Going For Broke

“Let’s begin by saying that we are living through a very dangerous time.  Everyone in this room is in one way or another aware of that.  We are in a revolutionary situation, no matter how unpopular that word has become in this country…To any citizen of this country who figures himself as responsible – and particularly those of you who deal with the minds and hearts of young people – must be prepared to “go for broke.”  Or to put it another way, you must understand that in the attempt to correct so many generations of bad faith and cruelty, when it is operating not only in the classroom but in society, you will meet the most fantastic, the most brutal, and the most determined resistance.  There is no point in pretending that this won’t happen.” – James Baldwin, 1963

The first time I heard this quote from James Baldwin, I felt it deep in my chest, somewhere between my heart and stomach. Reflecting on this feeling I realize that it was a combination of pure resonance, passion, and unease. In a world where we are taught to please, knowing that many of the things I have and will do will make others upset, and put myself at risk, is ultimately how I know I’m doing something right. This, to me – the unquestioning devotion to collective wellbeing despite risk – is what it really means to “go for broke”. 

So many people before us have spent their lives going for broke. From Marsha P. Johnson and Angela Davis to Sojourner Truth and Audre Lorde, not to mention the hundreds of unnamed devotees, many dedicated people have put their lives on the line (and faced the very real consequences) when it comes to abolitionism and liberation. So, when we talk about being a co-conspirator, that means much more than supporting these movements, but also being willing to put ourselves at risk for the sake of these movements’ progress. 

The element of risk is important to co-conspiracy because it means that one’s beliefs transcend the systems and structures in place that benefit them. They are willing to sacrifice those benefits in order to support the people who these systems harm. If someone is unwilling to give up the things that benefit them for the sake of collective growth and repair, then they are ultimately still concerned with self interest. Interests that benefit one and not all are what perpetuate white supremacy and capitalism, and impede any sense of mutual accountability. As such, it is my belief that feeling like you’re risking something when doing abolitionist work, means that you not only have a stake in it, but that you’re doing something right. That’s not to say that abolitionist work is all about doing “right” or “wrong”, but it does mean that this work is that which benefits everyone, together, in order to achieve freedom from the legacy of violence and racism in this country.

With this, I would like to directly reference our excellent co-conspirator checklist.  In order to consistently support abolitionist restorative justice work, we all must implement the facets of this checklist into our daily lives and understand that co-conspiracy is not a single act, but a livelihood, a continued state of being, and ultimately, a willingness to risk it all to “go for broke”. 

Here are some ways to get involved with TAN and go for broke:

Media watch

Letter writing campaign

Tan orientation 

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Transformative Action Network

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