Drew’s Notebook: On Freedom

Originally Published at Uncle Drew’s Substack

My dear friend, Sweet Corey-Bey, visited Austin a couple weeks ago to attend the Austin Blues Festival with me. An accomplished musician in their own right, Sweet took on their first visit to Texas with a wide grin and their smooth style. I took them to a few Austin staples, like Breakaway Records, Sam’s BBQ, and the Texas Music Museum, and we laughed throughout our adventure.

After the incredible festival, while we ate lemon cake in a food court pavilion near my home, Sweet and I continued a conversation that unfolded across the weekend. They posed the thought to me somewhere between a thrift store and candy shop in North Loop: what does freedom actually entail?

I loved this inquiry, and it made me consider how Sweet and I bonded over our anti-capitalist politics when we met in 2021. The question itself took me back to a virtual coffee session with a north Texas advocate a couple months prior. As I shared about my life and career, with a particular nod to my desire to eventually move to my mother’s hometown in Louisiana, he flashed a broad grin and shared his impression:

Man, it seems like you are genuinely seeking freedom.

I felt seen in the moment, and it inspired a deeper internal interrogation. Undoubtedly, I fight for the liberty of Black children and Black people in twenty-first century America – but what will that battle yield for me in fifty years?

In both discussions, I vaguely recall articulating some broad goals around freedom. I want to be able to freely move around, and I desire some sense of consistent levity in my life. As a socialist, I believe that freedom entails the material needs of me, my community, and humanity being met irrespective of the contents of anyone’s bank account or property holdings. I seek greater investments in third and public spaces; I want more opportunities for people to connect authentically without the myriad hindrances placed in front of them by American racial capitalism.

In conversation with Sweet, I thought of a journal entry I recently rediscovered from 2022. I spoke of wanting to lay on a large couch in my home and relax. The thought drew me into a broader meditation of late: in my pursuit of freedom, I labor to tap into the happy kid I once was and presently cultivate the environment that brought me so much joy twenty years ago. Playing video games, watching movies, and hosting various members of my community from this rested state could contribute to feeling freer. I anticipate that tapping into this level of restoration would be generative for my organizing and community engagement efforts.

I went back to how I discussed my limitless capacity for love on Two Bi Guys and Texas After Violence Project. I want to pursue that characteristic to its fullest extent; in this free future, as I do currently, I support my family, friends, partners, and community members in various ways – and with even more resources. I tap into my effortless ability to form human connection without worrying about the omnipresent constraints of money & under-compensated work.

In pursuit of freedom, and as I achieve it to a certain extent in my own life, I can continue the intergenerational organizing that has given my career such breadth & depth. Alongside other people giving their all for Black liberation, we will eventually celebrate the shrinking of the American carceral state – on the road to its total elimination. Folks will be democratically engaged in the institutions of the future, and their invaluable input will factor into how their government, community institutions, and mutual aid networks operate. As has already existed in my life, there will be opportunities to laugh, cry, mourn, dance, and build as we commemorate challenges and victories along the road.

From my vantage point, a core component of freedom is the ability to feel it all so very deeply. In the tears that have flowed down my face in tiny rivulets since the pandemic, I see a tiny physical representation of just how free I’m becoming. I hope to continually give myself the grace to keep posing Sweet’s question to myself – and allow myself to come up with different answers if they arise.

Sweet and I walked home on that perfect Austin evening with even more expansive & liberated visions of the future on our minds.