Innosanto Nagara: Let’s Build from Here

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In This Changes Everything (2014), author and activist Naomi Klein argues that the challenge of combating climate chaos cannot be met by relying on market-based business-as-usual approaches alone. I believe this is also true in relation to inequality, injustice, and the rise of anti-democratic tendencies in general. Yet it can be hard for us as individuals, much less societies, to embark on new paths without outside events giving us a push. A multi-year global pandemic is nothing if not a wake-up call for change. Whether we wanted to or not, across the globe we were forced to modify our lives and lifestyles to adapt to a new reality. Many were lost. Many were (and still are) in denial. But regardless of where one stands politically, the COVID-19 pandemic changed everything.

From the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, calls for a return to normalcy have clashed with calls for stronger measures of change to combat spread of the virus. It was always a tale of two pandemics: one for those like myself who could make our living from home with relatively little sacrifice, and the other for those who struggled with loss of life and livelihood and took on risk to serve others.

From the start there have also been conflicting visions of what “post-pandemic” life should be. There are those who wish to go back to the way things were. And those for whom the way things were wasn’t so great to begin with. 

This work was my response to the prompt “Let’s Build from Here” in the form of a ‘Changing Perspectives’ mural. Let’s Build from Here (2022) is about shifting perspectives on possibility, by viewing them through different lenses. I have spent much of my career applying my skills (and my body) to movements that oppose systems of oppression and destruction. Dismantling those institutions is a necessary step if we wish to make room to build anew. As a children’s book author and illustrator, most of my books are about these fights. A is for Activist (2012) is about the issues. My Night in the Planetarium (2016) is about colonialism and the art of resistance. The Wedding Portrait is about direct action and civil disobedience. M is for Movement (2019) is about how to overthrow an oppressive regime.

But to keep motivated and energized for the long struggle, we must also feed our sense of what is possible and articulate the vision we wish to realize. That is what my last book, Oh, the Things We’re For! (2020), is about. And that is what Let’s Build from Here is about: investing in the community, infrastructure, and (most importantly) the human spirit necessary to build from here a more just and equitable future.