Dec 31 2014

My 8 Favorite Posts of 2014

Everyone seems to make lists at the end of the year so I figure that I need to get on board. I’ll share my 8 favorite posts of the year. I don’t think that they are my 8 BEST posts just my favorites for many different reasons.

As we end 2014, I’d like to thank all of you who read and engage with this blog. I can’t believe that it’s been 4.5 years since I launched it. I have learned so much about blogging in that time. I still have more to learn. I hope to do better in 2015.

I’d like to wish you all a Happy New Year. May 2015 bring us all more justice and some peace.

In no particular order…

1. The Young and UnMoored

2. Free Marissa and All Black People

3. ‘Prison Chic’ and Ghosts

4. Applauding Black Death in the Hour of Chaos

5. ‘Mistaken Identity,’ The Violent Un-Gendering of Black Women, and the NYPD

6. The Man With The Cardboard Sign…

7. The Ghastly Ritual: Death, Pain, and Love

8. To Damo, With Our Love

Dec 31 2014

Sights and Sounds of Chicago’s Struggle for Reparations…

Over the past couple of weeks, Chicagoans have intensified their calls for the City Council and Mayor Emanuel to pass a reparations ordinance for police torture survivors. The struggle for justice for Chicago’s survivors of police torture has spanned several decades.

On December 16 and December 29th, several organizations and individuals organized actions and marches to increase the pressure on elected officials to pass the ordinance. Below are some photos and video from both actions. You can support this organizing by contacting holdout alderpeople and demanding that they support the ordinance. Details for how to help are here.

December 16Holiday March and Action to Pass Reparations for Chicago Police Torture Survivors

Professor Adam Green, a member of the Chicago Torture Justice Memorials, opened the march with a few words setting the context of the struggle.

photo by Page May (12/16/14)

photo by Page May (12/16/14)

photo by Page May (12/16/14)

photo by Page May (12/16/14)

photo by Page May (12/16/14)

photo by Page May (12/16/14)

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Dec 30 2014

“The Princess Who Went Quiet:” A Fable

For the past couple of years, I have had the pleasure and privilege to work with and to get to know a talented young Chicago artist named Bianca Diaz. Bianca spent a summer (a couple of years ago) as an intern with my organization and has stayed on as a volunteer since that time. Over the past couple of years, I have watched Bianca learn about the ravages of the prison industrial complex along with the possibilities for transformative justice. She has listened attentively to the stories of people who been incarcerated and their families. She has used her artistic talents to further the struggle for justice and to promote an end of prisons.

Bianca is currently studying art in Ireland. While there, she completed a beautiful children’s book titled “The Princess Who Went Quiet.” It’s a story informed by Bianca’s thinking about incarceration and peace. Hard copies of the book will be distributed to children who have a loved one incarcerated at Cook County Jail through a grant by 96 Acres.

Bianca has generously made the story available to others who want to read it by posting it online too. Here in her own words Bianca shares her inspiration:

“I’m happy to share that my comic is now online for your reading and downloading pleasure! Please feel free to print and share this with anyone.
This comic was inspired by the stories that many people have shared with me about how incarceration has impacted their own lives, the lives of their family members, and the life of their communities. Thank you so much for letting me listen.”

by Bianca Diaz (2014)

by Bianca Diaz (2014)

Below is Bianca’s description of the story. I could not be more proud and blessed to know and work with such an incredibly kind, creative and talented person as Bianca. Stay tuned for an upcoming collaboration between us in the new year!

“There once lived a storytelling princess who was loved by her entire kingdom. When the princess was stolen away by a dragon everyone searched desperately for her, but they never found her. Alone in the belly of the dragon and with no one to tell stories to, the princess fell into a deep sleep.

In the kingdom of her dreams, the princess rules with fairness and love. She introduces peace circles to help her community find peace together. Having heard of the princess’s many great deeds and her ability to grow peace, King Capybara seeks her help when the capybara way of life is threatened, and capybara are disappearing. The princess travels to a far away land with the capybara and discovers what is making them disappear.

To save them, she must re-learn how to use her voice and speak. To save herself, she must open her eyes, and unite her dream world with her waking reality.”

Dec 29 2014

Thinking Through the End of Police…

Many people are more afraid of imagining a world without police than one without prisons. This seems especially true for people who consider themselves to be progressive. I don’t have the time, energy or inclination to write in depth about abolishing the police right now. But I’ve been asked a lot for ‘resources’ on the topic. To be honest, I’m crabby about offering those too. This is because what people usually mean by “resources” is a step-by-step guide or program. Well, that doesn’t exist because building a world without police is actually a collective project that will also mean that many, many other things will need to change too. That’s not a satisfying answer for people who don’t actually want to think and most importantly who think it’s “other people’s” responsibility to come up with “alternatives.”

by Shirin-Banou Barghi

by Shirin-Banou Barghi

Rinaldo Walcott offers a start for those looking for the right questions to ask about abolishing the police:

“We need broad based discussions about the future of modern policing and what it is really for.

We need to imagine a time when police are not needed. In the interim we need to disarm the police.

We must require police to work in communities they live in and make them accountable to communities they police.

We need to work towards forms of being in community where conflict is resolved within communities and where resolution is not necessarily oriented towards punishment.

These ways of being are not beyond us, indeed these ways of being are shared by many among us.

We need only recognize and acknowledge that such knowledge exists and the practice is doable.

In essence, any moral and ethical society willing to confront the deeper reasons why policing exist at all would be working towards its abolition.”

On another day when I am feeling less tired and more generous, I might write something that summarizes my ideas and thoughts on the matter. But not today…

So for now, here are a very few readings to help those who are interested in abolishing the police to think more deeply about the possibilities…

Alternatives to Police (PDF) by Rose City Copwatch (2008)

Alternatives to the Police by Evan Dent, Molly Korab, and Farid Rener

The Avant-garde of White Supremacy by Steve Martinot and Jared Sexton

Broken Windows is On Hiatus: Community Interventions We Can Enact Now for Real Justice by Hannah Hodson

Can We Build an Anti-Policing Movement that Isn’t Anti-Police? by Radical Faggot

Citizens, Cops, and Power: Recognizing the Limits of Community by Steve Herbert

Feeling for the Edge of your Imagination: finding ways not to call the police

A New Year’s Resolution: Don’t Call the Police by Mike Ludwig

Not Calling the Police by Prison Culture

Origins of the Police by David Whitehouse

The Other Side of the COIN (PDF) by Kristian Williams.

Policing is a Dirty Job, But Nobody’s Gotta Do It: 6 Ideas for a Cop-Free World by Jose Martin

Policing Slaves Since the 1600s by Auandaru Nirhan

The Shanti Sena ‘peace center’ and the non-policing of an anarchist temporary autonomous zone: Rainbow Family peacekeeping strategies (PDF) by Michael Niman

Stop Kidding Yourself: The Police Were Created to Control Working Class and Poor People by Sam Mitrani

We Don’t Just Need Nicer Cops. We Need Fewer Cops by Alex S. Vitale

What Does It Mean to Be Anti-Police? by Alex S. Vitale

Where abolition meets action: women organizing against gender violence (PDF) by Vikki Law

Dec 28 2014

Take Action: #Reparations for Police Torture Survivors

photo by Bronte Price (4/4/14)

photo by Bronte Price (4/4/14)

On Monday at 1 pm, join members of Chicago BYP 100 and others for an action to pressure the Chicago City Council and Mayor Rahm Emanuel to pass a reparations ordinance for police torture survivors.

reparationsordinance

Details for the action are HERE.

The following are the main demands for the action.

DemandsMeme

If you can’t make it out to the action/rally at 1 pm at Daley Center, you can still participate in a number of ways.

1. Call Mayor Rahm Emanuel and demand that he offer his FULL SUPPORT for the reparations ordinance.

CallMeme

2. Call Alderman Ed Burke’s office and demand a hearing in the finance committee for the ordinance BEFORE February. He can be reached at 312.744.3380.

photo by Page May (12/16/14)

photo by Page May (12/16/14)

3. If you are represented by one of the alderpeople not (yet) supporting the reparations ordinance, here’s what you can do to help:

a. Call your ward office & ask why your alderperson is not yet supporting the ordinance. Let them know 27 others already are.

b. Organize others in your ward to meet directly with your alderperson to let them know you want them to sign on as a co-sponsor.

c. If they still refuse to commit, organize creative actions in your ward to put pressure on them. Do it in January.

The list of alderpeople can be found HERE.

Below is a short video of the December 16 reparations march and action. Please make sure to come out on Monday at 1 p.m. if you can. Spread the word to others.

Dec 23 2014

Video – Groundswell’s Brooklyn Mural Project: The Prison Industrial Complex

THIRTEEN documented one Groundswell mural from conception to execution — a piece entitled “P.I.C.T.U.R.E.S Prison Industrial Complex: Tyranny Undermining Rights, Education, and Society” in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn, that addresses the causes and effects of incarceration.

Since 1996, Groundswell has brought together artists, educators, activists and youth to create collaborative public artwork across New York City. Every mural has a central theme — meant to give expression to underrepresented ideas and perspectives, and to better the lives of both neighbors and artists alike.

Dec 21 2014

13 Things That We Re-Learned About the Prison Industrial Complex in 2014

Last year, I offered a year-end list of key developments in the PIC. People seemed to appreciate the recap so I produced a 2014 version. As was true last year, there are many developments that didn’t make the list including the report by the National Research Council that analyzed the exponential growth of U.S. incarceration, the announcement that New York City will end punitive solitary confinement for juveniles, the continued criminalization of motherhood (especially black mothers), the ongoing criminalization of LGBTQ people, multiple botched executions, the indictment of Christopher Epps, Mississippi’s corrections commissioner for corruption, and more.

We are STILL in the era of “mass” & “hyper” incarceration.

1. In 2014, we learned that state prison populations actually increased last year. In 2013, the prison population was 1,574,741, an increase of about 4,300 over the previous year, but below its high of 1,615,487 in 2009. This was the first increase in state prison population in four years. Read the full report here (PDF).

Source: The Sentencing Project (2014)

Source: The Sentencing Project (2014)

The prison population in New Hampshire grew faster than any other state. The state’s 8.2% increase topped second-place Nebraska’s 6.8% rise and far outstripped the 0.3% national increase in the number of prisoners. Below is a pie chart that breaks down the proportion of prisoners in state & federal facilities.

Source: Texas Observer, 9/17/14

Source: Texas Observer, 9/17/14

2. The prison AND jail population in the U.S. declined slightly in 2013.

The decrease can be mostly attributed to a decline in the number of people in jail. The number of people in local jails last year fell by almost 2 percent – to 731,200. The US is still the world’s largest jailer by a mile.

Source: The Marshall Project

Source: The Marshall Project

Police violence continues unabated… and to does the resistance.

3. This year will be remembered for the deaths of Tanisha Anderson, Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and more.

It will also be remembered for the sustained resistance to police violence catalyzed by protests in Ferguson, Missouri.

photo by Sarah Jane Rhee (Chicago, 11/24/14)

photo by Sarah Jane Rhee (Chicago, 11/24/14)

4. A group of 8 young people of color from Chicago took their charge of genocide to the United Nations Committee Against Torture to internationalize the struggle against police violence.

We Charge Genocide at UNCAT

We Charge Genocide at UNCAT

Read more »

Dec 15 2014

Holiday Action for Reparations for Chicago Police Torture Survivors

On Tuesday, December 16th, Chicago Torture Justice Memorials (CTJM), We Charge Genocide, Project NIA and Amnesty International will hold a five-mile march, then deliver a petition, reveal a list of nice & naughty alderpeople and hold and a memorial at City Hall to demand passage of the Reparations Ordinance for Chicago Police Torture Survivors.

dec16tortureaction

On October 16, 2013, a Reparations Ordinance for Chicago Police Torture Survivors was introduced in Chicago’s City Council. It has already garnered the support of 26 alderpeople, with only one additional vote needed to pass the ordinance. Passage of the ordinance is also supported by the United Nations Committee Against Torture.

For the full text of the Reparations Ordinance see: http://chicagotorture.org/#reparations

Organizers are asking Chicagoans represented by alderpeople not in support of the ordinance to take action: http://pastebin.com/248AcnE2

Schedule:

12 PM / Police Headquarters: Chicagoans will march about five miles from Chicago Police Headquarters, at 3510 S. Michigan Ave, to City Hall, at 121 N. LaSalle.

2 PM / City Hall, 5th Floor: Marchers will deliver a petition with over 45,000 signatures in support of the Reparations for Chicago Police Torture Survivors ordinance. They will create a public memorial outside the Mayor’s office and call for Mayor Emanuel and the Chicago City Council to pass the ordinance before the municipal elections this February.

5 PM/ Grace Place Church, 637 N. Dearborn: Chicagoans are invited for pizzaa and a conversation about reparations & healing justice. RSVP here.

Remote Action: Organizers are encouraging those who can’t attend the action to participate via social media by using the #RahmRepNow hashtag to demand that Mayor Emanuel support the reparations ordinance, and by calling the Mayor’s office at 312-744-3300 to advocate for the ordinance.

Visuals: Participants are asked to bring a photo, manifesto, memento, candle, sign, poem, or flower to City Hall.

Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/340660236117395/

“We give thanks to all who have stood up against the travesty of Chicago Police torture. We are making our grief, anger and determination seen and felt by coming together to demonstrate that we will not ignore the ongoing reality of police violence,” says Martha Biondi, a member of Chicago Torture Justice Memorial. “We demand Mayor Emanuel offer his full support to the Reparations Ordinance for Chicago Police Torture Survivors and are delivering petitions with over 45,000 signatures in support of it.”

About the Reparations for Chicago Police Torture Survivors ordinance:
Among other demands, the ordinance would require the city to administer financial reparations to all Burge torture survivors who are unable to sue for monetary damages because the statute of limitations for their claims has expired. The proposed ordinance would also provide all torture survivors and their families with tuition-free education at City Colleges; create a center on the South Side of Chicago that would provide psychological counseling, health care services and vocational training to those affected by law enforcement torture and abuse; and require Chicago Public Schools to teach about these cases and sponsor the construction of public torture memorials. It also asks the city’s leaders to issue a formal apology to those who were tortured and their communities.

Dec 14 2014

Free Lookman, Kidnapped by Chicago Police…

Update: Thanks to everyone for reading and sharing this post. I have just returned from bond court and have some “good news” regarding Lookman and his case. His charges were dropped to two misdemeanors (battery and resisting arrest). The charges remain bogus and will be fought in court. Lookman will be represented by my friend Joey Mogul in his next court date. For now, we are told that he will be released later today on a $10,000 I-bond. The money raised so far will go towards the legal fees that will accrue. But for now, Lookman should be home later today. Thank God and thank all of you for your support.

On a related note, two other young people of color were arrested at yesterday’s protests. One was badly beaten by the cops and taken to the hospital before being returned to jail. They too were represented by Joey and Molly Armour of the National Lawyers Guild today. Unfortunately, they are still charged with felonies. They have a $150,000 bond between them so they will need $15,000 to be bailed out. Some of their supporters are currently working on an online fundraiser for this. I will share the link once I have it.

Update #2: Lookman is out of jail. However, two other young men remain locked up on felony aggravated battery charges on a police officer, a felony. One of those young men was badly beaten by the police and had to be taken to the hospital. They are without resources for bail. Here is their bail fund. Please help them get out of jail as soon as possible. Any amount helps and please share the link with others. Thanks.

It’s his smile that draws you in… Mischievous and precious because it isn’t bestowed to everyone. You have to earn it because his ‘unlucky’ life has offered little to smile about. To bask in that smile is a gift.

I was at a visioning and strategy session about how to end police violence yesterday when I heard that Lookman was arrested.

photo by Yolanda Perdomo (12/13/14)

photo by Yolanda Perdomo (12/13/14)

He was protesting police terror along of hundreds of other Chicagoans. As soon as I heard that he was snatched by CPD, my heart dropped. I knew that he was close, so damn close, to getting off probation for a nonviolent offense. I knew that nothing good would come of this. Nothing.

Sure enough, when I arrived at the police station last night, I heard that he was being charged with aggravated assault on a police officer, a felony. Witnesses who saw the entire episode unfold say that he did no such thing. These are trumped up charges. We will fight them starting today in bond court.

Lookman is a young black man living in Chicago. As such, he is a walking target. This takes its toll over the course of a young life. Along with the relentless police surveillance and harassment, Lookman was a victim of the school-to-prison pipeline. Listen as he shares his experience of getting into fights at school which eventually landed him behind bars at the young age of 15.

When Lookman talks about his time in the “Audy Home,” he means the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center (JTDC). Below is a photo of a cell at the juvenile jail. Lookman talks in the audio clip about looking out of the window in order to feel “human again,” you can see what that window looks like.

Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center by Richard Ross (Juvenile-in-Justice)

Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center by Richard Ross (Juvenile-in-Justice)

In Chicago, we lock black boys up to cage the rage but it doesn’t disappear, it only grows. To heal the walking wounded, we cling to anything that we can find. We beg them to talk, to express, to let go. We have almost no resources. The state is allocating those to the military and to build more cages. Some of them like Lookman channel their feelings in spoken word. “I’m tired,” he says.

Over the years, Lookman has grown as a person within a leadership development program that my organization incubated for many years called Circles and Ciphers. Lookman has traveled across Chicago leading peace circles in schools and other community spaces.

Lookman leading a peace circle last month (photo by Sarah Jane Rhee)

Lookman leading a peace circle last month (photo by Sarah Jane Rhee)

He spends most of his time these days looking for ways to bring more justice and some peace into this world. For this, he should be respected and uplifted. The Chicago Police department is hell bent on harassing, targeting and destroying him instead. We will not allow them to kidnap and disappear Lookman. He has a family and community that loves him. We want him back. He has work to do in the world. He has a life to live. We will not stand for this injustice. Please help us fight.

We need to raise money to bail Lookman out of jail. Click HERE to donate (this link will be updated with information after today’s bond hearing, we are just getting a head start). Thank you in advance for your support and help.

Dec 12 2014

Reporting Back From the UN…

Yesterday evening was the official We Charge Genocide report back from the delegation’s trip to present to the United Nations Committee Against Torture in Geneva.

Over 250 people gathered to hear members of the delegation share their experiences and reflections on the trip.

photo by Sarah Jane Rhee (12/11/14)

photo by Sarah Jane Rhee (12/11/14)

I’m extremely tired and I still have several long days ahead of me so I will keep it short. I am so proud of everyone who is part of We Charge Genocide. I am blessed to get to keep such wonderful company. There is much work to do in this movement moment. We plan to get on with the business of doing that work.

Dominique (Damo) Franklin Jr remains at the center of our work. We will continue to speak his name. Ethan Viets-VanLear, one of the delegates to the UN, wrote a poem titled “For Damo.” Page May, another delegate & a WCG organizer, created a video of the poem which was filmed in Geneva. Please watch and share it.