Doing It My Way

‘Black Women Need to Unlearn the Pattern of Martyrdom’

Activist Adrienne Maree Brown discusses how to make revolution irresistible and what Black liberation looks like for Black women

Christina M. Tapper
Published in
8 min readJul 30, 2020
A closeup photo of Adrienne Maree Brown against the sky.
Adrienne Maree Brown. Photos: Anjali Pinto

Adrienne Maree Brown moves in many spaces. That’s because the writer, activist, social justice facilitator, doula, and singer is deeply invested in transforming communities and worlds. Brown, the author of two groundbreaking books, Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds and Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good, is using her robust gifts to support and center people of color, the LGBTQ+ community, and Black liberation.

Based in Detroit, Brown is also the co-host of the How to Survive the End of the World podcast and an Octavia Butler scholar. She touts the acclaimed Parable of the Sower author as a guiding light in her work, and in this period of time we find ourselves in. “I’m really grateful that Octavia Butler left us the offering of ‘God is change,’ and the instruction to get in the right relationship to change, because that teaching resonates so much for this moment,” she says.

In a recent conversation with ZORA, Brown discusses finding and protecting pleasure, making revolution irresistible, and what Black liberation looks like for Black women.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

ZORA: Many people know you from your emergent strategy work. In the past, you’ve said your description of emergent strategy has shifted over time. How do you describe it, right now?

Adrienne Maree Brown: It’s a strategy for building patterns and systems of change. That’s how I define it in the book. It’s about understanding that change is the fundamental operating principle of the universe. And that every single thing that is alive, every single thing that we can look around and see, is impermanent, came from somewhere, [and is] going to somewhere. I learned from Octavia Butler that we can either resist change completely or we can acknowledge that it is constant. In that acknowledgement, begin to partner with it. That’s when I start to get excited. It’s like, what does it look like for a bunch of humans to stop trying…



Christina M. Tapper
Writer for

Rule breaker, champion of women and education, and recovering sports journalist.