“#LetUsBreathe moves beyond the common activist jargon of “safe space” and instead seeks to achieve brave space, because we believe that the notion of total safety in any space is harmful and illusory. There is no space in the real world where harm can be prevented 100 percent of the time, and while we can collectively struggle for physical and emotional safety, the revolution lives in handling conflicts, even and perhaps especially violent conflicts, lovingly and bravely.” — Kristiana Rae Colón

A Celebration of #LetUsBreathe’s Brave Space Agreements || Seeding Abolition as Pedagogy into the Educator’s Vocabulary.

One teacher’s definition of abolition as pedagogical praxis, blending sources from Dylan Rodriguez, Christina Sharpe, and the #LetUsBreathe Collective.

Abolition as pedagogical praxis consists of rigorous experimentation and creative pedagogical radicalism that serves to rupture structural silences that produce and facilitate premature social and physical death, while further remaining committed to evolution past harmful systems and toward collective healing.

That’s tough language. I get it. Make it easier. Just begin with the Brave Space agreements.


I wanted to bring this together because it bothers me that I fail to see generative dialogue in these web-based education circles of abolition what it might mean for everyday educational practice. I totally understand the demands that an abolitionist mindset requires of us is difficult. Nobody said the road would be easy.

First, I admit I’m much more the reader than I am an essayist. I’m not attempting to remake the world here in a post. And I kind of don’t enjoy being too “clear”. I’m more interested in a response. Reading these ideas together gives me all I seek. See this as an attempt to bring these disparately drawn, yet very interconnected ideas into a form to read across, to give us an opportunity to reflect on them, and the set of questions they bring forth. I take no credit in founding or discovery; I come to them as a fan, a loving inheritor. My intention is to invite educators to ask ourselves what it means to reach toward abolition in our everyday educational pratice. Three sources weave together to form the foundation, with an added spice from Ruth Wilson Gilmore (see her definition of racism in the term “premature death”). I don’t see this being an intro 101 opportunity of abolition nor the history of abolitionist social movements, nor needing to enumerate how we are affected by (or act as reproducers of) systemic violence. There’s other spaces for that. Other things you can easily Google search. Just me trying to bring together where I’ve been finding important breakthroughs and attempting to spread them among peers.

“…rigorous experimentation and creative pedagogical radicalism is the very soul of this praxis.”

The first source comes from Dylan Rodriguez, out of a less recent Radical Teacher issue, where he writes toward “Abolition as Pedagogical Position”. Excerpts, and I should add I ordered these myself:

As teachers, we are institutionally hailed to the service of genocide management, in which our pedagogical labor is variously engaged in mitigating, valorizing, critiquing, redeeming, justifying, lamenting, and otherwise reproducing or tolerating the profound and systemic violence of the global-historical U.S. nation building project…
While I do not expect to arrive at a wholly satisfactory pedagogical endpoint anytime soon, and am therefore hesitant to offer prescriptive examples of “how to teach” within an abolitionist framework, I also believe that rigorous experimentation and creative pedagogical radicalism is the very soul of this praxis. There is, in the end, no teaching formula or pedagogical system that finally fulfills the abolitionist social vision, there is only a political desire that understands the immediacy of struggling for human liberation from precisely those forms of systemic violence and institutionalized dehumanization that are most culturally and politically sanctioned, valorized, and taken for granted within one’s own pedagogical moment.

“…inhabiting a blackened consciousness that would rupture the structural silences produced and facilitated by, and that produce and facilitate, Black social and physical death.”

Secondly, I bring forth a couple excerpts from Christina Sharpe, whose recent In The Wake: On Blackness and Being, I consider a 2017 must-read.

We must become undisciplined. The work we do requires new modes and methods of research and teaching; new ways of entering and leaving the archives of slavery, of undoing the “racial calculus and . . . political arithmetic that were entrenched centuries ago” (Hartman 2008, 6) and that live into the present.
…I’m interested in ways of seeing and imagining responses to terror in the varied and various ways that our Black lives are lived under occupation; ways that attest to the modalities of Black life lived in, as, under, and despite Black death. And I want to think about what this imagining calls forth, to think through what it calls on “us” to do, think, feel in the wake of slavery — which is to say in an ongoing present of subjection and resistance; which is to say wake work, wake theory.
At stake, then is to stay in this wake time toward inhabiting a blackened consciousness that would rupture the structural silences produced and facilitated by, and that produce and facilitate, Black social and physical death.

“We come to the work with a deep will to be personally transformed and the courage to face down whatever violence, danger, or harm we encounter or create along the way.”

Lastly, honoring the radical organizing work of the #LetUsBreathe Collective out of Chicago and their efforts towards the creation and sustenance of a liberated zone at Freedom Square. Elaborated by Kristiana Rae Colón, she writes:

Liberation is not some distant utopian goalpost where a journey of political struggle concludes. Liberation is the constant healing from and evolution past harmful systems, and more urgently, the daily injuries we inflict on each other.
Freedom Square is overwhelmingly beautiful in its aspirational politics, but it is not perfect. It’s messy, it’s tiring, and in waves of oppressive heat, it takes a lot of self-awareness and patience to keep moment-to-moment frustrations in check… We don’t have it all figured out, but with each passing day of the occupation, our hearts evolve as dramatically as our infrastructure. We come to the work with a deep will to be personally transformed and the courage to face down whatever violence, danger, or harm we encounter or create along the way.
Freedom Square is not only a protest occupation, a pop-up neighborhood engagement center and a laboratory for nation-building; it’s where abolitionist politics are tested and applied every moment of every day. We stumble and sometimes hurt each other on our journey toward braver relationships and visions of liberation. We stay committed to healing together. We don’t call the police.

That’s it, y’all. Tweet me about the rest.