revolutionary uncling24 Jan 2021
in 2018 or 2019 i wrote the phrase “revolutionary uncle” into a bio i had to submit for something or other… you know, a conference or a presentation or something of that ilk. i feel like it’s those moments of self-authorship where i often have breakthroughs. revolutionary uncling was one of those breakthroughs.
i’ve done some googles and i can’t really find anything with that combination of words so like… is this what it’s like to coin something? (?!?!?). if so, i figured i might as well put some thoughts down so as the convo evolves, i can have something to point back to. below are some ideas that have contributed to my naming of my aspiration to and practice of being a revolutionary uncle. there will likely be many more thoughts so this is not exhaustive by any means.
we are all parenting
plain and simple, i believe we are all parenting all the time. in societies (that i’ve read about) exist beyond/before/beside the nuclear family construct, young people have relationships with many adults. i remember in one study, a (white) anthropologist spent days trying to figure out actually which parents were the bioparents of a particular child. the kids in that place slept in all the houses, got breastfed by all the people who were willing, played in all the places, etc. in some ways, that feels like my childhood. but whether or not i had that experience directly, i believe that, even when adults aren’t attuning to it, we are demonstrating to young people how to be in this world. i think that we would all do much better at creating the future world(s) we want if we treated every moment we are around young people as moments of parenting.
this idea comes from many places. in this moment i am thinking most directly about paolo freire (pedagogy of the oppressed) and seymour papert (mindstorms). in both of their works, they understand that education, when effective, is not something that happens “over there.” what young people (all people?) learn most effectively is what they do in community. where there are many layers of teachers and places to practice and support for trying new things and making mistakes.
i also think about fania davis starting her book, the little book of race and restorative justice, with her story of learning about the maasai phrase, Kasserian ingera, “how are the children?”. it was (is?) a phrase maasai warriors, some of the fiercest warriors on the continent, used to greet each other. and, for davis, it helped her understand the place that warriorship comes from: the protection of children.
what would it be like if our whole society was focused on protecting and caring for children? what if way more of what we did was create opportunities for young people to learn what it means to be human living on the earth? how would that reshape what we think our energies are for? what work is for? what we dream of? as i have personally begun to make that shift, i have found more joy and freedom that i had ever thought possible. as confucius said:
If your plan is for one year, plant rice. If your plan is for ten years, plant trees. If your plan is for one hundred years, educate children.
mothers, fathers, and aunties
as someone without any biochildren of my own, and someone who might not have any, i have long wondered about my role in raising children. when i wrote the words revolutionary uncle for the first time, i was definitely thinking about the book revolutionary mothering and wondering where the revolutionary fathering book was. at the time, i couldn’t find one. when i googled just now i found this book, Man Raises Boy: A revolutionary approach for fathers who want to raise kind, confident and happy sons Kindle Edition, and this revolutionary fathering podcast but that’s it. and it’s not much. but, i’m not a biodad so that doesn’t feel like a lane i can inhabit rightfully.
and the role of auntie/aunty feels SO magical. i’ve heard a number of womxn, especially womxn of color, talk about their role(s) as auntie as being critically important to their lives. adrienne maree brown talks about her role as an aunty constantly and i love it. she is a big part of my inspiration to take seriously my role as a support for my friends and their kids, my nibblings. (random note: i use nibbling with two ‘b’s because i learned it from adrienne. in the past few weeks, i’ve been lots of people spelling it with one ‘b’, nibling. i am sticking to the ‘bb’ version because it also sounds like nibble and if you have ever been emotionally close with a baby or very young person before, you’ll know the fully wild experience of wanting to eat them.)
ok i’m rambling… my point here is that ‘uncle’ is the role that i felt like i could meaningfully hold. i’m not a dad and mothering and auntying (?) already were being advanced. it important that to stake a claim that it was possible to be an uncle, grounded in revolutionary love and desire for liberation for all beings. i’m SURE i’m not the first to actually practice this (i bet in like 10 minutes someone will read this and be like, “lawrence, didn’t you know your uncle __ was a revolutionary uncle?”) so when i have more info, i’ll update my sourcing. until then, here we are.
i should say that my definition of revolution is currently aligned with grace lee boggs and jimmy boggs’ thinking on revolution. these two quotes from ‘the next great american revolution’ sum it up as much as it can be summed:
“As Jimmy Boggs used to remind us, revolutions are made out of love for people and for place. He often talked about loving America enough to change it. ‘I love this country,’ he used to say, ‘not only because my ancestors’ blood is in the soil but because of what I believe it can become.’ Love isn’t just something you feel. It’s something you do everyday when you go out and pick the paper and bottles scattered the night before on the corner, when you stop and talk to a neighbor, when you argue passionately for what you believe in with whoever will listen, when you call a friend to see how they’re doing, when you write a letter to the newspaper, when you give a speech and give ‘em hell, when you never stop believing that we can all be more than what we are. In other words, Love isn’t about what we did yesterday; it’s about what we do today and tomorrow and the day after.”
[Paulo Freire] was equally clear, as were we, that [rebellions are] not yet revolution because revolutions are made by people (as distinguished from masses) who have assumed “the role of subject in the precarious adventure of transforming and re-creating the world. They are not just denouncing but also announcing a new positive.” Or as we [Grace + Jimmy] put it in Revolution and Evolution in the Twentieth Century, “a rebellion disrupts the society,” but “a revolution . . . begins with projecting the notion of a more human, human being,” one “who is more advanced in the qualities which only human beings have—creativity, consciousness and self-consciousness, a sense of political and social responsibility.”
PHEW! that was a fully 50 minutes of writing. i definitely sat down thinking i was going to do 10. welp, here we are. sometimes when it flows it flows.
anywho, so this is the longest singular stretch of first public writing i’ve done about revolutionary uncling and tbh, i think ‘league of extraordinary uncles’ might be the title or tagline for my 2nd book. whether that’s the title or not, it’s definitely gonna be something related to my post-patriarchy futures work and i’m excited to get going on that.
ok. time to go to the sun salutations i was supposed to do literally an hour ago. T_T
ok, one final thing. here are a few ideas i’m toying with. whaddya think?
- uncle school
- uncle (summer) camp
- the league of extraordinary uncles (maybe it’s a book that is also a group?)
- unclehood and uncle crew (s/o greg cendana for these two)
words / writing / post-processing
1408w / 50min / 15min