How We Stayed Free: Visions of a Future without Plantations, Prisons, Pipelines, and Killer Peace Officers

Duaba Unenra
5 min readMar 17, 2021


Credit: Jordan Hamilton —

This is speculative fiction about abolition, mutual aid, solidarity, dependency on systems of oppression, and the colonizer mentality, set in the near future in Minneapolis. Might be a series, might not be.

In this story a grandparent talks with their grandchild about what our times were like, a timeline shaped by the emergence of an abolitionist impulse in this place that went beyond campaigns defund police, the deeper desire was for true and real Self-Determination. This is a story about abolition, written to imagine what an organization of brilliant radicals called REP — Relationships Evolving Possibilities — could achieve.

If you dig this story and want to learn more about the actual-factual work and happenings of REP, this March 17th and 31st we’re hosting an Info Session about our upcoming Community Aid, Resourcer, and Emergency Responder(CARER) trainings — RSVP here; on March 20th we’re having a gathering of the minds about a support network for community careworkers we’re creating — RSVP here. And if you really really really like us, click here to join our email list.

Credit: Jordan Hamilton —

You wanna know what it was like during the Troubles? You don’t know’ bout that, baby! You still had milk on your breath when we was out there in the street. The Troubled Twenties wasn’t easy, but they were lit — fires, rebellions, a time of revelations, stars burst into light to show the path ahead, then burned out leaving us to find make ways outta no way. It’s 2040 now, youngblood, why you wanna know about those days — this some kinda oral history project? Oh! Here this one go talkin’ about Sankofa! Aw, you breakin’ my heart — Fine grandchild, everyone deserves to know a lil’bit about how the mess they in got made. So I’ll tell you what it was like. Well…

My neighbors prepared for the collapse by stockpiling guns, ammo, toilet paper, synthetic food and designer drugs. They couldn’t imagine the collapse of the plantation-state and its network of cartels as the ultimate liberation; they were its primary clients. They could only imagine the world as far as their favorite stores and brands, a world where their favorite products and addictions went extinct was beyond undesireable. I think they were introduced to this narrow way of seeing by the raider capitalists that built this nation — they passed on to their followers and descendants the notion that this planet is a wild and harsh place that must be subjected to intense extraction and discipline, as well as intense self-medication to stave off the unsettling influences and whispers of a living, feral land they had come to domesticate.

But our family was not possessed by illusions like that. We prepared for the collapse as if jubilee were coming and all the chains placed upon us that we hadn’t broken yet would fall from us. As the cities of the plantation-state went up in flames, we gathered in the chaos of the streets and met one another heart to heart. I know I know — you think all that plantation BS was just in the South ’cause of school, but go walk in one’a Uncle Bezos’ warehouses and tell me you don’t see people walkin’ rows, pickin’ packages like they life don’t depend on it.

It was the time of the Great Virus then, we walked the streets masked, but we recognized one another by a shared twinkle in the corner of the eye, a knowing sense that the world we had been captured in was over, the gates of our barracoon had been kicked down. We marched, we cliqued up, we kicked in doors where we could, and mostly we watched over one another, fed one another, watched each others kids. The fires turned to smoke, ash, and vacated blocks as the air cooled and the leaves began to fall. At a distance, we gathered together over radio and encrypted cutouts, sharing our remaining troubles and advice on how to approach solving them. When one of us got sick, we would call out to the others for a lifeline instead of armed EMTs; in our weakest points we were greeted by warm words and shining eyes. We became our own first responders.

Snow settled on-top the ruins of the plantation city. Forced inside, many of us were out of work and subject to constant broadcast bombardments by the fascists who captured the federal government seats but only now were openly revealing themselves. So many needed care for their spirits, so many had become enraged and took that rage out on their closest kin — there was no outlets for such pain back then. Those of us who gathered in our network of care and mutual aid again found our radios exploding with calls for support, people just between the edge of internal destruction and a resolve to make it to the next day. Our radios exploded with calls for food aid, crisis counseling, wellness checks, questions of how to rebuild a life after surviving abuse, from the state, from a partner, from a desperate stranger. Our little collective had to grow from a collection of pods to an ecosystem of care: that was how we might get free and stay free, anyway, it was a necessity — the plantation wasn’t gonna be around much longer for us to pay-to-play in the ER.

That was why I joined the revolutionary carework cadres. You see, my dear? The plantation society had become its own worst enemy, it caved in on itself. And as it did, I realized, this system that kidnapped us had been impersonating our mothers, our fathers. We turned to this abusive system for care when the worst of life tackled us — but who could we be, really, without it? Who could we become if we the people could provide care for ourselves? We always knew we’d be forced to answer the question, but the Troubles of the 2020s knocked the hourglass over, we didn’t have anymore time to ponder, we had to prototype. It hasn’t been a perfect answer, baby. But I hope that if you carry this on, more and more, you get it more right, and less wrong.

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