Damon: Welcome to One Million Experiments.
Kiss: A podcast showcasing and exploring how we create safety in a world without police and prisons. I'm Kiss.
Damon: I'm Damon.
Kiss: We have a great conversation on this episode, but before we get there, we want to start with the story that led to the experiment we're talking to today.
Damon: Mariame Kaba and Bianca Diaz have brought to the world the abolitionist children's book, See You Soon. We are fortunate to present you this text, read by the participants of Queenie's Crew.
[Queenie's Crew Participants Read Queenie's Crew]
Kiss: Storytime was always my favorite part of the school day.
Damon: Yes, much better than science class. [chuckles]
Kiss: We do have a method here to maintain. Let's welcome back into the lab our partner in decriminalization Eva Nagao.
Damon: Yes, yes.
Eva Nagao: Present.
Eva: Hey, all.
Kiss: Eva, first of all, how to feel to listen to that reading? What do we need to know before we hop into today's interview?
Eva: I don't know about y'all listeners but every time I listen to that reading, I cry a little bit. It feels beautiful. It feels sad. It feels cathartic. I'm glad that it's something that we get to share with the world. We're here talking about two experiments today, really. There is the experiment that is See You Soon, a book that Mariame Kaba put out into the world to really create more support for small people whose parents were incarcerated to support each other, to have small people who understand each other when they're going through these experiences.
That is really what breathed life into this idea of Queenie's Crew. Queenie, the main character in the story. This is her crew growing out all over. I was just so honored that Zara Raven, our guest for today agreed to come on. Zara Raven is one of the parents in Queenie's Crew. Z is also the coordinator of Queenie's Crew. It's a crew that engages children in learning about building communities of care without prisons or policing. Every month, members receive an email with an activity that kids can complete to learn more about abolition and they share activities like coloring pages, word searches, word scrambles, reflection exercises.
Using readings, and art projects, they support children in imagining a collective future where we are all free. The participants get to meet, share, do art together, get dope patches. As part of that, the caregivers and parents of all these small people also meet together and talk about what this experience is like to be bringing small abolitionists into the world. Membership to Queenie's Crew is right now currently closed and the project is actually set to sunset at the end of the year, which we'll talk more about in this interview.
This means that it is a true, true One Million Experiment and that we hope that this plant some seeds for more of Queenie's Crew, for people who are interested in doing this work going forward. The clip that you just heard with all our Queenie's Crew members reading See You Soon is also available in our show notes. It's a video that shows the small people and all the beautiful illustrations by Bianca Diaz.
Kiss: While the conversation we get into is probably more useful for caregivers and for young people, we do encourage you to share that video of the reading or the book itself with the young people in your life. All right. Get your snacks, get your fruit roll up, get your apple juice and pretzels ready. Let's hop into the lab with Zara Raven.
Damon: All right. We are here, we are back in the lab. We are so excited to welcome to the lab Zara Raven from Queenie's Crew, brah, brah, brah. Yes, yes, yes.
Zara Raven: [chuckles] Thank you all for having me.
Damon: Thank you for being here. We like to start all our conversations in the tradition of a two-part question. This question is centered around time, interpreted how you will this day, this season, this hour, this lifetime. In this time, Zara, how is the world treating you and how are you treating the world?
Zara: Ooh, that is such a beautiful question.
Damon: Thank you.
Zara: Hard to say. On this day, I can say the sun is shining. I'm thriving. I worked in my garden next door this past weekend. Really looking to care for the land for my community, for little ones so I hope to be treating the world well as well and for the world to be thriving. Also, I know that we're living in a time of increased anti-trans legislation, increased violence, rising fascism. It's just a difficult time to be in this world. Also, you just keep going.
Kiss: We'll get to those terrible things and how we move through them but I want to start with the garden. How are the starts doing what's coming up? What's in the soil?
Zara: Ooh, thanks for asking. It's funny, I just moved into this place, and it was really just a lot full of trash. Really, right now, I have been clearing trash, clearing glass, picking up random like asthma pumps, all kinds of things I've been finding but there was once a garden there. We were able to weed, I have a little group working with me, some of my neighbors, and friends. In my backyard, I'm growing kale, culantro, scotch bonnet peppers, and gandules. These are things I'm growing but nothing is in the ground yet. We haven't even tested the soil yet.
Kiss: I love that you're planting with a delicious meal in mind. Have the gandules and the peppers already out there you're like, "I'm envisioning a future where these live together."
Kiss: I think in some ways, you set us up with a perfect segue here and thinking about nurturing and growing and cultivation. We're really excited to get into the work that Queenie's Crew has done and who y'all are. To do so, we have this very fraught science metaphor that we rely on on the show as to people who did not well in science class.
Damon: Less my way through.
Kiss: We've tried to recapture and reuse the idea, recycle the idea of a hypothesis. When you started Queenie's Crew, what was the hypothesis for what would the work would be and what it could make possible?
Zara: Really, Queenie's Crew is the brainchild of Mariame Kaba, like so many projects.
Zara: Mariame and Bianca Diaz wrote and illustrated the book, See You Soon, which is about a six-year-old girl named Queenie who gets separated from her mother by incarceration. There's not a happy ending at the end of the story. They don't get reunited. That is the reality for a lot of kids, for a lot of families who are separated by state violence. Mary wanted to think about and brought me in to think about what could we do to support kids and families who are reading this story so that they know there are things that you can do to interrupt state violence and to build communities of care.
That's where the premise of teaching 6 to 10-year-olds, about building communities of care without prisons or policing came from. That's something that I've been working to do in my home and in my community as a parent and as a caregiver. I'm raising a 9-year-old and am a prison abolitionist and I have been a longtime organizer. One of my mantras and this comes from the book by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha and Jai Dulani and Ching-In Chen, The Revolution Starts at Home.
We start that work in our homes, in our families, in our communities with the way that we treat each other. That's what the program is all about, harnessing the creativity and imagination of kids to learn to build communities of care before they get ruined by the world. [chuckles]
Damon: I want to name my excitements about the work of Queenie's Crew as an invitation for you to share what are some of your most prominent excitements as somebody so intimately involved.
For me, as a fellow part of Mariame'stribe and working to expand this notion of abolition in people's minds and actions and for future generations and today, what I have found is like introducing, none of the ideology of camps and prisons are bad, which is, I think, a very easy one to get to and many of us are very practice in navigating folks and facilitating folks of that understanding, but then the way of being that abolition demands of us and the notion of this new type of presence, there's a new type of intervention, this new type of relationship and responsibility. That is very hard to introduce to people in their lives in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond.
Even if people want to, even if people are saying the agreements, even if people share the ideology, actually living and taking that on in the minutiae feels that it becomes overwhelming for most people. I am so excited [chuckles] to see that it's not an unlearning or a relearning, but a part of the initial learning and development. What then is possible for future facilitators for the notion of what a process means for the lessened need for emergency processes all the time because there are people who are nurtured to nurture or to be in healthy relationship with each other makes the idea of interrupting violence, creating new safeties so tasty, so possible, so tangible, so there.
That's me. That is an offering to you to share as someone doing the work, what are some of the excitements that maybe we don't have access to because we're not seeing all of this beautiful work with these young ones?
Zara: Thank you so much for sharing your excitement. You're right. It's exciting because as adults, we have to...
Zara: As adults, we have so much unlearning to do and kids have so much to teach us. I'm constantly learning from being around kids because they ask questions. They're constantly asking questions. I'll be like, "Ooh, screen time limits, that's important." My kid will be like, "Why?" Then I actually sat down and read some studies and it was like, "No, this is not rooted in anything." This is something we made up and repeated. I think with Queenie's Crew, the kids already have a lot of great ideas and what we've been doing is-- There's so many pieces of it that I'm excited about.
We've been working with artists. We don't have a huge budget so we usually look to existing art and then we'll be able to pay artists to license their work, and then Bianca, who is the book's illustrator, will work with me to turn the art into activities for the kids that invites them to share their ideas and to think about some of these questions. How do we build communities of care? For example, we did an activity a couple of months ago that was just refund our communities and it was a pie chart. We got this from Rania El Mugammar's transformative justice with little one's toolkit. Kids just wrote in the pie chart, "This is what I would spend money on if I were funding my community." It's like food, water, public transit.
My kid wrote also not public transit because they also want to take Ubers. [chuckles] Some of the work that I've been most excited about is the conflict transformation work because it allows us to think about how we build accountable communities and how we shift the focus away from who's going to be punished and what are the consequences of a behavior and towards what are the needs and how do we support people who are harmed. We adapted the Bay Area Transformative Justice Collectives, pod mapping worksheets, and kids planned out, like, "Who will I call? Who will I contact and what are the resources in my community if I cause harm or if I experience harm?"
Then we also pulled a page from the book where a kid is making fun of Queenie and we turned it into a comic strip. In the first piece of the comic strip, we put a speech bubble so that kids can write their own. Then the second is Queenie with a thought bubble. We ask, "What's something that someone has said that hurt your feelings? How did you feel? Tap into what you were feeling in that moment and what did you need afterwards?"
Again, rather than saying, "This person needs to be punished. I want this person to be sent to time out," or whatever. Kids were encouraged to think about, "What did I need? I needed a hug. I needed a friend." Just completely reframing the ways that we think about accountability and starting early.
Kiss: What I'm already hearing is something that jumped out in the beginning of your answer is even in describing who you are, you're like, "I am an abolitionist and a parent." I'm thinking about the process that I can imagine happened of trying to figure out how to weave those together.
Some of the examples that you just named, they epitomized that beautifully but I could imagine that there was even just on a personal level, a learning curve and figuring out how do I bring these two worlds together because so much of the messaging, just like for adults around parenting, holds these punitive understandings or power dynamics, and so what was that learning and growth process for you in the moments where you were like, "Oh, maybe this is an opportunity to bridge those two and make them into the one that they exist within you?
Zara: That's an interesting question. I do think, actually, for me, I've always been a little bit of an outcast. As soon as I became a parent and a caregiver, that was the lens that I was adopting. How do I want to do this? It was partially because I was a foster kid so I was moved around a lot. I was a street kid. I didn't have a lot of safe adults or caregivers in my life but I also didn't have much of a blueprint. Coming into abolitionist politics in my early 20s, that was where I was finding my blueprint and that was around the time that I was becoming a parent. It was a constant question of, how do I practice this?
I've always been an organizer but my organizing really started rooted in my own experiences. I think mostly it was, how do we find safety from sexual violence? How do we find safety from intimate partner abuse? It was always a practice of, how do we do this in our everyday lives?
Kiss: It sounds that as a parent, the continuation of how do I connect the whole to the particular and meet the needs that I've had and understand that for other people seems a continuation when there's another person, a little person there too.
Zara: I think there were definitely things I have continued to have to unlearn. I'm definitely still messing up and still noticing ways that I live and breathe oppressive systems too. For example, when school shut down in 2020, I saw that my kid was in more Zoom meetings than me each day.
Zara: I was just really swamped as a six-year-old and I was like, "That seems overwhelming." Also, what are you learning and what's happening? I think I am constantly finding and learning about ways that I have taken for granted, certain things schooling, having a kid in school as just necessary parts of childhood.
I've been in this process of unschooling and unlearning. Also, even in those spaces, even in unschooling spaces, they're not all necessarily prison abolitionists, which is a little bit of a struggle because that doesn't mean they're not doing punishments. It's a constant work in progress.
Damon: In talking about what you're navigating as a parent and connecting that to your own experiences growing up, is crystallizing more of the power of what Queenie's Crew is embodying. Because as I was first thinking about the work and hearing about it and learning, I'm thinking like, oh, great, we are preparing for these people 10 years, 20 years in the future, 30 years in the future, which is valuable. You paralleling the pandemic in your own experience, it just reminds me of how much carcerality parallels and intersects with how we just raise children as a society, the way that schools are organized.
Obviously, the way that the foster system is. If not a shadow, a feeder or a part of carceral systems and the language of punishment doesn't get introduced through criminal justice. It gets usually introduced through parenting and through child. Really, what is also happening is equipping children from liberation against adultism and the violence that we put against them as children, as opposed to just like, this is camp. It's for you to one day be a good movement activist. This is actually equipping you to understand your world and what you're navigating and having to experience now. I'm assuming giving you tools to actually assert agency in deeper ways than are our norms. Does that sound right?
Zara: Exactly. It's not like I don't need to, even though I did this too, teach you the Black Panther Party history. [chuckles] I need to listen to you. I need to ask you what you think and how you want to structure the world. Exactly, it's handing power back to kids, listening to kids, and then, really, as caregivers interrogating our own adultism.
I'm glad you named that piece. Just this idea that we have all the answers and also you're going to follow these rules or I'm going to punish you. That's what we as adults need to interrogate if we want to build liberated futures, if we want kids not to replicate--
Patricia Hill Collins has an essay from, I want to say the '90s called It's All in the Family. She talks about the family as a site where a lot of the violences of oppressive systems of borders where that is replicated. The family can also be an important site of resistance, of breaking through this idea of borders, oppressive hierarchies, patriarchy. We could just do it differently.
Damon: I'm having to catch myself because I have so many big-picture questions but I want to be considerate of the listeners a little bit and ground in the activities and the practices of the work, what is some of the origin activities that came about, what have been some of the practices and programs that have become muscle memory that feel good, and what are some of the works that you're looking to do for people who are one just interested and want to celebrate and support, but maybe want to figure out how to form models or experiments in the vein of Queenies' crew, which I've been doing. [chuckles]
Zara: Thank you for re-grounding in the--
Damon: Because I was about to go to pedagogy. I just want--
Zara: Oh, my God. I can't wait to talk theory.
Damon: I would... That was my big worry. I had to catch myself is what happened.
Zara: We've done a lot of really awesome activities. We did Mother's Day cards for incarcerated mamas last year. We worked with a few artists...who has a piece where it says, "Safety is," and then we let the kids fill in what safety mean to you...has portraits of Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson. Last year, for Pride month in June, we took those portraits and turned them into a word scramble so the message on the portraits is, "No pride for some of us without liberation for all of us."
The kids had to go through-- We used little different pride flags and they had to match up what's the letter to this flag and decode the message. We've done a lot of really fun activities. It is a virtual program, which in some ways, is really wonderful because it gives folks who may not have abolitionist community, especially communities of abolitionist caregivers in their lives, a space and a community where they are able to talk through challenges with people with similar values.
I think that's been really wonderful. Also, it's hard to do virtual programming, especially with kids who are-- All of us, I think, or many of us are burned out on being on Zoom.
Damon: I'm burned out being off Zoom too. I'm just [crosstalk].
Zara: Burnt out in general but we have a little crew here in Phili that gets together and we do activities together. Those are some of the activities we've done.
Kiss: I want to stay on the realities of doing this work virtually, because I think, you mentioned watching your kid step into virtual schooling, in pandemic, and there was so much social political hand wringing around the pros and cons of that. I think in some ways, a lot of that was rooted in trying to figure out how do we "keep order and punish kids" when we can't have them in the same room. The structure of schooling, as we've named having those carceral logics and wasn't conducive to everyone being in the comfort of their own home.
I think that was at least a piece of the pushback or concern there. There were, of course, also challenges for some students and learning in that way as well. I'm wondering, in building this space virtually, what have you learned about how to engage young people on a screen, on a call that have worked really well for you?
Zara: We don't have a ton of virtual events. We've had a couple of virtual events that have been very interactive. We brought key growth in to do wandering towards abolitionist futures and kids were brainstorming and made a song together. We just did an event last month. My friendand I taught zine-making for conflict transformation. The kids again, are doing an activity, they're making a scene. We gave them prompts like what happened? What were you feeling at the time? What can you take responsibility for and what did you need?
I think having kids working on activities and talking to each other and sharing, creating art, that's been fantastic. Also, we've had a couple of events now just for caregivers that I think have really been helpful. I say caregivers to include all folks who work with kids, teachers, educators, parents, people who spend time with little ones. I think that's been a great space because then adults can access support from each other but the work is happening in their own community and Queenie's Crew and Project Nia are sunsetting at the end of this year.
The hope is definitely for folks to be building in their own homes, in their own communities with the tools and the resources and the information that we have shared and to continue nurturing their relationships where they are.
Kiss: I want to talk a little bit about that sunsetting it's something that we've tried to have a deeper conversation with on the show because it is so hard when you build something from scratch, to be able to understand when it's time to set it down.
I wonder if there are lessons from being a parent, in that childhood has so many stages, things that both literally and figuratively fit for a kid at one point, six months, a year later, they're no longer at that point. I think about when I come home to visit and my parents have the snack I loved when I was six, that's maybe not still my favorite snack now. I've sunsetted on fruit snacks.
Damon: Oh, man. Jerry, you're never going to hear this, you just...snacks?
Kiss: That's all right. It's also not true, but I was using it as a rhetorical device. Also, my snack choice as a kid was on point. I've realized that mostly what it was, I just had quality taste in snacks as a child.
Zara: Was it the fruit snacks for you?
Damon: He likes old people snacks.
Kiss: No. Pretzels, apple cider. You get your sweet, your salty, you get some different textures, you get some snap, you get the little sour tart tang on the back of the cider. Remains a bop to this day, a pretzel and apple cider.
Zara: Those are old people snacks. [laughs]
Damon: It gets drier from there. I love Pretzels too, but you've got a dry fruit at...so it's three. It's seltzer, dry fruit seltzer is this party. We over here having fun,..having fun. I'm joking. He's much healthier for us.
Kiss: You can't roll up a pretzel, that would be tough, but soft pretzel perhaps. I bring that all up to say, are there ways as you think about building a beautiful thing and then releasing it that ties into the experience of being a parent?
Zara: Oh, wow. I hadn't really thought about that connection, but that is a beautiful connection to make because kids are constantly growing, evolving, changing. My kid has changed their name five times, changed their gender probably just as many times. Kids teach us so much about embracing change and transformation, and that is sort of what sunsetting an organization is like, "This is what was needed for this time. There will always be things that will be needed that we'll have to keep building and reinventing, and we'll have lessons learned from this project, and we will evolve." I love that metaphor.
Kiss: You raised the kid. I just came up with a metaphor.
Damon: From that point of lessons learned, I think I'm going to do it now but I'm going to keep us grounded, but I think it's pedagogy time.
Damon: Pe-pe-pe-pedagogy. Pedagogy in the morning. I want to break down the word because it's one of those big words that gets thrown out all the time. You said about these lessons learned, and one thing you said very early on is the young people are teaching us new things. If my understanding of pedagogy is the methods and practices of how we teach, which then informs how we learn.
I'm curious as this is sunsetting, one, what are some of the ways of teaching that you have learned from the young people and what are some of the ways of teaching that are needed for young people? I want to ground it in an old air-go-adage. A few years ago, I don't remember what conversation we were in but this idea came that we should treat all people the way we treat young people.
When that doesn't feel right we should reassess how we're treating young people first and foremost, and then move on from there. The kindness, the nurturing, the grace, the permission, the forgiveness that we offer to what we can see love as a child is actually how we should treat people. When that doesn't feel right and you feel infantilized, that means we should probably assess how adultism and ageism shows up.
With that as the background, what have we learned about how to teach these principles around conflict, around abolition, around making this new world that has come from children, that has come from working with children, that we can maybe expand in all of our spaces and projects? The pedago, pedago, pedagogy.
Zara: I would say it's just ask questions. That's what kids do best, they ask questions, they stay curious, and I think that's what we need to do. Now, I've gotten better at when my kid asks me a question, either we'll go on a rabbit hold together and just find the answers together or I will ask questions back to support them in figuring out what is it that they believe, what is it that they want? I think asking questions is the pedagogy, and staying curious.
Kiss: I love that.
Kiss: We are biased as Damons. That's a great answer. Some of the questions that you named in these activities are, of course, really poignant questions for anyone to try to figure out for themselves. Are there any answers or patterns in what you've heard from some of the young folks you've been talking to in around these questions of safety that have been surprising or stuck out for you? That maybe were challenging in some ways or pushed you to think in a different way?
Zara: I think a lot of the kids know so much. They're self-selecting, the families are self-selecting into the program. A lot of these parents and caregivers are likely already abolitionists talking to their kids about how we build safer communities. Some always just like, "Wow, true." Let's see, I'm really looking through now.
Kiss: It's fine if there isn't, that means that people are on the same page.
Damon: Some alignment and...
Kiss: I just feel like when we've worked with young folks that's often my experience. It's not always in opposition, but it'll just be an understanding of a thing that I hadn't thought about in that.
Damon: They threw a wrench in there and it's like, "Oh, let me accommodate for that wrench." Oh, wow. Now, I have a better way of saying this. [chuckles]
Zara: Yes. I'm always amazed and in awe of kids' self-awareness. When we were doing the zine-making for conflict transformation, just the ways that kids talked through and thought through, what was the conflict, what was my role in it, how can I communicate? Just their incredible self-awareness, self-accountability, and maybe I'm in awe because I don't always get that from adults. [laughs]
Kiss: Yes. Almost never.
Kiss: It's so rare. That in particular, like the understanding could be there but the opting in to participating in self-reflection and self-accounting. It's something that actually, Mariame said at some point-- I can't remember when she said it, maybe it was in the first episode of this series of, partly that's because we have no cultural incentives to do that. When the response to having done something harmful is punishment, you have zero incentive to account for the harm that you've done because you know you'll receive punishment. That's a very...effect.
Kiss: If you build those other incentives for participation, it can open up a new willingness, I think.
Zara: Yes. Kids, if they know that they're not going to be punished for what they share, they're going to open up. They're going to take accountability, they're going to work to resolve their conflicts. Now, that I think about it, I will say the one thing that inspires me about what I've seen kids do is just the way that they're able to tap into their feelings, their experiences. Assert themselves in ways that, I think even for me as a child, and sometimes even as an adult have not felt safe or comfortable to do. That they're so grounded in their own and each other's experiences, that I think is another important part.
Not just trusting that adults around you won't punish you, but if you want something, you're going to communicate. You're going to ask for it, you're going to name what you need, and you're going to negotiate with the people around you who are also naming what they need. Kids have conflicts on the playground all the time, "I want the swing. I want the same." They come to resolution and compromise and they learn to play together.
As adults, I think a lot of us can be really conflict-avoidant depending on what identities you hold. For me, as a femme of color, just always learning to silence myself, silence my needs, make myself more palatable for other people, I think it's a lesson to be able to see kids saying, "No, this is what I need," and then communicate it and work through conflicts.
Damon: This conditioning towards avoidance that has happened through all of this conflict. I think we usually talk about our limitations in cooperation being about folks who create conflict or who are "Disruptive." Also, so much of it is built from this bottling, the suppression, and then this pressure explosion of things bubbling over. Whether they bubble over into the space or that requires someone just to remove themselves or to take distance.
I am part of the care team of a young person and this new generational self-assertion and lack of aversion to conflict. You have to figure out the boundaries and the principles of how to engage in conflict, but that's something that really excites me.
Zara: Yes. They apply that towards everything, towards gender, the ways they think about genders, the way they think about their own identities. There's so much that adults can learn from that.
Damon: Just moving me towards hope, I wanted to acknowledge that. This is my question though, you have referenced throughout the caretakers and there being, in some ways, informal and I'm sure, intentional network. Again, in first hearing and learning about the work, my thought is like, "Oh, this is abolitionist youth training."
The possibilities of these folks who are already aligned or from similar orientations, the organizing potential of that. What has become more possible? What has been learned? What new connections? What deepenings have been made through the adults that have interacted through this space? Whether that's through just freshening up on their principles or the organizing of meeting or deepening with people that they know?
Zara: Yes, I personally have built some beautiful relationships through the program and I hope other caregivers can say the same. Also, just that we're always learning from each other. There are adults and caregivers who are involved in this space in different ways who are also doing their own organizing work. One of the parents is, for example, the Movement for Family Power director. Erin Miles Cloud, her work focuses on ending family policing.
Finding those intersections, deepening our own analysis as adults and as caregivers, because we all have work to do. We all have growth to do. Maybe this has been my lane for a long time, but deepening in understanding family policing or even just letter writing to incarcerated folks. Just being able to learn from each other's skills and experiences and just making friends who have shared values.
Kiss: That's about as good as a Zoom meeting can get.
Zara: Yes. [chuckles]
Kiss: I want to do something that we almost never do on this show, and for good reason. It feels particularly germane to the conversation, which is I want to talk about the bad guys in relation to this issue. I think it's really important because the embodied practice that you're talking about is what this united rising fascist front is, if not most afraid of, most vocally adamant about being in opposition to right now. In some ways, they're not wrong. That the possibilities that this create will challenge their power and do challenge their power.
I don't want to give the space to their ideologies. There's plenty of that, there's plenty of place for that. I am wondering, just on a personal level, in embodying this practice, in parenting the way you're discussing, in being in community, how do you make sense of, how do you navigate, how do you hold yourself in the people you love when the type of exploration, political education, bodily autonomy, challenging of adultism is like at the spear tip of this encroachment on all of our lives?
Zara: Thank you for that. I similarly don't like to give a lot of attention to the transphobes and the fascists, and also they're just constantly [chuckles] interfering.
Kiss: They're saying, look at me for the record,
Zara: The Moms for Liberty is having a conference here in Philly at the end of June, early July. Act Up has been organizing phones apps to try to get Marriott to cancel their contract. It's scary. It's scary to be a parent caregiver, especially caregiving for a trans kid in this time. We just moved to Philly and it was very much like, "Oh my God, where could I even live?" Also, have to just pretend the state of Florida doesn't exist. There's that piece, just the horror of it all. Also, I think my focus tends to be on building the connections and relationships in my own community, having conversations with people in my own community, knowing that we all have some work to do.
For example, I recently let my kid start walking alone, they're nine, and I believe that kids should be free to be autonomous and to be able to roam their neighborhoods. I've gotten a lot of, I'll call it feedback. [laughs] I have a next-door neighbor, I don't know if they'll ever listen to this, who is always like "I'm looking out for you. This is not the kind of neighborhood where people look out for each other. This isn't safe, ou can't be letting your kid walk around."
Just having conversations with my neighbor and just being like, "Well, first off, you started that with, you've been looking out for us." I think this is the neighborhood where we look out for each other. I think this is a neighborhood where we take care of each other and we're doing that right here and now. You have certain beliefs and I have certain beliefs. I think, and I see this to everybody who challenges me on the stranger danger stuff, that most violence happens in the home.
It's not strangers that we tend not need to be afraid of. It's the vast majority of attacks on women and girls are perpetrated by people we know. That's where the work needs to happen, in our own relationships, our own communities, our own neighborhoods, and I think that happens through conversation. The other day actually, this neighbor who had been giving me a little bit of a hard time.
I was working in the garden, he came over and he was like "If I had any time, I'd be out here with you," and then goes back into his house and brings a weeder and just weeds a bunch. I was like, "Yes, I wish you had some time." Then I was like, "If I didn't have it anywhere to be, then I would just be in the dirt with you." Goes back to his house, brings another tool. I'm just like, "See, you're just here. You're just in this with us." [laughs]
Damon: You have time. [laughs].
Zara: I don't know if you get that actually, but he was making my time. I think that's probably why, to bring it back to the garden, that garden project is so important to me. I think we just have to meet our neighbors and engage in conflict with our neighbors and find a new way right there. Also, obviously, call the Marriott. It's also in all of us, there's not a space that's immune from oppressive, violence, and systems. Doing our own work in ourselves and in our communities, that's where I keep my focus.
Kiss: Yes. I think that when you're not as actively engaged in doing that in your space, it feels like that won't be enough. It can be very easy to be focused on that. I think part of the goal of the show is to invite people into action. When you're doing it, it's not like the other stuff, the larger scale harm falls away but you know that what you're doing is what you can do and is what you can give. That makes it, if not easier, at least it gives a balance to the, at least for me, the intensity of the encroachment a little bit. Does that ring true at all?
Zara: Absolutely, yes. We have to cultivate those safer environments for especially queer and trans kids, Black kids, kids of color. We cultivate those in our own spaces, build those, grow those, interrupt the ways that we might even want to infringe upon that. That's an incredible resistance.
Kiss: To go back to our fraught metaphor as we close, if I'm remembering correctly, the last part of the scientific method is conclusions. At this point, as you have been building the work of Queenie's Crew and are thinking about what the sunset looks like. What are some of your conclusions about what this work makes possible if we're going through the portal of young people having access and caregivers having access to this type of space?
Zara: Yes. There are now a lot of resources, more and more resources that I'm always seeing about how we talk to and support kids through abolitionist values and perspectives. My hope would be that folks just build in their own communities. You don't have to be a parent to do that, to be a caregiver. I loved Damon when you said you're on a care team for a kid. That's what we need, we need care teams and villages and just people of all ages learning to take care of each other. I hope that folks will continue to do that in their own communities.
Kiss: Beautiful. I know this will be coming out not long before that sunset, but how can folks find the work of Queenie'sCcrew in the way that y'all would like to be found?
Zara: Definitely join our newsletter and you can do that by checking out our website. I'm sorry, I'm just looking to see if it's .org or .com. [laughs]
Damon: I just looked it up. I can help you. I'm prepared.
Kiss: It is .com.
Zara: Thank you.
Kiss: Thank you so much for your time, your brilliance, your sunlight. This has felt like a very ray of light into the work we've been doing. Thank you for doing what you do and sharing it with us.
Zara: Oh, thank you so much for reaching out and for highlighting this work, and for just engaging in this conversation with me. Kids are so inspiring and it's fun to talk about them, right?
Damon: All right everybody, no further ado. It's time for the peer review. We have to welcome back into the lab, the one and only Eva Nagal. Eva, what's up? Welcome back. How are you feeling? What are you hearing? What did you take away from that conversation? Let's chop it up.
Eva: Thanks, Dame. I am so excited that we finally got this out to the world. Just in the nick of time for next week's building your abolitionist toolbox with interrupting criminalization and Project Mia. If you're listening to this when it airs, then please join us. We're going to have Queenie's Crew back in another lab to talk a little bit more about the ins and outs of how to talk about abolition with small people and with other caregivers of small people. I encourage everyone who's enjoying this episode to join us there. If you're listening to this after the fact, then don't worry, there's a recording and a Zine.
Damon: Shout out to the zines. [laughs].
Eva: Shout out to the zines. We've been dormant. Guys, this one is good.
Kiss: Of course, we'll share the link to that Zine in the show notes as well as on millionexperiments.com. Now that folks know that, let's dive a little deeper into the conversation. What jumped out from the perspective and the experience that Zara shared?
Eva: For me, this was a special place to land in this season because I met Mariame Kaba through the Chicago Freedom School as a youth doing youth work. It has always remained important to me to have young people in my life and for those young people to be exposed to abolition and these ideas. To see something like Queenie's Crew all these years later warms my cold little heart.
Kiss: You are the least grinchy person to ever use that phrase.
Damon: Zara's love and effervescence was an embodiment of what excites me about this project. We talked about a little bit of, I'm very fascinated in consciousness that is nurtured or inherited as opposed to having to be found or having to be worked through. To have this understanding of care and of abolition before you can even really conceive of the capital-esque state. As your understanding of self and identity is forming to be already equipped with notions of liberation and with notions of community that are not available in a lot of our normal space.
It's really just so exciting for me. Because literally it wasn't until having this conversation I realized how much of our whole job in all of the auspices are just unlearning or deprogramming the way in which we've been conditioned by these systems and structures. This being there, I mentioned being a caretaker. I think about my nephew Ari, and if he sees some carceral things happening too much around...and he's four years old. That idea is really exciting of what are we building up as we are creating this collective abolitionist garden.
Kiss: It's a great way to teach counting, honestly. Once you get past 10, you got a little prompt built in there. I think to your point, Damon, it actually can serve as a tool for young people, not just in relation to the state, but in relation to the conflicts and contradictions in their lives as kids. We actually got to hear this audio of one of the Queenie's Crew participants sharing what they had collected in a Zine that they wrote.
In that, we're going to play a little clip, you can hear an access to language around what they're feeling that I think would be helpful for so many young people, including I would've loved to have had that as a kid. Much of childhood is feeling so strongly and not knowing how to name what you're feeling. By childhood, I mean adulthood as well. I think there's just a lot that they can give to that. Let's just play that clip so you can hear what I'm talking about.
Aracelli: All right, so this is mine. This right here is my mom cooking and this is me. Then I was like, I'm going to clean my room, but I want to draw something fresh because it's going to be a lot of work. Then she comes in my room and she's all mad because I'm just drawing and I hear her yell and I'm like, "Oh, no." I wa slike, "I feel overwhelmed." I decided to draw to calm down but I didn't communicate to you.
Kiss: When we talk about policing lives in our hearts and minds, this is a potential point of intervention to keep that from happening in this next generation of young people. I think that's really valiant and important work.
Damon: That's such a good point, Daniel. I mean, if anybody's really been listening to wanting me in the ERGO channels, and for me. I've been almost obsessing over the ways in which folks show up to spaces. How do we create more containers or more solutions or have more practices to hold all the fractured ways we poke each other and a lot of that poking as we have this conversation, I realize it's from this internal policing and this internal punishment that we grew up with.
How exciting it is for the gatherings and the circles and the containers of 15 years from now of the Queenie Crew ecosystem that can meet with each other that have that now have this fuller language to access their whole humanity.
Kiss: Zara mentioned this isn't a training ground for the next generation of organizers, but if that's an unintended consequence-we could use that.
Damon: That's not all it's for.
Eva: It's more. I think that's what's so fascinating and so beautiful to me about these projects that are popping up around abolition and young people. Is that this is equipping young people to have conversations with each other, to support each other, to be in struggle together. Because so many young people in our lives are feeling the brunt of state violence or feeling the brunt of family separation and are feeling the interjection of the PIC into their own lives. For them to be able to understand each other and support each other in that is a beautiful thing.
I think also as Zara and Mariam talk about, this is a great way to activate other adults. It doesn't have to be my friends with kids even. This is a beautiful story and a thing to expose folks to, and I think in a great entryway into conversation. It's something that Mariame has talked a lot about before. She's made a list of books to recommend reading for caregivers that has books for small people, books for big people. It's something that we're referencing in the Zine that we'll put out today too.
Kiss: Eva, you mentioned young people bearing the brunt of this violence and we talk about that a little bit in the conversation. The way that young people that are questioning systems of power and the binaries that maintain them are really facing constant attack. There are so many ways that we need to be committed to protecting and listening to and building and coalition with young people, especially young trans people. I think spaces like Queenie's Crew are an important part of that process.
Eva: Absolutely. One of the things you hear all the time is like, what can I do? This is just such a crystal clear example of what can be done, is center young people. Whether that's if you are interested in abolition or more just futures, can you articulate your understanding of that in a way that is catered to young people? Can you see this model of Queenie's Crew, we talked about this notion of sunsetting. The practices, programs, and models that they built does not have to stop because this container of folks have to do other work.
The book is still going to be there, they're going to be young people as long as there are people. This is something that folks can continue on and have their own version of practice with. This is a very accessible experiment for those who are trying to get in the game.
Kiss: Yes. Read for yourself and read to some kids. I love that as a takeaway. That is a way to get active. As we've been covering this landscape at the intersection of youth, justice, and abolition is there any other calls to action we want to put out there? Anything else we want to name?
Eva: Oh, man, you really set me up because I want to mention this bumper sticker. It's Defund Paw Patrol. I think no one on this call has seen Paw Patrol, but we know it needs to be defunded. A call to action is share your stories and if those stories can possibly be made into an animated child's television show that's not a police procedural, we thank you now in advance.
Speaker 1: Paw Patrol is...
Kiss: Eva, is there anything else about See you Soon and Queenie's Crew that we want to make sure we talk about?
Eva: I think it's important to mention too that Mariame Kaba and Bianca Diaz dedicated this book to Keele Schenwar, a comrade and PIC abolition and caregiving and love and struggle. I would encourage folks to learn more by going to the Keeley Schenwar memorial essay prize. We'll link that in the show notes today. If you enjoyed See you Soon,
if you're getting a lot from Queenie's Crew, that's a great place to show your love.
I think too this is a book based on experience. This is a book based on loving relationship with people. Not only can you share, See you Soon with your circles and friends, but we can share our own stories. We can encourage our children to share their stories by creating safe spaces, safe crews, and we can share each other's stories. I think it's so important. I'm so grateful for Mariame and Bianca for bringing this story into our lives. Just look at what can happen all over the country, all over the world by sharing your stories.
Damon: We honor Keeley's spirit and legacy and we are sending so much love to the entire Schenwa family.
Kiss: All right, I think that just about wraps up this experiment. Eva, where can folks find all of the work of One Million Experiments?
Eva: All of the work of One Million Experiments can be found at millionexperiments.com and on Instagram at millionexperiments, too. You can also check out interrupting criminalization at interrupting criminalization com.
Kiss: Make sure you subscribe to One Million Experiments wherever you get your podcast. You can also check out Airgo's other work at ergoradio.com or AIRGO wherever you get the rest of your podcast. With that, I think that'll do it. We will see you back in the lab next month.
Damon: Much love to the people.