the book cover is orange and yellow, with the title handwritten in large letters at the top. At the bottom are silhouettes of people with their arms raised.
Credit: Courtesy Haymarket Books

In Let This Radicalize You: Organizing and the Revolution of Reciprocal Care, Kelly Hayes and Mariame Kaba ask organizers to retire their inner cynic and imagine what could exist instead.

Out this month through Haymarket Books, Let This Radicalize You is filled with lessons from Hayes and Kaba, both longtime organizers and movement educators. The coauthors examine what political lessons the COVID-19 pandemic brought to life and how the mass mobilization of mutual aid and protests created spaces for care and survival. Designed as a field guide for young and seasoned organizers alike, the book brings together lessons from Hayes and Kaba’s years of activism—walking readers through their journeys, doubts, and collective imaginations in the process.

Let This Radicalize You book launch
Sat 5/20, 2 PM, Haymarket House, 800 W. Buena, RSVP at, $0-$25

Let This Radicalize You is written for a world that feels like it is at the constant edge of collapse. The organizers and scholars within its pages insist that we all have a role in imagining and building the world we want to live in. Together, they invite you to take action and imagine what collective care and liberation can look like.

Kaba is a familiar figure in Chicago’s organizing space. Focusing on transformative justice work, she founded Project NIA and cofounded We Charge Genocide; the Chicago Freedom School; the Chicago Taskforce on Violence Against Girls and Young Women; Love & Protect; the Just Practice Collaborative; and Survived & Punished. In 2021, Haymarket Books published her last book, We Do This ’Til We Free Us, which explores similar terrain—collecting essays, interviews, and talks on the prison industrial complex and abolitionist organizing. After 20 years of organizing in Chicago, Kaba returned home to New York in 2016. Still, her impact has lingered, inspiring activists and movement work to this day.

Hayes joins as a coauthor with an extensive background in organizing and movement education in Chicago. A queer Indigenous organizer, Hayes founded the direct action collective Lifted Voices and the Chicago Light Brigade, leading protests and direct action workshops for organizers. With Truthout, she hosts Movement Memos, “a podcast about organizing, solidarity, and the work of making change.” Many Movement Memo guests appear within the pages of Let This Radicalize You. As an educator, Kelly offers a well of stories, tips, and tools from her past experiences and the practices of her fellow organizers.

After over ten years of organizing together, Hayes and Kaba reflect on their approaches to movement work and lessons learned. Much of their anecdotes are with each other—imagining abolitionism, understanding relationship building, and creating reciprocal care. Their writing brings together the words and memories of other organizers and scholars, like Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Sharon Lungo, Carlos Saavedra, Ejeris Dixon, and Barbara Ransby. Let This Radicalize You is a collection of stories and advice, not a manual on the nuts and bolts of movement work. It is not a book to take to a protest but to bring to meetings and moments of reflection.

Hayes and Kaba examine some of the political lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic and how activists and organizers mobilized in its wake. The book places readers on the precipice of despair and transformative change. What do activists do when the state fails its people? And how do organizers resist calls to return to normalcy and restore a dehumanizing status quo? They write, “We are surrounded by violence in this society, even under conditions that government authorities would characterize as ‘peaceful,’ because violence has always been embedded in the norms and functions of this system.”

Birthed amid pandemic turmoil, mass protests, and the unprecedented rise of mutual aid networks, the book explores many critical events in recent Chicago organizing history and how organizers have served to investigate, educate, and call others to action. Hayes and Kaba follow the experiences of those protesting police brutality in the summer of 2020 who were stranded in the Loop by Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s decision to raise the downtown bridges over the Chicago River. They write about what led to the formation of Chicago Freedom School, the emergence of youth-led, grassroots collectives like Assata’s Daughters, and how organizing creates badly needed homes for young people of color that must be protected. Hayes and Kaba write extensively about reciprocal care as an act of resistance itself.

“Care-driven organizing confounds the logics that are deployed to perpetuate wars, whether against a nation-state, against terrorism, or against ‘crime,” Hayes and Kaba write. “Like antiwar movements that oppose wars waged in and against foreign nations, movements that counter wars of criminalization highlight the number of casualties, the systemic abuses, and the dishonest framing of the system’s ‘warfare.’ They are movements against dehumanization.”

“Movement education is, in part, a deprogramming process,” they write. “It is a path toward unlearning mythologies and liberating ourselves from the isolation of individualism and enclosed narratives.” Let this Radicalize You follows the formation of activist-research organizations like Lucy Parsons Labs and Indigenous rights protests as they resist violence and terrorist designations by the state. Their writing constantly interlocks academic theory and lessons from on-the-ground actions for liberation. There is more than one way to organize, so Hayes and Kaba weave together countless stories and visions from activists and their work—offering practical advice and compassionate space to imagine what worlds without oppression can look like.

Imagination is revolutionary in Let This Radicalize You, letting the minds of organizers dream past the violence of state institutions and sketch out what is possible. For the organizers in its pages, it bridges the vast separation between what the world is and what it could be. “Possibility is the hope we wear when we charge into battle. It is stronger than assumption or reaction because it is intentional,” Hayes writes in her introduction. “We charge into that breach if that is the only way forward because possibility is worth it.” The authors also write extensively about their journeys and mistakes along the way. Many of their interlocutors speak about the dangers of “reading as extraction” or relying solely on leftist theory and socialist ideology to inform one’s organizing work. They often write about how to avoid burnout and exhaustion in the marathon of movement work. But organizing is also a collaborative labor of love. For Hayes and Kaba, “everything worthwhile is done with other people.”

The book’s title comes from an oft-repeated saying from Kaba: “Let this radicalize you rather than lead you to despair.” In times of great crisis, it is a reminder that hope and grief coexist simultaneously—shaping how people see the world and sparking people to action. Hayes and Kaba ask you not to dwell in despair but to know what you are up against and to be mindful that the collective struggle against injustice is long and hard-won. When fighting against state oppression and indifference, hope can be difficult to find—let alone the ability to reimagine institutions that operate through injustice and exploitation. But for Hayes and Kaba, it is a lived practice when you have inherited a world on fire.

As Hayes’s introduction states, “I cannot tell you that the tumult will relent, because it will not. But I can tell you that, here, on the edge of everything, we are each other’s best hope. As organizers, we are builders in an era of collapse. Our work is set against all probability—and it is in that space of cherished improbability where our art will be made.” 

Let This Radicalize You: Organizing and the Revolution of Reciprocal Care by Kelly Hayes and Mariame Kaba
Haymarket Books, hardcover, 220 pp., $45,

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