Image via Chrislene DeJean
Intelligent Mischief is a creative design lab, though not in the traditional way that one might think. Their goal is to serve as a civic tool for social justice. To achieve that end, they help individuals and groups incorporate culture and arts in their organizing, all in building on a bedrock of experience in youth activism and the various backgrounds from which IM members come.
Terry Marshall and Chrislene DeJean, chief organizers of IM, are both dancers, and find that their artistic chops help them immensely in imagining new teaching methods and the future of “the movement,” as in the call to action to end the senseless killing of black people. Although IM is based in Boston, this summer the self-proclaimed “mischief-makers” will be travelling to areas like Ferguson, Detroit, and Oakland to help organizers on the ground think creatively about civil disobedience.
“The kinds of killings and shootings that have happened post-Trayvon [Martin], they’ve occurred in such a short timespan,” Marshall says. He continues, “We took the idea that well, you know, the reason all of these shootings keep happening is that there’s just some new rules in place and black people don’t know about them yet. We just keep fucking up, we just keep breeding and walking down the street, we need some new rules to figure out how to survive.”
That idea laid the groundwork for Intelligent Mischief’s first project, the Black Body Survival Guide—a multimedia effort addressing prevalent issues regarding race relations in America, and resulting in a list of critical rules and tips for those with dark skin. While the Survival Guide moves into its next phase of planning (including the launch of an IndieGogo campaign), IM’s focus has shifted to a wider network of events that kick off this month. Inspired by the work of science fiction writer Octavia Butler, the series is called New Sun Summer after Butler’s famous quote: “There is nothing new under the sun, but there are new suns.”
“What does it mean to insert ourselves in the future in a time when we’re being murdered by the state? How do we look at our lives and and think strategically about building a movement that’s built off of people being killed, and how do we survive?” DeJean says, explaining the core goal of New Sun Summer. “[Butler’s] Parable of the Sower series is about survival. You just kind of figure it out along the way. You don’t have to know right now. That’s really powerful now. We don’t know what to do next, but we’ll figure it out.”
The summer series launches with Black to the Future, a multi-part evening of black radical imagination. The event will kick off with a curated panel of black organizers, writers, and visionaries whose discussion will center around “surviving in the future,” an increasing concern considering the current state of American society. The panel will be followed by a reading and book signing with the writers of Octavia’s Brood, a collection of radical sci-fi shorts by activists and organizers. Finally, there’ll be a dance party—because why not?
“[At the panel] we’re asking them questions like, ‘How do you see all these different movements’ circles building together around black life in the future?’” DeJean says. “All of Octavia’s work is really about imagining, but really, putting black women in the future, and what does it mean that a black woman is in leadership in this world. How do we build here, in the city, and what are your ideas around that?”
DeJean continues: “I think what I really want people to get out of these events is that we’re building with each other, and it’s the beginning of a new sun. Let’s think about how can we build our lives knowing that the state is attacking us, and murdering us, and what does that mean for governance in our communities. I really hope that folks can think like, this is really the beginning of long haul organizing. This is not the end, and IM is just one group that can really support you.”
INTELLIGENT MISCHIEF PRESENTS: BLACK TO THE FUTURE. SEIU 615 Local, 26 West St., Boston. All ages/6pm/Free. For more information, visit facebook.com/intelligentmischief.