There’s a lot happening in Chicago right now. I am busy and don’t have much time to write. I did write a short piece for the Guardian about this weekend’s killing of Quintonio LeGrier and Bettie Jones by the Chicago Police Department.
Vigil for Quintonio and Bettie (Chicago, 12/27/15) Photo by Frank James Johnson
To protect the lives and futures of black Chicagoans we need more than just changes in policing. We need to address structural and systemic oppression; that involves securing a living wage and guaranteed jobs; keeping our schools public and stopping closures and speeding up decarceration by ending things like cash bail.
To prevent these kinds of deaths from happening again, we will need community-based mental health services and to create alternatives outside of police to respond to crises. We also will need accountability, which is why local activists and organizers are calling for Rahm Emanuel’s resignation and that of Cook County state’s attorney Anita Alvarez.
We understand that all of these solutions are interconnected; that they are essential to living lives free from violence and are critical to our liberation.
Extrajudicial killing of black people is the norm, not the exception. The stories bleed and blend into each other, colorless. Another day, another death to absorb and many are numb. Words are achingly insufficient in the face of so much brutality – now is the time for actions.
I spent part of this year co-curating an exhibition titled “Blood at the Root: Unearthing Stories of State Violence Against Black Women & Girls.” The exhibition focuses our attention on the fact that all #BlackWomensLivesMatter and all #BlackGirlsLivesMatter. Relying on various artifacts, we narrate the experiences and resistance of Black women and girls (trans and non-trans) who have been brutalized, imprisoned and killed by the state and its agents.
Special thanks to my friend Gretchen Hasse for documenting Blood at the Root which closed at the end of October.
The video highlights a myriad of legal issues and discriminatory practices that people face upon release—including employment discrimination, denials of public benefits, exclusions from housing, and misapplied parole and probation rules. Root and Rebound has also launched a campaign called Reimagine Reentry: Disrupting Cycles of Poverty and Incarceration, to engage and educate the public, and expand its base of support.
I wrote a piece published in the Guardian a couple of days ago. Here’s an excerpt:
“There was dancing in front of Chicago police headquarters at 35th street and Michigan Avenue on Tuesday evening.
People were celebrating, in part, because Chicago police superintendent Garry McCarthy was fired earlier that day. Mayor Rahm Emanuel – who had spent days expressing confidence in his police chief – stood in a hot briefing room in front of the press corps and announced that McCarthy had become “a distraction”. Emanuel looked like a man undergoing a root canal without anesthesia.
After days of mass protests – including a shutdown of Michigan Avenue on Black Friday that cost retailers up to 50% of their sales – the mayor had apparently decided to cut his losses and throw McCarthy overboard to save himself.”
Below is a short video shot in front of CPD Headquarters the night of McCarthy’s firing.
I don’t begrudge those in the streets in fact I am grateful to many of them for not going gently into the quiet night of apathy. My disgust and rage at the fact that the video was publicly released over the objections of Laquan’s family won’t let me engage in the ways that I regularly would.
As I’ve watched the many opportunists vie for facetime over the past few days, it’s become more urgent to narrate a history of continued protest and refusal regarding police violence in Chicago. There are people who have been consistently in the streets in this city for months now. This is a love letter to the incredible anti-police violence and anti-criminalization organizers/activists in Chicago.
For decades, Chicagoans have been organizing against the brutality and impunity of the Chicago Police Department. In the months since the killing of Mike Brown in Ferguson, MO, young people of color from across the city have consistently organized demonstrations, protests and actions to underscore the violence of the CPD. These protests are the visible outgrowths of grassroots campaigns that have sought and won reparations for police torture survivors, are calling for community control of the police, are insisting on an end to stop and frisk, are demanding a Federal investigation of the Homan Square police facility, are organizing for redirecting funds from police to other social goods, and are seeking individual justice for Damo, Roshad, Rekia, Ronnieman and more.
In other words, day in and day out in this city, we are resisting police violence. The press in Chicago largely ignores this ongoing grassroots organizing but they are quick to jump on moments like the release of the tape depicting Laquan McDonald’s execution to condescend to, moralize against, and incite Chicagoans who are working toward justice. We resist the local press’s continuing efforts to demonize and pathologize young people in this city (especially those who identify as Black and Brown). We are sick of it. We reject their depictions.
So my friend and comrade Tom Callahan and I collaborated on this visual love letter to Chicago organizers. We hope you appreciate it. If you, please share it with others who want to better understand Chicago’s resistance to criminalization and police violence.