Nina searches for answers to her inner conflicts and political questions – and gets advice from two unlikely sources.


“What alternative are you offering the people?” -- Grandma Loretta

Progressives and leftists, ourselves included, are really good at telling people what we are against. We condemn racism, sexism, inequality, environmental destruction, and Iggy Azalea’s latest album.

When it comes to articulating our own vision of the future, though -- what we actually want to see in the world -- we often fall short. And that is a major problem. Fear and reaction isn’t enough to capture people’s imagination. We need strategies and solutions that are visionary and oppositional – that fight back against gentrification and ecological devastation while building real alternatives in our communities, from the ground up.

More than just writing new manifestos, this means we must also put our work into experimenting and building our own institutions: reclaiming our rights to housing and land, growing our own food, restoring traditional ways of healing and community care. In the process, we can and must reorganize the very nature of governance -- from the hands of a privileged few to deep democracy that honors the voices and needs of all.

Social movements that have paved the way for this visionary model include the Zapatistas in southern Mexico, Landless Workers Movement (MST) in Brazil, and of course the Black Panther Party, born right here in North Oakland. The Panthers broadcast their vision to the world not just through their Ten Point Plan, but they enacted it through their dozens of community survival programs: free breakfast for children, freedom schools, health clinics, teen and senior support programs, dental care, and most famously, armed copwatch patrols (itself a form of resilience-based organizing for a community under constant, direct attack by the police state).

More recently, the Movement for Black Lives created a brilliant, detailed platform that would powerfully transform American society. The Climate Justice Alliance is organizing under the visionary banner of a Just Transition.

Now is the time to say what we actually want. Fight for it. And when necessary, build it our own damn selves.