Love As Revolution

What first moved you to think about or explore revolutionary love as a concept?

Jessica: The impetus for my fascination with the idea- and experiments in the practice- of revolutionary love was actually my mother. As a teenager she would say to me “to love is to free, to love someone is to free them”. She has a politics shaped by Marxist, feminist, anti-apartheid and decolonial thinking and by the particular experiences of her own early life in rural Uganda. She wrote recently:

my commitment to feminist values grows out of my genuine love and respect for the woman who raised me and protected me as a child. As an adult that founding love and respect has progressively been translated into a renewed commitment to women and politics in general [1].

I have to admit that tears rolled down my face reading this as I realised that in a way my own embrace of revolutionary love is part of this inheritance, part of a legacy of crafting a love that serves the interests of freedom. So revolutionary love to me is a concept very much rooted in left/redistributive post-colonial politics, in feminisms and, most potently, in motherlove.

How does that play out in your own life and worlds of activism, relationships, ways we relate in society? Lives?

Amina: The idea of revolutionary love as ‘unbound,’ ‘freeing,’ as a political act and as full of endless possibility has undoubtedly transformed the way I relate to others and to myself. It has taught me to think differently about self-care and my own sustainability, the ways that we look after each other as sisters, brothers, friends, comrades, family. It has also helped me re-configure my understanding of what it means to be in partnership WITH and how to share intimacy in ways that honour my beloved ones.

Let me begin with this idea of self-care. Audre Lorde called it self-preservation, “an act of political warfare”, Toni Cade Bambara called it out when she said: “If your house ain’t in order, you ain’t in order,” Ntozake Shange reminded us that “to take pleasure in ourselves is subversive.” One of the things I have learned is that self-care is the key to my survival and that if I truly ‘loved’ myself (in a way that is revolutionary), then I would make room for whatever it is that I need to survive. In my life, that has meant creating an environment that allows me to be creative, healthy and strong. It has meant embracing all the parts of myself – the good and the not-so-good, the ferocious and the peaceful, my fire and my water energies. My self-care is by all means a process and every moment of every day I do the revolutionary work of asking myself: “what do I need to feel safe, secure and honest about who I am?”

In terms of my relationships, I have learned to hold people with care and with intention. To hold them close to my heart center and to truly do the work required to love them….because love is work! It’s not just some airy-fairy feel-goodness (even though it does and should feel good)…but it is hard work! Reconceptualizing love in this way has meant challenging myself to spend the time required to come to an understanding for myself of what it means to love and to love deeply. It has taught me to recognise that my physical and emotional health and wellness is linked to that of my community and that to love myself is to commit myself to supporting the healing and well-being of those around me….to step into what brother Darnell Moore has described as “acting in deep participation with each other”.

It has also helped me to shift the ways in which I view intimacy. For me, love as manifested through intimacy should be about possibility, it should seek to push open, and break free in the most pleasurable sense. We must be careful though, because love is also in many ways about power and we must also seek to deconstruct and unlearn some dangerous discourses lest we find ourselves replicating the very ideologies and systems we are seeking to dismantle.

Why are concepts of revolutionary love important?

Jessica: Politics is emotional. Economics is emotional. Exclusion is emotional. Activism is emotional. Psychic autonomy is emotional. Liberation is emotional. In evoking, exploring and living a politics of revolutionary love we are acknowledging that our work is not just about challenging the structural architecture of injustice but in shifting how we feel.

I think we also need in our activist work to constantly feed the positive, to instigate joy and to create resources of inspiration that can nourish our work for inclusive, just and non-violent societies. Love is that resource. I walk alongside you because I care about your happiness, I want your freedom because your freedom is also my freedom.

I agree whole-heartedly with you Amina that self-love is an important part of this. As a luminary feminist mentor-friend of mine Hope Chigudu says “do we really think we can transform the world if our own bodies and spirits are broken”?

What moves you in the ways that people have explored revolutionary love in this Issue?

Amina: There are so many beautiful love stories in this issue. What a pleasure it was to read all the submissions! I think what has touched me the most is being able to reflect on the many ways people are envisioning love that is trangressive, bold and imaginative. I hope folks reading this issue enjoy it as much as we have!

[1] Caroline Bazarrabusa Horn in Voice Power and Soul II: Portraits of African Feminists. Accra: AWDF, 2012