Showing posts with label self-determination. Show all posts
Showing posts with label self-determination. Show all posts

Friday, July 23, 2021

Book Review: We Do This 'til we FREE US

We Do This ‘til we Free Us: Abolitionist Organizing and Transforming Justice

By Mariame Kaba
Edited by Tamara K. Knopper
Foreword by Naomi Murakawa
Haymarket Books: 206 pages


Book Review words by Charles Brooks

In the last year during the aftermath of the George Floyd killing, the demand to defund the police pushed the discussion around policing in a way that just hasn’t been witnessed before. Police departments across the country were now under public pressure to review and cut spending priorities while reallocating dollars to community based interventions. The avalanche of poor reporting and misinformation caused confusion and misunderstanding around the defunding issue allowed the narrative to be redefined as well as coopted to conveniently fit within the liberal reformist narrative.  Then there’s the manufactured hysteria and heightened racial anxieties resulting from the backlash linking recent reports of rising violent crime to defunding the police.    

Is there a more perfect time for a book to step into this moment of confusion and crisis with a 
Mariame Kaba at an 2018 event. Credit madison365
blast of clarity?  Mariame Kaba does that with her book, We Do This ‘til we Free Us: Abolitionist Organizing and Transforming Justice.  As an organizer and activist, Kaba began her work with political prisoner defense campaigns, “And, particularly the MOVE Nine, Ramona Africa, and all the women who were either killed or were imprisoned, some of whom are still in prison today, over a mass terroristic police attack against Black people in the United States. Something that does not get talked about as a form of police violence. But it’s the ultimate form of state violence throwing bombs on a bunch of people in their homes. That really was a radicalizing event for me. And it helped me to start to think about state violence in a different way.” 

In this collection of 31 essays and media interviews, We Do This ‘til we Free Us outlines Kaba’s analysis and views within an abolitionist framework.  She describes prison-industrial complex (PIC) abolition as a political vision with a structural analysis of oppression and as a practical organizing strategy: “PIC abolition is a vision of a restructured society in a world where we have everything we need: food, shelter, education, health, art, beauty, clean water, and more things that are foundational to our personal and community safety.” 

 Kaba’s analysis covers the school to prison pipeline, sexual violence, restorative justice practices, state surveillance, and transformative justice.  We Do This ‘til we Free Us also includes Kaba’s insight around the campaigns for Marissa Alexander, Rekia Boyd, Cyntoia Brown, and Bresha Meadows, to name a few.  She rejects the idea of relying on the Department of Justice for “justice”, that police reform works as well as the idea that prison addresses the systemic causes of violence. Her analysis is informative as well as instructive as she
clearly outlines the abolitionist principles, the steps to securing freedom for the incarcerated, and provides guidelines to drive and support organizing work in the community. 

With the years of political experience/knowledge Kaba has in activism and organizing, she understands the challenges that folks are facing as they process what they hear and read about “defunding the police” in real time. She readily admits not having all the answers but there’s still the pursuit in her work to grapple with the question(s) at hand. Kaba talks about being openly conflicted about civilian review and challenges herself in a way that provides a pathway and a model to transformational change: “None of us has all of the answers, or we would have ended oppression already.  But if we keep building the world we want, trying new things and learning from our mistakes, new possibilities emerge.” 

We Do This ‘til we Free Us not only highlights but informs the need for self-review to reframe our thinking.  This is a paradigm shift when she speaks about thinking about a transformative society, what that looks like and how do we get there. Kaba writes, “First, when we set about trying to transform society, we must remember that we ourselves will also need to transform.  Our imagination of what a different world can be is limited. We are deeply entangled in the very systems we are organizing to change.” 

We Do This ‘til we Free Us is written in the abolitionist tradition that not only speaks to the compelling
Artist credit: Micah Bazant
need for a shift in thinking but the book is also grounded in self-determination. Throughout the book, Kaba discusses the transformative role the community has in determining accountability, transformative and restorative justice.  Here, Kaba writes about the essential role of community accountability and community work on a grassroots level -  collective organizing, participatory defense campaigns, mutual aid and community-based interventions.  As abolitionists, Kaba says the goal to dismantle and abolish the prison industrial complex is based on rendering the PIC obsolete by changing the conditions by which people live.  This is connected to a deeper premise based on the idea of building – building relationships, building community, and building a vision for the future. Kaba writes, “People like me who want to abolish prisons and police, however, have a vision of a different society, built on cooperation instead of individualism on mutual aid instead of self-preservation. What would the country look like if it had billions of extra dollars to spend on housing, food and education for all”? 


Related Posts: 


Further Reading:
Critical Resistance seeks to build an international movement to end the Prison Industrial Complex by challenging the belief that caging and controlling people makes us safe.

Project-NIA, is a grassroots organization that works to end the arrest, detention, and incarceration of children and young adults by promoting restorative and transformative justice practices.

Interrupting Criminalization: Research in Action is an initiative led by researchers Woods Ervin, Mariame Kaba, and Andrea J. Ritchie. The project aims to interrupt and end the growing criminalization and incarceration of women and LGBTQ people of color for criminalized acts related to public order, poverty, child welfare, drug use, survival and self-defense, including criminalization and incarceration of survivors of violence.