I am a 4th generation Philadelphia native, a writer, dreamer, and abolitionist, working to engage in a co-production of knowledge, space, and resources in order to cultivate thriving, resilient communities. As far away as Toronto, Phoenix, and Austin, I have felt the gravitational pull calling me back to do my life’s work Philly: a city built on lands dispossessed, enclosed by racist red lines and arbitrary zones, and yet pulsing with revolutionary spirit.

As a kid in the 80s, I grew up on bad cartoons with amazing theme songs, catchy commercial jingles, spelling bees, 8 bit video games, Transformers, and ALF. In my teen years I embodied a slew of contradictions: simultaneously a geek, an athlete, a bully, and a stalwart defender of anyone I saw being treated unfairly or with cruelty, solving or escalating conflicts with my words and my fists in equal measure.

In spite of my ADHD — or Hunter’s Mind as I prefer to call it — undiagnosed for most of my life, I was always “good at school”: enough to take college courses when I was 14, to skip ahead in math a couple of years, and require a private tutor. All this despite the deep undercurrent of white supremacy embedded in US education and broader social relations, and manifest most prominently in my frequent clashes with authority (a rebel orientation which continues to characterize my engagements with the state today). But it was the very fact I excelled by most scholastic metrics that buffered and masked both my disability and the impacts of racism, effectively stunting my personal growth and the development of my political consciousness.

It was in the 90s that I first began to retreat from social life, seeking solace in video games, sci-fi novels, roleplaying chat rooms, and other media, which for their relative unpopularity among my Black peers, reinforced feelings of alienation in a feedback loop. This disconnect was no doubt exacerbated by the fact that none of us saw our likenesses reflected in these fantasy worlds, which privileged blonde hair, blue eyes, pale skin, and pointy ears. So it took me some time to realize how, far from being mere “white people shit”, the digital stories of scrappy underdogs rising to challenge Power and unassuming warriors pushing back against the incomprehensible weight of history, resonated with the continuity of Black resilience and resistance against domination.

Games, books, comics — stories of all kinds — along with the writing they inspired, became my primary means of escape from a material world in which I felt utterly powerless. Video games were particularly important because of their interactivity, which instilled the sense that, although I was bound by the limits of their coding and the imaginations of their creators, I could have agency — even power — to shape my own destiny. A sense which translated into a mandate in a material world bound by exploitative and extractive economic and political systems.

One particular game — Suikoden II — had an impact that reverberates to this day. It even influenced my long term aspirations: to live in a multi-generational self-determined community oriented against domination — which I now understand as the very world system structured by capitalist modes of production and exchange. After all, Suikoden games featured solidarity economies built on deep relationships, commoning, and most often pit the protagonists against empire.

And then there was the Tenkai Star, the series’ recurring archetype: the Outlaw, the Fool, the Trickster taking up residence in the collective consciousness and resonating across cultures.1 He was never the strongest, the most magically inclined, or the best tactician, but rather someone who could bring those people together, along with the cooks, cleaners, soldiers, farmers, librarians, blacksmiths, musicians, and many more besides, not just for what they could contribute to the cause, but in a spirit of compassion and recognition of their inherent value. Literal base building, as they restored an abandoned castle, found common ground across lines of nationality and race, and honed their revolutionary strategy.

Coming into adulthood in the early 2000s saw me zigzag and careen off course countless times and with almost predictable regularity. It would be two more decades before I discovered the role that neurodivergence played in disrupting my ability to stick to anything, and pushing me to act on my passions in any given moment, regardless of the consequences. After my singular career aspiration to be a video game designer fizzled out in my mid-20s, I spun rudderless into the unknown. Not coincidentally, I started taking a more active interest in the real world again. In college, sociology and political science gave me the vocabulary to articulate problems I had merely intuited, and to start explicitly identifying them as targets for intervention. After five schools, and many more majors, I graduated with a degree in Religion, a last minute off-ramp which had no practical application, but enough fascinating stories to hold my attention so I could cross the finish line.

I spent years as an informal educator, tutoring, coaching, and mentoring, but it was in the 2010s that I fully embraced and institutionalized my role, as a middle and high school science teacher. I became committed to various conceptions of “education for liberation”, which almost always positioned me against administrators, state standards, and the whole logic of the institution.

After ten years of struggle, resistance, and moving from school to school, my lived experience and the theoretical frameworks I developed during my Master’s research converged in a newly minted identity as a school abolitionist. I came to realize that schools weren’t these hallowed institutions fallen into decay and in need of reform. They were working as designed: to reproduce the existing relations of domination in the broader society. While schools were my entry point into abolitionist theory and practice, my lens has expanded to prisons, labor, race, gender, the nuclear family, and all the way to the borders of the nation-state. I have come to understand abolition as the breaching of enclosure: to liberate bodies, cultures, knowledges, resources, and energies, across space and time, along collectively self-determined pathways.

Toward the end of my tenure as a teacher, I facilitated a transdisciplinary participatory action research (PAR) project with students, to examine the local impacts of climate change, and their connections to the more immediate issues young people in my own classroom were facing, like gun violence, food and housing insecurity, carceral control. Our research eventually culminated in a plan to create a community orchard and garden behind the school, just as the COVID-19 pandemic canceled all physical engagements and reduced the usual bureaucratic quagmire to an absolute standstill.

While under better circumstances the project had the potential to be materially impactful, the power dynamics of the school, codified in our respective positions as teacher and students, meant there was an inherent coercion to the whole process. Since that time I have continued to embrace and advocate for participatory methods and the collective construction of knowledge. Yet at the same time, I’ve contemplated, written, and labored extensively to understand and hold the contradictions within “participation”, while seeking to create frameworks for education and organizing.

Living, learning, resisting, thriving.

Neurodivergence has proven to be both an asset and a challenge in all of the spaces I inhabit. I struggle to fit grand visions within the narrow confines of the Academy, regularly unsettle the incrementalist sensibilities of the City, and have a tendency to overwhelm organizing comrades with the sheer speed, volume —and sometimes force — of my contributions. Yet my ability to navigate, connect, and synthesize various knowledges, across disciplines and contexts, has proven valuable in seeking and cultivating emergent possibilities.

These days my most important job is raising a beautiful child and building a resilient homestead for my family in the same spirit of autonomy and self-determination that infuses all of my work. In my spare time I’m a Geography PhD student, where my research concerns resilience at the block scale: bringing food, water, energy, and housing into the commons and under community control.

At the same time, I sit on multiple advisory boards, consult on various projects, and work in solidarity with multiple Philly organizations at intersections of land, food, and environmental justice, balancing attempts to extract concessions from the state, with a fierce commitment to abolishing all systems of domination: today, tomorrow, and forever.

For most of my life I’ve been trying to collapse two worlds into one: an unconscious attempt at reconciliation between the freedom dreams held deeply in my soul, and an embodied reality structured by imperial-capitalist relations. So I write, organize, design, and build, to exert a creative force upon the world, an equal and opposite reaction against domination, and to escape the gravity of the status quo. Ever the idealist, I gaze toward the singularity, where imagination and collective determination converge to create the reality we all deserve.

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