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Imagine Otherwise: Bianca Laureano on Feminist Afro-Latinx Sex Education

Imagine Otherwise: Bianca Laureano on Feminist Afro-Latinx Sex Education

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June 20, 2018
Bianca Laureano wearing a black and white striped shirt and silver earrings

How might we create a world where intersectional feminist, sex-positive sex education is the norm? What new avenues of liberation are opened up when we move past a theory vs. practice dichotomy in sexuality education? How can we center accountability and community responsibility in imagining a safer and more pleasurable future?

In episode 65 of the Imagine Otherwise podcast, host Cathy Hannabach interviews educator and sexologist Bianca Laureano about how women of color sexual health communities are challenging white supremacy and sex negativity; how a hippie Puerto Rican family shaped Bianca’s journey into the sex education field; the vital support abortion doulas provide to individuals, families, and communities; and why fostering what Bianca calls an intersectional, “collective afterworld” is how she imagines otherwise.

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Guest: Bianca Laureano

Bianca is an award-winning educator, curriculum writer, and sexologist. She is a foundress of the Women of Color Sexual Health Network (WOCSHN), The LatiNegrxs Project, and LatinoSexuality.com.

She has written several curricula that focus on communities of color, including What’s the REAL DEAL about Love and Solidarity? (2015) and Communication MixTape: Speak On It Vol 1 (2017), and also wrote the sexual and reproductive justice discussion guide for the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (2018).

Bianca has been on the board of CLAGS (the LGBTQ Center at CUNY) and the Black Girl Project.

Her most recent project, which we talk about in the interview, is a certification and professional development school called ANTE UP! Bianca started ANTE UP! as she noticed the needs of many communities doing justice work and finding limited support in their own growth and development. Pulling from her experiences as an abortion doula, radical educator, sexologist, and dreamer, Bianca imagines a virtual space for collective un/learning and accountability that honors the ebb and flow of collective webs of knowledge.

She currently resides in New Orleans, Louisiana, providing private coaching sessions and support and writing her dreams into curricula and courses.

Bianca Laureano wearing a black and white striped shirt and silver earrings. Text reads: Safety is a community responsibility just as pleasure is a community responsibility and intimacy is a community responsibility

We chatted about

  • Building intersectional feminist sex educator collectives online (02:28)
  • Bianca’s journey to sex education and social justice work (08:00)
  • The interplay between sex education practice and academic scholarship (13:50)
  • Working as an abortion doula (17:00)
  • Imagining Otherwise (21:30)

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Takeaways

Creating digital community space for sex educators of color

I first started the Women of Color Sexual Health Network with a group of women of color who were at a national conference, and we were the only 18 people of color, primarily Black women, at a conference of maybe over 1,200 people….That really did summarize what it felt like to just be like the only person in the room where people were talking about your community but weren’t members of your community, so we recognized that we needed a community among each other, that we needed support. We also needed the training and professional development as well as the mentorship that we weren’t able to find at our nine-to-five jobs or in our volunteer positions or our higher education programs….We’ve emerged into a membership organization that provides support, retention, and actually acknowledges and has in its mission statement the goal of challenging white supremacy that our field was built upon. So even though we’re an organization that centers women and families of color, we are also in need of and recognize the people who are in solidarity with us and are committed to doing this type of racial and sexual justice work.

The need for Black Latinidad spaces led by young people

What I noticed was a lot of the work around Black Latinidad was from academics and people who had a career in doing this work and were published and maybe a little disconnected from what was really going on in certain communities and areas and that there’s just always been a dearth of any work that centers young people as the leaders and providing them a framework that can support their evolution. So we used Tumblr as an opportunity to offer our followers and others to submit whatever they wanted to represent Latinidad and blackness according to them, and we also had a team of Black-identified Latinos who were all volunteer and helped support that space.

Hippie, immigrant, feminist parenting

I’m a child of immigrants. My parents left Puerto Rico in the ’70s…I come from parents who were hippies and who very much had a plan to not participate in the wars that were going on. My father is an artist, and he got a full scholarship through an MFA program…So he very much was a dad that was present with us in the house and cared for us while my mother, who spoke English, had a full-time job. A lot of people would be like, “Oh, my goodness, that’s such a feminist upbringing,” and I’m like, “Actually, it’s an immigrant upbringing, and it’s about the Anglophone language that we live in that values my mom’s abilities more than my father’s.”

Towards a radical and intersectional sex education

It’s really been this beautiful, amazing relationship that I have with myself that has kept me involved in a field that does not want me here. So I have been able to build a community that’s virtual, but that’s also really deep and intense, and that to me has been vital in expanding my understanding of what sexuality education is. It’s also been one of the reasons why I’ve been able to say, “Look, being inclusive of LGBTQ people and of gender identity and race is just the tip. We’ve got to talk about how we survive police encounters. We’ve got to talk about what do we do with the grief when our parent is brutally and violently taken out of our home by detention officers.” These are the realities that our young people are bringing with them into our classrooms, and so this goes beyond social, emotional learning, and it really goes back to some of the ethics of Freedom Schools that were established in the US South. Those are the pieces that keep me invested in sexuality education.

Theorizing sex education and the struggle of women’s studies in academia

I’m definitely one of those people who’s like, “I don’t know what came first: theory or practice?” The questions are more important the answers, and yet there’s other people in our field who are firm and like, “No, practice first,” or, “No, theory first,” and I’m always like, “There is no sex ed theory. Let’s just start there, where sex ed is an interdisciplinary and intersectional field.”

The role of academia in activist struggles

The ivory tower is not the final frontier. It’s not the only mothership. There are other ways and there are many professors who see their labor in the classroom and outside the classroom as activism.

The important community work of abortion doulas

What abortion doulas do is basically support the pregnant person who has made the difficult decision to terminate a pregnancy, and it really requires an unbiased approach. You have to divest in judgment and shame, and it really is seeing this person as giving you an amazing gift of witnessing them making one of the hardest decisions of their lives and allowing you to touch them, allowing you to speak to them, allowing you to share with them what the process is.

Drawing on radical history for healing in the present

There’s an archive that our ancestors and our elders have left for us and our colleagues, and why we’re not using it. I don’t understand. So I’m helping fill that need by saying, “Here’s what we’ve been left with”….Create your own accountability process because when it’s needed, it’s going to be almost instant that you need it, and it’s almost going to have to be like a ritual because it’s going to be painful—those two weeks when you figure out who you can pull, how you can start, what it’s going to look like, what’s required. Get that work in now so that the care and the healing can begin as quickly as the harm and the recognition of it was received.

Imagining otherwise

That to me is a way to imagine an afterworld and not so much an otherworld because, for me, an otherworld is a fantasy. That’s like Middle Earth somewhere with the hobbits. I am imagining the afterworld, and James Baldwin has this really beautiful quote that says, “love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does. Love is a war. Love is a battle. Love is a growing up.” That quote reminds me that what happens after the war, what happens after the battle, what happens after we’ve grown up. There’s something after here. There isn’t something otherworldly. It’s an afterworld, and so what are the ways that we can imagine survival in that afterworld? It requires an interdisciplinary approach.

More from Bianca Laureano

Projects and people discussed

About Imagine Otherwise

Imagine Otherwise is a podcast about the people and projects bridging art, activism, and academia to build better worlds. Episodes offer in-depth interviews with creators who use culture for social justice, and explore the nitty-gritty work of imagining and creating more just worlds. Check out full podcast episodes and show notes at ideasonfire.net/imagine-otherwise-podcast. Imagine Otherwise is produced by Ideas on Fire, an academic editing and consulting agency helping progressive, interdisciplinary scholars write and publish awesome texts, enliven public conversations, and create more just worlds.

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    Episode Transcript

    Cathy Hannabach [00:03]: Welcome to Imagine Otherwise, the podcast about the people and projects bridging art, activism, and academia to build better worlds. Episodes offer in-depth interviews with creators who use culture for social justice and explore the nitty-gritty work of imagining otherwise. I’m your host, Cathy Hannabach.

    [00:00:30]: This is episode 65, and my guest today is Bianca Laureano. Bianca is an award-winning educator, curriculum writer and sexologist. She’s the foundress of the Women of Color Sexual Health Network, The LatiNegrxs Project and latinosexuality.com. She’s written several curricula that focus on communities of color, including What’s the REAL DEAL About Love and Solidarity? as well as Communication MixTape: Speak On It, Vol 1.

    Bianca also wrote the Sexual and Reproductive Justice Discussion Guide for the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which was published in 2018. Bianca has been on the board of CLAGS, the LGBTQ Center at CUNY, as well as The Black Girl Project. Bianca’s most recent project, which we talk a lot about in the interview is a certification and professional development school called ANTE UP!.

    Bianca started ANTE UP! as she noticed the needs of many communities doing justice work that were finding limited support for their own growth and development. Pulling from her experiences as an abortion doula, radical educator, sexologist and dreamer, Bianca imagined a virtual space for a collective unlearning as well as accountability that honors the shifts and ebbs and flows of collective webs of knowledge. Bianca currently resides in New Orleans, Louisiana, providing private coaching sessions and support as well as writing her dreams into curricula and courses.

    [00:02:00] In our interview, Bianca and I talk about how women of color sexual health communities are challenging white supremacy and sex negativity, how a hippie Puerto Rican family shaped Bianca’s journey into the sex education field, the vital support that abortion doulas provide to individuals, families and communities, and why fostering what Bianca calls an intersectional collective afterworld is how she imagines otherwise.

    [to Bianca] Thank you so much for being with us today.

    Bianca Laureano: Thank you, Cathy. I’m excited to be with you.

    Cathy: [00:02:28] You are the founder of so many amazing organizations and projects that I want to talk about today: the Women of Color Sexual Health Network, a bunch of other organizations and projects specifically focused on sexual health for women and people of color, particularly, AfroLatinx people. Can you tell our listeners a little bit about what those projects do and why this work is so important?

    Bianca [00:02:56]: Sure. One of the reasons why a lot of these spaces were created and why they’re still so new—even though they’re almost coming up to a decade in existence each—is because this is the future and 10 years ago, this was not the world that I imagined living in, and what we really needed was representation on so many levels. So I first started the Women of Color Sexual Health Network with a group of women of color specifically who were at a national conference, and we were the only 18 people of color, primarily Black women, at a conference of maybe over 1,200 people. It was in Arizona.

    [00:03:28] See, for me, when I went, I was like, “Oh, this is going to be great. I’ll meet so many Mexican-American or Chicano sex educators,” and it just wasn’t my experience at all. Being now in the future, that really did summarize what it felt like to just be like the only person in the room where people were talking about your community and weren’t members of your community, so we recognized that we needed a community among each other, that we needed support. We also needed the training and professional development as well as the mentorship that we weren’t able to find at our nine-to-five jobs or in our volunteer positions or [00:04:00] our higher education programs.

    [00:04:25] It really started out as a grassroots, virtual community where we took full advantage of the internet and the information superhighway, and we started out as like a Yahoo!-Google group, and we slowly migrated to Google Groups, or Yahoo! first and then the Google group, and then we’re currently still on Facebook, where a majority of our younger members have now found themselves to be more active. So we’ve emerged into a membership organization that provides support, retention, and actually acknowledges and has in its mission statement the goal of challenging white supremacy that our field was built upon. So even though we’re an organization that centers women and families of color, we are also in need of and recognize the people who are in solidarity with us and are committed to doing this type of racial and sexual justice work.

    [00:04:59] We have about 500 members currently, and they’re all over the world. And then the LatiNegrxs Project started from a similar space, where there just was no conversation or representation of Black-identified Latinos, and so we needed to see each other. We wanted to see ourselves. And there was just an influx of a lot of Latino media that was also very color-free when it came to representing all of the diasporic communities that are part of Central and South America, as well as Mexico and the Caribbean, and so that became a virtual project where I started it on Tumblr because it was a youth platform that was really popular at the time among people who, today, are probably in their 30’s.

    [00:05:53] What I noticed was a lot of the work around Black Latinidad was from academics and people who had a career in doing this work and were published and maybe a little disconnected from what was really going on in certain communities and areas and that there’s just always been a dearth of any work that centers young people as the leaders and providing them a framework that can support their evolution. So we used Tumblr as an opportunity to offer our followers and others to submit whatever they wanted to represent Latinidad and blackness according to them, and we also had a team of Black-identified Latinos who were all volunteer and helped support that space.

    [00:06:30] Since that time, we’ve been able to figure out how to archive our posts, really focus on how to tag and use a coding implementation that will help educators and other people looking for that information to find it more easily.

    [00:06:45] We’ve also been through an accountability process where one of our former members violated the safety and the access to a livable wage of a community member, and that was a very public accountability process that we engaged in as well. We were one of the first communities to do that sort of virtual accountability and community restitution work that was outside of a sexual assault framework, and that really was rooted in caring for our readership and then transparency and healing.

    It’s been a phenomenal experience figuring out what’s next, and one of the reasons why I love to create these kinds of spaces is because I want to one day sit back and be like, “What is going to grow into? Let’s see.” That excites me, and that means that I’d have to get out of the way eventually.

    [00:07:30] I recently stepped down as an active foundress at the Women of Color Sexual Health Network to allow that organization to grow and evolve in a way that my wildest dreams just can’t even imagine, and that makes me really excited even though it breaks my heart over and over again, but I feel like it’s a form of parenting. There’s a moment where you just have to trust that you’ve done the best you can do and the foundation that you’ve given it. This space, this person, this entity will be able to evolve into what it needs to be.

    Cathy [00:08:00]: You primarily work in the field of sex education, in a really broad sense, and I want to talk about that more specifically in a minute, but we’ve had a lot of other guests on the show—I’m thinking of Elicia Gonzalez, Lynn Comella, who also worked in the field of sex ed, and that like you have been very vocal about the importance of a truly comprehensive sex positive, feminist positive, fem positive sex education, which none of us get …

    Bianca: Right. Exactly.

    Cathy: … and we all so desperately need. What got you interested in sex education as a site for social justice in particular?

    Bianca [00:08:30]: It was probably based on my own personal experiences. I’m a child of immigrants. My family, my parents left Puerto Rico in the ’70s when the Civil Rights Act had to be instituted in colleges. It was probably coming from parents who were hippies and who were like…very much had a plan on not participating in the wars that were going on.

    [00:09:00] My father is an artist, and so he got a full scholarship through an MFA program, and, in the ’70s, MFA programs weren’t what they are today. Back then, you paint and you try to get gallery openings and sell your paintings. So he very much was like a dad that was present with us in the house and cared for us while my mother, who spoke English, had a full-time job. So a lot of people would be like, “Oh, my goodness, that’s such a feminist upbringing,” and I’m like, “Actually, it’s the immigrant upbringing, and it’s about the Anglophone language that we, you know, live in that values my mom’s abilities more than my father’s.”

    [00:09:30] From them, just having books around like The Joy of Sex, having books like Our Bodies, Ourselves, those first editions, as well as the Bible, I mean, those were really…Like the eroticism of those texts were just normalized in my home. My father was very artistic, paints all the time, plays instruments. Our bodies were never something that we were told we had to restrict in a particular way, unless we were in a very particular space like school. And my parents didn’t choose to raise us in a very Catholic upbringing like they had, where they had a very traditional upbringing, where they weren’t really ever alone. They always had chaperoned dates until they a certain age, and they probably weren’t ever alone for their first time overnight until their wedding night.

    That’s the generation of families that I come from, and they were very much in shock when they met people in the States who were Jewish and Buddhists and agnostic and atheists, and they felt that they had been lied to in some way by Catholicism, and they didn’t want to do that to my sister and I.

    [00:10:30] So we had this very revolutionary and interesting dynamic in the home, and so I think it comes from that foundation and that form of resistance where my parents were very open with us and they were like, “We want to get out of Puerto Rico. We had to. There was no space for growth in a way that we could imagine for ourselves and for you—and, also, we want to go back. But also there’s contradictions here and you don’t have to get married. You can live with someone for the rest of your life.”

    [00:11:00] So we had these very interesting messages, and so I became involved in health programs when I was about 16, and the public school system required students to be involved in community service.

    From there, I grew up in Maryland, and that was five miles outside of Washington, DC, so it wasn’t difficult to become involved with public policy and understand how legislation gets passed. So I was able to be exposed to that kind of process and realize very quickly that this is a scam and community organizing is where I needed to probably focus my energy for the person that I’m seeing myself become. And so, that was the early ’90s, and there really hasn’t been a ton of research around that time around sexual health of Latinos, so that a lot of the research was around HIV and AIDS and what was happening in gay communities specifically.

    [00:12:00] By the time I graduated high school and entered college, words like machismo were being used and marianismo, and people would find out I was Puerto Rican and be like, “Wow, you must have a really hard time with like your dad.” Just having the stereotypes that like my father must beat us or my father must be a womanizer and my mother must be so Catholic, and I was like, “That’s so not my reality. Are you serious?”

    [00:12:28] It was just a shock, and so a lot of this interest stemmed from resistance and contention and wanting to get the narrative correct, because a lot of those terms came from anthropologists who were doing ethnography and judging other communities and not using a cultural relativistic framework and really creating this dangerous language and dichotomy for Latinos in how they engage in their courtship practices.

    [00:12:55] It’s really been this beautiful, amazing relationship that I have with myself that has kept me involved in the field that does not want me here, so I have been able to build a community that’s virtual, but that’s also really deep and intense, and that to me has been vital in expanding my understanding of what sexuality education is. It’s also been one of the reasons why I’ve been able to say, “Look, being inclusive of LGBTQ people and of gender identity and race is just the tip. Like we’ve got to talk about how we survive police encounters. We’ve got to talk about what do we do with the grief when our parent is brutally and violently taken out of our home by detention officers.”

    [00:13:30] These are the realities that our young people are bringing with them into our classrooms, and so this goes beyond social, emotional learning, and it really goes back to some of the ethics of Freedom Schools that were established in the US South, and so those are the pieces that keep me invested in sexuality education.

    Cathy [00:13:50]: As a sex educator, you get to work on…You get to do community work and direct services, but you also mentioned that you have an intellectual interest in this. You have two master’s degrees in human sexuality and women’s studies, and I love the way that you put both the kind of direct service activist based work together with critical inquiry. I’m curious how your work in sex education on a direct services level or community organizing level shapes your academic work and maybe vice versa.

    Bianca [00:14:20]: Yeah, it’s interesting. I’m definitely one of those people where I’m like, “I don’t know what came first: theory or practice?” The questions are more important the answers, and yet there’s other people in our field who are firm and like, “No, practice first,” or, “No, theory first,” and I’m always like, “There is no sex ed theory. Like let’s just start there, where like sex ed is an interdisciplinary and intersectional field.” It doesn’t have a theory. All we’re working with are frameworks and we’re borrowing from other theories.

    [00:14:50] I’ve been able to dream and imagine in that way because I’ve chosen a route that’s nontraditional. And there’s been challenges with just the reality that women’s studies scholars who are produced from women’s studies departments are not really being hired for the women’s studies positions. They’re hiring more traditional academics like sociologists or anthropologists or what have you, and it’s been a challenge. I’ve witnessed that because I started my doctoral program in 2003 at the University of Maryland and, at the time, there were only nine PhD programs and there were only like a handful of PhD scholars who had received women’s studies degrees.

    [00:15:30] I’ve seen this field evolve and struggle and not be nurtured and be expected to maintain the same rules that the sociology or the history department is expected to maintain and uphold and, really, it’s a setup for failure because that’s not the way that women’s studies theorizing works. It’s not the way that consciousness raising works. It’s just not the way that communities speak to one another.

    [00:16:00] And that’s really where I’ve been for a lot of this time doing this work and figuring out what’s next, because I know that the academy and the ivory tower is not the final frontier. It’s not the only mothership and that there’s other ways and that there’s many professors who see their labor in the classroom and outside the classroom as activism.

    [00:16:25] My scope of activism is wide enough that everybody gets a piece of it, so what are the ways that we can support and nurture the academics who are also being broken and expected to be cyborgs all the time, and what does that do to our spirits, and what does that do to just the essence and the eroticism that we get from creating these webs of knowledge together. So those have been the pieces that have excited me the most about seeking an interdisciplinary academic experience because it’s really nurtured the dreamer in me and it’s nurtured the side of me where my mother was an educator and very logistical, very Type A, so it’s nurtured that in me and it’s also nurtured the ethereal presence of art and the artistic vision and possibility that I got from my father’s.

    Cathy [00:17:00]: In addition to your educational work, your community health work, you also work with the Doula Project as a role that I had never heard of and I was so excited to learn about, which is that you work as an abortion doula.

    Bianca: Yeah.

    Cathy: I’m very familiar with doulas in assisting with birth, but I was unfamiliar with abortion doulas. Maybe that’s just me. Maybe it’s super common and everyone’s heard of that, but I hadn’t and I was like, “What a great service!”

    Bianca: Right. Yes.

    Cathy [00:17:30]: Yes, we need this! But can you tell our listeners who maybe aren’t super familiar with that exactly what you do in that capacity?

    Bianca: Sure. The Doula Project has three different types of doulas. They have birth doulas, they have adoption doulas for people who are maintaining a pregnancy to term and choosing adoption, and then they have abortion doulas. So each of us provide a level of support for the pregnant person and for the experience that their body is having, so it’s in that general framework of care and support and affirmation that the doula works [inaudible 00:17:56] period.

    [00:18:00] The abortion doula, it’s not a new position, but I think we just didn’t have a word for it. What abortion doulas do are basically support the pregnant person who has made the difficult decision to terminate a pregnancy, and it really requires an unbiased approach. You have to divest in judgment and shame, and it really is seeing this person as giving you an amazing gift of witnessing them making one of the hardest decisions of their lives and allowing you to touch them, allowing you to speak to them, allowing you to share with them what the process is.

    [00:18:30] I’m usually in the procedure room with the person who is awake during their termination procedure, and, in New York State, terminations can go up to 24 weeks, and so it’s…It can be a several-day procedure where you’re seeing a doctor several days and you are laying down and you are being…having things inserted into the core of your body, and so it’s one of the ways that having someone to stand next to you and hold your hand or rub your head or tell you a story or talk to you about the weather or help you figure out what you’re going to do after this or what’s going to come next or why does it hurt or remind you to exhale is really, really powerful and so helpful not only for the patient, but also for the providers who are doing that care because when a person is relaxed and supported their body is in a space of comfort so that the procedure can be completed swiftly and with the most quality care possible.

    [00:19:30] Then I’m in the recovery room with the patient, and I sit with them. I bring them water. I bring them ibuprofen. I give them a foot massage. I notify their family member. Like whatever they need in that moment to make sure that they’re ready to stand up, get changed, go home, eat. I provide them all of that care, so I’m really like someone’s handler from the beginning to end of their abortion procedure.

    [00:20:00] At the Doula Project, they give us business cards, so everyone of our patients and clients had a number that they could reach us at if they had questions, because a lot of people had questions about like, “Is this amount of bleeding okay? When should I go to the hospital? Is this normal or common?”

    [00:20:30] As someone who’s bilingual, I am able to work with many patients who spoke Spanish and English and also am able to communicate with their family members who are also not clear about what was happening or who were suspicious of what was happening, and I could support the client in saying, yes, I’m calling from this hospital and, yes, she had this medical procedure and, yes, the side effect will look like her period, and she’s totally fine. You know, here are the side effects, and basically assuage a situation that could have really resulted in some complicated living arrangements for the pregnant person.

    [00:21:00] In essence, what an abortion doula does, we do a lot of breathing techniques with the client and so, for me, it was really important that when someone’s…when the core of their body, when their reproductive organs are experiencing a clinical, pathologizing encounter, it’s important to allow there to be a nurturing component so that healing is possible and can be imagined.

    Cathy [00:21:30]: I think this is a really nice dovetail into my absolute favorite question that I get to ask guests, which gets at the heart of the kind of work that you do and the heart of what this podcast is all about, which is about imagining other worlds. So I’m curious to hear from you what that world is that you’re aiming for, what kind of world you’re working to bring into being when you do your work as a doula, when you put together your sex education curricula, when you work with clients in a variety of ways. What’s the world that you want?

    Bianca [00:22:00]: Yeah, this is a really amazing question, and I love it because I’m a dreamer and I love to dream big and very fantastic. So, just as I said, I left the Women of Color Sexual Health Network in December as an active foundress and I’ve started my own professional development school, an institute for justice workers that comes with a certificate program.

    That was because I’ve just learned from all the different areas of resistance and challenges and failures of what we really need right now and to survive what’s going on in this world that we’ve inherited right now, and so I’ve named the institute ANTE UP!, which is definitely like a card game analogy where the idea is that you’re going to put all your chips in to show your other competitors and other people at the table that you’re solid and you feel confident, and you want to ask them to do the same thing, put in your chips, show what’s up, who’s down, to see what’s possible, where everybody is invested and everybody is like, “I’m going to put my full body into this experience and into this process because that’s what’s required, because I know I’ll be uncomfortable, I know I’ll be angry, I’m not filled with joy,” and that’s what’s required in order to do this through and through.

    [00:23:00] That to me is a way to imagine an afterworld and not so much an otherworld because, for me, an otherworld is a fantasy. That’s like Middle Earth somewhere with the hobbits. I am imagining the afterworld, and James Baldwin has this really beautiful quote that “Love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does. Love is a war. Love is a battle. Love is a growing up.” That quote reminds me that what happens after the war, what happens after the battle, what happens after we’ve grown up.

    [00:23:30] There’s something after here. There isn’t something otherworldly. It’s an afterworld, and so what are the ways that we can imagine survival in that afterworld, and it requires an interdisciplinary approach, so some of the first course offerings are about intersectionality beyond being a buzzword and really diving deep into intersectionality as a theory, a framework as well as a practice. There’s a course on failure and how to honor failure, how to learn from failure, how to apologize in different contexts.

    [00:24:00] Another course is around reproductive technologies, what have been the advancements around our bodies and around creating the families that we want or not creating the families that we don’t want, and then also accountability processes, because there’s so many attempts at accountability, and I know of so many communities that did not complete an accountability process that are struggling, and they’re still hurt and there’s community restitution that still has yet to be restored.

    [00:24:30] There’s been an archive that our ancestors and our elders have left for us and our colleagues, and why we’re not using it, I don’t understand. So I’m helping fill that need by saying, “Here’s what we’ve been left with,” and so a lot of the final assignments are going to be like create your own accountability process because when it’s needed, it’s going to be almost instant that you need it, and it’s almost going to have to be like a ritual because it’s going to be painful those two weeks that you figure out who you can pull, how you can start, what it’s going to look like, what’s required. Get that work in now so that the care and the healing can begin as quickly as the harm and the recognition of it was received.

    [00:25:00] For intersectionality, we’re going to imagine creating and then actually implementing Wikipedia pages for each other and using that structure to be able to say we’re public intellectuals. For the failure course, we’re going to create and implement apologies and talk about and reflect on what it was like to do that, and it’s just, for me, what I would have always needed and what would have really prepared me for this moment right now and would have given me the language to be the person that I want to be and be a part of the community that I want to be a part of, and that’s a community where we all agree that safety is a community responsibility just as pleasure is a community responsibility, and intimacy is a community responsibility.

    [00:26:00] That’s what I imagine for the future and that’s what I want the afterworld for us all to be is one where we can receive and accept what we need as we need it and to just value each other’s bodies and the fullness and the pleasure that comes with it as well as all the other emotions on the continuum.

    Cathy: Thank you so much for being with us and sharing the work that you do. Thank you for doing the work that you do and for giving our listeners some really fantastic models for how they can also imagine otherwise.

    Bianca: Thank you so much, Cathy. It was great time talking to you. Thank you so much.

    Cathy [00:26:30]: [upbeat music in background] Thanks for listening to another episode of Imagine Otherwise. Imagine Otherwise is produced by Ideas on Fire and this episode was created by Christopher Persaud, Rebecca Reynolds, Michelle Velasquez-Potts,and myself, Cathy Hannabach.

    You can check out the show notes for this episode on our website at ideasonfire.net where you can also read about our fabulous guest as well as find links to the people and projects we discuss on the show. [music fadeout]

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