On Honoring Centuries Old Radical Traditions

April 28, 2017

Originally, we were going to call this section “Survivalism + Prepping”…and then decided that there was nothing more ridiculous than suggesting that life for the colonized isn’t already survivalism. What, if not prepping, is the daily routine of speaking, dressing, and behaving “professionally”, “properly, and/or “respectably” as safeguards from colonialist, imperialist, and statist white supremacist violence? Mind you, these safeguards are never fail safe, and there is no end to the ways in which we, as Black peoples and other peoples of color, are reminded of our various positions within this matrix of domination.

So, we’ve opted for the exploration of marronage. Drawing on radical histories of Black and other Indigenous peoples across the globe working in opposition to subjugation and oppression, we position our getting back into nature as a development with possible radical and even revolutionary implications. Indigenous meaning making, knowledge creation, and self sustaining has always been linked to land. So this exploration is the rekindling of ancient conversations that have long been and can still be foundations for sustaining our cultures, our homes, and the idea of life as sacred.

The world, as we have come to know it, is nothing more than a complex of relationships orchestrated for very specific purposes. These philosophical, material, and social frameworks work to funnel money and power into certain hands and communities. Keeping this in mind, the relationship between land and people of color has been broken in any number of ways. Communion with and knowledge of nature and the dignity that self determined engagement with resources provides is only valuable when in deployment as labor. Often, this is labor from which we cannot benefit, or wherein the benefits are small compared to those to whom the majority of the power goes. Beyond these relationships to land, we have seen Native peoples, across the globe, disempowered on their land and told how to use it, and colonialism and imperialism continue to displace and dispossess Native and Indigenous peoples worldwide.

The rending of people from land and natural resources is a genocidal tactic. This not only operates to functionally destroy cultural foundations, but it suppresses any ability to move in a self determined way. On September 9, 1739, right here in South Carolina, Jemmy, an enslaved man of the Bakongo, launched the largest insurrection in the British colonies on the continent we now call North America. Before the rebellion was quelled, near fifty white men and women had lost their lives. In response to this, South Carolina legislators penned “An Act for the Better Ordering and Governing of Negroes and Other Slaves in this Province” or what would come to be called the Negro Act or Slave Codes of 1740. Not only did this help inculcate racialized social strata that would complicate the solidarity efforts between Native peoples and enslaved Africans, but it also restricted Black peoples’ assembling, participating in commerce, ownership of guns, keeping of animals by which to travel and other means of traveling (canoes are mentioned explicitly), and growing and raising crops for sustaining their own communities.

They’re trying to build a better world.

What are we trying to do?

We’re trying to destroy the world.

Two irreconcilable projects.

~Frank B.Wilderson, III

In so many ways, in what Saidiya Hartman calls “the after life of slavery”, these realities are still true to this day. Native and Black scholars still seem to be stuck at what seems to be incommensurable goals of decolonization and abolition; Black people, especially youth, can be found being harassed in public spaces for gathering; gun control laws have always been racist and many Black people are kept from gun owning via over policing and the subsequent felonious records that ensue; in many places, mobility for people of color is greatly limited and we are forced to rely on systems that we don’t control; and raising crops and tending to farm animals is not only made infeasible by city design, but the paperwork needed and the requirements leave us in areas where we have less access to quality foods. This has long term implications on our ability to build wealth, and health disparities definitely impact our future. Regarding commerce, by tearing us away from natural resources and reframing engaging them as “white activities”, there exists huge vacuums in possible arenas where we could be doing for ourselves and one another as peoples of color.

So here, our goal is not to work our way into capitalist systems of consumption and unchecked growth, but to consider the possibilities that will allow us to divest from systems and frameworks in which we’ve had no say in building, unearth primordial ways and build on them in this post colonial world, and have a damn good time learning together and exploring nature all while advocating for the only home we’ve got. Scholar and radical thinker and mover, Frank Wilderson, says, “They’re trying to build a better world. What are we trying to do? We’re trying to destroy the world. Two irreconcilable projects.” Herein lies the reason why we believe Black/Indigenous “survivalism and prepping” is altogether different from what we see most often in these arenas. For white survivalists and preppers, the end of the world marks the end of their power and the world as they know it; a world that only works for the benefit of them. And we can see this from the antagonistic tone and racist paraphernalia often present on these blogs and in these videos. For us, the end of the world is a joyous time of celebration wherein the oldest and most experienced and creative peoples of the world can reimagine ourselves, our lives, and can, for the first time in our more modern history, be said to have destinies. So, let our prepping and our survival be the reason they must do the same.