I was glad to join Dr. Ruth Wilson Gilmore and Mujahid Farid for a discussion about abolition in September 2016. The conversation was sponsored by Critical Resistance and is now available on video.
I’m a founding member of a formation called Survived and Punished. We came together in 2015 to leverage the work that our individual organizations are doing around the criminalization of survivors of violence in order to build collective power.
This week S & P is highlighting the cases of several women and gender non-confirming people who have been criminalized for survival and self-defense. The week of action kicked off with a focus on Bresha Meadows. The following video created by Love and Protect (one of the groups that is part of Survived and Punished) illustrates a solidarity action that was organized in support of Bresha in Chicago.
This week, my fellow Survived and Punished member Alisa Bierria and I co-wrote an op-ed (published In These Times) about the need to prioritize criminalized survivors in the Trump era even as we continue to fight for decarceration:
“On the eve of his inauguration, we think that it’s critical to ask what impact Trump will have on the criminal punishment system—and in particular, on criminalized survivors of violence like Bresha. We must carefully consider how to organize around prison and criminal legal issues in this new context. There will be a scramble to prioritize issues that need our attention and advocacy. It’s important that the experiences of criminalized survivors of domestic and sexual violence not be lost in the shuffle.”
Learn about the other criminalized survivors featured during this week of action here.
I’m excited to share this abolitionist bystander intervention video today.
How can we defend each other? One way is to interrupt racist and transphobic attacks without calling the police (unless you are asked to). This new video has tips for how to respond, and talks about going beyond reacting to individual incidents, and getting involved with organizing for systemic change.
The video is narrated by Aaryn M. Lang, and was produced by friends at Barnard Center for Research on Women – BCRW and Project NIA, including Lewis Wallace. It’s part of a broader pre-inauguration collaboration with Mariame Kaba (me), the American Friends Service Committee, Showing up for Racial Justice, Jewish Voice for Peace, Black Lives Matter and a bunch of individual teachers and librarians around the country to create and distribute cultural responses to white supremacy and rising racist violence.
Watch and most importantly share the video far and wide. It’s a great resource.
Also there is an accompanying arts-based curriculum that can be accessed here.
I greatly appreciate Critical Resistance’s work. Last year, they curated several conversations about abolition. I was privileged to participate in one of them. The video for that is forthcoming. For now, please watch long-time abolitionist organizers Rachel Herzing and Dylan Rodriguez in conversation.
Every month, I will be posting concrete actions that we can take in the ongoing struggle for more justice. Victoria Safford shared a quote from someone in an essay that I appreciate very much: “You know we cannot do this all at once. But every day offers every one of us little invitations for resistance, and you make your own responses.” I love the idea of “little invitations for resistance.” The question before all of us, I think, is ‘what will we make of this moment in history?’ One thing I know for sure is that we need to build our *action* muscles. We need to get outside of ourselves and act (both individually and collectively). This is my small contribution to encouraging more of us to act (together).
2. Organize a community meeting to resist Trump (sorry I had to unlink this because emails were coming directly to me for some reason. Google moveon.org to find relevant info) and to discuss the importance of #Medicare4All among other issues. Sign up through Moveon.org to host a meeting and/or to attend a meeting in your community on January 15.
3. If you are in the NYC-area and are interested in fighting for single payer health care, attend the 2017 National Single Payer Strategy Conference from January 13-15.
4. Read “Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda” for useful information about defensive organizing at the Congressional level.
5. Read this short essay about how social change happens.
6. Sign up for an organizing 101 training in your community. If there isn’t one available or accessible, read “Organizing for Social Change: Midwest Academy Manual for Activists” as a primer. Here’s a sample of the book as a PDF. You can also review the following website for an introduction to organizing. If you can though, it is best to participate in an in-person training.
7. Join or organize a rally/action on January 15 as part of the “Our First Stand: Save Healthcare” mobilization called by Congressional Democrats and led by Sen. Bernie Sanders. Details are presumably forthcoming.
8. Be Ungovernable on January 20th and beyond.
9. Participate in the Day of Action to #FreeBresha on January 19.
10. Offer mutual aid and support. Donate to help children visit their incarcerated mothers in Illinois.
A letter to white liberals, my family and friends,
Donald Trump’s rhetoric, and that of the people who support him, makes each of you uncomfortable.
I share your discomfort, anger, sadness, and, at times, terror over what might come as Trump rolls out his nightmare vision of technologically armed white supremacist government.
But I am writing with a frank reminder and an urgent plea.
First, the reminder: radical queers, trans people, black people, Muslims, incarcerated people, Native Americans, immigrants and the undocumented, people with disabilities, and those who live at the intersections of these identities—all have lived with this discomfort and terror for decades or centuries. So, to watch this may feel like a nightmare unfolding, but its contours are not new.
Unfortunately, marginalized people have often appeared in liberal and Democratic efforts as tokens, people whose lives and value have been invoked in order to win elections but whose humanity has been negated by actual policy. In particular, too many liberals have been complacent toward mass incarceration, police violence and global militarized capitalism, which have kept whole groups of people vulnerable and unsafe in the U.S. and around the world.
Even before this election, we have been asking for something bigger, something more visionary than token diversity: A world in which Black lives really do matter. A world in which trans bodies are celebrated and safe. An end to white supremacist policies of incarceration and border control that take many lives each year. Economic justice and a rebuke of neoliberalism and privatization of basic needs like water, a demand that people across the globe have access to land, work, water, shelter and power.
These are beautiful possibilities, full of hope and solidarity. And yet when we ask for those things as a comprehensive vision, we are portrayed as absurd, as outsiders with impossible dreams.
I had big plans to get back to regular blogging in 2016. Unfortunately life intervened.
I am happy to say that I’ve moved back to my hometown of New York City after over 20 years of living in Chicago.
This means many things. One is that once I am more settled, I’ll be able to return to more regular blogging. I am very excited about that because I miss writing regularly.
My writing will take on a different character because I will no longer be working on a daily basis with young people in conflict with the law.
For those of you who still check in here from time to time to see if I’ve posted anything new, thanks for your continued interest. I’ll be back soon.
Peace to you all.
This week is the National Week of Action Against Incarcerating Youth. During this week, I am pleased to feature work by incarcerated young people at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center (JTDC) who participate in the Free Write Jail Arts and Literacy Program.
To kick us off, here is a poem by a young person named Tyreece.