Raquel Willis: "We must lean into a radical reimagination of ourselves"

The transgender activist, writer and founder of Black Trans Circles shares a manifesto for these complex times.

by Raquel Willis
21 September 2020, 3:38pm

Raquel’s story originally appeared in up + rising, a celebration of extraordinary Black voices, and is the first chapter of i-D's 40th anniversary issue (1980-2020). i-D chronicled over 100 activists and artists, musicians and writers, photographers and creatives, in Atlanta, Baltimore, Minneapolis, LA, London, New York, Paris and Toronto.

“This moment is complex and many of us are feeling disoriented and drained. Whatever you are feeling is valid. We are at odds with our health, our planet, our history, and ourselves. We are not just reckoning with the various systems of oppression plaguing all of us — white supremacy, patriarchy, classism, xenophobia — but we are also trying to reclaim our potential and envision what is possible for humanity. None of our fights are new. The arc toward Black liberation was paved long before “Black Lives Matter” became a chant. The arc toward liberation for all genders began before we had spectacular language to describe queer and transgender experiences. The arc to whatever fight you’re in has a history, and I implore you to seek it out and uncover the stories of those who tread your path before you because today’s shortcomings were set in motion long before any of us were born.

Revolution begets liberation. We have to meet this moment with a more expansive understanding of what’s at stake. We must hold what is hard and what is hopeful. We must lean into a radical reimagination of ourselves and our worlds. And we must grapple with what is possibly the most essential question in human history: What are we going to gift to future generations? What traumas and harm are we going to render obsolete for our unnamed and faceless descendants? How will we set them up to continue the fight when we are no longer here to remind them of the urgency of liberation for all?”

Raquel Willis by Lacey Lennon
Photography Lacey Lennon. Raquel wears dress Hanifa. Jewellery model’s own.


Photography Lacey Lennon
Fashion director Carlos Nazario

Hair Ro Morgan at The Wall Group using Design Essentials.
Make-up Jamal Scott at the Teknique Group using Barbara Sturm Cosmetics.
Photography assistance Genesis.
Styling assistance Raymond Gee.
Casting director Samuel Ellis Scheinman for DMCASTING.
Casting assistance Alexandra Antonova.

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