I facilitated a workshop last month. At the end, a long-time acquaintance approached me: “So, still talking about the police I see…”
I was quiet.
Late last year, a young neighbor committed suicide.
I was devastated. The scars remain.
Regular readers of this blog know that even before my young neighbor’s suicide, I had spent a lot of time documenting the hostile relationship between black youth in particular and the police. It cannot be helped. The young people who I work with mostly want to talk about their encounters with the police. Back in August, I quoted a young man who I work with:
“You know Ms. K, when I was growing up in the hood, I wasn’t afraid of the bogeyman, I was afraid of the 5.0. In the ghetto, the police are the bogeyman.”
State violence takes a toll on many, many young people of color. So as I struggled to find a way honor the memory of my young neighbor and to support the young people I currently work with, I decided that 2012 would be the year of the police for my organization. So this year, we released a set of resources to help adults talk with young people about policing, violence, and a history of resistance. These included a zine about police violence by my friend Rachel Marie Crane-Williams, an activity guide that I created for educators and youth organizers, an interactive timeline illustrating how rappers have described police violence, and a set of publications about historical moments of policing, violence, and resistance. I am happy to say that we have gotten wonderful feedback from folks across the country who are making use of these tools to engage young people in conversations about the police. I am truly gratified by this.
We also launched a participatory action research project titled “Chain Reaction: Alternatives to Calling the Police.” We are in the process of completing the final stage of that project. For Chain Reaction, we collected stories from young people about their encounters with the police. Below, you can listen to Anthony share his experience:
For those who appreciate audio stories, you can listen here.
We are currently hosting “listening sessions” across Chicago to engage community members around these stories. Our goal is to brainstorm alternatives to calling the police as a way to address harm in our neighborhoods. We will be sharing what we learn from these sessions next year.
So I am still talking about the police because the lives of the young people who I love depend upon it… That’s my belated answer to a very stupid question.