How can you bend a spoon today?

In her speech How Does Change Happen? Angela Davis argues that residents and organizers transformed segregation in Birmingham, Alabama by recognizing that oppressive power dynamics could be shifted. This inside-out organizing strategy reflects the old adage, change yourself, change the world. Although it is rather easy, logical even, to accept the rules, standards and behaviors of your day, especially when they are supported by laws, terror, and domination, questioning logic and comfort forms the basis of revolution.

A version of this concept is illustrated in one of The Matrix’s most memorable scenes - Neo watches a boy effortlessly bend a spoon without touching it. Neo attempts to do the same and fails.

Morpheus explains to Neo that he can take two paths: he can live a life of blissful ignorance in the matrix and forfeit his power; or he can liberate himself and discover his true power by facing that the matrix is an artificial world. Because it’s artificial, it’s malleable.

Davis comments on the same crossroads in the anti-segregation movement:

"Social realities that might have appeared impenetrable, unalterable, unchangeable came to be viewed as malleable and transformable and people learned how to imagine what it might mean to live in a world that was not so exclusively governed by the principle of white supremacy.”

Some of my favorite contemporary “spoon benders” are philosopher and gender theorist, Judith Butler and cultural icon, Rupaul. They have worked to play with gender, demonstrating that despite society's deeply held beliefs about a biological gender binary, gender is socially determined. In their theorizing and performance, they reveal a plethora of choices. This  is work that we can all do, if we have the heart.

With Morpheus’ and Davis’ insights in mind: how can you bend a spoon today?


Issachar Curbeon is an Oakland based artist, writer and activist from New York City.  She enjoys studying how to be a better student and teacher in her favorite learning spaces: holiday dinners, barbershops, packed kitchens, rap battles and workshops of unlikely collaborators.