by Amber Officer-Narvasa
“Words are to be taken seriously. Words set things in motion. Words set up atmospheres, electrical fields, charges. I’ve felt them doing it. Words conjure. I try not to be careless about what I utter, write, sing. I’m careful about what I give voice to.” —Toni Cade Bambara
Words can conjure. Can obscure, shape, create force fields of meaning. Words mean things beyond their immediate signification. Words carry pasts, and words can birth new worlds. Legacies of empire and white supremacy are folded within the terminology of coding. Common nursery rhymes and phrases carry violent and forgotten connotations. Our technologies of communication, entertainment, even care are inseparable from these realities. Words mean things, carry material histories embedded within their syllables. Carry possibilities of magic for those brave enough to wield them. Any spellcaster knows that words can bend time, can usher in sweetness or protection or vengeance if used the right way. Words can be a bridge to other realities. A memory held in your spine.
Sitting with our discussion from the “Codes Words Spells” class, I thought about some words that have worlded me, birthed me into new ways of being. What texts do I want to carry with me as the waters rise? Who teaches me to imagine freedom? Creating AI-generated text often feels like a kind of magic to me, prophecies written by the algorithm and informed by a source. I wanted to know what would happen if I used AI, and the work of some of my favorite Black women and queer writers, to tell a story about abolitionist futures. What happened the morning after the last prisons fell in the year ____? How did we love, touch, listen to each other? I felt that these writers who have taught me everything may have something to say about this. Directives encoded within their words, future worlds yet to be remembered.
Here are some letters from the beginning of time, after the prisons fell.