Love Letters to Our People and Planet

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Last year, at BISC’s annual conference, Road Ahead, I delivered a message to attendees –– make ballot measures love letters to our people. I was guided by the words and vision of bell hooks who said: 

Without love, our efforts to liberate ourselves and our world community from oppression and exploitation are doomed. Without an ethic of love shaping the direction of our political vision and our radical aspirations, we are often seduced, in one way or the other, into continued allegiance to systems of domination—imperialism, sexism, racism, classism.

I believe it is imperative that ballot measures – this wonderful tool that we have to create change in our communities – center radical, unapologetic, unwavering love. Like bell hooks, without our vision of the world we seek being rooted in love, we will be easily tempted by the very systems we seek to dismantle and reimagine. I think it is fair to say that we can easily lay out the problems we face. We know what we don’t want, but we spend less time uplifting the solutions and visioning the view of the world we want to build. 

Every action I take is a love letter to my daughter. I want her to live in a world where she is a Black girl who is safe and free to share her light without limitations. I want her to experience a democracy of, for, and by the people. Where we co-govern. If she decides to attend university, I want her to go to school and walk out debt-free. I want her to love who she wants to love without fear of discrimination. I want her to have a career with wages and benefits that allow her to thrive. I want so much for her but that world isn’t just for her, it is for all of us. I offer the framework of love letters to allow ourselves not only to imagine the world we seek to build but to guide us towards the action it requires to make it real.

But centering our movement and ballot measures in love of our people isn’t enough. We must also center our love for the earth, air, and water. I recently had the opportunity to spend time among the Gila River Indian Community, home of the Pee Posh (Maricopa) and Akimel O’odham (Pima) people in Arizona where they have been preparing for the return of the water. 

For centuries the Indigenous communities stewarded the land and water, eating the native plants and animals, cultivating crops along the natural irrigation channels of the river. But colonization introduced new crops, animals, and people with new settlements that drew the water away from the Gila River which caused drought and starvation of the native people. The community won a water settlement in 2004 which allowed them rights to start the process of not only the return of water but the way of life of their people to be in partnership with the land they live on.

It was being in this community and listening to their stories of the future they seek to build with the return of the water, that helped me recognize that simply loving our people is insufficient. By only centering people we will continue our extractive behaviors of domination. By loving the land just as much as (if not more) than loving ourselves, we can build a sustainable world rooted in care. 

As human beings we seek safety, belonging, and care which means we have an obligation to think about how ballot measures are an act of love for the communities we seek to support. We also have a responsibility to not repeat the destructive cycle of only thinking about our wants and needs, but reimagining our partnership with the planet that gives us life. I believe when we center love and make it an action, we open a whole new world of possibilities.

What act of love will you take today to move us closer to a joy-filled, equitable, and just world where our communities and our planet can collectively thrive?