What We Need Now: Episode 3—Non-Violent Direct Action

November 23, 2020

Non-Violent Direct Action: Shifting the balance of power to the hands of the people

Here at Greenpeace, it’s no secret that we use NVDA to fight for people and the planet and face the sheer violence of the fossil fuel industry and other bad actors with a non-violent strategy of peace and justice.

On this month’s episode, we speak with Brianna Gibson, a member of BYP 100 and the Director of Action, Strategy and Training for The BlackOUT Collective. Brianna works with organizations across racial, social, environmental and climate justice movements to help them effectively employ Direct Action in their campaigns through: rapid response, reform, rebellion, and resilience. In this episode, we’ll talk through our understanding of what non-violent direct action is – a strategy and tool that works to peacefully confront oppressive powers.

 “When I began practicing direct action on a regular basis, it struck a chord with me because it allowed me to say no with my body, and with my comrades, with my community in a way that I never felt empowered to say ‘No’ directly to power before in my life.” – Brianna Gibson

Hit that play button to be inspired by the people doing the work, and hear how direct action stops injustice by shifting the balance of power to the hands of the people.

Subscribe to the What We Need Now podcast on Soundcloud, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

“There’s a spot for everybody in the movement and in liberation work in general. We need folks, we just need folks to hold particular space, so get in where you fit in.” – Brianna Gibson

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Episode Resources/Further Reading

Full Episode Transcript:


{fantasy music  fades up}


In an ideal world, we could cast our ballots and it would be like waking up from a bad dream…Covid-19 would be banished from these lands and corporate dollars would be ousted from our democracy. Climate change would be halted and the effects of hurricanes and wildfires would be reversed. Venues, bars and small businesses could safely reopen and millions of people would be back to work with healthcare and a living wage. And we would no longer be worried about descending into fascism and economic collapse.

LAUREN: Reality is a bit messier. The reality of the situation is that voting will not immediately yield results and change is never a given even when a new administration is elected. Last episode we talked about voting as a crucial first step towards achieving the change we need to see. So now that we have a somewhat clearer picture of what our politics will look like in 2021 let’s talk about what we need now.  

Oh and by the way, my name is LAUREN 

RICO: And my name is Rico.

LAUREN: and welcome to the What We Need Now podcast by Greenpeace USA. This month we’re talking about the next step after voting (because all of that is over now). We’re talking about non-violent direct action and how it is and has been a critical part of pushing our movements forward.


Extend Intro & Segue into Main Content


RICO: We’ve all seen the images of police dragging Black bodies away from segregated lunch counters. We’ve seen the simple act of joining hands to walk across a bridge met with firehouses, batons, and dogs. We’ve seen flowers brandished in front of military grade tanks. We’ve seen the enormous amounts of courage people have summoned to peacefully resist oppressive forces. Those images of nonviolent resistance stick with us, they make it into the history books, but do they actually work?

LAUREN: Well as always the answer is quite complicated. But let’s look at what nonviolence is and how it can help lead to wins. And let’s start by being clear about what we mean. Nonviolence, as a movement definition, is a Strategy and tool that peacefully confronts oppressive power.

RICO: I think a lot of people might be surprised to hear nonviolence referred to as a strategy rather than a philosophy. Could we unpack that a little more?

LAUREN: Sure, lemme break it down and use a home-base example: For us at Greenpeace, nonviolence as a strategy looks like our campaign work to fight for people and the planet. We know that the people we are up against in the fight for environmental justice don’t really have much of a conscious (thee shade) ….and that is why through NVDA, and our campaigns, we aim to face the sheer violence of the fossil fuel industry and other bad actors with the nonviolent strategy of peace and justice.

But in general, Direct Action  is an umbrella term for any collective action that stops injustice directly (as opposed to through politics or the courts – system) and shifts the balance of power from one system to the hands of many people. But what does that actually look like?

RICO: For Greenpeace that looks like Banner Hangs. It’s looked like aerial blockades in Houston and Portland and over 40 years of other creative forms of resistance all over the globe. But Greenpeace is not alone in this fight. All across the so-called US and around the world individuals and organizations use nonviolent direct action to fight for what they believe in. Folks like the Climate Justice alliance using nonviolent mass mobilizations to raise awareness about our fragile planet, the Movement for Black Lives training communities across the nation to rally and fight for Black lives, Land Defenders doing nonviolent blockades to stop pipelines from destroying the land and our communities. It’s all connected.

LAUREN: I feel that and it would be very remiss of us if we didn’t mention the variances in how NVDA (that’s non-violent direct action) is applied. The variances come about because everyone’s understanding of what violence is difers. For some violence starts at the harming of people, for others violence could include destruction of property. 

RICO: Also the perception of whether or not a group is “violent” (air quotes) can be very different depending on who is protesting

LAUREN: From Ferguson to Kenosha, we’ve all seen examples of how the media focuses on random items like the trash can on fire or a gas station with a broken window (with no one in it), rather than the police brutalizing peaceful protestors. 

RICO: That’s right LAUREN and because of the wide array of ways that people view violence, In in-person NVDA trainings we often use a tool called the spectogram, basically a coordinate grid with a line in the middle that goes from violence to non-violence and another perpendicular one that goes from non-effective to effective. The facilitator will read different tactics and participants move through different

LAUREN: Interesting so full transparency I have yet to attend a NVDA training and geometry was not my strong suit in high school, so what’s the goal behind this activity and what am I as a participant trying to achieve but can you tell me about what folks would get out of that exercise? 

RICO: The facilitator will read different tactics and participants move through different.The purpose of the exercise is to give folks agency to decide for themselves what strategy to take and to make sure that groups reach agreement.

LAUREN: Right, and since there is such a wide spectrum of what people consider “violence”, there can’t be any one standardized way of enacting NVDA. But it is necessary to name the factors that inform and frame someone’s understanding of violence vs nonviolence. Alot of these perspectives are based on lived experience and we want to make clear that people should choose what’s right for them annnnddddd that we are not here to police each other 

(yall know we have enough of that in the world). 

RICO: And that’s why it’s super important for groups to decide before an action what the parameters and boundaries are for that action. Which brings us to this month’s guest

LAUREN: Yessss Brianna Gibson, Director of Action Strategy and Training for The BlackOUT Collective. Blackout Collective is an org that believes that Black people should engage in direct action to affect change

RICO: Brianna works with organizations across the movement to help them effectively employ Direct Action in their campaigns

LAUREN: As Rico and I mentioned before, NVDA is a strategy that has a multitude… a swath im tryna think of some other  terms, com’on help me out Rico 

RICO: a gaggle

Lauren;  collage, 

RICO: a cornucopia, 

LAUREN: Just myriad ways it can be applied y’all . The Blackout Collective applies direct action in four distinct ways: Rapid Response, Reform, Rebellion and Resilience. And Rico spoke with Brianna about the successes they have had using these strategies as well as how NVDA has shaped their outlook and views of what it means to be an activist. 

RICO: But first we have a break.

[AD Diet MLK] 

In moments of crisis you may turn to the inspiring words of Dr. Martin Luther King. 

His quotes go a long way in the comment section of a Reddit thread, but sometimes they’re a little too spicy. 

While regular MLK may force you down the rabbit hole of injustice in society, diet MLK is great for when you just want to win that comment battle on your niece’s facebook! 

Here’s some samples of what we have to offer:

Did your daughter’s boyfriend just say Black Lives Matter? Try this quote,

“I look to a day when police officers will be judged not by the content of their character, but by the color of their uniform.”

Are people saying ‘looting is a victimless crime’? Use this MLK comeback  “A riot is the language of the unheard unless we frame them as thugs and looters.”

Here’s a few of our favorites

A dream deferred is still a dream

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere except here…

Hate cannot drive out hate; only a newly painted Black Lives Matters Plaza can do that.

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the hashtags that they shared.

I have a dream that one day we will walk hand in hand with police that work so hard to end Black and Brown lives.

There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right. Luckily that time has not come.

With Diet MLK, you’ll be seen as the most progressive person in your circle

Let freedom ring…quietly with Diet MLK.


RICO: Welcome back to the show. Our guest today is the amazing activist organizer trainer. Educator Brianna Gibson. Brianna, how are you feeling today on the eve of the election? BRIANNA: You know? We’re watching and waiting. Feel like everyone’s do–we know what’s gonna happen? No. Does it feel more serious than ever before? Yeah, a little bit. 

RICO: Before we get into it can you share your name, pronouns and a little about the land that you’re on? 

BRIANNA: Sure, yeah. So hey y’all, my name is Brianna. And I am recently back where I’m from in the D.C area. So I’m in Southeast Washington, D.C right now in Ward 8, Southeast D.C’s historically super black area of the city, even though D.C was and some at some point will begin being again “Chocolate City”. We’re working on it.  We’re working on it, I have a plan, but I can’t tell ya. 

RICO: Word,OK. 

BRIANNA: But Southeast D.C  actually like particularly, you know. Frederick Douglass lived here- a bunch of OG folks who did a lot to get us where we are today and set us up for some shit in the future- so that’s always a constant reminder being out here. Especially in an area where people still like- see high rates of oppression, repression and suppression and where like people just generally don’t care about black folks. I’m living on a block right now where the water Department for the city is responsible for a broken pipe that goes to a whole block, and so I have neighbors  in this home as well, which is part of reason why we’re moving, you know who have sewage consistently flooding in their basement and it’s not a priority to folks because this is where black folx live.

RICO: Yeah, and that’s unfortunately definitely not uncommon  anyplace black folks live. BRIANNA: Yeah, they’re like “F*** y’all.” 

RICO: And we’re talking about how we take power, how we transform our communities through direct action. You mentioned Frederick Douglass. Could you say some of the other people have informed your understanding of direct action? 

BRIANNA: Yeah, sure. So when I think about direct action, yes, sure there’s like Frederick Douglass, there’s Harriet’s Tubman who, OG… OG on the direct action. There are a bunch of ancestors whose names we don’t know. Then there are the folks that we do know right? So there’s A. Philip Randolph, there’s Bayard Rustin,  there’s Diane Nash all the way throughout the homies at SNCC… 

RICO: Wait, hold on a second, I gotta shout out SNCC. That’s the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. They were a really dope youth-led  organization, encouraged by Ella Baker to organize themselves. They were a huge part of the Civil Rights era. And if you’re hearing names that Brianna’s shouting out that you don’t know, definitely check out our website, where we’ll have links to all of these amazing leaders. OK, back to the convo. 


BRIANNA: We have the black power era. We got the Black Panthers with like very particular forms of direct action right? And then even like, through the 90s right? There were other forms of direct action when people were coordinating things on a mass scale so it’s a lot to pull from, but some of the things that are still most important to me to remember are the everyday forms of resistance and direct action that our ancestors took on this land in order to be disruptive to the system that brought them here and held them here against their will. 

So you know, that’s like work stoppages of a certain kind. You know, as enslaved people you’re breaking something; you’re doing other things to slow down the process, right? That’s escaping slavery, helping homies get out of slavery. That’s also like acts of resistance like jumping off the ship rather than being taken to a foreign land where you don’t know what’s gonna happen to you, right? And you already have been treated terribly, so I like to remind myself of all of those things. Draw inspiration from our cousins over Haiti who really did the damn thing. All the way up into revolution. Particularly our folks here who led rebellions and all forms of resistance and ran away and created communities. And like prefigured the lives that they wanted their descendents  to have and that that is a form of direct action and other stuff. So yeah. 


RICO: Thank you for the context. So now, moving into the present, what is Blackout Collective? 

BRIANNA: Blackout Collective is a black direct action training service organization. We train folks in direct action. We support folks in thinking through their direct action strategy, incorporating direct action in their campaigns in planning just very specific direct actions or sequences, or like escalation theories. And then sometimes we offer people actions support, tech support before, during and after with those things as well. 

We talk about direct action and train people in it from a black perspective and it’s important for us to always remember that black folks have always engaged in direct action and it’s not something that’s foreign to us. 

RICO: And what is the advantage to talking about direct action through a black lens and specifically from a black perspective? 

BRIANNA: Yeah, so one, I definitely believe– I’m a person who believes that once black people are liberated, all people will be liberated and so paying attention to the tactics that we use for our liberation. The heart of that, right? So, often we’re using direct actions to get a little bit more free, little bit more free, and get us much closer, that much closer to liberation. And so if we’re talking about Black liberation must happen in order for anyone else to actually truly be liberated, then understanding Black direct action as a tactic and a tactic tactic that  moves things, forces the hand of decision makers, forces some other things, creates more imaginative spaces is something like super important to understand and learn from.

RICO: And how did you get started? 

BRIANNA: 2014 you know. Things were popping off and there were, among the many calls that came out of Ferguson after Mike Brown was murdered, there was one for October. Third of October, and so there were a group of about four black folks who came down. They had put out a call for direct action practitioners and when they got there, they realized there weren’t a lot of black direct action practitioners and so they, you know, bonded with each other very quickly because it’s very small group of them and decided to talk through some things and decided, like hey, I think actually we should form a collective because there’s a need in our community to have more folks who are skilled up in direct action who are black. That can in turn train other others and that’s a very particular experience and lineage to come from, especially in comparison to..for instance, with you know most of the people who were there as direct action trainers were white people right? And that is, in the sense of even physically in your body, confronting state power, confronting the police, a very different experience. 

So that’s how Blackout Collective was born. It was five. Not four, but five black folks who went to Ferguson, Mo. Some of them knew each other, some didn’t. Met up. All had skills in direct action and were like, “you know, let’s train.” The initial goal was to train 10,000 black folks in direct action. We’re past that now, so I think. I don’t. I don’t know that we ever set another goal, but yeah. So it start off like that. That group of five people. And then the next year in 2015 they added on to the crew. I was part of the 2015 crew. It was very just, you know a lot of folks have been  throwing down with the Blackout Collective over that very intense year. And we’ve been trying to grow, develop, get sharper, sharpen our folks ever since. 


RICO: Word, and I mean you’re not just a strategist or a theorist, or even just a trainer, but you are also someone who has taken direct action. Do you feel like that has transformed you or changed your perspective? 

BRIANNA: Absolutely. Growing up, you know my sister, when I went to visit her… my sister’s 9 years older than I am. So when I would go visit her, and she’s driving around the city, whatever, I would have a book always.  And so at some point she started just  like basically confiscating my books when I was with her because she’s like, “you’re not going to read while you’re with me while we’re supposed to be having this time, but I was super into historical fiction. And obviously history is just, for the most part, you know, a lot of theories of dumpster fires that tell you how you got to where you are now. Which is…one way I like it, one reason why I like it. Are there other things? Yes, I know everyone, it’s not just dumpster fires womp womp womp. In reading those things and then trying to talk to adults in my life or others. It felt kind of like people were a little matter of fact, right? It’s like, ‘Damn, like all this, really wild stuff happened.’ And like, ‘what can we do around the impact of those things today? What could people have done then? What did people do?’ And I felt like a lot of the answers I got were around like, ‘Well, yeah, that just is how it was’ or like, ‘That just  is how it is’ and/or ‘There are like very particular ways to change those things that are going to take a long time and whatever whatever…’ Or that they don’t actually get to the root of the issue. And as an adult, when I began practicing direct action on a regular basis, it struck a chord with me because it allowed me to say no with my body, with my comrades, with my community in a way that I never felt empowered to say no directly to power before in my life. I didn’t even know it was possible. Like ‘Oh yeah, you can go to a City Council meeting and just disrupt it because they’re talking about nonsense,’ Did not even have that as an understanding as a kid. But stepping outside of that gave me a fuller sense of my own power and the power of my community and also, like, really put you on a roll. Like ‘Oh yeah, we can shift  some stuff, because we have it and we don’t have to be confined to the rules and regulations, the boxes, the forms of taking actions that people in power tell us that we have as options. Because, of course they tell us that those are the options because they want to keep their power. But yeah, so it’s been transformative for me in that way and really healing, and I think has opened my mind to all the many creative possibilities we have when we conceptualize the new world that we want to live in and that we want to build for the future. 

RICO: So in the time that is Covid, you know, global pandemic meets election season -extended: defend against fascism/wildfires, multiple uprisings in response to police killings

BRIANNA: 2020 

RICO: How have you all adjusted to this time?

BRIANNA: Yeah this time has required us to just really pull on a lot of the learnings that we have pulled from the past, what’s that almost six years? Wow, that’s crazy because all of those things have been times where people used direct action in order to get certain needs met, in order to confront power in ways that they needed to be confronted. That would actively save peoples lives, right? So even with COVID-19- from making sure that folks were able to stay in their homes, making sure that people were actually receiving the sort of protection equipment that they needed, as well as the sort of healthcare they needed to a host of other things. Right? Addressing ways in which communities of color, particularly Black and Brown communities, were more heavily policed. Folks are using direct action to turn up against those things, and then, and it wakes up the uprisings. Of course, the whole country was, you know, all 50 states and DC, and our homies are out there in the colonies, or some say territories, but they’re colonies, were turning up and using direct action in order to confront the power of the state and the power of law enforcement. The police state has a hand in destroying our community, taking people’s lives, withdrawing people and taking them out of our communities, both by killing them physically and then like the other forms of killing that they attempt to do when they take people out in our communities and put them in prisons and jails and other kinds of cells, including the detention centers and everything else. So that was another time. And then, you know, people are also turning up around the election and preparing to turn up if and when necessary, especially around defending their rights and defending their bodies, their homes, their communities if needed. We know that a lot of really wild stuff has already been going on? For example, in North Carolina you already had the police pepper spraying people who were just going to the polls. It’s been a very wild year. 

Rico: Word. 

BRIANNA: Yeah, so for me it’s been about how do you take all these lessons and go into turbo time trying to implement all those things and we’re constantly learning. Doing things virtually has been interesting because I feel like we have 50 versions of like Direct Action 101 training, but it’s because if you are running one but then you think “Oh I could tweak the next one like this” so that’s another version and then you tweak it again and it keeps going. At some point we’re going to have to reconcile them and put them into one version.

It’s also important, like I said, to keep growing, keep sharpening, to not stay stagnant because we are in an ever changing landscape in an ever changing world so we gotta adjust, shift, and make sure that you are actually connecting with folks because you want what you’re saying to resonate with them in a way that it is real, effective and actually useful. So just that you know no big deal.

[AD] Dumpster Flambe


This episode of What We Need Now brought to you in part by recipes for disaster the new show on the funky food network.

LAUREN: This week’s recipe for disaster is Dumpster Flambe. This seasonal recipe goes great with losing an election. It’s very easy to make and you can find these ingredients pretty much anywhere you look. Lets get cooking..


3 ½ years of poor leadership 

10 extreme weather events

X of people dislocated due to extreme weather

12 million jobs lost

1000 acts of performative activism 

1 million

1 large carrot with a bad combover

1 election interference 

1 global pandemic 

Attacks on USPS


Just add a lousy wig and you’ll have yourself a nice ol flambe. 



  1. Start by preheating your environment by 1 degree celsius each year.
  2.  While that heats up, you will want to elect a politician that ignores all climate scientists
  3. Open up your cabinet and then you’re gonna wanna fire everyone in there. 
  4. And then you’re going to very finely chop up your voter protections, dice pandemic response team, and then mince the epa, NASA, united states postal service, parks service and whatever else you’d like to add for taste. 
  5. Throw in a global pandemic, but do not season it. best to just ignore it .
  6. Next, your gonna take a steel potato masher to voter confidence–really smash it — and pour in some disinformation. Don’t be coy, really pour it in there. 
  7. MIx in some white supremacists and put the rest on standby, you will definitely need them later
  8. Gather as many conflicts of interest as you can find,     and fold those into the mix. Repeat until you are impeached, and then add even more.
  9. IMPORTANT: While you’re stirring the swamp you may notice theres some smoke and maybe even wildfire coming from the pan. Do not turn down the heat at that point. 
  10. Make sure you separate children from their families….a lot of folks use cage free children, but not us.
  11. If you cant find any news or facts that you like, you can just whip up your own ala minute
  12. And don’t shy away from saying you wont leave office, we love a little spice because that’s our business. 
  13. Bring it all to a boil on election day and you will have a nice lil recipe for losing an election. 


Remember this recipe only serves the wealthy 1%, so you may need to increase the yield. Tune in next week for our bourgeioceaser salad.



Rico: So Brianna the other thing we’re talking about in this episode is that spectrum of violence to nonviolence, how different individuals, different communities, in different organizations, view violence differently. And as Greenpeace, we have a specific stance of nonviolence, and what that means to us. But since you all work with so many different groups and communities, I want to hear a little bit about how you navigate that? What it means to you, and how you make those kinds of decisions for campaigns?

BRIANNA: So we don’t make those decisions for other folks, right? Non-violence can be a  strategy, a tactic, so for example in the Civil rights movement non-violence was a tactic used. Then for some people non-violence is a philosophy acting as one tool out of a very large toolkit. Sometimes non-violence is going to be the thing that is most strategic in getting you to your goals. But we don’t prescribe that for any group that we work for or work with. We also don’t determine that we’d rather ask “what do you want do,” and move from there because that’s not our decision, especially in terms of being a capacity building organization. Yes we are Black people being impacted by a lot of the things that the folks we are working with are impacted by. But we more so are acting within our communities when making decisions around non-violence. And then when we’re there to offer capacity and support in whatever ways we can for other organizations in different places, it is up to that community to make a decision because they are the people who are going to be most impacted by any of the results or consequences of that action. So we don’t make that decision for folks. And when you’re in a blackout training, you’ll hear us just talk about direct action and where you take things from there.

Rico: I want to talk about two narratives that come up a lot, and definitely were prevalent this summer during the uprisings. Narrative a) anything protesters are doing the streets, especially if it’s Black people, Indigenous people, is like people, will call that violent. They will critique it. They got something to say. And then narrative b) on the far other extreme, anything that does pop off at a protest or during an uprising if it falls outside of someone’s understanding of nonviolence. Then they assume it’s provocateurs, it’s agents. It’s a cop dressed up in in plain clothes and it doesn’t leave room for the nuance of maybe that’s how that community showed up that day. Or maybe that’s what this Community felt they needed to do in order to have their needs met. All of those. Yes, to all of those things. One of the things that I, or a couple of things last year, was posed a lot around the conversation around violence and nonviolence. There are a couple of different clips. One, Angela Davis speaking about violence while she’s incarcerated. And another one, Stokely speaking a little bit about violence and I thought they come to kind of a similar place like they’re not like necessarily in landing places like oh So what are we talking about right now? Angela Davis talked about growing up in Birmingham and you know, her mother was a school teacher for one of the little Black Girls who died and the church bombing and like also talking about oh among your first experiences with guns being black folks in the South protecting their homes, protecting each other, protecting their communities from white vigilantes from the KKK. Other white supremacists groups who were actively attacking black people on a regular basis, and so it’s like, yeah, in that context it like this. Nuances complicates everything. What is, what is violence even people talking about people breaking into stores and like stealing things. But again, you know. Let’s contextualize if people are breaking into stores they’re stealing food. Like yeah, there’s a lot of violence inherent in how the state purposely withholds resources from some of the folks who live here. There is no coincidence that those folks happen to most often be


folks who are black and Brown and or that poor people in general don’t have access to the things that they need in order to live a full life, and one that will allow them to move beyond just the state of survival, right? So that actually is a form of violence. So then again, it’s like yeah, what are we talking about, right? Or that you know, people think property destruction is violent and then they turn around and pass bills in their state legislatures that say that you can absolutely hit protesters with your car if they are just in the way right? So again, what are we talking about, right? 

RICO: Or like? What was the officer who fired into Brianna Taylor’s home? Was he actually charged with hitting a wall? Right? 

BRIANNA: Yeah? And then there’s also the layer, especially as like a black direct action organization, of black bodies are inherently considered violent. Standing is violent, sleeping is violent. Black bodies are read as inherently violent, inherently full of, like, so much potential for violence. And you know, I think separate from all of that, if we were really to go down the rabbit hole of conversation, there’s always the conversation around values that get weighted on to the words “violent” and “nonviolent”. And that’s just a whole another thing. But you know, there’s a lot there and there’s a lot to unpack. Understanding our training is usually actually trying to get folks to start teasing some of that out, and it’s really interesting what people come up with. We’ll ask people, if certain actions are “violent”or “non-violent”, and then sometimes we’ll layer “effective” or “not effective” on top of it. And it’s interesting.

RICO: I was trying to think how we could do a spectrogram in a podcast. Like if you have any ideas I will take it because I would love to, for people who are, you know, kind of new to the idea of direct action or especially nonviolent direct action, to have the way to translate that experience to an audio podcast. So if you have an idea let me know. 

BRIANNA: I mean yeah, I mean we usually ask questions. Folks to test it like in their minds sort of where they are. Like –one of the questions that we usually start with like wearing a ‘fuck the police’ shirt to school is that violent nonviolent if you’re just going one way; is it effective or not effective? Kind of like move[to other examples] from there. Maybe to setting a police precinct on fire, destroying some cop cars, kids throwing rocks at soldiers right? And just see where people land. And it’s interesting of course. Also, the more complicated the situations get. For instance kids throwing rocks at soldiers. This is where people usually start to really start to struggle with the nuance of like, well, throwing rocks at a person, but this person is a soldier, maybe even an occupying force. It gets really interesting 

RICO: And just…shout out for blackout training. Once again like I had so much fun at the one that y’all did here…I guess a year ago and that was my first time watching 90 Day Fiance actually.

BRIANNA: I know it was when I was just like so this is what we’re doing. OK? We are watching 90 Day Fiance so go ahead and grab your lunch. It’s a great show and there’s just so many versions of it that truly…shout out to that. If you haven’t watched 90 day fiance and y’all are out there, if you haven’t watched Lovecraft and you’re out there. Watch it. 

RICO: Lovecraft is dope. I’ve only seen a few episodes but I need to do a marathon of that. So I have no segue at all, but I want to ask you a question. For people who are trying to get involved in direct action–maybe they voted and they want to know ‘what can I do with this energy now?’ ‘How can I get involved with direct action? ‘What are some of the on-ramps? 

BRIANNA: Yeah, if there’s a march or a rally you  can always go to that. But you can also just get linked up with any groups around you, folks around you who are doing different stuff. Sometimes people find out about those things. People still post Flyers there are a bunch of Flyers, so that’s still a thing. People find different things on Facebook. But also you know you can always get your own crew of people and decide that you are like- not with this thing or you are with this thing, and you want to do something about it and throw down together. I mean, I feel like a lot of actions that I’ve been a part of were kind of like a group of people and we were like, yeah, the mayor of Oakland is spending the whole first couple of days of her tenure just talking to the Oakland police and most of them don’t even live in Oakland. We’re like let’s just give her a people‘s inauguration or people’s wake up call. Yeah, and you know we did it. So yeah, I mean I think it’s a little bit of “both and” right? Keep your eye out, see who is maybe doing some stuff in your area. Do you see the same folks talking about things like this thing? Do you see folks  who are constantly flyering? Or do you know people who even work at service organizations sometimes who are constantly trying to get you to come out for this thing or that. See what folx are about and then also, like don’t be afraid to–obviously within reason, grab your crew and do a thing.  Which reminds me of, shout out the homies in Chicago who have been running a decentralized campaign to defund the Chicago Police Department, which has been really interesting to witness just in terms of them doing mass training and then empowering folks, after they go through training, to plan their own actions. Yeah, it’s been a very, very cool thing to watch because most campaigns like that are not that decentralized where some folks come to maybe 3 trainings and then you go to some mass organizing meetings, right? And then you’re planning actions with your crew in service of a broader campaign. So that’s been dope to watch. You can always do something like that. You know? 

RICO: Shout out Chicago. 

BRIANNA: Yeah over 1000 people in the first weekend.


RICO: And when you were talking about the resilience framework. The first thing I thought of course was the Homan Square occupation on the Westside of Chicago. 

BRIANNA: Yeah, yeah. You want to talk about that?

RICO: Fa sho, fa sho. So Homan Square was a black site used by the Chicago Police Department for decades, where they would take suspects to interrogate them and torture them. In fact, one of the police officers from Homan Square went to Guantanamo and then came back. Basically I guess to trade tricks of the trade. But activists took that space and occupied and it was super inspiring. You could probably say more about what they actually did. 

BRIANNA: Yeah, the Homan Square Occupation, they called it Freedom Square. They didn’t even plan for it to be an occupation, right? That was part of the Freedom Now actions Summer 2016 and BYP 100 Chicago chapter had planned to do a shutdown of Homan Square, block off the entrance. And a couple of folks, Damon and Jennifer. Kristiana from the Let Us Breathe Collective, at the same time wanted to provide a space to imagine what life could be if folks in that community actually had all of the resources and loving care that they deserve and need. And so [they] took over that space. I think the first night though, some of  the neighborhood kids came through and were like, “Yo, can we sleep out here?” and they were like, “Yeah, sure.” And then it became a thing. And more folks came by and it was a really necessary space. So yeah, shout out to that. I actually did the..they had the four year anniversary party of it this past summer, which was also part of the activities around the defund CPD campaign. So, pretty dope. Shout out to the homies out there 

RICO: Right and you know I love any opportunity to shout out Chicago, so thank you for the plug. Thank you for the opportunity. Right, so last question I have for you is what do we need now to take action in these times and to win liberation for our people. I know you said this is the Desus and Mero. “What do you want your rainbow to say” question? 

BRIANNA: There’s a spot for everybody in like the movement and in liberation work in general. We need folks, we just need folks to hold particular space, so get in where you fit in, G.

RICO: Our guest today was Brianna Gibson of Blackout Collective. You can find them on Facebook at Blackout Collective, on Twitter at BLK Direct Action, and on Instagram at Black Direct Action. 



Now we want all of y’all to take action. The first thing imma ask you to do, which is the easiest way to do all the other things: text “What We Need Now” to 877-877.. That way you can find links to all the things we referenced on the show. You can follow Blackout Collective and you can get updates on what’s going on with us. Also make sure that wherever you listen to this that you like it. Subscribe and if you can, comment. I prefer comments that don’t make any sense out of context so that people have to listen. It’s a great, it’s a great tool. Please do that. And I’m really excited to let you know that next month we’re going to be bringing the people behind the scenes in front of the mic. This month you got to hear from Lauren Wiggins who’s been producing the podcast behind the scenes and next month you’re going to have Jonathan Butler, Jasmine Conwelll, Ish Herod and the whole podcast team and we’re all going to be sharing the space a little bit so I’m excited about that. And that’s it for now. I hope that you get some rest this election season and we will see you next time on What We Need No



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