Resistance rooted in knowledge

Malkia Okech

Malkia Okech (she/her) is an abolitionist activist, futurist, and community archaeologist. She seeks to learn from history, act in the present, and imagine a future towards true safety and justice, free of capitalism and white supremacy.

Malkia Okech is the Associate Producer for Black Spatial Relics, a Curator in the Philadelphia Black arts collective, Bad Apple Commune, a Research Associate for Monument Lab, and a Digital Producer at the local creative agency Mighty Engine. For Okech, understanding layers of oppression and resistance in Philadelphia through memory and artifacts is key and can be composited into a guide for liberation.

“It is important to keep track of our wins, losses, and processes. Those records will inform the future.” - Malkia Okech

q & A with Malkia

Mask group (12)

What was it like to do archival research during a pandemic?

Difficult to say the least; throughout the process I have felt behind, because the lull of quarantine to the rush of engaging in person again was like whiplash. I am fatigued. I would also note the past few years were not just a pandemic; we experienced an uprising, an election, another murder by police in WEST PHILADELPHIA, and now an attack on abortion rights on a national level amidst other things. The pandemic mixed with national and local emergencies that tie to the root of Chronicling Resistance, has made this work all the more urgent and difficult. There is a pressure to know what comes next, to start strategizing for what is next, prepare safety and self-defense and organize rigorously, but we are all so tired.

How has archival research informed your activism?

It has helped me contextualize our current moment. The traditions and trajectories of activism in Philadelphia towards police, enslavement, etc, the strategies used, and how we relate to those methodologies consciously or not. My hope is to turn my research into useful guides or materials for activists to build a knowledge base here.

What do you want other activists and organizers to know about preserving their stories and archival research?

It is important to keep track of our wins, losses, and processes. Those records will inform the future. Should liberation be achieved one day, the preservation of our history informs the narrative, the journey of what that win will look like; as well as what came before us. Thus, what is our story at this current time, and how has the past fed into it, and how will this continue? Our stories deserve to be preserved and heard. For far too long documentation from white supremacists served colonialism and capitalism; but we have an opportunity to take hold of and reclaim our narratives for community building, history/memory making and keeping, and as a tool for informing our actions.

How have you changed since you began this project?

This project made me realize how important archival work is, and how much labor it requires; research (both online and on the ground), processing the research, disseminating it or making something out of it. All of these are very labor intensive efforts, the gravity of which I realized late in the game. It has made me think of my contribution to resistance efforts, and why it is important for there to be dedicated parties doing the work of documentation and archiving, but also bringing these skills to the community to bring more people in.

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