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.

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.
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.

Nov 30 2014

Coffins on Trees: Art and Protest in Chicago

I don’t remember if I called or Facebook messaged my friend Kelly. One morning, a few weeks ago, I woke up with the certainty that we would have to organize an event, an action, SOMETHING when Darren Wilson’s non-indictment was announced. There was no question in my mind that it would be a non-indictment (for reasons that I write about all the time on this blog).

I had an idea but it was inchoate. I needed help to actualize it. Kelly is one of the founders of the Chicago Light Brigade. She teaches direct action strategy and is well-versed in creating art for protest. Art making is definitely not my strength so I reached out for help. My idea was to create something that could symbolize the 89 people who have been killed by Chicago Police in the last 5 years. I knew that I wanted to incorporate coffins somehow. Kelly didn’t hesitate to help and came up with the idea to create a tree where the coffins would hang. At its base, she (along with volunteers) would recreate the teddy bear and candle memorial that Mike Brown’s supporters made in Ferguson.

photo by Sarah Jane Rhee

photo by Kelly Hayes

The symbolism of coffins hanging from a tree and coffins hanging by a string is brutal testimony to racist violence in the U.S. It was a fitting symbol to incorporate in our action.

“Return the tree, the moon, the naked man
Hanging from the indifferent branch
Return blood to his brain, breath to his heart
Reunite the neck with the bridge of his body
Untie the knot, undo the noose
Return the kicking feet to ground
Unwhisper the word jesus” – Reverse: A Lynching by Ansel Elkins

photo by Sarah Jane Rhee

photo by Sarah Jane Rhee

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