Futures Initiative Newsletter Full Editorial: October 20, 2021

Hi, friends.

My name is Nik Valdez (they/them). I am the new editor of the Futures Initiative Newsletter. I want to take a moment not just to say hello, but to frame the ethics I strive to bring to bear on the work I do here at FI. Though I work closely with my incredible colleagues to bring you content each month, I feel a unique responsibility to ensure the newsletter aligns with FI’s goals & ethics as a program. I also feel an urgency to ensure the work I do as an editor is in alignment with my own. An urgency which led me to ask in a recent blog post, what might it look like to hold the disabled queer Black transfemme as the single most inviolable body, to demand programming & attention for her?

It’s a question that nearly encompasses the ethics I strive to grapple with – nearly.

Quechua Political Science theorist Sandy Grande reminds us: “In Chiapas, Mexico, the Coca-Cola company was… siphoning so much water that the Indigenous residents were forced to buy bottled water or, in some instances, Coke instead… because it was cheaper”. Alayna Eagle Shield, a Lakȟóta Húŋkpapȟa and Arikara scholar, in the same volume, recalls her first morning protesting at Standing Rock. She tells of an elderly tribe member filling his čhaŋnúŋpa, a sacred pipe, & his people singing sacred pipe-filling songs; the breach of militant police presence, demanding those named “trespasser” vacate the private premises. It’s a keen reminder: if I want to think about in/violability, I must, in the same breath, think about Indigenous folks.

In a volume about enacting pedagogies in spaces which exist to defend the lives of Indigenous & Black folks, the bulwark of education in settler colonialism must be grappled with – especially when I read this volume in a university classroom, & now write these words for a university-sponsored newsletter. Education has had (& continues to have) a prominent role in the project of settler colonialism & Indigenous genocide, & if my work as a human, scholar, & editor is going to do anything, I must first contend with how it can be co-opted into settler colonialism & undergirded by silenced & invisible violences.

At FI, equity & innovation in higher education are part of our core tenets – & part of my aim here is to insist that the future must be Indigenous, Queer, Black, Trans, & Disabled, both within & without the classroom. On November 10th, Silvia Rivera Alfaro and Ernesto Cuba, two LAILaC students, will present on their participation in a 5-day edit-a-thon as members of Indisciplinadxs, a women-centered research community. Rivera Alfaro & Cuba, Lennihan Grant Recipients, will be presenting as part of The Futures Initiative Lennihan Grant Showcase. In this newsletter, Kashema Hutchinson, our CUNY Peer Leaders CO-Director, introduced us to some of the brilliant students in this year’s cohort, which spans across all CUNY campuses. I mention these events & programs because it is FI’s unflagging support of community college, undergraduate, & graduate students that allows potential for such a future to flourish.

Though FI cannot be a space free of the institution’s crosshairs, I do know that The Futures Initiative is a space in which scholars-teachers-learners are willing to interrogate whose bodies are at stake; how our work is being co-opted into settler colonialism & white supremacy; what it takes to produce work that does good despite the tremendous constraints of the institution; & how we can center the voices that most need to be heard.

Working together, I hope we can find a way forward – with our eyes wide open.

All my warmth & all my fight,
Nik Valdez they/them/theirs


The Futures Initiative
The Graduate Center, CUNY
365 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10016-4309