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There is a reason that the most inspiring movements, works of art, songs, books, speeches, and actions often feel as though they belong to the future. And it isn’t because they hold out some false sense of hope for a utopian dreamland that can only be accessed in our imaginations. It is because those of us who are committed to social justice understand that real change is people-powered. We realize that narratives and perspectives shift and can lead to radical changes in how we act and what we think we know. We understand that systems crumble and States collapse, and we are keenly aware of the fact that the only consistent truth across all humanity is that change is inevitable. 

Accepting that change is inevitable emboldens us to become active agents in shaping change. Who said we can’t take ownership over the future? To experiment with it, play with it, make and remake our worlds until we get it right? This is why those who spend their lives offering us other ways to be, do, see, and think are often deemed to be the most dangerous by those in charge. It isn’t because the powers that be are afraid of fantasies. It is because they know that bold visions have the power to move people ever closer to recognizing that living life on different terms is only a matter of degrees, and all it takes is us to get there. 

That’s why over the past few months at Riverwise, we have been thinking intentionally and critically about what the notion of “the future” means to us and to our communities. And we’ve found that thinking about the future in a concrete way leads to so many questions. What do we owe to the past? Where are the boundaries of the present? When exactly does it become “the future?” And, what does it mean anyway when people say that another world is possible? Or that another world isn’t just possible, it’s already happening? 

These are the kinds of questions that have been on our minds as we’ve spoken with our neighbors and friends, as we attempt to ground our work in the principles of mutual aid and building critical connections with others, and as we focus upon preparing our minds, hearts, and hands to defend ourselves against the most violent and harmful aspects of living in spaces and under systems that are actively designed around our political disenfranchisement, social demise, environmental destruction, and physical detriment. 

Currently, we face a world situation where WW III may be imminent, climate change wreaks havoc on our homes and on those of other species, and wealth gaps are at an astronomical high, all during an ongoing deadly pandemic that has laid bare the deep injustices of our society. It is easy to feel overwhelmed.  But, this too will change. That is why it is important to take heart, to get curious and turn every stone, to take advantage of serendipitous moments, to fully embrace the idea that the people most impacted by these crises don’t need outside solutions, they just need outsiders to start caring, advocating, and showing up for their humanity.

 It’s also important to recognize that in many ways the kinds of futures we dream about are already underway. Indeed, our conversations with our community about the future have been the fuel that keeps our fire going, as we witness all of the ways in which our world is already primed for what we want it to be. 

It is clear that if we just pay attention we will see that for years poor, Black, and Brown communities have been actively engaging in a kind of “interdimensional travel,” one in which in order to protect ourselves, we jump between parallel worlds, worlds which are intimately intertwined with past, the present, and the future, worlds which engage both managing life in dystopian settings, while also actively building, creating and living out new or more humane ways. 

So, for example, in our discussions with community member Kathleen Hurd, and a few of the women she interviewed for her Covid-19 documentary, we find affirmation in the concept that sometimes just listening to others can be a powerful defense against injustice, and that anyone can move a simple idea into big action. Through Kathleen’s work her community, faced with one world steeped in economic and racist disparities in public health, was able to tap into another world where care, compassion, and kindness become more important than profit. 

 We showcase the ingenuity and luminary work on display at the Womxn House art gallery and of poet Lye Inaede, asking us to challenge the normalized definitions of our world. They compel us to examine the concepts handed down through history that we often take for granted. We are invited to examine ideas propped up by culture which maintain the illusion that the status quo is always right and impervious to shifts. Indeed, works such as these provide us with evidence that there are so many other ways of living and being in this world, so many other ways of finding ourselves. And, so many reasons why we must disrupt narratives in which anyone’s humanity is denied. 

 Through the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition’s dedicated engagement with the public and government on climate issues, the direct action camp conducted by the Line 5 MICATS in protection of Michigan’s water and air, and the continued work by the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network to provide education, nourishment and opportunities for human connection, we get a glimpse of the parallel world of those who have accepted the {r}evolutionary call to speak, think, and act new ways into being. Indeed, across all of our articles this month, we see that with their disavowal of environmental degradation, poverty as inevitable, power as only within the hands of oppressive forces, our community already has the tools, skills, and wherewithal to dream, do, and determine new destinies. The future, they are telling us, is now. 

This “interdimensional” aspect to activism and social justice demands that we balance the urgency of now with the need to think seven generations in the future while also reminding us not to forget the lessons from seven generations into the past. It is the legacy of oppression, struggle, and liberatory determination which allows us to see time as both critical and irrelevant. We fight not just to free ourselves today, but to ensure that future generations have the strength, health and wisdom to carry on, and to honor our ancestor’s deepest desires for freedom, the lives they lost, the lessons they imparted, and the paths they beat down for us, with the future in mind. 

This edition of Riverwise is dedicated to recognizing the intimate connections between the past, present, and future…to recognizing that other worlds are possible because right here, right now, we make them so…to recognizing that we won’t be silent. There is another reason why so many writers and artists speak of the future.  They take seriously the reality that if you don’t intentionally prepare for and insert yourself into conversations, visions, imaginations, and plans for the future, you may just be erased from it. Grace Lee Boggs often famously asked “what time is it on the clock of the world?” We answer that question in this edition by saying, it’s always a good time to think about what kind of world we want to live in, to think about all those who are putting in the work to get us there, and to join them whenever we get the chance to break free from this world and meet them lovingly and open-mindedly, in theirs.