Celebrate Juneteenth and Father's Day with Abolition Now!

Image Description: Written words “Let this Radicalize You Rather Than Lead you to Despair,” a quote by prison abolitionist and Black Leader Mariame Kaba, founder of Project Nia. Image by @melegirma.

 

As folks celebrate Juneteenth across the nation and as we near Father’s day Sunday, the U.S. has been in deep grief, anger, love, resilience, pain, and collective protest in response to the murders of Ahmaud Abery, Sean Reed, Nina Pop, George Floyd, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, and the endless list of lives cut short due to anti-Black racism. Along with the pain, we are being led by the resilience and brilliance of Black people guiding us with both imagination and a clear vision for a world that is free of white supremacy and its violence. To do this, Black leaders across the nation have carved out a path for solutions placing police abolition and prison abolition at the center. One such campaign is the #8toAbolition campaign that launched as a counter to a mediocre cry for police reforms under “8 Can’t Wait” –a list of reforms that many cities can already check off and reforms that have done nothing to reduce police killings of Black and Brown people. In critiquing the 8 Can’t Wait Campaign, #8toabolition states:

           

As police and prison abolitionists, we believe that this campaign is dangerous and irresponsible, offering a slate of reforms that have already been tried and failed, that mislead a public newly invigorated to the possibilities of police and prison abolition, and that do not reflect the needs of criminalized communities…A better world is possible.

 

Image Description: Orange and tan writing on a black background reads: #8toabolition A world without prisons or police where we can all be safe. We believe in a world where there are zero police murders because there are zero police. Abolition Can't Wait. Demands listed: Defund Police, Demilitarize Communities, Remove Police from Schools, Free People from Jails and Prisons, Repeal laws that Criminalize Survival, Invest in Community Self-Governance, Provide Safe Housing for Everyone. Invest in Care, Not Cops.

 

You can read the full statement available here, and find shareable lists, social media images, and a pdf report of their demands:

 

1.Defund Police

2.Demilitarize Communities

3.Remove Police from Schools

4.Free People from Jails and Prisons

5.Repeal laws that Criminalize Survival

6.Invest in Community Self-Governance

7.Provide Safe Housing for Everyone

8.Invest in Care, Not Cops

 

Justice Strategies has long challenged police brutality and the violence against Black lives inflicted by the prison industrial complex. We stand in solidarity with the Black community in demanding justice via abolition. We have pushed for alternatives to incarceration to include individuals regardless of crime as people charged with violent offenses are left out, and to move towards solutions that divest from carceral systems and invest in community based solutions. We also recognize the acute racial disparities within the prison system are reflected among children of incarcerated parents. Black children are eight times more likely than white children to experience parental incarceration. Indigenous and Latinx children also experience alarming rates of parental incarceration that far exceed the rate for white children. Studies show that parental incarceration has significant social costs for families that fall unevenly across racial lines, impacting Black families most. As the tragedy of the murder of father Rayshard Brooks shows us, only four months before he was murdered by the criminal (in)justice system and forever taken from his wife and three kids, he spoke out about how the system, particularly the parole system, was preventing him from providing and spending time with his children, he says “it’s hurting us, but it’s hurting our families the most.” (Link to video on Instagram here posted originally by @queenyonasada). In the video, he educates us on the difficulties of our surveillance and control model of probation, he suggests:

 

I want, you know, things to be better, within probation and parole and also monitoring. If you do some things that’s wrong, you pay your debts to society, and that’s the bottom line. I just feel like some of the system could look at us as individuals, we do have lives…not just do us as if we are animals. It’s making us as individuals feel we are locked in boxes, even though we have been incarcerated, it’s hurting us, but it’s hurting our families the most. You know, because we have kids, we have jobs, we have a lot of things that, you know, life situations, we are individual people. As we go through these trials and tribulations it’s hurting or kids, it is taking away from our families, you have to go out and make means, you know, and yet my kids, I want to spend time with my kids, but I really don’t have the time…it’s just a lot of pressure. We’re trying to do the right thing, and we’re restricted, probation is not there with you every day like a mentor or something, they’re not taking you out to find a job. I feel like there should be a way for you to have some kind person, like a mentor, assigned to you, to keep you on track, keep you in the direction you need to be going. But here, yet, I’m trying. I’m not the type of person to give up. I’ma keep going until I make it where I want to be. [on screen laughs satisfied and confident].

 

So why abolition? Because the culmination of events represents not just one instance, one bad person, one bad cop, or one system of oppression, but a centuries long combination of interlocking systems created and maintained by white supremacy. These instances were then followed by the violence against Black Transgender woman Iyanna Dior in Missouri among the protests against the murder of George Floyd, unearthing and highlighting the reality of how white supremacy is connected to systems of patriarchy that results in an often deathly mix of toxic masculinity and transphobia. As we know, hate crimes legislation has done little to protect the lives of Black transgender and nonbinary individuals as they do not address the underlying systemic problems, and instead often exacerbate that problem. As prison abolitionists, the goal is to get at the roots of what causes these problems. We know that the logic of using policing, punishment, and prison has not proven to address the systemic causes of violence. 

As an amazing Black leader and coach, Erin Trent Johnson, pointed out in an email she sent for Black folks and those who love them:

 

These patterns of white murder and policing of Black bodies are not about fear of the Black body. They are about control of the Black body; dominance over the Black body. This is not about ‘bad cops’ this is state sanctioned violence that has been authorized for 400 years. This is about resentment of the freedom, agency, and joy experienced by Black bodies.”

 

It was Black people’s radical imagination and vision that ended the slavery, and if we follow their lead, we can end the remnants of slavery in our systems and ourselves. As Black transqueer artist and poet J Mase III stated:

 

Instagram Image Description: White words on black background, “Juneteenth is a day of true imagination. Many of our ancestors never believed that the trans Atlantic slave trade could end. It was a distant dream. I want Juneteenth to be a reminder that we as black folks, and especially Black trans folks have a right to imagination, and a right to work toward liberation that might seem audacious and impossible in this current climate, but that we know we deserve and that our future selves truly deserve.” @jmaseiii

 

Give yourself the freedom to dream and act for abolition now. 

 

For more resources on abolition, I compiled some of my favorites here to help us imagine the future we deserve.

 

Sending love and light this Father's day to those who are separated from their parents by prison, jail and detention walls and those whose lives were taken too soon by state violence.

 

 

Riley Hewko, Esq.

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Monthly Feature

Formerly Incarcerated & Convicted People's Movement Western Regional Conference

Convened by All of Us or None & Legal Services for Prisoners with Children

Sunday, September 20th & Monday, September 21st

Formerly incarcerated and convicted people, family members, community and spiritual leaders, elected officials and government employees will all come together to strengthen our relationships and work towards making change through community empowerment. We invite you to Voice your opinion, learn your rights and learn what changes we can make together. All of Us or None Contact: (415)-255-7036 ext. 337 www.prisonerswithchildren.org

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