” so I always associated them with images of the largely white, hippie, Woodstock generation.  Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who made this association.  In the film, lead singer Marilyn McCoo talks about how important it was for them to perform at the festival:

“MARILYN MCCOO: We were constantly being attacked because…


MCCOO: …We weren’t, quote, unquote, “Black enough.”

CORNISH: Marilyn McCoo, a member of The 5th Dimension – she teared up while watching footage of their performance.


MCCOO: Sometimes we were called the Black group with the white sound. We didn’t like that. That was one of the reasons why performing in Harlem was so important to us – because we wanted our people to know what we were about.”


Hearing this made me go back to listen to the songs again and to see if I could find any videos of them from the era.  And what popped out at me was that The Fifth Dimension can definitely be thought of  Afrofuturist in 1969, and those songs from ‘Hair” as being infused as messages from what Robin D.G. Kelley calls the Black Radical Imagination.

In terms of the Afrofuturist aesthetic, check the the original video for “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In”:


Nigerian writer Munachi Ogsebu calls this video a “major moment” in Afrofuturism!

I’ve also been reading Kelley’s “Freedom Dreams” (2002) and came across this important passage:

“Progessive social movements do not simply produce statistics and narratives of oppression; rather, the best ones do what great poetry always does; transport us to another place, compel us to relive horrors and, more importantly, enable us to imagine a new society.”

Kelley thinks music is an important component of social movements because they give life to this poetic/radical imagination:

“When movements have been unable to clear the clouds, it has been the poets–no matter the medium–who have succeeded in imagining the color of the sky, in rendering the kinds of dreams and futures social movements are capable of producing.  Knowing the color of the sky is far more important than counting clouds.  Or to put it another way, the most radical art is not protest art but works that take us to another place, envision a different way of seeing, perhaps a different way of feeling.”

With all of this in the background, I have started to hear “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” in a new way, as part of the tradition of those freedom dreams from the Black Freedom Movement:  spirituals, blues, jazz, and soul.  Especially when you look at the lyrics, these songs are definitely in that utopian tradition of imagining a different world in order to provide hope and soothe pain in the struggles of the present.

When the moon is in the Seventh House
And Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars
This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius
Age of Aquarius
Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derisions
Golden living dreams of visions
Mystic crystal revelation
And the mind’s true liberation
When the moon is in the Seventh House
And Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars
This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius
Age of Aquarius
Let the sunshine, let the sunshine in, the sunshine in
Let the sunshine, let the sunshine in, the sunshine in
Let the sunshine, let the sunshine in, the sunshine in
Oh, let it shine, c’mon
Now everybody just sing along
Let the sun shine in
Open up your heart and let it shine on in
When you are lonely, let it shine on
Got to open up your heart and let it shine on in
And when you feel like you’ve been mistreated
And your friends turn away
Just open your heart, and shine it on in

We Were Never Lazy, We Were Living in a Culture that Sapped Our Time and Energy

By Beth Strano (April 27, 2020)

This is also me seeing so many folks embracing gardens, new cooking skills, mutual aid, bartering, and mending as healthy ways to rebuild the feeling that we have some control over our lives. We were never lazy, we were living in a culture that demands so much of our time and energy to survive. Along the way, the things that make us feel happy and proud got labeled as “hobbies.”


Remember, when this is all over, that we all had this power collectively all along, and that we always knew what we needed and could accomplish when we’re looking out for each other.

With any luck, we are planting more seeds than we will see grow in our lifetime.

The Social Value of Science Fiction: Asimov, Ellison and Social Justice

(By Joseph Orosco, January 30, 2020)

This year marks the Isaac Asimov’s 100th birthday.  He is perhaps one of the most well known science fiction writers, a pioneer of the Golden Era of the genre.  He is best known for emphasizing “hard science fiction”–the kind that takes seriously describing the scientific elements of a story and theorizing the implications of new technological developments (he was educated as a natural scientist, after all).

In a recent commemorative essay, David Leslie recommends that we turn back to Asimov for the kind of perspective his work allows us to adapt.  Leslie says Asimov gave us a way to get a wider view of humanity’s place in the universe and the responsibility of being an inhabitant on Earth and that such a vision might be what we need today:

“A century after Asimov’s birth, forests burn from Australia to California. Shorelines are swallowed by rising seas, towns ravaged by unearthly storms. Humanity’s insatiable appetites continue to crush the diversity of life, and conflicts draw us ever closer to a fiery end. At such a juncture, we might do well to pick up Asimov’s writings and take flight with him. Perhaps then we can together peer back at our pale blue island, suspended in the void, and gain a saner, more humane and more rational point of view.”

This made me look to see what other science fiction writers had to say about the social value of speculative fiction.  I found this short clip, which I think comes from interviews conducted by James Gunn at the University of Kansas.  It’s grainy and only features men, but some of the interviews express the kind of hope that I think the Anarres Project embodies about the radical imagination and social transformation.  The highlights for me are:

  1.  Harlan Ellison (the writer of perhaps the very best Star Trek: The Original Series episode “The City on the Edge of Forever”) at 1:40 talking about the need to think imaginatively because of the realization of ecological connection on earth.  Science fiction can prime us to be aware of our individual impact on the well-being of the planet
  2. I believe its James Gunn at 3:08, talking about the value of science fiction not so much in predicting the future, but providing a way to envision different alternatives about what the future could be.  Science fiction can help us to change our world by giving us visions of what we might be able to work for and bring about.
  3. At 3:23, Harlan Ellison again talks about how we might think of speculative fiction as a tool that sparks our imagination and makes social change happen in the manner of other forms of literature that have instigated new ways of thinking of human rights and social justice.



How else can speculative fiction nourish our search for social justice?

Seattle 1999 and Its “This Changes Everything” Energy

By Chris Crass (November 30, 2019)

Twenty years ago today Nov. 30th, I was part of the Direct Action Network that successfully shut down the World Trade Center summit that was negotiating global capitalism in the interests of ruling classes and crushing human rights and dignity around the world.

Joining together with unions and people’s justice movements from around the world and activists from throughout the U.S. and feeling our collective power, beyond anything I thought possible, changed my life.

Seeing tens of thousands of people in the streets, with many of us in highly organized affinity groups, working together in clusters to take effective direct action and practice self-governance was incredible.

Seeing thousands of people get trained in non-violent direct axion in the months and days leading up to the multiple day direct action, helped me see the possibilities for movement-based educational workshops.

Feeling the energy of coordinated, high impact, mass direct action, as I walked with my affinity group in the pre-dawn mist of Seattle going to the intersection we were responsible for occupying.

Feeling the incredible energy of victory as word spread through the communications teams the we had successfully shut down the WTO, that anarchist and socialist anti-capitalists were making world news and changing the story, that another world is possible.

There was a “this changes everything” energy about what was possible for our movements.

So grateful for everyone who brought their leadership to make all of that happen, and to those sharing about their experiences today to help us draw our lessons and insights for our work today.


Advice to Young People: Don’t Normalize Racism

By Mark Naison (August 19, 2019)

If there was a piece of advice I would give to young people, it would be the following:

Don’t normalize racism.

Speak out against it and challenge it wherever you see it, whether it is in a classroom, a dormitory, a locker room or at your family dinner table.

Do so with kindness when possible, but fierce determination when necessary.

This country’s future depends on the best impulses of its people coming to the fore. This is something that has to be done every day, not just when there is an election. Be the moral compass your school, your community and your country desperately needs

Peace. The future is yours to shape and enjoy if you have the courage of your convictions.



People Will Die As Long as We Teach Kids There are Always Losers and Winners

By Teka Lark (August 7, 2019)

Your worldview is shaped by your community, family, media, education system, and essentially all the people, things, and actions that you interact with and provides you with information.

Your view on the world starts from the minute you hit earth. Fairytales, TV, the Internet, video games, books, what your education system decides to teach you in school, and what they decide to leave out, it all shapes who you are.

In the United States, when you begin school, and maybe even before you start school, if your family has been in the US two or more generations, you are told that some people must lose.

That idea is drilled into your head. As adults people sneer, “This everyone gets a trophy nonsense, kids needs to understand that someone has to lose! ”

But what is losing? What are we preparing young children for when we tell them that some people must lose?

It seems like we’re saying some people must be homeless, some people must be poor, and some people must die— at least to me.

The United States encourages cruelty and violence, from dodgeball, to our media, to how we share about injustices.

Do we really need a video of someone being shot in the head, to know that you shouldn’t shoot people in the head? Apparently in the US you do, because that is part of the fun of being an “American,” being outraged, yet slightly entertained by the suffering of someone else who you are under the idea that you have more privilege than, at least for now….

In our media what do the troublemakers look like? Who are our villains in fiction?

Good triumphs over evil is the story every kid in the US has been told from birth. This theme even goes in our history books,In the United States the good people won the game.

A game that we all agreed to play, so no one needs to tell anyone sorry for hitting someone in the face with the figurative ball over and over and over again, because this was a game, and if you had tried harder and had better morals– you would have won –and any deviation from the game results in being taken out of the game by capture, fire, gunshots, or lynching.

The reason you can’t get federal gun policies passed in the United States, is because the point of guns in the United States is to protect “everyone” from Black (African) and Brown (Mexican/Indigenous) people. In the North they do it by making rent so high you can’t live next door, in the West they won’t allow you to work, and in the South –they have their guns.

Unless something is done to change the average person in the United States’ worldview–a culture that encourages punitive cruelty, racism, nationalism and sexism–we’re going to continue to have people dying in violent ways.


Keeping the Faith: Compassion, Understanding, and the Future of the Left

By Arun Gupta (May 21, 2019)

I am hearing a lot of despair lately, so I would like to share this story with you.

In the early 1990s, when I was international news editor at The Guardian Newsweekly, we hired a bookkeeper named Frances. Being a political newspaper run by the staff, our interviews were a mix of questions about competency and politics, as well as determining whether the person could really live on an annual salary of $13,000 in New York City. Frances was an old commie. She had joined the Communist Party USA during the World War Two era when it was a mass movement with hundreds of thousands of committed cadre and its influence was felt throughout society, particularly in theater, Hollywood, publishing, and all the arts.

When we asked Frances about her politics, about the crisis in the Left, about the failures of actually existing socialism, she gave the same response. Shaking a veiny fist in the air, Frances declared, “Socialism will win!” We chuckled, and we hired her. We desperately needed a bookkeeper, and she was willing to work for peanuts.

Frances would punctuate her sentences with “hoo-hahs!” picked up in New York’s tenements as a kid during the Great Depression. Frances said the boys used to fancy her back in the day, so she had a method to weed out the pretenders from the contenders. She would take them to a Communist Party meeting to see if they were worthy of her interest, but usually decided if she liked them by the time they finished walking over to the CP hall. At The Guardian, she kept a large mason jar of digestible fiber on her desk that looked like wood chips that she would prescribe for every ill real or imagined. “Really cleans you out!”, she would bellow in a raspy Brooklyn accent. Frances was bony, had enormous pendulous breasts, and would regularly dress and undress at her desk oblivious to coworkers in our open office.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, following the disastrous Communist Party coup against Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991, the entire cover of The Guardian was a photograph of a sewage drain with the Kremlin in the background. When Frances saw that she muttered all day, “Socialism down the drain. Hoo-hah!” To Frances, the idea that socialism was kaput made about as much sense as saying the sun wasn’t going to rise tomorrow.

That’s not what we were saying. We were saying the Soviet system was over. The Guardian, along with nearly all the American Left, had broken with the Soviet Union decades earlier. We saw the Soviet Union as a bastardization of what socialism can and should be, though we admired Gorbachev for bringing an end to the Cold War and trying to reform a failing system.

We supported Third World revolutions, the well-known ones, Vietnam, Cuba, Nicaragua, South Africa, and Palestine, and obscure ones from Western Sahara to East Timor. But as much as we opposed Soviet-style socialism and capitalism in equal measure, we didn’t realize how the collapse of the USSR would remove the last bulwark against American-led capitalism. The end of the Soviet Union quickly led nearly all the revolutionary post-colonial states to collapse or make deals with the devil to cling to power.

Frances never gave up the faith. She also didn’t work out as a bookkeeper. She was hiding the books from our business manager because they were a mess. Attempts to work out the conflict didn’t go anywhere. But one day, as two of us who were part of the elected leadership tried to mediate the conflict, she piped up, “Well, if you want me to resign, I’ll resign!” We were dumbfounded because we were used to threats and pleas and crying from incompetent staff. When you pay barely a thousand bucks a month, you don’t get the cream of the crop.

We weren’t stupid and immediately accepted her resignation. Frances was a good Communist to the end. She would sacrifice herself no questions asked because the collective struggle was all that mattered.

I’ve been thinking about Francis. We are in a time of profound despair. I know Francis would be keeping the faith. She lived through the long night of McCarthyism. It’s hard these days to understand how devastating that was. I’ve heard many stories from boomers about the lives of parents ruined and destroyed. McCarthyism was a society-wide purge. Thousands lost jobs as educators, professionals, union organizers, journalists, farmers. Many saw marriages crumble, lost homes, were forced into poverty, drank themselves to an early grave, and even committed suicide.

This was a time when the planet also stood on the brink of annihilation from the threat of nuclear war. But rays of light did appear, first with the civil rights movement. Then with the student and antiwar movements, followed by Black liberation, feminism, gay liberation, the environmental movement.

The heady feeling on the Left in the late sixties and early seventies is also hard to imagine these days One editor, who was involved in the leading student organization of the time, Students for a Democratic Society, summed it up as, “We had the bastards on the run.” The militarists, the CEOs, the politicians, the priests were all running scared and didn’t know what to make of this rebellion sweeping across their societies and the world.

Today it feels like the bastards are winning. America is scary: the rise of a strongman in the White House who is carrying out ethnic cleansing of undesirable religious and ethnic groups, encouraging rampant misogyny and violence by his followers, and pouring fracked gasoline on a world already on the funeral pyre.

But over many years of political involvement, I developed my own faith. I’m not sure socialism will win, even though I absolutely believe it’s the only hope for humanity. I know most species will not survive the next century, though fears of a total collapse misunderstand how evolution works. We can’t kill all life on the planet, though we can reduce it to pests and weeds such as jellyfish, rats, cockroaches, and invasive plants.

I know. That’s small comfort. But even after years of reporting on the worst of humanity. I still believe in the innate human capacity to do good. I don’t believe in a sky god. Not that I have an issue with that. As a young activist I got arrested as part of the Central American solidarity movement with radical Catholics like Daniel Berrigan and Elizabeth McAlister. That gave me respect for people of spiritual faith even if it’s not my cup of tea. Of course, blind faith is dangerous. It’s led to some of the worst atrocities in human history.

Nor do I subscribe to the leftist belief that there is a design to history, such as what Francis believed. My faith stems from our nature as social animals. Even in a dog-eat-dog society like America, our lives are based on cooperation and sharing whether at home or work or even shopping or driving. We depend on cooperation in every facet of our lives. We just don’t think of it because we have a media that highlights competition and conflict because that’s how they make money, even though those moments are relatively rare in our lives.

Trump will pass soon from the stage, as horrifying as he is. How else to describe someone who has created concentration camps for children, demonizes an entire religion of more than one billion people, and decades ago paid for full-page ads calling for the lynching of innocent Black children, the Central Park 5? Though I am less sanguine about the quick passing of violent white nationalism Trump has brought into being.

I am seeing despair all around. Every day I log on to Facebook and Twitter, I see friends full of despair about the global turn towards fascism, the assaults on basic freedoms and dignity, and the deepening ecological crisis.

But keep the faith. Keep the faith in the human capacity for compassion and understanding and generosity, and we will get through this together.

Originally posted on Arun’s Patreon page.  Posted by permission of author.


It’s Not Enough to Hold Another World in Our Hearts–We Have to Make It Now

By Lara Messersmith-Glavin (February 7, 2019)

Unless you are deliberately teaching your kids about race and gender and class and ability, unless you are actively countering the narratives they receive from every direction in this culture, then what you are really telling them is that racism, misogyny, heterosexism, class shaming, body shaming, and ableism are ok.

Straight parents—it isn’t enough that you are “cool” with gay people. You need to read books together that have queer characters and talk about all the forms families and loves can take. White parents—it isn’t enough to have a “black friend;” you have to sit with your white children and have hard conversations about privilege and white supremacy, in ways your kids can understand. Cis parents—it isn’t enough for you to be “ok with” my kid using gender neutral pronouns. You have to teach your kids that gender is a spectrum and a construct, that he and she aren’t the only options; when signs or toys say “boys” or “girls,” you need to call it out for the nonsense it is.

My kid comes home crying many days and hates school because they are constantly gender bullied for their hair or their color choices or their toys—by their friends. It’s not like a crew of mean kids rolls around and pulls this shit—it’s their best friends, and it’s daily, and I know for a fact that the parents of those children think they’re raising kids who get the concept of diversity. But they don’t. We need to try harder.

I can’t raise my kid alone. Every day, I release them into this gorgeous, shitty world, and I’m counting on you to do your part to make it better and safer, so all our kids have a chance to be seen and loved and heard and to feel like they have full access to their humanity without carving off all the beautiful parts that don’t fit in the tiny boxes our culture allows. It’s not enough for us to hold another world in our hearts—we’re here now. We have to make it here, now.


MLK, Jr. Was a Sci-Fi Geek (and It Shaped His Idea of Justice, Too)

By Joseph Orosco (January 22, 2019)

By now, a lot of people have heard the story of how Star Trek was Martin Luther King, Jr.’s favorite TV show.


It was, according to Nichelle Nichols, the only program he allowed his children to watch because it portrayed African Americans living in a future where they were treated equally and with dignity and respect. He believed that this representation was an important image for young Black people to see and he urged Nichols not to leave the show. (She stayed and her role had tremendous impact—it encouraged Whoopie Goldberg to seek her role as Guinan on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and inspired Mae Jemison to become the first African American female astronaut. Soniqua Martin Green has recently said that Nichols motivated her as the star of the most recent Star Trek series Discovery).

It’s interesting to speculate how Star Trek might have influenced King’s thinking. Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS) premiered in September 1966. This was after the two big legislative victories of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This was also a year after Watts burned and the same year race riots broke out in Cleveland and Omaha. King had moved to Illinois at this point to extend his organizing into urban issues in the North, including unemployment, housing discrimination, and poverty. He had started to think about the effects of the Vietnam War and how it robbed people of life and the means the sustain themselves. It was a particularly difficult time for him politically, emotionally, and spiritually. How did a science fiction story about human beings living in the 23rd Century–in which war, hunger, racism, and poverty had been overcome–affect his sense of hope for the future and what was possible for humanity?

It’s not a far fetched idea to think Star Trek touched King’s imagination. We know that he was a fan of speculative fiction from his earliest days—and we know that his wife Coretta was partly responsible for stoking his creativity along this path.

When they were first dating in 1952, Coretta gave King a copy of Edward Bellamy’s utopian novel, Looking Backward. She instructed him that she wanted him to read it and return to tell her his thoughts about it. Bellamy’s book, written in the 19th century, imagines what a socialist United States would look like in the year 2000 (free medical care and unemployment benefits for everyone!).

In an amazing and touching note, the 23-year old King writes to his future wife and tells her how much he enjoyed the book—so much so that he admits he wants his future ministerial work to be guided by the kind of vision of progress hinted at in it—a world free of war, with a better distribution of wealth and resources, and solidarity instead of racism. He admits that he agrees with Bellamy that capitalism has no future for humanity but he worries what revolutionary socialism can justify in terms of violence. For the next sixteen years, he would reflect and refine his thinking on these subjects, leading him to not only imagine the Promised Land, but also to the devise the organizational strategies and policies—the Poor People’s Campaign, universal basic income, demilitarization—to try and get there.

Walidah Imarisha and adrienne maree brown have given us this notion of visionary fiction in their collection of stories Octavia’s Brood:

Visionary fiction encompasses all of the fantastic, with the arc always bending toward justice…Once the imagination is unshackled, liberation is limitless. (p. 4)

I would argue that some of King’s works, such as the “I have a dream” speech and his idea of the Beloved Community are verging on visionary literature in this sense.  As the King Center puts it:

Dr. King’s Beloved Community is a global vision, in which all people can share in the wealth of the earth.  In the Beloved Community, poverty, hunger, and homelessness will not be tolerated because international standards of human decency will not allow it.  Racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry, and prejudice will be replaced by an all inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood.  In the Beloved Community, international disputes will be resolved by peaceful conflict-resolution and reconciliation of adversaries, instead of military power.  Love and trust will triumph over fear and hatred.  Peace with justice will prevail over war and military conflict.

All in all, King’s vision of the future for humanity is a clear example of the power of utopian speculative fiction, and Star Trek, in particular, to nourish an imagination in the pursuit of justice.


The Problem with Capitalism Isn’t Work–It’s the Lack of Freedom and Meaning

By Harsha Walia (October 1, 2018)

I’ve been thinking on something I have been hearing a lot this past year.

The critique of capitalism isn’t that we work.

Capitalism sucks because it creates conditions where labour is extracted, where we dont control our means of production, we are alienated from the process of production under a proft-driven wage economy, and that not all work is valued equally.

Autonomy and control of labour is the key here, not that we labour at all.

Living literally requires labour; non capitalist and sustainable economies are incredibly work-intensive (food production, child rearing etc). If you have ever spent time listening to elders speak about their early lives, their days were full of work – harvesting, washing, gathering, building, walking sunup to sundown. The whole point of the capitalist dream is that money replaces the need to work for rich people.

I think this precision matters because I think its dangerous that many people articulate that an ideal world will mean less work – no it won’t. It will mean more purposeful work where we control what we produce and where labour is equally valued within communities where kinship relations define us more than our work.


The New American Way: Forgiveness is the Healthy Thing

By Octaviano Merecias-Cuevas (July 4, 2018)

If I ask you to think ten positive things that come to mind when you think of people on the opposite political spectrum, how long would it take you to mention them? What if I ask you to think 10 negative things? Is it easier to add negative dimensions as you consider the other?

Psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov tell us that when judging faces after an exposure time of 100 ms, we perceive trustworthiness and competence; meaning how safe that person looks to us or how threatening. Other researchers tell us that in one-twelfth of a second we can identify someone based on race, age, gender (Susan Fiske, Amy Cuddy, Peter Glick, et, al.) We judge, sometimes without knowing; not all the judgments are negative, but it is our actions of distancing ourselves that creates that gap in time and space. We live in times of continued distancing and intimate and uncomfortable real feelings. I was inspired to write these words from many conversations that I hosted with friends and family; some conversations look similar to the following video: Can Trump Supporters And Immigrants See Eye To Eye?

I live in the Portland metropolitan area, the epicenter where ideas are clashing. Just a few days ago, Antifa and Proud Boys clashed violently in what I can better describe as the symptom of our socio-political times.


There are extreme examples but also everyday ordinary examples of an air that feels and breeds separation. What’s the most radical thing that we can do today? I asked a group of friends. Almost all of them added fuel to the fire; except for a few, they all mentioned that they are sick and tired of navigating these stressful toxic times. I think both sides of the visible political spectrum may feel the same: anger, frustration, increased isolation, depression, anxiety…

New findings provide evidence that sociopolitical events can impact the psychological and physical functioning of people.

Lindsay T. Hoyt, an assistant professor of psychology at Fordham University studied young adults in the United States experiencing an increase in biological stress after the 2016 presidential election. Professor Daniel P. Keating has led several studies to monitor the nation’s health related to toxic stress; he mentions that the principal drivers of stress and anxiety are fear, uncertainty, and a lack of control over one’s life and future, and these have grown markedly over the past year. Professor Steven Stanton at Duke University conducted a study on the stress hormone cortisol response in people on both sides of the political spectrum in 2008 after the elections in North Carolina and Michigan. The results: John McCain voters had increases in post-outcome cortisol levels, whereas Barack Obama voters had stable post-outcome cortisol levels. I’m not sure about the studies related to independent voters; Google it.

Family separations cause anger, depression, anxiety worry, clashes in your city between opposite sides of the political spectrum. The added constant negative newsfeed on social media adds more fuel to the fire. Worst yet, families, friends, neighbors that I know for many many years stop talking to each other. Their distancing has created a bittersweet emptiness. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. Yes, some knew each other for 20 years, 16 years, and most recently, a social media argument between two superb friends ended dramatically.

In February 1865, 400 people were executed as crowds, reporters and politicians observed; this was after the end of the civil war. This was an unusual execution. However, during that time, Lincoln, a fervent Republican, issued many pardons for war-related offenses. Weeping mothers claimed for their husbands. Many generals did not agree with Lincoln on the pardons because it was a sign of “weakness.” Many historians have documented the limits of Lincoln’s mercy, but what we often hear is the triumph and the victory of the Union over the Confederates. It’s extremely hard, to listen, to hear, to even look at the opposition when so much pain, suffering, and acts of cruel and inhumane can be attributed to them. Trust me; I’m angry right now at family separation and many other things.

What’s the most radical thing we can do now then?

Perhaps the new American way is not the distancing and affirming our ground and holding on to our flag to be right (no matter the cost), but the freedom to explore righteousness; not only because the whole world is watching but because the wellbeing of the next generation depends on our actions today.

In 1961, Dr. King delivered a sermon at Central Methodist Church where he argued that Jesus’ command to love one’s enemies was not “the pious injunction of a utopian dreamer” but the words of a “practical realist.”


He then follows with the words “Put us in jail, and we will go in with humble smiles on our faces, still loving you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and we will still love you. . . . But be assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer.” We can also look at the movement a group that was founded by former violent extremist committed to compassion, education and countering hate and discrimination.

As people of color, we know what is like to suffer constantly. I think is time to give the new American way the chance to be healers and unifiers; however painful and awkward is the beginning of the conversation. Of course, this may apply to a micro-level and inter-personal level; the macro level requires a more complex conversation.

George William Russell wrote once as he reflected on forgiveness: “Our common sorrow, like a mighty wave, Swept all my pride away, and trembling I forgave!” I’m not saying that suddenly neighbors, friends and distancing militants will drop everything and hold hands to dance kumbaya (I don’t even know how to spell it) I’m saying that a new door or window of potential courageous opportunities awaits. It’s 4th of July; first impressions last longer, small but significant gestures of positivity can lead to gigantic socio-political-cultural changes. We have more in common in our political diversity that what we have with the barons that are profiting monetarily and politically from our division.

On April 3rd, outside of Petersburg Virginia, Lincoln rode his horse past the lifeless bodies of a bloody war; he quietly turned to Ulysses Grant and said in a reflective tone… “We made it possible for one another to do terrible things.” He then instructed for a peaceful transition; the painful and intimate decision to forgive and at some time to apply justice.

In Italy, six researchers conducted a study on forgiveness employing functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) looking at the response to painful emotions, anger, hostility, and the desire for revenge. “Granting forgiveness was associated with the regulation of affect through cognition, which comprised the precuneus, right inferior parietal regions, and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex.” Translation: forgiving is a healthy thing to do.

To my friends and neighbor’s: What’s the most radical thing that we can do? We can begin a small difficult, courageous, and controversial conversation with those who we perceive as different than us yet… so close to us; the new American Way.

PS: I’m an indigenous immigrant with radical ideas on my mind when it comes to community healing, diplomacy, and courageous conversation; you know where to find me… extending my hand. No, I do not have my bbq grill on today.