Essay on The Girl

Unshakeable Belonging:
Mutual Aid, Movement Ancestors, and Illuminating a Path Forward

by Becka Tilsen

Being Meridel LeSueur’s great-granddaughter is strange.

I’m not going to tell a “to me, she was just Nana” story about Meridel. I don’t have one. She was not like most people. Even inside of our family, which was large and loud and scrappy and eclectic and justice-seeking, she was not like anybody else. I remember making that assessment very early.

This wasn’t because others revered her. Don’t get me wrong, that was also strange: fame distorts the light around people. I went to huge events in her honor. In high school, I worked at a building named after her. I saw her likeness depicted in gigantic puppets more than once. And perhaps most significantly, in a world that usually renders older women invisible and elder women obsolete, I had a great-grandmother who, wheelchair bound, was passionately cherished and celebrated for writing visionary, raw, sensual poetry and prose about poverty, and organizing, and corn, and hunger, and Indigenous sovereignty, and state violence, and wheat fields. Even then I knew her offering was unique and complex.

I remember my first recognition that Meridel was different. I was very young, younger than convention says we remember things. I toddled down to her apartment in the basement of my grandparents’ house, and when I rounded the corner, she was sitting in her living room working on something and watching Sesame Street. I recall noting that, without a doubt, regular grown-ups did not watch this show of their own accord. Meridel welcomed me in to join her and I fell asleep on the couch, lying side-by-side next to her. My parents were baffled as to how I got down there on my own. For me, that memory is wrapped in the warmest light.

That was probably the closest I ever felt to Meridel. I was extremely fortunate to have regular access to her until I was twenty years old. As a kid, I tried to connect with her. It wasn’t always easy. Meridel liked to tell stories I didn’t understand, and she wasn’t very interested in asking questions—at least not of me. I don’t hold it against her. I suspect great-grandparents might have naturally different dispositions towards grandchildren than grandparents do even when they aren’t prolific artists. It seems like the baby fever that gives grandparents cartoon spirals in their eyes might fade by the time grandbabies make babies. With only my life as a representative sample, I wonder if being a great-grandmother is less of a hands-on endeavor and more of a spectator sport.

Meridel was a sensual person. She lived her life inside her skin and wrote from that power center. For nearly a century, she moved through life with an artist’s rhythm. She was unapologetically herself, both intellectually and creatively. She was funny. She was rebellious even in her intimate relationships. She defied her daughter by smoking pot in their shared house. She neglected to glue in her dentures, so they smacked about when she spoke. Technically married, she raised her daughters as a single mother—relegating her baby-daddy to less than a footnote. I didn’t learn his name until recently. It wasn’t a secret: it was inconsequential. Although she was a fan of science, saying that good science or good math was like good poetry, she resisted the doctor’s advice even as she crested into her 80s. She lived for 96 years—longer than anyone else in her family line.

Her strangeness made me more compelled to spend time with her. I tried to soak up what she had to offer, knowing that time was precious and fleeting. But also, I was just a kid, and I had an exalted great-grandmother who wrote poetry that included the words “curve of buttock.” That was a lot to wrap my head around.

Even as connection with Meridel seemed elusive, I loved the feeling of the skin on her hands—stretched thin and taught over her bones, with raised veins and pocked with age spots. There was something smooth about her presence, a breeze about her—like she glided through space—unobstructed by the drags and hitches attached to most people. I loved her voice, like no other, full of ease, cozy and pregnant with knowledge and always, in my memory, with a hint of laughter—like everything had a bend of humor to it. Somehow I felt that her offerings to me were postdated. And I was right. In many ways, here in my fifth decade of life, I feel I am just starting to understand who she was and what she was up to inside all the prose, poetry, history, and novels. Like this one, The Girl.

An exquisite time machine, Meridel transports us with a deftness. She knows this place. She penned this novel in 1939. Meridel recounted once: “I never saw a car until I was 16, knew only horses. There was no running water. No hospitals in the villages.” Authenticity cradles every page, the transit back in time takes effort, at least for me—a shedding of my world and a softening to listen to another I can’t fully understand.

The Girl landed in me like a piece of performance art. I think she meant it to be that way. Meridel, the boldest person I have ever met, writes with relentless realness a character so meek that it was painful for me to keep reading. And Meridel won’t let us turn away. I sat reading, body contorting, teeth clenched. Bracing. I didn’t want to follow this girl around. But she won’t relent. She keeps our eyes trained on the girl, commands us to watch as she walks toward the fire.

The girl at the center of the story doesn’t even get a name. As the book opens, her inner knowing is a quiet whisper. In the middle of the book, she hands her authority to her undeserving man. However, the conclusion takes a sharp and welcome turn. She is not saved by her man nor is she damned by him. She is not punished for following him into the fire. The fire frees her of him. The girl loses her love in what feels like an inevitable and bloody drama. A plan plays out that was formed and botched by misguided men, mangled by the demands of male domination, and pressurized by debilitating hunger. The whole thing has a “this is not going to end well” feeling. So when bloodshed comes, it’s not surprising. The fact that one thief kills another drives home the extent to which this plan ran afoul. Meridel’s depiction of these men throughout the novel assures that the reader doesn’t spend time mourning them.

However uncomfortable I was in the first half of the story, the end bubbled over inside me with satisfaction and hope. The complexity and the contrasts of the concluding chapters was striking and instructive. The girl is bullied into participation in the heist but is installed as the driver. The driver seat offers a potent symbol for her emerging agency. The result of the heist is tragic but her journey through it, although heartrending, somehow feels triumphant. The attempt to save Butch is one of the first times that the girl acts with self-direction. She returns changed, her voice transformed. Her thoughts are no longer distorted by question marks. Her actions are new, loud, unruly—but also discerning and intimate. This crucible dislodges something inside her. Unencumbered, she uses this newfound ease to turn towards the rest of the women left in the wake of the heist. She comes back grieving and without the fortune promised, but now in possession of something she never knew she had before: herself.

We are deeply in need of this story right now.

One of the most affecting elements of the novel is the way change is demonstrated in the internal arc we get to witness. The girl’s transformation is profound yet unembellished. It is not sensational, objectifying, or in service to the reader. As she painstakingly gains her footing in the terrain of her own story, the realism deepens our intimacy with the girl and our appreciation for her transformation. And isn’t that how growth is when it is real? Subtle and fractal. An arc of change reproduced on the micro and macro scope. Reflecting on her path calls up to me the study of Post Traumatic Growth, the acknowledgement that some hard experiences, while traumatic, serve to accelerate the survivor’s sense of worth, agency, and resilience.

In my re-read of The Girl I was reminded of the phenomenal novel, Push by Sapphire, that was so formative for me and my political circle when I was coming up and coming out in the 1990s. If you haven’t read Push, go do that now. Reading Push is the experience of witnessing the protagonist’s growth illustrated through her journal writing over the course of the novel. It was exhilarating to find similarities in evocation and form between the two novels written over sixty years apart. Both are gorgeous, first-person novels centering a supposedly discardable, diminished, and disoriented young one who finds her voice and her first shaky steps toward occupying the center of her own story. Both are raw and tragic, offering a human story illustrating how larger systemic oppression and marginalization create conditions for the harm and suffering at the center of the story. Both illuminate how much change is needed with a scope far beyond the life of one protagonist. Both feel breathtaking for their skilled delivery of a conclusion that feels at once realistic and triumphant.

“I came out of that foul old hotel as out of the hole of hell but also the meadows of heaven” (70). Meridel’s writing speaks in the language of contradictions, and none is more illustrative than this sentence summing up the girl’s first sexual encounter. The book lives inside a dichotomy, and reading it stretches one’s capacity to metabolize a complex truth: hope is sidled up against despair. Once the girl has clarity about her world, we are witness to a public eruption of her own rage. I find the polarity here satisfying. She spends most of the novel with an embodiment that is quiet, still, frozen. She is a disempowered observer of her own life. When she finds her voice, she uses it. In one of the book’s most important climaxes, the girl says:

I looked around at all the people at the desks talking to interviewers, and I knew how their knees stuck together, and the palms of their hands were wet and their tongues swelled in their mouths to be telling what you never tell anyone, and all of a sudden I started running screaming. I wanted to get out of there away from all those eyes looking at my stomach. I don’t know what made me do it, but I began to shout, and I never swore in my life before. I couldn’t find my way out and I bumped into desks and two cops took hold of my arms and twisted them behind and dragged me out. (172).

The girl receives swift rebuke from the relief office—violence, sexual assault, incarceration. The story demonstrates not only the way a charity office can and will use state violence, but the way in which the charity office and the state are mutually reinforcing. We bear witness to the reality of institutionalization as a tool for control. Threats loom: sterilization, shock therapy. Life grinds against death. The stakes rise, and the costs of clarity are laid bare.

Broadening out to look at the oeuvre, we see Meridel’s acute ability to communicate and hold contradiction. She told the truth about colonization, always uplifting Indigenous nations’ fight for sovereignty. Yet she did not demonize settlers, especially the working class and poor people who settled the lands she called home. The Girl is a testament as well as a love letter to the working poor of the Depression-era Midwest. This tender holding of complexity has the potential to offer a healing intervention to our current white anti-racist movement, which tends toward binaries and diminishment even as it is self-conscious not to do so.

It’s not all tender. There was a dynamic between the women that was both familiar and elusive. Reading this novel, what started to emerge for me was a sense of a blueprint for a white Protestant cultural exchange among women. A particular brand of harshness. A management of each other through shame and judgment. A belonging that is conditional upon fidelity to walk a narrow and established yet unexplained path. Moralism. Righteousness. Harshness pointed towards the self most sharply. The familiarity was literal. I saw my family here. Even in her eccentricities and her massive and revolutionary love, I also had the eerie sense of how this hardening was passed in Meridel’s line down to me. It’s a shape in the body. Communicated in the tightened jaw, the tight chest, the narrowed gaze. A defended body learning to withhold. One that says, “I will hold you while you die but I will not hold you while you cry.”

When I pan out, however, again complexity abounds. There is the rigidity. And simultaneously the gentle hand that Meridel, as the storyteller, uses to hold the girl. The girl gets to be flawed and unfinished, still realizing her potential while maintaining the full humanity to live at the center of her own story. At the end of the novel, the women extend care to each other. This felt earned. Hard won. In contrast, Meridel’s care of the girl throughout the story is unconditional. Both the trust we build and the love we extend without condition offer powerful tools for how to weave family and community.

In this time of global pandemic, political polarization, and the rise of neo-fascism walking torch to torch with explicit white nationalism, this story feels thick with relevance and code for surviving what is to come. Meridel whispers to us through these pages that the secret to getting through this next gauntlet alive lies not in heteronormative coupling and mythic romance, but inside our collectives, our chosen families, our networks of community care, with which we can belong and turn to for safety. But only if we build them. As a queer person, I feel deep resonance with affirming a community’s collective competence to forge chosen family—born of necessity but emerging with exponential blessings. As the book concludes, life is not easy, but hope abounds. The girl is surrounded by a collective of women taking care of each other. The story reminds us that, when those most impacted by violence and oppression become the center of their own life-affirming existence, everything changes.

While greed and hubris have us on a global death march, if she were here, Meridel would remind us about all the people fighting to build something different. She was effortlessly hopeful, brimming with trust in “the people.” We are in a time of thriving, vibrant movements that are creative and very much alive. Indigenous movements are leading unapologetically, re-centering Native nations on Turtle Island. The movement for Black Lives, founded and led by Black feminists within a queer politic (Taylor 2017), centers love as a primary force for change while holding rightful expectations of our nation to actually practice its own espoused values. And this force is fundamentally shifting the entire conversation by demanding that we finally face anti-Blackness as a central building block of racism. Immigrant justice movements, led by out, undocumented, and unafraid organizers are saying, “Not one more deportation,” in the face of devastating family separation. Each one of these movements is a branch of the same tree, intersectionally linked, already sharing common cause and alignment: envisioning an end to climate chaos, pursuing a critical shift to just transitions, holding healing as a fundamental aspect of justice, and forwarding prison abolition as both a cultural practice and a vision for systems change.

As activists and organizers turn attention to building more just systems, mutual aid has become a galvanizing force sparking projects in cities all over the world. This concept was coined by philosopher Peter Kropotkin but has been practiced by people across time immemorial. In simplest terms, mutual aid is a project or community practice that collectively meets each other’s needs while working to change the conditions that are creating injustice or suffering.

The Girl illustrates why one of the core principles of mutual aid is that it is distinct from charity (Spade, 2020). The relief worker accuses the girl of “immoral behavior” and in punishment reduces her food assistance. We are witness to a drama. The girl discovers the worker duplicitously pretending to be reading a blank sheet of paper. This exposure explosively codifies her conviction. Her newborn clarity cuts with a clear voice through the sting of the betrayal, “I knew we were enemies,” (169) she says. The emergence of both her anger and her voice are exhilarating signposts of her transformation. The Relief can and does use state violence to enforce control. It’s easy to see the moralism as old-fashioned and unsavory. But most contemporary social services still come with stipulations enforced by social workers that condition receipt on sobriety, lack of criminal convictions, and other compliances. Many social services work explicitly with law enforcement. However skilled, compassionate, and politicized social workers become, the mainstream structures of care are shaped by and embedded in a system that speaks in the language of moralism, respectability, and control (read: violence). While social work can alleviate suffering and offer political education, Meridel reminds us that social work itself is not mutual aid and it is not organizing.

We have a long way to go. The Girl not only offers a historical context for the limitations of the social work or charity model, but it also provides a vibrant example of mutual aid and community care among the women who squat in a warehouse and live collectively.

I’ll never forget that summer as long as I live. That big old warehouse where we all lived, five floors, mostly women and it was cool too, with thick brick walls and high windows where sometimes the sun came through like in a temple. . . .  A guy had run electric wires from the outside to the floor we lived on, the second, so we could have lights and an electric plate when nobody was looking. Sometimes cops came, seeing a light, but we had a system of jiggers, it was called, jiggers the cops are coming. It would start at the bottom and go right up through the building (182).

The passage is a superb example of the tone that permeates the end of the novel—warmth, hope, belonging. In the final pages, Meridel plants the seeds that even more is possible. Characters casually mention the Workers Alliance in increasing frequency. Organizing is brewing.

Reading The Girl re-rooted me in the feminist history that was essential to building our current movements for transformative change. Meridel’s work reminds me that feminism—at times rendered invisible even within our movements—is fundamental to our work, in part, because so much of the violence we are fighting is rooted in patriarchy. An interviewer in 1988 recognizes many themes of Meridel’s work and names them as links between “women and nature and childbearing.” He suggests that “some people think this is ‘reductivist’’’ and asks, “How do you respond?”

Meridel claps back, “Some women call it reductivist or some men call it that?”

The flustered interviewer tries to recover. Meridel goes on to express the idea that men are also hurt by patriarchy. It was powerful to hear her convey this concept as an elemental piece of mutual interest: the idea that those with societal privilege are simultaneously advantaged and dehumanized by oppression and therefore benefit from undoing oppression. This concept seems to be moving slowly from rhetoric and theory to embodiment and practice inside our movements today.

There are many ways I was shaped by Meridel and her legacy. Speaking again in the currency of contradictions, while she was a prolific creator herself, she was not content to be held apart as an anomaly of talent. She modeled an unflinching commitment to my own creative voice. Her assertion was not that I could write because it was “in my blood” or even because I was smart. It was that I could write because I breathed oxygen, because I had thoughts, and I thought them. Trust in artistic expression as an inheritance and entitlement of every person was one of the spiritual anchors she gave me that I carry with me today. It was the core of her politicized art. Stories of encounters with Meridel echo this impression. People describe how she did not hold herself above others even when she was sixty years their senior and greatly revered. In this way, Meridel was an organizer.

Meridel shaped me. But not by herself. A truer and more Meridel way of understanding this is that I was shaped by a collective that Meridel was formed by, and that she, in turn, helped to form and transmit. Meridel learned these principles of living from her mother and her stepfather, a process she chronicles in the biography she wrote about them, Crusaders: The Radical Legacy of Marian and Arthur Le Sueur. In this book, she tells the story of her mother Marian who, with her children, escaped an unsafe marriage, moved North, and became an orator, teacher, and socialist. Marian held courses in “manners,” where she taught (then illegal) birth control. Later, Marian would be the first woman to run for governor of Minnesota. In 1910, she published a book called Plain English, which was used to teach rural working class people to learn to read. Her literacy textbook was simultaneously an unapologetic vehicle to politicize her community. She illustrated her grammar with sentences like “Our success lies in solidarity”; “Workers fight all battles”; “Ignorance bars the path to progress”; and “Hope stirs us to action.”

In Crusaders, Meridel offered some of the scaffolding for how her family culture influenced her. She wrote, “We argued. There was talk from the time anyone’s feet hit the floor in the early morning. All did not agree. No one had to agree. Children spoke at the table also.”

This quote makes me smile. Although Meridel is describing her mother’s house, it reminds me of her daughter, my grandmother’s house. Reading this fills me with a comforting sensation remembering my grandparents’ table and the feeling of adults in the next room passionately discussing something of global magnitude.

Meridel and my grandmother Rachel taught us that amassing wealth was not how we get safe or more free. She taught us that the only things you can count on to get you through is your relationships and your community. She taught us that an apple cut up and shared tastes sweeter. Meridel wrote of Rachel in Crusaders:

My daughter said it never occurred to her that you must ever give up your ideas for economic security. There seemed never to be that choice. Security seemed to be something you had more of by being true to your beliefs. A house was only a house. It was nothing you gave your life to have, or sacrificed an idea to protect; the same with a job.

The values, the commitments, and the knowledge I associate with Meridel were also transmitted or amplified through others. Rachel built our family into a collective that fostered belonging and obligation to each other. I am forever grateful for being wired against the rugged individualism that is both a hallmark and prison of whiteness in this country. My father was raised by two feminist organizers grounded in a commitment to Indigenous liberation and Black liberation. He sought those kitchen-table discussions the way some people attend church or shul. My mother composed rich and textured songs that gave breadth and sound to these lessons. I was raised in a collective house with two additional adults, chosen family. One of them, Gayla Ellis, ran a publishing company with Meridel, Rachel, and others. This small press is still active. In fact, it’s publishing this book. Gayla knows as much about Meridel as any of my blood family. Nearly every person I was raised by and around was shaped, in part, by Meridel and the community that came from her.

Despite the fact that I grew up surrounded and shaped by her work, Meridel still manages to surprise me twenty-six years after her death. Around this time last year, I got a surprising phone call from a beloved theater in our community called In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre (HOBT). For over forty-five years, HOBT organized a May Day Parade and Festival that drew tens of thousands of people each year. Inside the two years of pandemic, the theater was going through massive changes and closing its physical locations. Sandy Spieler, one of the theater’s founders, was re-homing beloved puppets. She wanted to see if I could take two gigantic puppets of Meridel on behalf of our family.

It is a hot August and I’m carrying my toddler in my arms as I follow a bright, warm, elder artist into a storage facility. Gigantic steel doors open; color and shape explode out of the doorframe. Massive faces. Gorgeous: clay, paper mȃché, paint. Paper. Cloth. Curved cheekbones, galloping horses. Lanterns as tall as me, made to look like sculpted earth. Rows and rows of nearly half a century of puppet magic lay there, communing with each other, waiting to be reanimated by celebration or protest. All ritual. This does not feel like a storage facility. It feels like a sanctuary.

We walk the length of the space that is as big as a tennis court, touching the round heads of horses, foxes, suns, water spirits. My child is excited to see giant puppets of babies and squeals, saying one of her favorite words, “Breasts!”

Sandy is walking us through the rows of puppets, stopping to point out a puppet that is directly inspired by one of Meridel’s poems. I know that Sandy is a big fan of my great-grandmother, and May Day was always touted as the second most important holiday in my family after a justice themed Passover seder. And I did not know this: multiple works by Meridel had inspired the theater’s art over the five decades.

There are four elemental puppets, they just call them The Big Ones. They come out every year and are treated with great ceremony. When I see them, two stories tall, I feel like a fan girl and also like I am in the presence of an open Torah. Reverence. I find out that these gigantic elder puppets—Prairie, Forest, Sky, River, beloved backbones of May Day—are also rooted in Meridel’s poem “Let the Bird of the Earth, Fly!” I am awestruck by this. We walk a few more feet, and Sandy mentions casually, “That’s a tiger sun blowing a bugle from ‘Table Table’ based on Meridel’s poem ‘The Origins of Corn.’”

“Oh,” I say mostly to myself. Something is happening inside me. May Day, a community institution, a major holiday in my family, an annual reunion where I see everyone I ever knew growing up, a magnificent explosion of art and political vision that is a beloved piece of my rhythm for moving from winter to spring, was in part, gifted to me by Meridel. And I never knew. Strange.

We turn the corner, and I recognize her immediately. Hanging from the top of an eight-foot shelf is a large head of my great-grandmother. Sandy guffaws with satisfaction that I picked her out of a line-up. And there, I have the unique fortune to introduce my daughter to her ancestor, her great-great-grandmother, who is literally larger than life. Meridel’s curved cheekbones are massive, sculpted smooth in paper mȃché. It looks like her. She was formed by an artist who knew and loved Meridel, and you can tell. Her eyes look alive, kind, playful. This puppet is over twenty years old, and it feels and looks like it could survive a lockdown in the rain. This puppet is hearty. Just like Meridel was. She is meeting my daughter.

I am still just beginning to understand and appreciate the breadth of impact Meridel has had and that she continues to nurture art that affirms our connection to land and each other and is an expression of our dreams for a better world. In Crusaders, Meridel writes, “We must look at our inheritance as both memory and the future, rushing back, demanding action.” This might be my favorite stand-alone quote of hers. She leads me back again to building that muscle memory of holding contrasting elements simultaneously. The past and the future, merging in dynamic relationships—actors influencing the present, the terrain of action. Meridel is relentless in her commitment to illuminate our agency and our obligation to choose how we want to show up for each other and the world.

Though The Girl was difficult for me to read, it is easy for me to remember. From this vantage point it feels beautiful, precise, and whole. It sits in a dear place inside me, that place art lives when it fundamentally shifts something about how we see ourselves and our world.  Looking through the lens of this story has me sitting with how much our world is both dramatically different, and painfully unchanged. If we can use this story as a portal to look back, then we can also use it to envision a path forward.

Meridel was exceptionally good at both truth telling and engendering hope. I contend that Meridel would be very invested in today’s movements. I see her on the edge of her seat, leaning in to hear what organizers on the margins know, need and are building together. I’ve been in many cross-generational conversations that have had to traverse significant differences to reach each other; the stretch can be awkward. I don’t see that happening with Meridel. She wouldn’t stretch, she would float. Right over to this bank of the river and splash around in the water with us.

While enjoying the waves, she would not be shy in naming how much we still need to build. How much is at stake. As much as she held hope with a steadfast and confident hand, her feet were always firmly planted in recognition of our brutal reality and of the magnitude of suffering for the most vulnerable among us. She would see how much we still need to learn, vision, unlearn, revision, practice, fail, and piece together, bit by bit, a new world that we all desperately need. “Well then, let’s get to work,” I hear her saying. And then her crescent smile.

If I were to boil down my inheritance to a core message from my great-grandmother Meridel and my grandmother Rachel, it would be this: that in every time and in every place there are people fighting for a better, more just existence for themselves, their neighbors, and everyone’s children. That this can be trusted, leaned on, but also this can be something in which we can be accountable.

Within this inheritance Meridel, her mother Marian, and her daughter Rachel placed inside me a secret relationship to this core message. It was a quiet secret with a loud message—an invisible membership card. I belonged to a movement. To a legacy. The loud part was the conviction that it was not my birthright based on monarchy. It was not passed through a bloodline. Woven into the fabric and embedded in the code was the message that this was as much anyone’s legacy to claim as it was mine. But it was also mine. This secret that I belonged to a movement has kept me steady amid many storms, breakdowns, conflicts and catastrophes, equipping me with the tools to wade through our movements’ struggles with disposability, unprincipled practices, and weaponizing of our shared language and concepts to gain or maintain control. I see how conditional belonging operates in our movements. I see how a lack of belonging impacts one’s ability to stay in and show up as their full creative, human, evolving, imperfect selves. Risk taking and contribution shrink in response to these conditions. Imagination is diminished. I want something different for all of us. I want to share my unshakeable belonging.

The girl ends the novel with one final transformation. She becomes a mother. She names the baby Clara for the friend she has just buried. Clara senior tells the girl that her name means clear light. The symbolism rings potent. The girl sees clearly now. I chuckled and flushed when I read it, because I named my daughter Nour, the Arabic word for light. We wanted her name to connect her to her father’s family and language. I didn’t know I was giving her yet another connection to Meridel.

May Meridel’s legacy help illuminate our path forward. Towards a world where artistic expression is an entitlement for everyone, and everybody’s great-grandmothers are honored as giant puppets. May we find in ourselves the permission and practice to turn to the vast movement history as all of our histories, chock full of chosen ancestors that could be a stabilizing force when the storms circle back around. May we forge movements that foster belonging, bound in mutual interest, and nurtured by the creative imagination. These are the movements that can develop the competence to hold the contradictions between rigorous accountability and unshakable belonging. May we look at our inheritance as a message from our future descendants, beckoning us to be an ancestor they will be proud of.

Here it is.
Our inheritance, in all its strangeness and all its contradictions.
Both memory and future.
Rushing back.
Demanding action.

Source Materials

LeSueur, Meridel. Ripening. Ed. Hedges, Elaine. New York: Feminist Press, 1982.

LeSueur, Meridel. “A Comet’s Return and a Life Lived,” Star Tribune Sunday Magazine, November 24, 1985, 9.

LeSueur, Meridel. Crusaders: The Radical Legacy of Marian and Arthur LeSueur. New York: The Blue Heron Press, 1955.

LeSueur, Meridel. Rites of Ancient Ripening. Minneapolis: Vanilla Press, Inc., 1975.

Spade, Dean. Mutual Aid: Building Solidarity During This Crisis (And the Next). Brooklyn: Verso Press, 2020.

Mitchell, Robb. Interview with Meridel LeSueur. Northern Lights, 1988.

Taylor, Keeanga-Yamahtta. How We Get Free. Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2017.

Wharton, Marian. Plain English: For the Education of the Workers by the Workers. Fort Scott: The People’s College, 1917.

Minneapolis, Minnesota, 2022

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