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Admiring Ease with Amanda Alexander

Amanda Alexander is the founding Executive Director of the Detroit Justice Center. How Black women have built movements and cultivated joy by Amanda Alexander


ZAK: Welcome back to my week-long series of advice with Amanda Alexander.

AMANDA: The founding Executive Director of the Detroit Justice Center. We're lawyers support people's movements here in the city and who are fighting for a world without jails and prisons.

ZAK: Earlier this year, Amanda wrote a letter to her young niece, Fiona. She wrote it in response to a question Fiona's mom posed to Amanda. How do you stay focused on Black joy and liberation? And how can I raise my child with that sense of possibility? Amanda thought a lot about those questions and came up with this beautiful letter, full of advice that was recently published in The Boston Globe. All week, I'm digging into that letter with Amanda and today we're gonna talk about one piece of advice which I find so vital. The advice is, admire ease, not just struggle.

AMANDA: I try to admire our great movement builders not just for these moments of confrontation that are seared into our collective memory, but also for their ease. There's this photo that surfaced in the last few years of Rosa Parks doing yoga and there's the documentary of Toni Morrison that came out a couple years ago and there are just these images of her sitting by the water on the dock by her house. I loved learning in that documentary that Toni Morrison loves a good party and loves to dance. And there's a reason that that photo of James Baldwin and the Freedom Rider, Doris Jean Castle, the photo of them dancing together feels so good and it's because they're delighting in each other's freedom and their own. And so I think it's important to see and celebrate and create these moments of delight. To delight in each other's freedom and not just honor the struggle.

ZAK: And I think it also helps to remind that we're all these three-dimensional people and we're not one thing. Like, Rosa Parks isn't just responsible for having catalyzed the Montgomery Bus Boycott, she's also, like, a lady that likes Yoga! You know, we're all these things at once.

AMANDA: Yes. Yeah. Yes we are fighting for freedom in a very different world but right now we need to delight in each other's freedom. We need to dance. We need to make music. We need to stretch our bodies. Whatever it takes to feel free with each other.

ZAK: Yeah. I just googled this photo of Rosa Parks practicing yoga.

AMANDA: Right. There are several. I think they're in the Library of Congress.

ZAK: She looks so cool, too. Like, cool and calm in that moment.

AMANDA: Yes. Yes.

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