Valarie Kaur’s talk at TED talk pulls together stories and studies in ethics, law and science, making the case for why Revolutionary Love is the call of our times.

What is the antidote to rising nationalism, polarization and hate in the US and around the globe? Movement lawyer, filmmaker, and civil rights activist Valarie Kaur argues that we must reclaim love as a public ethic. Kaur redefines love as a form of sweet labor — bloody, imperfect, life-giving. When we pour love in three directions — toward others, opponents, and ourselves, then love becomes revolutionary. Through a journey that spans the birthing room to sites of bloodshed, Kaur leaves us with a singular call to action: How do we begin to birth a new future? Do like the midwife says: Breathe. Then… Push.

“Revolutionary love is the call of our times. ‘If you cringe when people say love is the answer — I do too. I’m a lawyer.’ Valarie Kaur closes the TEDWomen conference with a blockbuster talk about the revolutionary power of love, the “sweet labor” of actively working to make the world better, to hear each others’ stories, to help us see no one as a stranger. This struggle became personal to her when she gave birth to a son ‘in a time white nationalists call their great awakening, when far right-wing movements are on the rise around the globe, when hate crimes against Muslims and Sikhs are the highest they have been since 9/11. My son is growing up a little brown boy in a nation more dangerous for him than the one I was given. I will not be able to protect him when others see his body as a terrorist.’ How can we begin to live in this world, how can we find the strength to make change? Do like the midwife says: Breathe. Then … push.”

— Live from TEDWomen: Breathe and push: Notes from Session 6: Rebuild


TED Reading List

All About Love: New Visions
bell hooks
William Morrow, 2010

This is the seminal work on love as a public ethic. bell hooks declares that “all spheres of American life — politics, religion, the workplace, domestic households, intimate relations — should and could have as their foundation a love ethic.” Because love is more than a feeling — love is sweet labor that can be modeled, taught, and practiced.

Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living
Krista Tippett
Penguin Press, 2017

If you order one book, let this one be it. It’s a breathtaking tapestry of the prophetic voices of our time and includes mentors who have advanced my understanding of love and wisdom — Eve Ensler, Parker Palmer, Brian McLaren, Rabbi Sharon Brous, and Sister Simone Campbell, among others. Reading this book is a meditation.

Robert Sapolsky
Penguin Press, 2017

This is my go-to encyclopedia! A dazzling history of the science behind our worst human impulses and our best human behaviors that equip us to love in revolutionary ways. The studies in this book allow us to ground practices of the love ethic in the latest research in biology and neuroscience.

Teachings of the Sikh Gurus: Selections from the Sikh Scriptures
Christopher Shackle & Arvind Mandair
Routledge, 2005

I have carried this book in my bag for more than a decade. It is my favorite compilation of devotional poems from the Sikh faith that call us to a vision of Oneness, Ik Onkar. These teachings inspired my own understanding of a fierce, embodied, warrior love. My copy is worn from multiple readings!

We Too Sing America
Deepa Iyer
The New Press, 2017

This is the must-read book on the social justice struggles of Sikh, Muslim, Arab, and South Asian Americans since 9/11. Our sister and veteran activist Deepa Iyer tells the stories America has yet to hear and presents a pragmatic blueprint for how we can shift culture and policy. My lessons in love in a time of rage were forged in the shared history she chronicles here.

The Radical King
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. & Cornel West
Beacon Press, 2016

It’s time to remember and reclaim the King who opposed war and named the triple evils of  racism, poverty, and militarism. It’s also time to advance his vision for a new time. Check out this book and then come to the Revolutionary Love Conference: Complete the Dream hosted by the Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis to explore how love can end the triple evils and a fourth evil, sexism.

Beyond the Messy Truth: How We Came Apart, How We Come Together
Van Jones
Ballantine Books, 2017

So what in the world does love look like in politics? Our brother and co-conspirator Van Jones shows us in this book, part-manifesto, part-tough love letter to Americans at a time of escalation nationalism, polarization, and hate. This is a book for here and now — and just might inspire you to join us in the #LoveArmy.