Welcome to Iambrown.org. My name is Autumn Brown. In these pages you will find information on the workshops I teach, the services I can provide, the projects I care about, and the resources I can offer. I hope that there is something useful for you here. Be sure to sign up for my (very low-traffic) newsletter to receive updates about upcoming workshops and events, and opportunities to build and participate in revolutionary work in the worlds of activism, media and art.

The Gift of Grief

Hello Good People~ 

Can you feel it? Can you feel the spring seeping up, and running out the ghosts? Maybe there is snow falling where you are, but the pungent stink of earth is unmistakable. This winter will end. It is a strange time to be alive.

A year ago today, I was still wading through the initial months of grief over losing my child. Grief is strange: it makes your relationship to the one you loved so clear - there is a taut line stretched between you and them, and it vibrates with your suffering, and you don't want that to stop because it keeps you connected - but it makes your relationship to pretty much everything else, especially the present, very muddy. March and April and May, the months following the due date of my baby, were heavy with the future I wasn't living but felt I had been owed. On Mother's Day I had a distinct feeling of wanting to crawl into a hole and die. I could feel the space my baby was supposed to be inhabiting when I woke up that morning. I was so angry that I couldn't bear it.

It is not hard for me to call up these feelings. I'm not so far away from it that it's not available to me. But something began shifting in me, through the summer and into the fall, and even in the darkness of winter as my body began coming apart, or it seemed to me. I suffered a car accident that left me with a concussion and whiplash injury, a CT scan that turned up pneumonia, an X-ray that revealed an abnormality in my chest, which after 4 wretched days of waiting turned out not to be cancer. I felt a general fatigue from commuting to and from St. Paul, an exhaustion that wouldn't release its grip. I started to feel like I wouldn't ever feel good again. This whole last year was, in a way, a long, sad anniversary of losses. My body was manifesting the things my heart and mind couldn't bear. And in the midst of it, I was doing some of the most powerful and transformative community work I have ever done.

On March 7th, two days after I completed my tenure as Interim Executive Director of RECLAIM!, I boarded a flight to Mexico. This trip felt like walking through a gate into my new life. I reconnected with my amazing partner, Genjo, after a really challenging year during which I was away more often than around. I reconnected with myself, my sense of humor, my sense of play, my sense of imagination and my belief in my ability to manifest everything I want. Every damn thing.

That manifesting? It is happening now. For so much of the last two years I was wishing for ease. “When,” I would cry, “when will it stop being SO HARD??” I'm finally experiencing it now but it's not because things aren't hard. That was my own confusion. It turns out that ease is available to me a lot of the time. Like a gift being outstretched if only I could turn and gaze.

The gift of grief is seeing the lie of time. There is no future I have to wait for to be happy. There is no past hounding me, disallowing my joy. There is only the present moment, and that is as true for my joy as it is for my trauma. From the perspective of my body, my baby is still just dying and my new job is still just starting. From the perspective of my body I am still boarding that flight to Mexico and I am still sitting on the floor of my old office in Downtown St. Cloud, MN, wondering how the hell I am going to get back up. And the feeling I got when I learned about being awarded a writing residency in Vermont? It is still occurring, now. I can call it up. And I can set it down. I can be patient with myself and trust myself.

Two nights ago I had the distinct pleasure of hearing Rebecca Solnit read her own work and speak about her process. I'm currently reading A Paradise Built in Hell, her brilliant retelling of five disasters on the North American continent that prove our altruistic, cooperative and generative nature in the face of incredible hardship. I asked her what she thought of this innate and surprising human capacity, in the face of climate crisis, another poignant area of her work. She answered by paraphrasing Virginia Woolf: "the future is dark, and that is the best thing it can be." She reminded me, and everyone in the room that night, to take great comfort in the mystery. It is those hard and heavy and taxing transitions – grief, loss, destruction, disaster – that teach us who we are. The gift of grief is standing on the other side knowing you would have never asked for that experience, but in the wake of it you would never give it up. Not for anything.

I look back on the last two years and see the gift of my grief. I look forward and see the darkness: imminent, true, waiting for me.

Be well~Autumn

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The Anti-Oppression Resource & Training Alliance

I am beyond pleased to share that I have made my employment transition and I am now working at AORTA, the Anti-Oppression Resource & Training Alliance. Click here to see my bio on the website and an extremely glamorous headshot.

AORTA is a worker-owned cooperative devoted to strengthening movements for social justice and a solidarity economy. We work as consultants and facilitators to expand the capacity of cooperative, collective, and community based projects through education, training, and planning. We base our work on an intersectional approach to liberation because we believe that true change requires uprooting all systems of oppression.

I join as AORTA’s newest member, and as a candidate owner. You can learn more about AORTA here, and I encourage you to reach out to me directly at autumn@aorta.coop if you are interested in how AORTA could assist your work, whether that is through facilitation and training, movement building and education, or consulting on organizational transformation.

To hear about our public events, receive our free resources for movement building and liberation, and learn more about how we do the work we do, subscribe to AORTA’s low-volume email list here.

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Come out for The Paper Quilt: A Revolutionary Mothering Zine Workshop

As some of you already know, an essay I wrote in 2011 shortly after moving to Minnesota was recently published in the anthology Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines (PM Press 2016). We have a beautiful event coming up this month in Minneapolis. I hope to see you there!

Saturday April 23rd, 3-5pm

Hosted by Ancestry Books at Juxtaposition Arts

1108 West Broadway Avenue

North Minneapolis, MN 55411

Before there was the book Revolutionary Mothering there were the zines Revolutionary Motherhood and The Future Generation and Outlaw Midwives. The Paper Quilt workshop is an interactive workshop in which a group of people will quilt together a motherful publication in 2 hours or less! This workshop is a great way to make your insights shareable and is part of our mission to expand the idea of what stories about mothering circulate in our society.

This workshop will be informal and interactive and is open to the entire family. I will be co-facilitating this workshop with Revolutionary Mothering editors Alexis Pauline Gumbs and Mai'a Williams!

 

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