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"The Art of Survival"

Interview with Li Sumpter

For Escape Artist Mixtape Vol 4: Parable of Coronas by Myth Media Studios

Q1: With the Sun Tzu's Art of War in mind, what 5 factors would you consider when building your personal strategy for the art of survival? What have been your chosen tools of creative resistance and resilience?

“In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.” During this time, I’ve created opportunities for increased preparedness, patience, adaptation, perseverance and most importantly rest. As I submit myself to the pace of the unpredictable, I have learned to be adjustable and adaptable, and through patience I am able to find rest, even as I persevere.

The tools that have been proven to enhance my creative resistance and resilience are grounded in Mother Nature. Even as the world has been plagued with sickness and fear, Mother continues to thrive. I choose to flow at her pace and not the pace of a capitalist system.

Q2: Do you have a favorite work from Octavia Butler? If so, what is it and why does this sort resonate with you?

My favorite work from Octavia E. Butler is “Mind of Mind”. While pursuing my MFA, I was given this book by one of my fondest mentors, Dr. Pheoris West. This was the only book that he gave me. As Octavia’s vision is prophetic, so was this gift - the gift of Mary - a young woman who used her supernatural powers to connect with other powerful beings, thus growing an unstoppable community. Learning of her emboldened my own power and taught me to protect it, and I imagine a world where a like-minded resistance will thrive after the elimination of the archenemy.

Q3: In times of protest and possibility, artists have the power to amplify community voices and communicate the message of the moment. As an artist, do you have a preferred medium to express your voice? If you could summarize an S.O.S. emergency broadcast message to your community (or the world) in a tweet, what would it be?

As I preserve my health, my physical presence has become selective, so my voice is best amplified through the written word and imagery. My S.O.S to my community makes the rest alarm visible, encouraging physical endurance and spiritual preparedness. The rested life is not expressed in the sleep state alone, but in the amplitude, trough and crest of the awakened soul. There is a flow to the rested life, and as we remain alert to both spiritual and natural frequencies, we are able to allow wisdom to guide and preserve our energy. We mustn't allow an individualistic society to drain us with competition and attention-seeking desperations. Comparison breeds envy, which inevitably hinders us from the potent impact of collaborative work. The art of collaboration will preserves us, enhances us, and give us room for rest.

Q4: When you speak on your practice of radical wellness you often illuminate the intense demand of one’s body, mind and spirit required to push through physical/emotional challenges we might face daily. Can you share a lesson learned from facing and ultimately embracing this rigor of radical resilience?

Embracing the radical wellness approach required me to transition into a new ecology and adjust my pedagogy to fit therein. There was no immediate gratification in this method, but the longterm benefits have been physically, psychologically and spiritually sustaining. By first eliminating medications prescribed for bipolar disorder, I gained the clarity to understand and react to the effects of the disorder. By choosing to initiate tough conversations with individuals in my life who’d caused me confusion and pain, rather than talking to a therapist about them, I found peace and resolution. By developing my own exercise system, I developed strength.

Q5: This zine issue includes an infographic on the Apocalypse Complex. Complexes are core patterns of images and symbols, wishes and emotions that the mind organizes into active themes. Complexes can overtake the mind, influence how we see the world and ultimately how we behave.

You recently addressed the nature of the Exhaustion Complex in your project work. Can you share more about this complex and a few tips for keeping it in check? Any advice for maintaining a healthy reserve of personal energy to get through isolation, social unrest or the demands of working from home during this health + economic crisis? “The Exhaustion Complex” is a pattern of behavior that takes pride in high-functioning fatigue, overworking and overextending, in order to get the job done. For many people of color, this complex was instilled in us as a means of survival and achievement as early as childhood, and it has progressively and deceptively robbed us of the rest necessary to sustain success and wellness simultaneously. It often leads to burn-out, and in troubling times, we are only as effective as our rest. We must create opportunities for restorative activity with the same fervor that we execute our work. We’ve deserve it. Our survival requires it.

Q6: In Parable of the Sower, Octavia Butler writes that the “Destiny of Earthseed (humanity) is to take root among the stars”. Do you believe humans will one day make an exodus off-world and could successfully and sustainably colonize other planets? Do you have a vision of what that might look like? If you were offered an emergency exit off this planet by an alien race to survive Earth’s imminent destruction, would you take it? Why or why not?

The “Earthseed” has been looking to the stars for centuries, and our ability to live amongst them is on the horizon; however, the selection process is what I find most concerning. I can’t help but imagine colonies that will be formed based on class and accessibility, not too different that the systems here on Earth. If humans are on the planning committee, the poor will likely inhabit the stars differently than the rich. Will their experience be beautiful and enriching, or will the developers of the new world bring them new slaves? If an alien race were to invite me to relocate amongst the stars, I would cautiously consider.

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