Muhammad Ali has so much to be remembered for. Particularly as a black, Muslim, creative and athlete he has been a hero and inspiration to us at IM. Travelling, resisting, creating spectacle, Ali shifted narrative in his language and movement in so many ways. He was easily one of the most captivating public figures in Diasporadical history. We love him a lot because he embodies the two pronged approach of narrative and design, rhetoric and action. He would use poetic language and do amazing things in the ring. In one of his most well-known quotes Ali describes his prettiness and his dangerousness: “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. The hands can’t hit what the eyes can’t see.” In this regard he was the ultimate trickster! In 2017, we want to be like Ali, pretty, beautiful even, and dangerous, sharp, poisonous to some. So we did some strategic thinking…
During the last few weeks of 2016 we all came together to celebrate our past year of work, learn deeply what each of us was envisioning for our lives in 2017 and to breathe our 2017 plans for Intelligent Mischief into being.
After spending some time reflecting and learning from our past year we held space for each of us to talk about our hopes, dreams, doubts, audacious visions and questions. Each person in turn shared and then we gave feedback, asked clarifying questions, gave gentle, firm advice like “you can do this!” and “why you making yourself small? You the business!” or “You don’t have to choose, you can do it all!” or “We got you!” etc. etc. It was sweet. It was great to hear how much we were still on the same page in terms of our vision for weaving together art, pop culture, and social justice. We were also really honest and open about our fears and doubts. This was a really cathartic experience that allowed us to ease into big questions about our next year together. We found out that overall we are thinking deeply of the relationship between our professional and our creative lives and the degree of overlap or integration of these two really varies across the group. There was a shared interest in writing more, reflecting, traveling and learning from peers.
We thought about how each person’s vision might be integrated into the overall IM vision and framed our questions about IM in three main ways:
What impact do we want to achieve in 2017? How would our individual lives and the lives of those we collaborate with in the broader creative community and social movement be better for having Intelligent Mischief in it?
How did we want to be together? What are the ways of being, principles and values we want to uplift and be uplifted by in 2017?
Who do we want to deepen connection and community with in 2017?
We thought of this approach because we wanted to have a strategic direction for our 2017 mischief that allowed for emergence, expansiveness, and individual and collective growth. We didn’t want to have too rigid a plan but wanted to know where we were heading, what vehicle we wanted to travel in, and who we wanted on board with us.
Impact: Where are we heading?
In 2017 we want greater recognition for the work that we do at the nexus of Black organizing and Black popular culture. This isn’t because we want to be famous per se but because we think this work and the analysis of it is extremely crucial for the particular times we live in.
We realized that as a collective or collaboratory the most immediate impact of the work we do as IM is on each of us as individuals. For 2017 we want IM to act as a space that helps each of us achieve our personal and creative life goals. We want it to be a vehicle for reaching a higher level in our craft and creative skills that provides opportunities for building new relationships, partnerships and collaborations. We also want to see the work we do as IM as being part of our critical response and analysis of social issues.
We want our work to be impactful and meaningful to other artists and activists of color as well, particularly black creatives and organizers. We want to collaborate on transformative cultural events and exchange of artist skills. We want to invite creatives to perform at our events and to co-curate events with us and deepen our connection to others who are thinking and making with similar ideas and visions. We want to work together to increase the effectiveness of black organizing using black culture to produce more beautiful and transformative works.
In the movement as a whole we want to contribute to culture shifting becoming increasingly beautiful and to the increase in the use of creativity and imagination to solve problems. We want to ground ourselves in our Blackness and Black culture and bring to light the vast diversity of Blackness particularly by sharing and revelling in our Caribbean culture.
Ways of Being: What’s our vehicle?
We know that it’s not enough for us to articulate a direction but that it’s equally as important to be attentive to the “how” of getting there. When you decide to go somewhere amazing, (for me that’s the beach), you can drive, you can take the bus, you can walk, you can ride a bike, etc. All of these modes of transportation make a difference in how you will experience the beach, how long it will take to get there, how many people are going with you, what the impact is of your trip to the beach, how enjoyable your trip is etc. Similarly we wanted to be very intentional about which tools, processes, approaches and practices we want to embody in the coming year.
One of the first things we articulated was the desire to be bold. We realized that we can be very shy about our work as well as sometimes too laid back. We felt that boldness would help us be very forward oriented especially given the audacity of some of our goals. We also want to be emergent, flexible, and fluid. Articulating intention, taking action but being open to the wisdom of the universe and its inhabitants in terms of exactly how we expect things to turn out. In 2017 we want to be intentional about our praxis and strike a balance between action and reflection. We want to make room for experimentation (after all, we do call ourselves a lab/collaboratory) so that we can balance the need and power of rapid prototyping new ideas with developing expertise and deep thinking. We feel it is important to take ourselves very seriously this year and really believe in our ideas and what we have to offer to the broader movement space even if no one else does. At minimum it is what we are spending so much of our time doing and that is serious enough.
We also feel that in 2017 it is extremely important to be able to identify when something is an individual project of one of our members or when it is a collective endeavor. This will allow us to know what our expectations are of each other, what capacity we have and will allow each person to move forward on their ideas without necessarily needing consensus. This will help improve our sense of clarity and our communication so that we feel free to share when we are working on side projects and cultivate a feeling that “All of us together are IM and each of us are IM.”
Who we want on board?
We did some dreaming about the types of relationships we want to have with organizations and individuals we want to be in deeper community and collaboration with in 2017. We want to cultivate relationships that overall will elevate and legitimize popular culture as essential to movement building including work with comic book artists, designers, curators, promoters, socially engaged artists, filmmakers, graphic designers, visual artists, DJs, musicians and more. We want to spend more time around people who inspire us because of the great work they have done, especially elders in our community. We also want to deepen our relationships with creatives in the Caribbean and and spend time in spaces that cultivate creative collaboration.
What exactly are we planning to do though?
With that vision and strategic direction established we literally had created a strategic filter to assess our ongoing projects and decide what to focus our energies on in 2017. We were surprised by a) how easy it was to get consensus and b) how easy it was to let go of some things when no one voted to work on it!
So, in 2017, our work will consist of:
Finishing the Black Body Survival Guide including publishing, launching, and going on tour.
Piloting the Black Body Survival Store and Black Body Survival Agency at the “Occupancies” exhibit at 808 Art Gallery at Boston University in February.
Fete Forward 2017 Edition
3 Culture Hacks in Boston and then outside of Boston
A Liberation Lab in Boston and then outside of Boston
Going home to the Caribbean together (at least one island this year)
Shifting our consulting practice to focus on designing transformative experiences that support social change goals
Some of these projects are already underway and as we mentioned we are very excited to collaborate with other creative activists in the US and around the diaspora. Hit us up if that’s you!