Interrogating cloutivism, privilege, and harm
As most know, Aspirants Co was officially disbanded on March 1. At the time, we (Danielle, Ndemazea, and Ry) felt those closing words would be our last on behalf of the organization. However, as the months passed, several individuals have come forward to reveal some harsh truths about a number of our features.
We have the duty to not only acknowledge any part we played in perpetuating corrupt behavior, but also to explicitly condemn those actions.
In the past few weeks, it’s come to our attention that Aspirants has featured multiple individuals who initiated and engaged in the following acts: Minh Tran’s involvement in sexual assault and coercion, Nadya Okamoto/PERIOD’s plagiarism, dishonesty, and exploitation of labor, Ziad Ahmed’s co-option of rhetoric and #BlackLivesMatter to get into Standford, and this is only what we know as of writing this statement. It goes without saying that these events and actions go against what Aspirants stands for as a publication, and our personal beliefs.
We write this statement not solely to engage in ongoing public discourse, but to inform, and also to interrogate ourselves and our role in perpetuating the harm that has already been caused. There’s no telling how much we ultimately contributed to this harm by boosting the status of these individuals and organizations, but the truth is that regardless of our intent, we added to it.
The spirit of Aspirants was to highlight small creators who were doing good work in their communities. Along the way in our two-year journey, we strayed from that in order to facilitate our own growth by featuring individuals and organizations that were already successful. Because of that decision, we were complicit in systems of harm that profit those who chase status and metrics instead of the creators and organizers we initially vowed to spotlight.
Our choice to spotlight them is on us.
As the editorial board of Aspirants and as friends, we understand that only we are able to step into accountability as individuals. In the same way that we can only apologize for the harm that we have inflicted, we can only ever hold ourselves accountable and urge others to do the same.
To quote abolitionist organizer K Agbibiye, “We need to create conditions that allow people to enter into accountability themselves. The thing about accountability is that it is not forced and it is not coercive.”
That process of accountability starts with the recognition of our own failures. Only then can we move forward.
We’re starting by taking down the features of these individuals from our website and social media so as to eliminate any further traffic to them from our end. Our next move is extending support to victims, creators, and organizers that have been harmed. Though Aspirants is a discontinued project, the passion and spirit to uplift people doing good work in their communities resides strong in us all. As individuals, we can and will do what we can to support them in our walks of life.
This means using our individual platforms to promote their stories and their work, and supporting them monetarily if and when possible.
This also means that instead of continuing to turn to the nonprofit industrial complex and corporate-adjacent organizations, we’re using the Aspirants platform to direct your attention to other resources, organizers, and efforts. Our final statement from Aspirants is a call to action, and not just a goodbye:
ADIFF, headed by Aspirants featured creator Angela Luna, is continuing to drive sustainable fashion with its mission to help refugees.
Black and Pink is an anarchist abolitionist organization with multiple programs, including one that connects free world folx (like ourselves) with incarcerated penpals.
Code Red Collective is “a collective & co-powering org breaking the PERIOD taboo & providing space for Menstruators & their period wellness through literacy, aid, & advocacy” with abolitionist leanings. It’s headed by Ìlérí-olúwá Jaiyéọba, who wrote the call for accountability addressing anti-Blackness in the menstrual justice space.
Haymarket Books is a non-profit independent radical book publisher based in Chicago. Their published authors include but are not limited to Noam Chomsky, Rebecca Solnit, Angela Davis, and Winona LaDuke.
Survived & Punished is a collective of abolitionist organizers working to end the criminalization of survivors.
The Red Nation is an Indigenous organization dedicated to liberation from colonialism and capitalism through direct action, advocacy, mobilization, and education.
The Slacktivist is a news and media publication dedicated to empowering and informing. Their latest posts include updates on the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, what defunding the police means, and an introduction to reparations.
Wear Your Voice is an international feminist publication headed by Lara Witt (an Aspirants feature) and other queer Black and Brown anarchists/autonomists, communists, anti-fascists, and socialists working towards collective liberation. Support them monetarily here.
This is an up-to-date full list of all bail funds (verified by the National Bail Fund Network) in the U.S.
Additional notes for sake of transparency:
Despite being pro-Palestine, we do use Wix to host our website, which is an Israeli company. At time of purchasing our domain and Wix subscription, we did not know of the company’s ties to the Israel-Palestine conflict, but now that we do, we will be discontinuing our usage of it as soon as our current subscription ends, as originally intended.
Aspirants also does not endorse candidates, nor does the publication necessarily agree with the endorsements of political campaigns and politicians by our featured creators, organizations, and team members. This also includes campaigns that featured individuals have worked on.
What comes after for us as individuals is a lifelong commitment to anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist, pro-Indigenous, pro-Black, pro-survivor, pro-disabled, and queer-affirming practice. We are reading, conversing, donating, and educating, amplifying the voices of organizers on the ground, and working towards a better world.
Danielle, Ndemazea, and Ry