Marime Kaaba wants us to imagine a future without prisons


Last summer, thousands of people gathered on the streets across the country, marching and screaming with the chickens sitting in the bullhorn after the deaths of “BLIV LIVES MATTER”, George Floyd, Bryo Taylor and many others on the asphalt. Many mantras were simple: “No justice, no peace!” And “Black Life Matter!” But a new announcement came out: “Police Override.”

It was a moment when Marima Kaaba always knew he would come.

“Suddenly, people had a genuine interest in frenzied thinking and abolitionist organizing,” Kaaba said. She said she believed in the abolition of the prison-industrial complex, sometimes known as the PIC, “would eventually be popular. It was my belief that more people would like to engage an abolitionist vision and practice . I have always believed so. But I still have PIC elimination an unpopular approach… we have a lot of work to do to get more people in. “

Kaaba has spent most of his life as a PIC abolitionist, who believes in social attitudes inspired by faith, policing, surveillance, and punishment, with no place in a healthy, thriving society. Kaaba, known online as “Prison Culture”, has spent decades organizing abolitionist goals, and has established himself as one of the world’s foremost advocates, political educators and organizers of the framework .

She is the founder of Project NIA, an advocacy body working to end youth advocacy, and has founded, co-founded, or helped many other abolitionist campaigns, including now reevaluation – Chicago Achieving re-evaluation for survivors of police violence in Chicago – Chicago Community Bond Fund, Chicago Freedom School and Survival and Punished New York. She was also instrumental in efforts to free Marissa Alexander in Florida and Bresha Meadows in Ohio, women who had gone to prison over the past decade when they defended themselves against gender violence.

Kaaba said her phone started going off the hook during the summer as major media outlets tapped her to “discredit the police” and explain the elimination of the PIC. For her, the political framework is “a restructured society and a vision of the world,” without prisons, prisons and immigrant detention centers.

“It’s trying to bring us into a world where we have everything we need to survive and thrive,” Kaaba said. “It covers food and shelter and education and health and art and beauty and all things. This is what PIC eradication is as a framework and a practice.”

Even as widespread talks about the elimination of PIC began, Kaaba stopped TV appearances and speaking engagements. Instead, he compiled books he learned from his life’s works: “We Do This’ Til We Free Us.”

“It felt like it was the right time to do something in the world,” Kaaba said, adding that she wanted to create an accessible introduction to abolition, which was not timely but academic. “It was like, ‘Where is the book that people just want to walk through a door and have a sense of misuse of PIC? What can they pick up that is current?’ And I thought this book could be useful for him. “

A collection of interviews, essays, and other writings by Kaaba look deeply into being an abolitionist, dealing with the commonly asked questions, “If prisons don’t exist, what will we do with murderers and rapists?”

The book, edited by author and sociologist Tamara Noper, praises Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Andrea Ritchie, and other famous abolitionist thinkers. Much as it is an educational resource, “We Do This Till We Free Us” refers to abolition as an accessible and very possible goal. She has one purpose for the book, Kaaba said, to be released by Haymarket Books on Tuesday.

“There are two audiences in mind. There are people who don’t know a lot about PIC eradication and are looking for a way to enter the discussion,” Kaaba said. “The other is the current abolitionist organizers who are running the abolitionist campaign. … So you shouldn’t be someone who doesn’t know anything, and you shouldn’t be someone who knows everything.”

While Kaaba is known for his insights and commentary on Twitter, he understands that most of the actual work goes offline. In his various organizational roles, Kaaba works with other organizers to support people by raising bail and nutritional funds, coordinating visits and more.

She promotes transformational and restorative justice processes and leads campaigns for those tied to criminal penalties such as self-defense from abusive partners – also known as criminal survivors – Publicizing the toolkit, zine and other resources for educating all the public But as a beloved organizer she is, Kaaba constantly refuses to center herself in the headlines – she often chooses not to be photographed or seen in the video. For a long time, he refused to put his name on his writing and resources. Despite being well known, Kaaba is a deeply private person.

“I’m very honest about not being the main person anywhere,” Kaaba said. “I don’t want to do that. I want to work with other people. I choose very carefully and consciously how I’m going to show up in the world. I always want to make sure that I always open the door to other people I’ve been. It’s, for me, really important. We always need more people. “

She said she also understands the danger of getting out of her radical politics: “I know many people hate my courage. I’m very clear. I’m not confused about what exactly is out there Used to be.”

Kaaba’s childhood helped him to do the ground work for his passion for justice and liberation. His father worked for the United Nations and was part of Guinea’s freedom struggle, shaping the Kaaba into that internationalism today. His father used to talk openly about his politics and Kaaba was surrounded by books in his family’s home. Her mother was a deeply religious woman who focused on charity and mutual aid – a centuries-old radical political practice that emphasizes solidarity and interdependence for the Kaaba and her six siblings to meet the basic needs of the people . Kaaba traveled frequently with his family, and he learned to speak various languages ​​in his multilingual home. Her home was filled with books and African art, only adding to the enjoyment of her family’s trips to Africa.

“I agree that a large part of my faith as a person was cultivated by the fact that I saw myself as Black and this was who I was.” “It was a pause for me to get into my fifteen years and really recognize that, in this country, blackness was viewed in negative, uneven ways. But my childhood gave me a lot of tools to be proud of myself . Of family and my clan. He was a buffer. “

Kaaba died in the 80s in the Lower East Side of New York, where he saw the social, racial, and economic flaws of firsthand society. She would enroll in a privileged Upper West Side High School, drawing a clear picture of the racial disparities that separated her classmates from her friends on the Lower East Side.

Kaaba said that she developed her politics through reading and ended her experiences with family and friends that ended up in the criminal legal system. His adolescence was marked by a series of incidents of racial violence, including the murder of Michael Stewart, a young black graffiti artist who was beaten to death by New York police in 1983; Howard Beach murder, in which Michael Griffith, 23, was killed in 1986 by a racist mob in Queens; And the death of Eleanor Bumpur, who was shot dead by police at her home while trying to evict her from a New York City apartment.

The experiences of the Kaaba led to an in-depth consideration of racial violence and how the criminal legal system often hurts. In the mid-’90s, she left New York for Chicago, where she spent 20 years co-founding several organizations and projects, with a particular focus on gender violence.

“My process was gradual. I had this feeling, always, when I was very young, of fairness. I wanted a lot of things to be fair. It wasn’t until my early 20s when I changed the pattern of things Started watching. Kaaba said, “I saw earlier that I was repeating. I was curious. Why is this the case? I have survived sexual assault. There were people in my life who were stuck in the system, “Kaaba said.” When I was working in a domestic violence organization … I noticed that what we were offering to people was very limited. We are not really addressing the roots of these forms of violence. A lot of people were like, ‘I don’t want a partner in jail. I do not want to call the police. ‘It pushed me to learn about restrictive justice. In the midst of the anti-violence work and then to learn about inflammatory justice, it was this that opened up my imagination and began pushing me towards an abolitionist horizon. “

Restorative justice is a set of practices that work to repair and prevent addressing the needs of all those involved in an incident, without calling the police or relying on punitive solutions.

Kaaba credits the 2001 Joint Statement on Sexual Violence and Prison Eradication from Critical Resistance and Insit! – Both abolitionist organizations – for her feminist abolitionist politics. Now, Kaaba is among those who have provided important educational resources for those interested in PIC eradication.

Kaaba said she is not interested in celebrity or notoriety, but simply in bringing people together in search of an abolitionist future – “abolition is a collective project,” she said. “It’s about getting everyone involved and involved.” And when she identifies her works is now one of her greatest achievements, Kaaba does not think much about her legacy.

Kaaba said, “I don’t think about it at all. I am always trying my best to narrow the gap between my values ​​and my actions.” “If I died yesterday, I can tell you right now that I did what I wanted to do. And I tried to do it in a way that brought other people along.”

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