By Shea Howell

October 24, 2016

The Without Borders (un)conference sponsored by the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership this week made an important contribution to the convergence of people seeking solutions to a just and peaceful world.  Activists, authors, scholars, students, artists, and educators gathered to explore possibilities for true liberation and freedom.

The conference opened with a discussion of Afrofuturism, emphasizing that imagination as central to creating a future that secures life and love for all of us. Panelist talked passionately about the possibilities of creating a future that is better than our present.

Looking at all of the work from Gaza to Jackson, Ferguson, Flint, Detroit, Chicago and Standing Rock, people throughout the conference talked of coming together to find new ways of thinking, new paths for action, and new, deeper visions of the kind of future we want to create. Detroit science fiction author Adrienne Maree Brown encouraged us to “unlock our radical and compassionate imaginations” to place justice at the core of our collective thinking. From the oldest of spirituals and community rituals to graphic novels, hip-hop, and beliefs in an afterlife, people drew on the multitude of ways human beings have struggled to move beyond the boundaries that confine our deepest longings.

Throughout the two days people especially drew upon the legacy of black radical activism and imaginative politics as a source of strength and inspiration. Questions were welcomed as more important than answer.

People explored:

What does freedom look like?
Is it possible to create a world without police?
Can we create new forms of community and kinship?
Can we disrupt not only the school pipeline to prison, but the pipeline to capitalism?
How do we create a politics of the impossible?
What are new forms of power?
Where does knowledge come from?
What do decolonized structures look like?
What new languages can we create to de centralize “ the colonial?”
What is the relationship between resistance and revolution?
What is a sustainable future?
What new ways do we create a public sphere?
How can we govern ourselves?
What does democracy look like?
What does the next economic system look like?
How do we develop means of production that embody cooperation and care for the earth?
How doe we shift from an economy based on extraction to one based on care?
How do we create a world that is regenerative and passionate?

Naomi Klein provided a provocative keynote emphasizing the importance of finding ways to dream together about new futures as the fossil fuel frontier closes. Talking of the tension between what is politically possible and ecologically necessary she encouraged us to look at the LEAP Manifesto, for ways to think about the kind of direct political action and broad vision needed now.

This conference affirmed that there is a new political energy emerging in our country. It holds the potential of transforming all of us as we assume responsibilities for the shape of our future. Reaching beyond the borders of this gathering, organizers have made much of the conversation open to everyone by sharing the live streamed sessions here. The impossible is not longer unimaginable.