TRR Editors on Hope, Justice, and Activism in 2020

I keep thinking about Adrienne Rich and Audre Lorde—what it means to revise history, why it’s important to understand the difference between poetry and rhetoric. Along with the poetry of Rich (and Sexton and Plath, Whitman and Dickinson), Rich’s essay, “Writing as Re-vision,” and Lorde’s “Poetry is not a Luxury,” were my guidebooks into early adulthood. Maybe that makes me a radicalized, liberalized, second-into-third wave cliché. Or maybe it means that my forbearers taught me the most valuable lesson of my education: that if we don’t find the right footsteps to follow in, we won’t know where to go.

I don’t go to sleep with a sense of misguided optimism, but I do wake up thinking that if we listen to our poet-mothers, our activist harbingers, we’ll know what we need to do, at least in the next few moments. 

~Rosemarie Dombrowski, Poet Laureate of Phoenix and founding editor of The Revolution (Relaunch) (TRR)


Hope is pleasure. It is a thousand strands just below the surface of the earth. Roots, veins, fungi–web of slippage, an unstoppable network splaying into the blind-dark soil. Hope travels even when you think there is nowhere left to go. It finds the unseen and thrills in wrapping itself around it. Hope is being in the flow of the stream reduced to a trickle and feeling it will be an ocean. It is not wrong. Hope is not a fallacy. Hope moves bodies. Hope is the refusal to believe that time is a tragedy. Hope is not optimism. Hope is not believing that things will be better. Hope is believing that things can be better and then doing something about it. Hope is knowing that what we do may not matter and choosing to do it anyway. Hope is believing that each root and every spore is a mycorrhiza feeding the world back to life.

~Catherine Lockmiller, medical humanities editor at TRR


I put forward the term, ACTIVHISTorian, the formatting particulars differentiating it from a misread, active historian. The questions we ask of history need urgent relevance if the field is going to resist an overt, dare I say “activist,” attempt to stifle it, silencing an uncomfortable past that does not fit a preferred narrative. Getting history wrong harms people, creates discriminatory policy, and feeds misunderstanding the world over.

Too many confuse objectivity with dispassionate disassociation, activism with a lack of rigor. ACTIVHISTorians must investigate questions that remain associated with the current state of things and the “why investigate this” answers should be clear. They must also share the how-tos of doing of history with students, the public, and especially those who have been intentionally marginalized from the historical record. Those legacies of omission remain in the archival record and in the history produced.

We need ACTIVHISTorians, now more than ever.

~Pamela Stewart, archival/historical scholarship editor at TRR


As I look forward to the year 2020, I am searching for things I can do that make me feel less small and powerless when I face the world and my place in it. The late poet Tony Hoagland wrote an essay called Twenty Poems That Could Save America. He advocates for a kind of common canon of poems that he believes we should teach all high school students. He offers a selection of poets who can speak to what is both current and timeless and give Americans a “common vocabulary of stories, values, points of reference.” I always found this to be a beautiful and ambitious dream, but now I see it as a necessary piece of work for the common good.  In the spirit of this essay, my Senior English classes have a “Poem of the Week” that we read and talk about for a few minutes every day. I try to select poems that “Could Save America,,” and every time a student says “remember that poem we read,” I feel like I’ve done something to bring us together.

~Michelle Salcido, poetry editor at TRR


Asalaamu Alaikum. Hope. Allah, Subhanahu wa ta’ala (SWT), is hope and faith in justice. Islam is submission. I submit to the vast and straight towards righteousness.

My wife, concerned for my well-being, asked me, “Are you sure you want to put more on your plate?” I walk with Black, male, and other targeted marginalized identities on my chest, head, and back. But fear and hope cannot occupy the same space.  

O ye who believe! stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both. (Quaran, 4:135)

Al-‘Adi (SWT) provided the lives of Prophet Muhammad, El-Hajj Malik El Shabazz, and Imam Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, lives as examples of hope and love—justice in action. They, together with my family, bravely walk with hope and justice into the year 2020.

~Rashaad Thomas, X, writer at TRR


Hope is the alchemy of finding purpose and motivation amidst fear and grief — and then acting on it to make the world better (despite its sure doom/demise/damnation.) 

And, yes, stopping to cry because heartbreak clings to you. But then doing things through the tears: Supporting silenced voices. Checking your own privilege. Showing someone that you really see them. 

Our enemies only want us to get so overwhelmed we stop and hide away and self-preserve. Instead, we will have the audacity to see a future through the darkness and inch our way toward it. Hope isn’t positive thinking, it’s action.

~Devin K Pope, book reviews editor at TRR


Hope is a mountain of tiny steps towards a high school diploma for students who lost their right to public education. The small victories can be seen in smiles versus glares, 70% attendance, an apology, a submitted assignment—no matter how late. The fight is being ever-present and authentic in the midst of stress. It means becoming an educator and a mentor. Here, in the gaps between access to healthcare, immigration services, mental health struggles, and so much more, the fight is working to build a learning community. In this community, with effort, mistakes and obstacles can lead to growth, not just dead-ends.

~Sophia McGovern, editor at TRR and little somethings press


Some of my family and friends have become so depressed since the Democratic presidential debates began. Sometimes they’ll make a remark concerning a candidate whose platform seems great but whose ideas they find too progressive for a country that could elect Trump. “I’d vote for him,” they’ll say, “but my next-door neighbor won’t.” Or sometimes it’s a comment made out of despair that none of the candidates can overcome Trumpism, which seems a new kind of phenomenon: nothing Trump says or does seems to unsettle the support of his base, after all.

This New Year, I hope that more citizens than ever will resolve not just to vote, but to knock doors. To pick a candidate and join her campaign at the local level in order to canvass, convince, implore other voters not only to vote but to engage. The most harmful myth in this country among well-meaning voters is that their vote is the ultimate expression of their citizenship. Right now, it is not nearly enough. The results of the 2020 elections will reflect directly the grit and effort we are willing to bring to actually opposing Trump and those who align with him.

~Chris Hanlon, interviews/cultural criticism at TRR


To let softness live more freely on my skin. To dance in empathy and engage in human connection. To take a breath and live in the moment.

To continue to write of tongue, body and heart. 2020, I hope my identity as an activist grows. I want to unapologetically give space and voice to the layers of my vulnerabilities to the body and skin that I wear to the rhythm and hunger of my mind and to the spirit that blooms and grows with every step that I will take. It is my truth and the beauty of my existence. It is not still, singular or uniform.

It is the expression of chaos and movement that I live each and every day. I hope to feed my heart full through the craving of understanding each and every soul compassionately—the warm and painful stories of others gives us truth to our own breaths and heartbeats.

It is through others that we can understand our own reality, that our hearts are not isolated and we all feel the same pain, the same joys, the same need to belong. Our hearts connects us to each other, and in 2020, I hope to continue to fight for these voices and my own.

~Preetpal Kaur Gill, editorial intern at TRR


How to be an activist in 2020: Embody radical love for all the living things. Talk to strangers. Tell them your stories. Listen. Speak up for others. Stand shoulder to shoulder or sit knee to knee. Spark conversations. Learn a new language. Say I do. Eat a miracle for breakfast. Lay down your hateful rhetoric. Devote your bow to silks and honey. Park where you’re supposed to. Take the bus. Tell children that they are loved. Tell adults too. Traverse cultural boundaries. Step aside and let the youth lead. Carry our fallen fiercely in your heart.

~Elyse Årring, fomenter and percolator at large, CNF editor at TRR