‘Beware of the Dandelions’
Special to the Michigan Citizen
Several years ago, Grace Lee Boggs gave a speech highlighting the innovative small-scale models of social justice and community building that are emerging in Detroit and other communities.
“These efforts,” she said, “are on a small scale. But as Margaret Wheatley points out in ‘Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World:’
‘In this exquisitely connected world, it’s never a question of critical mass. It’s always about critical connections.’”
Boggs went on to describe how critical connections bring about a quantum leap (or paradigm shift) for social justice movements, providing an opportunity for us to move away from relying solely on Newtonian or quantitative approaches to organizing, such as mass rallies and unified slogans.
Her words sparked a deep curiosity in me to research complex science in relationship to Detroit’s community-led social justice movements.
I was inspired to form Complex Movements, a Detroit-based artist collective composed of graphic designer/fine artist Wesley Taylor, music producer/filmmaker Waajeed, creative technologist Carlos (L05) Garcia and myself, Invincible.
As a collective of artists and community organizers, Complex Movements started conversations across the city and country with other artists and activists that were envisioning new ways for bringing about change.
“Beware of the Dandelions” grew out of these conversations. Through interactive hip-hop performance, video projection, creative technologies and architecture, this project aims to provoke participants to investigate a new theory of change for our world.
“Beware of the Dandelions” is an original post-apocalyptic, urban farming sci-fi parable that takes place in a dystopian future. The plot unfolds in and around an industrial-scale apple orchard dubbed a Planetation, a teeming mass of warehouses and impoverished slums crowded around a climate-controlled, militarily-guarded dome.
Inside the dome are the orchards, where townspeople are forced to work for their daily water rations, killing dandelions and harvesting “Life Extension Apples.”
The parable tracks the plight of the community as they struggle to break the oppressive hold of the orchard and create change and new societies.
In the end, participants are left with more questions than answers and more challenges than solutions. However, we hope that by experiencing this story and relating the ideas in it to their own real-world experiences, participants will leave with a deeper understanding of the principles and values that can help them along their own complex journeys of growth and discovery.
The performance engages the participants partly through the use of emblems that symbolize the connections between complex science and social justice theories of change.
For example, the wave particle duality emblem represents uncertainty, reflection and non-prescriptiveness. This is especially important because it moves us away from the dogmas and false binaries that often plague movements.
In a recent conversation with Boggs, she emphasized something I’ve never heard her say before: “We need to connect visionary work with resistance work; one is not possible without the other. Both are essential parts of a more holistic movement for change.”
Another quote from Boggs that has inspired me over the years: “Creativity is the key to unlock human liberation.”
I hope the creativity that has gone into “Beware of the Dandelions” will open up conversations that will support our community in embracing the complexity that our movements require to create holistic transformative change.
The work in progress of “Beware of the Dandelions” is showing June 14 to July 14 at Detroit’s Charles H. Wright Museum for African American History.
Visit www.complex movements.com for more information or www.RSVP.complex movements.com to RSVP.