I haven’t had time to write. I’ve been going at 100 miles per minute, it seems. March has been an absolutely brutal month for me. I have worked no less than 80 hours a week for weeks and I am tired.
Since last December, many of us in Chicago have been engaged in a renewed fight for reparations for those tortured by Jon Burge and his fellow officers. I’ve tried to document several parts of the struggle. It’s been a while since I’ve posted an update.
The most important recent news is that the reparations ordinance finally has a hearing in the City Council finance committee on April 14th. This is one of the key demands in the current campaign. We are organizing for the hearing. Those of you in Chicago can help in many ways including by calling supportive members of the committee to ask that they attend the hearing on the 14th.
I am learning new lessons and re-learning old ones through this campaign. One issue that I continue to ponder is the definition of a “victory.” In a campaign born out of decades of struggle, such a definition can be stubbornly amorphous. I am trying to keep focused on those most impacted to gauge victory. If Darrell and Anthony and other torture survivors who I have the honor to know feel a sense of satisfaction after this campaign ends, then I will count it as a victory/win.
I can already say that one positive outgrowth of this campaign has been that so many new people are learning how to fight. This is a necessary precursor to learning to win. We are using traditional organizing methods and marrying those with new ones. We’ve organized protests and actions. We’ve had one on one meetings with various stakeholders. We’ve hosted community events. We’ve engaged individuals through traditional and social media. We’ve consistently relied on art in the campaign.
For example, we recently organized a pop up exhibition in front of Mayor Emanuel’s office at City Hall. This exhibition and teach-in engaged dozens of people throughout the day. It also pre-figured two parts of the reparations ordinance that we want to enact: 1. Teaching the history of Chicago Police torture in public schools; 2. Memorializing the legacy of police torture through some form(s) of art (a monument, site, etc…).
We now know that, under Burge, men went to prison at least in part because of statements elicited through police torture. We need to get to the bottom of each case and ensure justice is done.