Dec 09 2014

On Toys, Incarcerated Moms and Solidarity…

Over the past few weeks, my friends at Moms United Against Violence & Incarceration and Chicago Legal Advocacy for Incarcerated Mothers have sponsored a holiday gift drive for children with incarcerated mothers and mothers in recovery. I have been heartened to witness the outpouring of support for this gift drive.

UPDATE: As of this evening, there were 1430 gift donations to incarcerated moms to their children. It’s just astounding!!! I asked friend and comrade Holly Krig for some reflections and words about the drive. Holly’s words are below. Thank you to everyone who has contributed to making this drive such a success! If you are in Chicago, please connect with Moms United and CLAIM’s work.

by Amaryllis Moleski

by Amaryllis Moleski

For Moms United Against Violence and Incarceration, the toy drive has been part of an ongoing collaboration with groups committed to developing some balance of advocacy, as well as education and organizing around the issue of mass incarceration. The idea to do the drive itself started with Alexis Mansfield, attorney with CLAIM/CGLA and Colette Payne, of their support group, Visible Voices. CLAIM’s founder, Gail Smith, and Olivia Chase of Lutheran Social Services IL, eagerly joined the partnership from the jump. In terms of the gift goal itself, I was cautiously optimistic, Sabrina Morey, (my co-organizer at Moms) figured we could triple our goal, easy.

And, she was right. The drive has been hugely successful, well beyond our original goal of 400 gift donations for the mothers of Logan Prison to give to their kids. The incredible generosity of donors from around Chicago and around the world, and of all the people who joined us in the call for donations, challenged us to raise the goal several times. Just 3 weeks into the drive, we have collected 1,368 of the 1,375 donations needed for moms at Logan and Decatur Prisons, Division 17 of Cook County Jail, and transitional facilities in Aurora and Chicago (Haymarket, Women’s Treatment Center and Grace House). In dollars, that is conservatively $27,000, if we account for some folks paying shipping too.

So, I should stop right there and say: THANK YOU. Thank you to all the folks who donated what they could afford, every box of markers or clay helps. Thank you to people like Mariame Kaba who leveraged her good name, her long-time commitment to the fight against the Prison Industrial Complex to help us raise donations. Also, Maya Schenwar, Suey Park, Kelly Hayes, so many more. Every box of markers or legos or soccer ball may as well have your names on them too.

Of course, the holidays aren’t only about gifts, and neither is this. It is profoundly important to support the relationship of mothers and their kids during this time of traumatic separation, which is especially painful over the holidays. And, for moms who are released while their kids are minors, simple things like gifts can concretely demonstrate to the courts that there has been ongoing contact between kids and parents, and help moms as they fight for what they have waited so long for: to be reunited with their kids. The success of the drive has also helped us deepen relationships with staff inside the facilities, which will hopefully create more opportunities to support inmates and their families from outside.

So, this toy drive is about moms and kids, but it is also about the people who donate. It is about raising the visibility of the millions of people disappeared in jails and prisons to people who may not think about incarceration, who may not have a personal connection. We hope the toy drive has initiated a personal connection for many, and reaffirmed a commitment for others, and, maybe, just felt like love to those who are already personally connected. We hope to maintain contact with the many people who have reached out to us to grow that base of people who will advocate for inmates’ rights, support harm-reducing efforts, and who will also join us in the fight for community based alternatives to mass incarceration, for all–juveniles, women, men.

We hope more people who supported this effort in any way will reach out to us at holly.krig@gmail.com (Moms United Against Violence and Incarceration). For people in and around Chicago, we invite people to celebrate the success of the toy drive, and learn more about the on-ongoing organizing at our “Holiday Party in Solidarity with Incarcerated Moms and their Kids” on Saturday, Dec 13th, 2-5pm, UE Hall, 37 S Ashland. Details on Facebook HERE.

Dec 08 2014

Video: Claudia Rankine’s ‘Stop & Frisk’

This is a must listen to…

Dec 03 2014

Interesting Things This Week 3

I’ve had some time to catch up on reading this week. Here are a few things that I appreciated.

1. Kiese Laymon is a gorgeous writer. I was mesmerized by this essay.

2. I liked Jelani Cobb’s reflections about Ferguson.

3. I re-read Mari Evans’s beautiful poem “If There Be Sorrow” and it’s still exquisite.

4. My friend Joey Mogul was interviewed about her work on the Burge Torture cases and the recent UNCAT concluding remarks. You should read the interview.

5. Chris Hedges is a wonderful writer (not popular to say these days, I know). He writes about Alcatraz as Disneyland. It’s well worth your time.

6. Read this glorious essay about our current historical moment by Robin D.G. Kelly.

7. This is a beautiful animated meditation about time and freedom made by 11 incarcerated artists at Stateville Prison.

8. Tanisha Anderson’s family is still trying to raise money to bury her. You can contribute here. Tanisha, who had a history of mental illness, was recently killed by Cleveland cops.

9. This Matt Bors comic says so much and yet not enough.

10. I read an interesting study the “superhumanization bias in whites’ perceptions of blacks.”

11. In response to the non-indictment of Darren Wilson and in solidarity with Marissa Alexander, I co-organized an action last Monday. This is lovely short video capturing the action and the subsequent impromptu march.

Dec 02 2014

Giving Tuesday: Please Support These Organizations

There are many important and worthy causes and organizations to support on this Giving Tuesday and really every day. I’d like to share a few that I support personally with my own resources. I hope that you will choose one or all of them to support as you consider your end of the year giving.

Chicago Freedom School – please support here
Founded in 2007, the mission of the Chicago Freedom School (CFS) is to create new generations of critical and independent thinking young people who use their unique experiences and power to create a just world. CFS provides training and education opportunities for youth and adult allies to develop leadership skills through the lens of civic action and through the study of the history of social movements and their leaders. Our vision is in the spirit of the original freedom schools in Mississippi in the 1960s, with CFS serving as a catalyst for young people across Chicago to discover their own power to make change – not only for themselves, but also for their communities and the world. [This is an organization that I co-founded and we really do good work.]

Project NIA — please support online HERE or send a check HERE
Launched in 2009, Project NIA is an advocacy, organizing, popular education, research, and capacity-building center with the long-term goal of ending youth incarceration. We believe that several simultaneous approaches are necessary in order to develop and sustain community-based alternatives to the system of policing and incarceration. Our mission is to dramatically reduce the reliance on arrest, detention, and incarceration for addressing youth crime and to instead promote the use of restorative and transformative practices, a concept that relies on community-based alternatives. [I founded and currently direct Project NIA]

Chicago Books to Women in Prison – support their book drive on Amazon HERE
Chicago Books to Women in Prison is a volunteer collective that distributes paperback books free of charge to women prisons nationwide. We are dedicated to offering women behind bars the opportunity for self-empowerme​nt, education and entertainment that reading provides. This list highlights the books we need most, but are not frequently donated. Use it as a guide or buy books directly from the list. All books must be paperback. Used and new books are accepted.

Black Youth Project 100 — support their work HERE
Black Youth Project 100 (BYP 100) is an activist member-based organization of Black 18-35 year olds, dedicated to creating justice and freedom for all Black people. We do this through building a collective focused on transformative leadership development, non-violent direct action organizing, advocacy and education.

Holiday Gift Drive for Children with Incarcerated Mothers – support the drive HERE
This project is a collaboration between Moms United and Chicago Legal Advocacy for Incarcerated Mothers. As we see the largest growing segment of the prison population is mothers, esp mothers of color, we see also a growing number of children on the other side of those bars, many entering the foster care system. It is so important to all moms to be able to give a gift to their children during the holidays. This program will allow mothers at Logan Prison in IL to choose a gift that YOU donated, and surprise their child/children​. Please help us make this a special holiday season for kids and moms who are experiencing the pain of separation, but who work so hard to maintain that critical bond throughout the year. Thanks in advance for anything you can do to help! Please share this wish list with friends and family too! One more thing: We would like to properly thank folks who donate, so if you would drop us a line at holly.krig@gma​il.com, that would be additionally great! Thank you! *****Update***​**We have reached our goal for Logan, Decatur, Fox Valley, and Cook County Jail. Thank to the amazing generosity and commitment of those who donated and shared the event with their networks, we can now collect for Haymarket, a treatment center to which some moms from Cook County Jail are sentenced, as well as 2 additional transitional facilities in Chicago! Wonderfully unexpected, and let’s keep it going! Thank YOU!!!

Black and Pink – Please support them HERE
Black & Pink is an open family of LGBTQ prisoners and “free world” allies who support each other. Our work toward the abolition of the prison industrial complex is rooted in the experience of currently and formerly incarcerated people. We are outraged by the specific violence of the prison industrial complex against LGBTQ people, and respond through advocacy, education, direct service, and organizing.

Dec 01 2014

Police “Reforms” You Should Always Oppose…

I read today that President Obama has offered some measures for ‘reforming’ the police.

Here is a simple guide for evaluating any suggested ‘reforms’ of U.S. policing in this historical moment.

1. Are the proposed reforms allocating more money to the police? If yes, then you should oppose them.
2. Are the proposed reforms advocating for MORE police and policing (under euphemistic terms like ‘community policing’ run out of regular police districts)? If yes, then you should oppose them.
3. Are the proposed reforms primarily technology-focused? If yes, then you should oppose them because:
a. It means more money to the police.
b. Said technology is more likely to be turned against the public than it is to be used against cops.
c. Police violence won’t end through technological advances (no matter what someone is selling you).
4. Are the proposed ‘reforms’ focused on individual dialogues with individual cops? And will these ‘dialogues’ be funded with tax dollars? I am never against dialogue. It’s good to talk with people. These conversations, however, should not be funded by tax payer money. That money is better spent elsewhere. Additionally, violence is endemic to U.S. policing itself. There are some nice individual people who work in police departments. I’ve met some of them. But individual dialogue projects reinforce the “bad apples” theory of oppressive policing. This is not a problem of individually terrible officers rather it is a problem of a corrupt and oppressive policing system built on controlling & managing the marginalized while protecting property.

What ‘reforms’ should you support (in the interim) then?

1. Proposals and legislation to offer reparations to victims of police violence and their families.
2. Proposals and legislation to require police officers to carry personal liability insurance to cover costs of brutality or death claims.
3. Proposals and legislation to decrease and re-direct policing and prison funds to other social goods.
4. Proposals and legislation for (elected) independent civilian police accountability boards with power to investigate, discipline, fire police officers and administrators. [WITH SOME SERIOUS CAVEATS]
5. Proposals and legislation to disarm the police.
6. Proposals to simplify the process of dissolving existing police departments.
7. Proposals and legislation for data transparency (stops, arrests, budgeting, weapons, etc…)

Ultimately, the only way that we will address oppressive policing is to abolish the police. Therefore all of the ‘reforms’ that focus on strengthening the police or “morphing” policing into something more invisible but still as deadly should be opposed.

Dec 01 2014

To Damo, With Our Love…

Damo, we still speak your name…

The news came on Friday. I wasn’t able to hear it as it broke. Later when I checked email, I read the excited comments. The United Nations Committee Against Torture (UNCAT) had released its concluding remarks. Among many references to the brutality and impunity of U.S. policing, they wrote:

“The Committee is concerned about numerous, consistent reports that police have used electrical discharge weapons against unarmed individuals who resist arrest or fail to comply immediately with commands, suspects fleeing minor crime scenes or even minors. Moreover, the Committee is appalled at the number of reported deaths after the use of electrical discharge weapons, including the recent cases of Israel “Reefa” Hernández Llach in Miami Beach, Florida, and Dominique Franklin Jr. in Sauk Village, Illinois. While taking note of the information provided by the State party on the relevant guidelines and available training for law-enforcement officers, the Committee observes the need to introduce more stringent regulations governing their use (arts. 11, 12, 13, 14 and 16).”

I took a deep breath as the words blurred. So much of what we do in the name of the dead is really for us the living. It’s so we can try to make sense of the senseless. It’s so we can carry on and move through our grief. It’s so we don’t follow the dead into their graves. In May, when I wrote about your killing by the CPD, I didn’t know how your friends (how our community) would come together to ensure that your death wouldn’t be another unremarked upon, unnoticed but to a few, routine occurrence.

We Charge Genocide (WCG) was born from the tragedy of your killing. However, through WCG, many of us have re-membered to hope. WCG member Sarah Macaraeg beautifully captured the essence of the UN delegation’s trip earlier this month:

“By the time the delegates left, they had staged both a walk out and a silent protest inside the United Nations when “US representatives responded to…questions regarding police use of tasers by claiming police are properly trained to use them and that they aren’t lethal,” according to a group statement.

In two days, they changed history. The story of Dominique Franklin Jr. has now been covered around the world, affirming the belief that his life mattered, as all young Black lives matter. Questions of police impunity, militarization, excessive force, and patterns of discrimination are now among the forefront of those posed by U.N. members to the U.S.” –

Your friends made sure your name was entered into the record when they charged genocide for your killing and those of other black people in Chicago. They stood fists raised, then tired arms raised, some holding your picture for 30 minutes. They didn’t need words to convey their solidarity and love. Their protest embodied both.

We Charge Genocide at UNCAT

We Charge Genocide at UNCAT

wcggeneva5

On Friday the UN guaranteed that your death, your tragically unnecessary death, will serve as a platform for future organizing and change. All of us who have been involved in this effort are committed to continue the work of creating a more just world in your name and those of the others lost to us through state violence.

Your friend Malcolm, who was/is gutted by your killing, was among the delegation that traveled to the UN in Geneva. He and the other delegates carried your story and those of many others with them. They took the task incredibly seriously. You would be proud.

We struggle out of profound love. It’s a love that sustains and strengthens us. It’s a love that convinces us that we will eventually win. I close with Malcolm’s words about you, Damo, because they are so eloquent. Malcolm urges that “no matter what life you lived, you deserved to live it!” This is the epitome of unconditional love that refuses any justifications for your killing. We should all strive to meet this test. I have no more words. All I will say is that you are written; we’ve spelled your name into eternity. We carry on. Rest in power, young man, rest in peace.