I didn’t know how much I needed this book when I read it. I’d been asking around and Google searching things like – “what to do about fascism” and “how to not give up hope.” Conversations with friends were on repeat – I just don’t know what to do anymore. It feels like all the organizing strategies I grew up with don’t work. What even works? What can we do? Despair has been steadily infiltrating our lives for a while now.
I read about messaging strategy. I checked out How to Stand Up to a Dictator, reading about sticking to your principles, speaking truth to power, and the way disinformation and misinformation is spread online. I scoured books like Not Too Late, knowing the theory that seeing others make a difference helps us all have hope.
Rebecca Solnit, one of the editors of Not Too Late, writes, “In order to do what the climate crisis demands of us, we have to find stories of a livable future, stories of popular power, stories that motivate people to do what it takes to make the world we need.” And that’s so true of any crisis or movement for change – including our work for a world of trans joy and liberation.
A premise of that Not Too Late is the idea that there is no one simple solution – instead there are a vast array of nuanced solutions. Which is hopeful because to me, because I can remind myself, “Hey, there’s something everyone can do,” and exhausting because, “OMG there’s so much to do!” Honestly, I used to make this exact point in every training I led about preventing domestic violence. You don’t have to do it all. Do what feeds your soul. Do something. Still, I’ve been overwhelmed. I’ve been numbing out the despair, ignoring the panic, and signing every petition that comes my way.
Enter Let This Radicalize You: Organizing and The Revolution of Reciprocal Care. In Mariame Kaba’s introduction, she writes, “This book that you are reading is one that I wish I had as a young activist. It’s our attempt to distill some of the lessons we’ve learned about organizing over the past few decades and to include some lessons from other organizers. We wrote it with new activists and organizers in mind. We also wrote it as a love letter to the many organizers we’ve been privileged to work with over the years.”
As someone who has been an activist for decades, sometimes an organizer, and continually involved in social justice work, I think this book is critical for all of us, not just new activists. Though I too wish I had this when I was younger. From the start, the importance of relationships and connection rang through this book. Whether you are an activist/organizer or not, relationships matter. We need each other. We keep each other safe. Or we can. Sadly, we haven’t always, and we don’t always.
I think about trans people having others to connect with – whether it’s talking to Queens at a bar or reading long threads on reddit. Having people to welcome you, to say, “yeah same,” to help make it less scary to exist, has been so important for so many. There are far too many things that have made it much harder for us to have those relationships, from the state-sanctioned deaths of the early AIDS crisis, to punitive measures that make it harder for trans and nonbinary people to exist in public, to a lack of resources to support our healing and well-being which would help us connect with others… the list goes on.
Let This Radicalize You shares stories of organizers leaning in to build relationships, shifting towards asking questions and deep listening, and away from ideological purity and judgment. They do this while making changes in people’s lives, changes in policies and power. Many of the examples feature trans and nonbinary people’s organizing around a lot of different issues.
I think about how exhausted so many people and communities are these day, with state-sanctioned hate, increased interpersonal violence, rising costs of living, bleak working conditions, and climate change. I think about how Black and Brown communities are targeted. How trans and nonbinary people are under attack. How all of us are impacted by all these threats. Still people find ways to live, to be joyous, to take action, and to create a better world.
Kelly Hayes writes in her introduction, “I cannot tell you that the tumult will relent, because it will not. But I can tell you that, here, on the edge of everything, we are each other’s best hope. As organizers, we are builders in an era of collapse. Our work is set against all probability—and it is in that space of cherished improbability where our art will be made.”
Many of the examples in Let This Radicalize You are from organizing for survivor safety and well-being. Experiences of violence and harm can make it harder for us to trust people, to be in groups, and sometimes to trust ourselves. Yet all of us have a right to be a part of building the kind of world we want to live in. By taking time to focus on the ways that we treat each other, the ways that we help make organizing safer, this guide creates space for more people to participate.
Mariame Kaba ends her introduction by stating, “Taking action is a practice of hope. Experience and meaning are derived from doing. To transform the conditions of our oppression(s), we can only do what we can today, where we are, in the best way that we know. We can only survive together. This book is your invitation to act in the best way that you know and to survive together.”
There are also several free guides that you can access to do a deep dive into the ideas of Let This Radicalize You. They include a discussion guide, workbook, and short “tea zine.”
I hope all of us can access the tools we need to survive together. This book helped me reconnect with that hope and the practices I can engage with to get there.