Do you think the potential of nonviolent resistance is overemphasized?

Nonviolence has its limits. We have to be honest about that. Violence has its limits, too. But violence also has its achievements; we have to be honest about that. I have been disturbed at how nonviolence has been used in a way that pushes change that is not effective. There’s nothing wrong with a protest or a march, but did that protest or march accomplish what you set out to achieve? If it didn’t, then it didn’t work. Oftentimes people have used nonviolence to bring about symbolic change, but not structural change, which requires more, because we have demonized what that “more” is. I feel like the range of our tools has been diminished because they’ve been so effective in the past. We have more than “are you going to burn it all down or are you going to march?” Those aren’t the only options.

You define one of those other options as refusal.

Yes, refusal is one effective resistance strategy. Boycotts, strikes, the abolitionist movement, the civil rights movement—we categorize a lot of that as resistance, but more specifically it’s refusal, a strategy of defining what is allowed and what is not. Resistance is a broader concept. But refusal is a strategy that targets what is problematic about what you are resisting: what am I saying no to? It’s about contesting how we understand basic human rights, how we define decency.

Another one is joy. How is joy a political tool?

Black joy is something that is very specific to the lived experiences of Black people. Happiness is something fleeting. Joy comes from struggle, from pain, from a deep sense of loss. Joy is meant to sustain you in the midst of all of that hardship. Joy is what keeps us from losing our minds. Joy is the maintaining of our humanity, which Black people have had to fiercely fight to do. I don’t think we see joy as a weapon, but it really is.

What’s the takeaway?

I hope that people can start to get creative. We’re stuck because we use the same tools, hoping to get a different outcome. I want people to be able to look at these stories in my book and be inspired to carve out a different path, one that actually affects something. I think most people want that. I’m not talking about just Black people. All people can and should refuse. We all have to be able to say no collectively and then forge something that looks better for all of us.