Each retreat is a seven-day reprieve for self-care and study; a free vacation during which the only requirement is reading.
There are fragments of time in which the hairs on one’s body rise and one’s skin breaks out in goosebumps, at which one feels simultaneously full of sorrow and joy, at which one’s belly becomes warm with the promise of laughter and one’s heart becomes heavy with the premonition of heartbreak. We have a responsibility to fully live and acknowledge such moments.
400+1 is not simply a Black, cooperative federation in its infant stage, but also a theory. It’s the theory that we can, indeed, develop a blueprint for revolutionary change and map our way to freedom, but only if the African Diaspora, in its entirety, participates. Beyond a theory of change, 400+1 is a lifestyle; a way of living that unconditionally rejects survivalism, throwing back in the face of oppression the culture of desolation that it has imposed upon those with skin like the earth and forests of black, brown, red curls for crowns. We know that it is only by the grace of the Black imaginary, of Black fealty to ancestors crowding heaven, crowding paradise, of Black magic-practiced, determinedly in the dark, and more and more often, freely, in the light-that we have the space to do this specific work.
400+1’s reading retreats are experiences intentionally crafted with the idea that the examination of the Black experience and the naming of the phenomena that comprise it are prerequisites to the collective healing that serves as a crucial component of building Black capacity for mass movement.
We hope that, together, reading retreat attendees can take a stab at what Mama Toni accomplished when in The Bluest Eye she grappled with the complex and pathological nature of the relationship between Black parent and Back child; when in Sula, she pushed into our vocabulary the language with which to describe the way that the trauma of Black death and Black violence manifest when we are complicit; when, after election day 2016, she wrote “Mourning for Whiteness”; a short essay that describes the terror with which white Americans cling to their privilege and the lengths to which they’ll go to preserve it.