Evan Bissell visited the Kalamazoo College Arcus Center for a workshop and discussion on the radical imagination attached to social movements last Saturday, April 4. Bissell is a writer and artist whose body of work highlights injustices and a call for change. Attendees of the workshop included students of Kalamazoo College, community members, and Arcus Center staff.
Participants were asked to think of social movements they are involved in beforehand to align the workshop with their respective movements. The workshop defied the dominant story of American history by presenting overlooked moments in our nation’s past.
The workshop began with a quote from Robin D.G. Kelley’s Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination. “Progressive social movements do not simply produce statistics and narratives of oppression; rather, the best ones do what great poetry always does: transport us to another place, compel us to relive horrors and, more importantly, enable us to imagine a new society.” From this insight Bissell moved into examples of radical imagination and examples of artists flipping the dominant narrative. These instances led audience members into personal reflection.
Participants were asked to think of how their own movements could flip the dominant narrative. Partakers focused on on-campus movements, city-specific movements, and the even larger context of national social movements. To flip the dominant narrative takes radical imagination, said Bissell. He discussed the dominant narrative found in the United States as containing “a lack of imagination in the greater political rhetoric.”
Alicia Gaitan ’18, a participant in the workshop and a member of the Intercultural Center Movement, said “[the workshop] helped me shape my work as a member of a social movement, connecting past social movements with what needs to still be done now in this moment. Realizing the work that needs to continue here in this institution while still being able to connect it outside of this institution.”
Bissell asked groups to create an artifact of the future, where the effects of a social movement would be evident. Participants used paper and art supplies. Each artifact acted as a hopeful symbol for the success of the work being done and the achievement of justice that lies ahead.