You’re Giving Patrisse Khan-Cullors Hope: 'Every Single Person Is Talking About Voting in a Way I've Never Seen'

In adapting her memoir When They Call You a Terrorist for a YA audience, BLM co-founder Patrisse Khan-Cullors is telling even more of her story.

10/27/2020 12:09:00 PM

'Watching there be so much activity around voting and the power of voting and the power of this election gives me hope. Every single person is talking about voting in a way I've never seen, in a way I've never experienced.' OsopePatrisse

In adapting her memoir When They Call You a Terrorist for a YA audience, BLM co-founder Patrisse Khan-Cullors is telling even more of her story.

she helped start, the book feels like a gift and a guidepost for generations to come.Below, Khan-Cullors discusses what it would've meant to her to have this story growing up—and how she's having the same conversations today that she had as a teen.

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What was it like reading through your journals for this book?Some stuff made me laugh. I'm looking at my journal entries as an adult and really loving on myself. I was a very intense kid, and I took anything social justice-related very seriously. There were things I wrote that I was like,

Oh my god. I can't believe this is what I was thinking as a young person.I was already talking about police brutality and reflecting on police terror and the impact it was having on my community. There's literally a journal entry in the book that says,"Police don't keep us safe," and 20 years later I'm having the same conversation.

I loved that, with the journal entries, you can see how your voice changed over the years. It’s a message in itself: We're always evolving. Was that something you realized as you were going through your writing?Definitely. Once I started to be a community organizer, I realized that I was thinking differently, having different conversations. I was going back to all my experiences inside of the organization I was in as a young person, meeting people from across the country and the world and talking about the impact of climate change and the impacts of mass criminalization. All of that was really powerful.

Also, a lot of Alanis Morissette lyrics.Yeah, I was obsessed with her.While working on this, did you tap back into the things that gave you comfort when you were younger?Yes. I was very moved by Ani DiFranco. I don't think I put any of her lyrics [in the book], but I went back and started listening to her. I was like,

oh yeah, of course I was writing the way I was writing. Because I'm listening to this raging feminist who is deeply anti-racist.What would it have meant to you to have a book like this when you were growing up?I would have loved this book as a young person. Honestly, I would have felt so seen. I would have felt so taken care of, and I would have been reminded that what I'd been going through as a young person isn't my fault and there's something you can do about it beyond just pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. You can join organizations. You can get involved. You can be a volunteer. You can show up to transform the very conditions you've been living in.

In the dedication, it says: “For the movement that gives us hope.” What else is giving you hope right now?Everything that's not what's happening at the U.S. government. The people give me hope. Watching there be so much activity around voting and the power of voting and the power of this election gives me hope. Every single person is talking about voting in a way I've never seen, in a way I've never experienced. That gives me hope.

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You also write about how joy is so essential to your activism. How are you finding joy these days?My friends and my family and my child. I do a lot of laughing with them. I was just asking my good friend to send over romance novels she's reading right now so I can cope with the madness that's happening. My community is so important to me, and they really keep me grounded and laughing and joyful.

In the book, you talk about feeling helpless after Donald Trump won in 2016. How are you feeling now, weeks out from our next presidential election? Read more: ELLE Magazine (US) »

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OsopePatrisse Regardless who you vote for...let your voice be heard. Bless you all.

You’re Giving Patrisse Khan-Cullors Hope: 'Every Single Person Is Talking About Voting in a Way I've Never Seen''Watching there be so much activity around voting and the power of voting and the power of this election gives me hope. Every single person is talking about voting in a way I've never seen, in a way I've never experienced.' OsopePatrisse

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You’re Giving Patrisse Khan-Cullors Hope: 'Every Single Person Is Talking About Voting in a Way I've Never Seen''Watching there be so much activity around voting and the power of voting and the power of this election gives me hope. Every single person is talking about voting in a way I've never seen, in a way I've never experienced.' OsopePatrisse

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