Allied Media Projects is excited to partner with local and national organizations, including the Restaurant Opportunities Center of Michigan and the Ella Baker Center of Human Rights, to present the “Night Out for Safety and Liberation” on Tuesday, , 2016, 5:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. at the Detroit Public Library. The event in Detroit is one of several events taking place in 20 cities across the country, that aim to redefine what safety means in our communities, beyond the current frame of safety through policing.
The National Night Out for Safety and Liberation’s mission is to “start a different conversation about what #SafetyIs—one that is focused on how we can build equity, power, and opportunity in our communities.” In the context of police brutality and mass criminalization in black and brown communities, the question organizers of the event are asking is: “Does an increased police presence in a community necessarily translate to more safety?”
AMP invites our network of media-based organizers to participate in this important national conversation about what safety and liberation means for our communities. How do we use art, media, and technology to change the narrative of safety? How can we shift public policy from prioritizing policing, incarceration, and surveillance to instead prioritizing investment in Black and Brown communities and the creation of a stronger social safety net?
Organizers of the event in Detroit shared this description:
“On Night Out for Safety and Liberation, we will bring together people with powerful visions for the future: a cross-section of community leaders, thinkers, artists and activists from all around Detroit. Together, we will envision building safe communities where public resources are reinvested from a wasteful criminal legal system and invested in other ways to ensure community safety and accountability like restorative justice hubs and peacekeepers.”
To kick off the event, the the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights will host a 1 hour TweetChat on Tuesday, August 2nd at 2pm EST. The TweetChat is an online conversation that will take place on Twitter. Participants can tweet their questions to @EllaBakerCenter using the hashtag #SafetyIs and or #NOSL16. Organizations can register for the TweetChat in advance here.
Marissa Alexander is a Black mother of three and a survivor of domestic violence from Jacksonville, Florida. She was prosecuted and threatened with 60 years in prison for defending her life from her abusive husband. She spent three-years behind bars and, beginning January 27, 2015, she is serving a sentence of two years of house detention while being forced to wear and pay for a surveillance ankle monitor.
Nan-Hui Jo is also a survivor of domestic violence who was convicted of child abduction after fleeing her abusive partner with her young daughter to her home country of South Korea. She has been incarcerated since July 2014, and has spent the last 3 months in immigration detention awaiting deportation proceedings. She has not seen her daughter since her arrest, and now faces the possibility of permanent separation from her.
Alisa Bierria, a member of the Free Marissa Now Mobilization Campaign and a member of INCITE! and Hyejin Shim, an organizer with the Stand with Nan-Hui Campaign and a member of Korean American Coalition to End Domestic Abuse (KACEDA) came together with Mimi Kim and Emi Kane of INCITE! to reflect on the common political ties between two women of color surviving the intersections of domestic violence, the U.S. carceral system and immigration control.
MK: Thanks everybody. I just wanted to start with the question, how did you first get involved in working on your specific campaigns? Alisa, I’ll start with you.
AB: I heard about Marissa’s case in 2012. She was one of those rare domestic violence cases that received mainstream media attention. She is based in Florida and unsuccessfully tried to invoke the Stand Your Ground law, which had a high profile due to the law’s influence on George Zimmerman’s acquittal after he murdered Trayvon Martin. So the public juxtaposed Zimmerman’s acquittal with Marissa Alexander’s 20 year mandatory minimum sentence. I was watching that play out and thinking about it in the context of other self defense cases—specifically, Cece McDonald in Minneapolis and the New Jersey 4—Black women who were attacked and, because they defended their lives, they were prosecuted and incarcerated. I started making some phone calls to investigate, and I learned that there was a beginning coalition of people around the country who were trying to get a campaign off the ground. [This amazing team included Sumayya Coleman, African American/Black Women’s Cultural Alliance; Helen Gilbert, Radical Women; and Aleta Alston Toure, New Jim Crow Movement.] So I started slow, but then it got fast! The more time builds, the more you committed you become, just to see it all the way through.
MK: What was it that first struck you and made you think that “I really need to get involved in this?”
AB: It’s really rare that domestic violence victims who are prosecuted for anything have a national profile because domestic violence is not politically interesting to most people. They think of it as a social service problem or some kind of pathology issue. It was such an opportunity to talk about domestic violence, Black women, the prison industrial complex and self-defense on a national level.
The #BlackLivesMatter call to action began in the shadow of the horrific murder of Trayvon Martin. Because Marissa’s case was often juxtaposed with Trayvon’s (and Jordan Davis’) murder, it received national attention, yet we weren’t really seeing a lot of gender analysis at that time. Also, for years INCITE! had been identifying these intersections that Marissa Alexander’s case was demonstrating so clearly, and it just became such an opportunity for us to show how the analysis was playing out in this woman’s case. This woman who some people actually knew about.
MK: Hyejin, how did you first get involved with the campaign to free Nan-Hui Jo?
HS: I got involved because of KACEDA, a small group of Korean women organizing around domestic violence. In the spring, we heard about the case from a former member who lived in Sacramento. There had been some organizing happening in the Korean church community for her. By this time she’d already gone through one trial that resulted in a hung jury. We learned that a retrial was about to begin—and that the situation was bad. She’d been incarcerated since July. She was denied bail because she was deemed a flight risk, was issued a no-contact order with her daughter, was under an ICE hold and had lost all parental rights. So there was really a sense of urgency when we started organizing. Her trial began on a Friday, and literally that week we began mobilizing. Another KACEDA member wrote a press release and I started making calls to figure out what was happening, kind of like you did, Alisa. I put a call out on Facebook to ask for help and said, look, there’s this domestic violence survivor who is being charged with kidnapping for fleeing abuse with her little girl. She’s lost all custody and has been in jail for the past 8 months. And she’s facing deportation. Come over tonight at 6. And people actually came! It all snowballed from there.
MK: I know that you also work with other domestic violence survivors in your work at Asian Women’s Shelter. I was wondering how this moved from being a case that you’d get on a crisis line to something that turned into a campaign. It sounds like it happened pretty quickly.
HS: I didn’t view this as a case where I’d be someone’s domestic violence advocate. At that point it was clear that what was needed most was not case management. What was needed was organizing. I didn’t feel like it was actually most useful for someone to be helping out in a direct services capacity, with prescribed roles and boundaries, especially because this person was being targeted so aggressively in an unpredictable and quickly-escalating situation.
The work that Free Marissa Now did, and the work that Black women and women of color have been doing around domestic violence and criminalization for decades, made it apparent that this was connected to a larger pattern of survivors being targeted by the system. They are targeted by a racist, sexist system for their survival strategies, particularly with the idea that a survivor must always be a perfect victim. There’s this belief that a domestic violence survivor must always be the victim of crime, and the abuser is always the perpetrator of crime. So in a way there’s not that much room or analysis about what happens when the survivor is actually considered the “perpetrator of a crime,” even in the anti-violence movement. Instead, we’re taking cues from the state to tell us who real “victims” and “perpetrators” are. In this case you had “domestic violence experts” like the district attorney saying that this was not a domestic violence case. So then what? We needed to organize.
MK: Alisa, I see you nodding. It seems like what Hyejin was saying was resonating for you, as well. Do you want say a little more about that?
AB: Yeah, I’m thinking, “Thank goodness that Hyejin was on the other line,” because I have found it rare for folks who are in direct service organizations to have the capacity to imagine a response outside of the usual paradigm of either direct services or pro-criminalization. It’s so drilled. Those of us who work in the field, it takes such a significant capacity to do some paradigm shift in your own mind to say, “This is actually more of a community organizing project; she needs a big push for support and let’s go make a Facebook page.”
Domestic violence organizations were actually pressured by State Attorney Angela Corey to not publicly support Marissa Alexander. So, there’s not only an imagination problem but also a real material problem, because people are worried about their funding. One argument was that groups couldn’t risk their funding to support one person when they have this whole other group of victims to support. But my pushback was, well, who gets to be part of the larger set of victims that they’re serving? It’s not just about Marissa not having support, it is also about any survivor who is being prosecuted having access to full support. As long as organizations make choices based on what Angela Corey or other prosecutors want, they’re never going to have autonomy in terms of who they support. There will always be this barrier to services for survivors who are more vulnerable to criminalization—that is to say, Black women. It’s so important to not only understand the ways that court system and police and prisons are impacting survivors of domestic violence, devastating people’s lives and so on, but also the ways that many service organizations are prevented—or prevent themselves—from supporting criminalized survivors.
MK: Hyejin, did you see anything like that in the case of Nan-Hui Jo?
HS: There were some domestic violence orgs that were very reluctant to get on board, or who acted like they were sympathetic as individuals but said they couldn’t be sympathetic as an organization. So people were saying that they felt for her, but they couldn’t and wouldn’t do anything about it.
MK: What do you think were some of the factors they perceived as barriers?
HS: I can’t say more on dynamics between this district attorney and these domestic violence organizations right now, but I do wonder if the reliance of domestic violence orgs on the DA to prosecute batterers and thus legitimize domestic violence work is a barrier.
AB: There’s this powerful fear of punishment. If an organization has funders or donors that just want to “do good,” meaning they want to donate to a domestic violence organization but they don’t want to give money to an anti-deportation project, for example, that organization is scared to look too radical.
MK: How much do you think Nan-Hui’s and Marissa’s incarceration was a factor in some of our expected allies stepping away? Is there a reluctance because of a notion that they might not be deserving in some way because of their criminalization?
AB: I was on a conference call early on in the Free Marissa campaign. There was a woman on the call who is Black and known as an anti-violence expert. She asked if Marissa was really a “genuine” survivor of domestic violence because she had heard that her husband had received a black eye from her. She didn’t ask about the context of that injury—which came about as a result of self-defense—she went straight to, “Is she telling the truth?” I couldn’t even speak. Because if we’re in a situation where this person—who should be the easiest ally in the world—is saying this really problematic stuff on this call, I don’t know how we’re going to win. So I think we had to fight for allies. Allies did not come easy. I think we had to convince people.
MK: Hyejin, do you have anything that’s comparable so far?
HS: It’s been lucky that I’m working currently at a domestic violence shelter in SF, which has some more progressive allies. The case is not in our county, and I think that makes it easier for us to be more visible in our support. But one question that comes to mind is, what if it was the other way around? What if this was a campaign to prosecute a batterer instead? It’s just interesting to think about. Who would find that politically safe, safer than this campaign to free a survivor? And why? Just think about domestic violence organizations and the commotion around Ray Rice.
MK: To go along those lines, there has been some attention paid to Nan-Hui’s abusive ex-partner in this case. What are some of the ways that people have talked about him?
HS: It’s funny because in court, the DA was talking about him as someone who’d really cleaned up his act. Like, so he hadn’t been that responsible in the past and yes, there was that one time he got violent… but you know, he’s a veteran, and all he wants to do is be a good dad now. And, in the DA’s closing remarks, he said Nan-Hui was clearly the better parent all along, more competent, mature and responsible. But also that she was also manipulative, vengeful, and too competent, essentially, to be a real victim. There was just a lot of focus on characterizing her as just another sneaky Asian immigrant trying to cheat the system. He called her a “tiger mom” too. Her attempts to survive with her baby through abuse and an immensely confusing legal system were all looked at through this lens of racist criminalization.
MK: I think it’s interesting how they raised “tiger mom” as a stereotype that many people are now familiar with now—and the stereotype that people could associate with an Asian woman. How did you see stereotypes with Marissa Alexander play out, Alisa, in terms of Angela Corey or the people that were trying to detract from sympathy for her situation?
AB: The biggest pattern that we saw was this idea that she was too entitled—too entitled to live, too entitled to take control of her life. There was definitely blaming her for being in the abusive relationship to begin with. She’s not considered entitled to defend her life because of this notion that she created the conditions for this to happen in the first place. Also, that attitude works seamlessly with the narrative about “uppity” Black women, especially in the South. Marissa Alexander did not know her place. The rhetoric Corey used was not coincidental. Her office circulated this ugly handout to state politicians because some seemed sympathetic to Marissa’s case. It said on the top, “The truth about Marissa Alexander,“ and included Marissa’s mugshots at the top and rhetoric about why she should be incarcerated. So there is this very intentional, very racialized framing they used to support the prosecution. Corey politically benefits if the person she is prosecuting could never be understood as a “victim,” so she had her own agenda. It wasn’t just to be racist in general, but to achieve an end.
Corey also constantly exploited the children for the sake of her argument. There were children in the home when Marissa’s husband attacked her and she defended herself, and there was a concern that they could have been hurt in that encounter. Angela Corey had this habit of saying, “Those children – those boys – those Black boys, those young Black boys, were endangered by this woman who acted out of anger.” So it was really interesting how she co-opted the rhetoric around violence against Black boys to argue for the prosecution of this Black woman. It happened again in the final hearing when Marissa was finally released from prison to serve a two year term of house detention. The prosecutor put one of the children on the stand, he read a statement that seemed clearly written by that office and, in that statement, they invoked #blacklivesmatter! They totally co-opted it. So the child said, “Doesn’t my Black life matter?” and it was heartbreaking, devastating, enraging, and it made me want to throw my computer out the window.
MK: I know this isn’t the first time you’ve been talking together. Can you talk a little bit about how you found the connections between these two campaigns?
HS: From the beginning, I thought of Marissa. One, because it’s so recent, and two, because it was such strong organizing I saw on behalf of a survivor who was being criminalized. I went to the INCITE! conference this past year and saw that there was a Free Marissa Now session, and thought, “I have to go to that!” So, we got there really early because we were so excited. And as people were sharing the lessons learned, challenges, and the values that guided the organizing—the ways that y’all described Marissa and holding her humanity intact instead of letting her become just a political symbol—so much of what you shared really resonated with me. And I had been feeling very isolated before that. A lot of our analysis and the ability to do the work was made possible by yours. The connections were obvious, and it was also important to note the real similarities and differences. They were prosecuted similarly and anti-violence “allies” responded similarly. Yet Nan-Hui and Marissa are racialized and gendered in very different ways, and they were aggressively targeted accordingly—one for twenty years, the other for indefinite detention and deportation. There was a lot to share.
AB: We were so excited to meet y’all at COV4. I had heard about Nan-Hui’s case because within 48 hours, three friends sent me urgent emails about it. I was like, “Ok, I got it, Nan-Hui Jo.” And then we met – and I was like right! The famous Nan-Hui Jo, I know who she is! So it was moving to meet y’all, especially along with members of the Chicago Alliance to Free Marissa Alexander. And I’d had a little bit of conversation with Nadine Naber in Chicago who’s working with the Justice for Rasmea Odeh campaign – which is, again, another kind of ballgame. But it is kindred in that it is a freedom campaign for a survivor of sexual and state violence. So it’s true—both cases are different in very important ways, certainly in the ways they’re racialized and gendered. And the geographic politics are really important as well. But I was also disturbed about the ways that they were similar. The fact of the pattern, the fact of the structural problem feels clearer and more urgent. Knowing that there was this powerful campaign going on, and knowing that we weren’t alone, was grounding. It situated our work in a different kind of way. So it was wonderful to meet y’all.
MK: The people that often get forgotten in these cases – is the children. I’ve been struck by the ways in which Nan-Hui Jo might be elevated but her daughter is like the secondary character. But she has obviously suffered so much and still is because of the ways that she’s lost her mother. Can you talk about that a little bit?
HS: It’s been deliberate to keep her child out of it, out of respect to Nan-Hui. But, of course, there’s a huge way that this child is being impacted. She’s on a plane with Mom coming to Hawaii one minute, and the next her mom gets arrested and is whisked away. And she won’t see her for another year or more… and now she’s in an environment where none of her caregivers are Korean or speak the language. What we’d heard in court was that the child had suffered a lot in those first months of transition, and couldn’t communicate with anyone except her bilingual therapist. She missed her mom. She was having panic attacks.
On the bright side they recently started contact through supervised phone calls, but sadly they can’t be in Korean. But of course, one thing that does get erased about domestic violence is how it impacts children, too.
MK: And she’s with the father right now?
HS: Yes, he has full custody.
MK: Did she have a relationship with him before her mother was detained and incarcerated?
HS: Not since she was less than one year old. She’s six now.
AB: I think women victimized by domestic violence are disproportionately punished if they have children who are harmed. Look at the case of Tondalo Hall — her boyfriend seriously injured their child and he was sentenced to 2 years in prison. Then they prosecuted Tondalo who received a devastating 30 year sentence. We have this idea that mothers are privileged when it comes to family court, and I really want to push back on that because I constantly see mothers being intensely punished. Particularly domestic violence victims.
MK: Alisa, could you reflect a little bit on the impact of the organizing on Marissa’s life and on social movements that are important to you?
AB: We noticed that October is the month where there’s all this anti-police brutality action happening and it’s DV awareness month. And we were like, “Oh! What a coincidence.” So we put together this handout that showed how domestic violence is a state violence issue using the analysis and the statistics. We distributed copies to our base and we urged people to make copies and bring them to DV awareness month and anti-policing events. And I think that that tradition should continue. I think we were able to identify opportunities, but you know, it wasn’t always easy. That said, so many people organized across the US and around the world to free Marissa, including making art, direct action, letter writing, fundraising, prayer circles, a caravan, coalition building, media advocacy…people really put their hearts and minds into this project.
MK: Same question for you, Hyejin? I know it’s a different situation for you—we don’t know if there will be something to celebrate and things are looking very difficult. But what do you think, right now. What are some impacts you’ve had on Nan-Hui Jo’s life and also on the larger movements?
HS: I think that with Nan-Hui… she has definitely seen a tangible difference since we’ve started organizing. And that has to do with the support that she feels from everyone, but it also has to do with gaining some real wins resulting from the organizing. Those wins include getting her some amazing legal representation for her immigration and criminal cases. She is also feeling seen and taken care of in a way that she wasn’t before. Before I know she was feeling very much isolated.
Though it’s still really hard, she says she doesn’t feel as lonely as she did. In the beginning she felt deeply afraid and alone. We’ve also formed a close relationship. I think it’s love and connection that will help get you through hard times, so I’m happy to be able to support her in multiple ways.
I’m not sure what kinds of larger impacts this might have, but my hope is that people will be able to make the connections more easily than they used to, and have a point of reference for people in our communities actually caring about domestic violence and criminalization. And I think one legacy of the Free Marissa organizing is that we don’t feel as alone. I see Marissa’s release, even with the terms that it’s on, as nothing short of a miracle. And I know this kind of miracle does not happen without so much work. These kinds of campaigns are incredibly time/resource intensive, and very emotional. So I hope that next time—because it will happen again—that there’s just more of a support network. That we are more aware of each other than we used to be. That the next time this happens we are more ready.
AB: Yeah. I also think that we have a lot of work to do to connect with other defense campaigns. There are a lot out there. One of the things we’ve been talking about is organizing a meeting with these organizers to do next steps. To do a more formal debriefing and visioning process of what comes next. I would really look forward to building on the solidarity of these two campaigns with many others.
HS: Yeah, absolutely. Another thing I want to add is that I think people do not see the ways that state violence can actually be leveraged as a way to abuse someone—that it is an extension of the domestic violence. It does count as abuse to intentionally criminalize your former partner in retaliation for self defense. It is violent to advocate for your ex-partner to receive the maximum sentence and get deported. The courts do not exist for “victims” alone. And in this case, her abuser is very much seen as the victim. Abusers sometimes make an effort to report the person they’re abusing for child abduction, domestic violence, or child abuse charges first, to retaliate, ruin their credibility, and reinforce a dynamic of control. It’s not some completely extraordinary thing. I work at a shelter; we know that sometimes batterers do these things to survivors we are actually housing. So I wish that part was more clear for people—that domestic violence doesn’t simply end with two people separating.
AB: Right. And these prosecutions extend domestic violence into the state and then the state legitimizes domestic violence. So…who’s the batterer? The batterer is the batterer, but now the batterer’s agenda is played out or taken up by the state, and the state is the batterer. And then it gets even more tricky when you look at things like mandatory policies. Mandatory arrest, mandatory minimums. Now it’s not even the judge, police officers or prosecutors, it’s just “the state.” Somebody somewhere passed a law, and now I have to go to prison for 20 years. There’s agency with no agent.
MK: Can we end with some words of appreciation for each other and the work of these campaigns?
HS: I have nice things that I want to say all the time. I appreciate how open and generous y’all have been, with both support and sharing your experiences. Organizing can feel very territorial at times. It’s been really great to just talk and bounce ideas around with you, and to think more about the future too. When this campaign ends, and it will end, and hopefully she’ll be free and here with her child… when it ends, all these problems we’ve talked about will still be there. And individual campaigns for everyone are just not possible. So what do we need to change so we’re not doing these fifteen years later?
AB: Right, I completely agree. So looking forward to figuring out how to strengthen that network and see how that can transform anti-domestic violence organizing in general. Thank you for saying all those nice things! I think it’s so important that the campaigns are independent from non-profits. And I think that might contribute to some of the openness that you’re talking about. I think it’s important to map the ways in which the campaigns are not institutionalized, which creates some level of freedom, even though having no staff is hard because they are, indeed, labor intensive. I think the Stand With Nan-Hui campaign has been brilliant, I’ve learned a lot from y’all. In addition to the question about what impact our work has had on existing social movements, we can also reflect on the movement that we built. Build on our own terms, with our own politics that we advanced, and with the base that we made. I’m excited about the potential impacts on social movements that I think the campaigns have created or can create in the future. So thank you so much for your political work.
UPDATE: A regularly updated list of actions across the US can be found HERE. So far, actions are currently organized in Chicago, IL, New York, NY, Columbus, OH, Oakland, CA, Miami, FL, New Orleans, LA, Louisville, KY, Lexington, KY, Ann Arbor, MI, Indianapolis, IN, Charlotte, NC, Seattle, WA, Asheville, NC, Minneapolis, MN, Austin, TX, Nashville, TN
Black Youth Project 100, Ferguson Action, and #BlackLivesMatter have called a
National Day of Action to End State Violence Against Black Women and Girls:
THURSDAY, MAY 21, 2015
JOIN in mourning the lives of Black women and girls lost to police violence, and in lifting up the voices, experiences and demands of Black women targeted by police!
Black women – queer and not queer, transgender and not transgender – are killed, beaten, profiled, and harassed by police across the country in many of the same ways as Black men, whether it’s “broken windows policing,” “driving while Black,” or the “war on drugs.” For example:
- Racial profiling studies analyzing the experiences of Black women separately from those of men of color conclude “for both men and women there is an identical pattern of stops by race/ethnicity.”
- In New York City, racial disparities in stops are the same for Black women as they are for Black men: over the past 5 years, over 50% of stops of women were of Black women, and 55% of stops of men were of Black men. According to the 2010 Census, only 27% of New York City’s population is Black.
- Data recently released by the Missouri Attorney General’s office shows that in Ferguson, MO, more Black women drivers are stopped than any other group.
Black women also experience gender and sexuality specific forms of profiling and police violence – including sexual violence and assault by police, profiling for prostitution-related offenses, and police violence against pregnant Black women and mothers. For example:
- One study found that sexual assault by police is the second most commonly reported form of police misconduct.
- Another found that the majority (76%) of victims of on-duty police sexual misconduct are adults, but almost a quarter (24%) of reported cases of on-duty sexual misconduct involved minors.
- According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 38% of Black transgender people who had interactions with police reported harassment, 14% reported physical assault, and 6% reported sexual assault.
- A New York City study found that found that up to 2 in 5 young women reported sexual harassment by law enforcement.
It’s time to break the silence around Black women and police violence – because #BlackWomensLivesMatter!
Join the National Day of Action!
Here are 5 things you can do in your area:
- Talk to 5 friends or host a kitchen table conversation about Black women and policing – for ideas, check out this workshop: http://bit.ly/1KSpPaK
- Hold a vigil or a gathering focused on Black women in your community who have been killed or harmed by police
- Conduct a “know your rights” training for Black women using this brochure: http://bit.ly/1L7DP1h
- Call your Congressperson and Senator and ask them to sponsor and pass the End Racial Profiling Act of 2015 (H.R. 1933/ S. 1056), which for the first time would ban profiling based on gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation in addition to race, national origin and religion!
- Call or go to your local police department or City Council and give them a list of demands on behalf of Black women – check out the demands below!
Join the conversation on Twitter using hashtags #SayHerName #BlackWomensLivesmatter #BlackWomenMatter #AllBlackLivesMatter
Some things you can push for your local police department to do to prevent police abuse of Black women:
- End “broken windows” policing practices, including laws used to criminalize homelessness and poverty
- Enact and enforce a “zero tolerance” policy toward sexual harassment and assault of members of the public by police officers;
- Stop profiling us! Adopt and enforce a ban on officers confiscating or using mere possession or presence of condoms as evidence of any prostitution-related offense;
- Adopt and enforce a policy requiring officers to respect Black women’s gender identity and expression in all police interactions, searches, and police detention and explicitly banning officers from profiling people based on gender identity or expression or searching people to assign gender;
- Ensure that use of force policies clearly prohibit use of TASERs and excessive force on pregnant women or children;
- Enact and enforce policies requiring police to make every effort to identify kinship care for children of parents taken into custody before contacting child protective services.
For more organizing ideas, check out INCITE!’s Organizer’s Toolkit on Law Enforcement Violence Against Women of Color and Trans People of Color: http://bit.ly/1Hnbe9D
Palmcards and brochures available here: http://bit.ly/1FfoJ7L and here: http://bit.ly/1QRWG3v
Questions? Looking for more resources?
Contact Andrea Ritchie, Soros Justice Fellow at: firstname.lastname@example.org
PLEASE FORWARD WIDELY!
From Free Marissa Now:
National Action: Urge the State to Drop the Case!
Have you heard the good news out of Florida? The Appeals Court threw out the guilty verdict in the Marissa Alexander case, citing a “fundamental error” in the jury instructions which unjustly required Marissa to prove her innocence, depriving her of a fair trial.
In mid-October, State Prosecutor Angela Corey will decide whether to drop the case or set a new trial date. We say drop the case!
October is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month – a perfect time to draw attention to how Marissa’s experience of domestic violence and incarceration exemplifies the widespread racial and gender bias in our criminal justice system.
We are asking you to send letters and/or call Angela Corey and encourage her to seek Justice, not a Conviction! Please send copies of your message to Attorney General Pam Bondi and Governor Rick Scott so that they know the strength of public opinion on this issue.
The sample letter below may help you get started.
SAMPLE LETTER (download as pdf!):
Dear Ms. Corey:
You have an opportunity to allow an innocent person to go free without further cost to the state of Florida and without further trauma to this woman and her family. I encourage you to drop the charges against Marissa Alexander, rather than pursuing a new trial which, if justice is served, will result in a not-guilty verdict.
Marissa Alexander was a victim of domestic violence who acted in self-defense by taking the only action she saw possible at that moment – an action that injured no one. Her case shines a light on how black women in domestic violence situations are often doubly victimized when they seek justice. Ms. Alexander has experienced at least two traumatic events: the first is being repeatedly abused by her husband, the second is being prosecuted and sentenced to prison for defending herself from that abuse.
Ms. Alexander’s experience bears out the fact that women of color are arrested more often than white women when police arrive on the scene of a domestic violence incident.
For this reason, fewer than 17% of black women call the police for fear they will be further victimized by the police or the courts. By allowing Marissa Alexander to be sentenced to 20 years for self-defense, you have given the message to women everywhere that if they defend their lives, they will be also targeted by police and prosecutors.
There is a widespread stereotype that survivors who fight for their lives, particularly if they are black women, are “too aggressive” and not genuine victims. This stereotype was carried out to such an extent in Marissa Alexander’s case that the whole premise of innocent until proven guilty was reversed, as the Appeals Court found.
Please do the right thing by stopping any further prosecution of this innocent mother and daughter. Drop the case, dismiss all charges, and free Marissa Alexander!
Send your letter to the following addresses:
(Hard copies make more of an impact!)
Angela Corey, State Attorney
220 East Bay Street
Jacksonville, FL 32202
Office of Attorney General Pam Bondi
State of Florida
The Capitol PL-01
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1050
Phone: 850-414-3300 or 850-414-3990
Office of Governor Rick Scott
State of Florida
400 S. Monroe St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001
Phone: 850-717-9337 or 850-488-7146
The fantastic Project Nia in Chicago recently organized a panel that considered radical alternative responses to the tragic murder of Trayvon Martin that do not rely on prisons and policing. We’ve embedded the audio from the panel above and the description of the panel is below. Beth Richie, panelist and co-founder of INCITE!, references the 2001 INCITE!/Critical Resistance Statement on Gender Violence and the Prison Industrial Complex as an important tool for imagining and developing organizing strategies to address violence. For more info about that statement, visit this webpage.
Transformative Justice and the Trayvon Martin Case: A Consideration:
After the not-guilty verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman for killing 17-year old Trayvon Martin, some are asking what “justice” would look like for Trayvon. The conversation about whether the criminal legal system is the ‘best’ way to seek accountability for harm has been ongoing for several years. It continues in the wake of this trial. Some outstanding questions include:
1. What would transformative justice look like in this case?
2. How do prison abolitionists respond to the George Zimmerman trial?
Panelists include Erica Meiners, Beth Richie, Traci Schlesinger, and was moderated by Mariame Kaba. More about the panelists here.
Dear INCITE! Network:
We have lots of movement building to celebrate and honor this year! Thank you all for your brilliance, passion, and determination in holding it down in your respective locales and communities, ya’ll are the heart and soul of the INCITE! Network! Together, we have come such a long way over the last decade, and we are looking forward to paving the way for even greater vision building and liberatory actions for as long as it takes to build the world we want to live in.
Your resources and energy are critical in lifting up a National Convening, on November 15-17, 2013 in New Orleans. We want as many people and voices to contribute in building the future vision of our network, sharing strategies and resources, honoring the work that has preceded us in the last decade, and building infrastructure and regional networks. For folks within the network, y’all have already received many call outs to join the organizing committee. If you have the time, link on up with us! Also, if you or allies have the resources to donate, please do so. We are so appreciative of any and all seed money folks can send to help us keep moving this work. Our goal is to raise $30,000, by October 2013, which would go towards offsetting travel, transportation, housing, venue and other basic logistical costs. We are looking forward to planning an event that not only builds relationships across our network, but also supports and strengthens our relationships with the bad ass organizers and local community of New Orleans.
With the rise in law enforcement violence against communities of color and natural disasters that further marginalize our communities, as well as a continuing failing economy, our collective work has become even more timely and critical. This National Convening will be a historic gathering for chapters, affiliates and individual members to lay out crucial infrastructure for regional and local emergency response systems, in these times of heightened state aggression and fear mongering in the media, we need each other more than ever. The issues highlighted in mainstream news outlets revolve around the patriarchal and misogynistic debates surrounding the extension of the Violence Against Women Act in 2013 and public debates of gang rape and apologies for young male violence. And in other news, over twenty individuals including women and children were shot while marching in and enjoying a Mother’s Day second line parade in New Orleans-marking one of the most horrific and saddening incidents this year; drone strikes have increased under Obama’s second administration; Texas, Louisiana, and Florida proposed legislation to drug test welfare recipients; a Florida mother of three, Marissa Alexander is awaiting justice for ‘standing her ground’ against an abusive partner; and black revolutionary Assata Shakur is the first woman to be placed on the FBI’s most wanted terrorists list. These are but a few of the issues of violence that directly impact our network.
And in the face of all of this madness, there is such radical defiance and resilience. Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence and four radical First Nations women (Nine Wilson, Jessica Gordon, Sheelah McLean, and Sylvia McAdam) spurred a global movement for indigenous rights with their Idle No More campaign. A Mobile Homecoming and Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind have organized a Combahee River Pilgrimage to honor the 150th anniversary of Harriet Tubman’s uprising and the writings of the Combahee River Collective. The intervention of your voices, analysis, and strategies will transform and ensure our collective safety and survival. There is so much work to be done and we need y’alls help and support! This is a call to action.
Members, please join us at the INCITE! National Convening this coming November, so we can celebrate the work that came before and that’s ahead of us still! Join the National Convening Working Group and let’s collectively prioritize and make space for these important dialogues and strategies sessions! And, please, send this call out for financial and resource support to comrades and allies!
In love and solidarity,
The National Collective: Karla, Kiri, Saira, Kellee, Kymberlie, Mayaba, Mandisa, and Ujju
Join the National Convening Working Group:
Please send an email to email@example.com to be added to the organizing listserv.
Donate to the INCITE! National Convening:
Check out and subscribe to our fundraising site:
INCITE! @ Nation Builder
Donations via Paypal
Please donate here:
Donations via Mail
Please make checks or money orders payable to INCITE! and send them to the address below:
INCITE!/co Karla Mejia
2416 W Victory Blvd
Burbank, CA 91506
THANK YOU FOR YOUR LOVE, YOUR WORK, AND YOUR SUPPORT!!!!
INCITE! SUPPORTS THE CALL TO FREE MARISSA ALEXANDER!
- Because we support black women’s right to self defense and support the call for freedom of Patreese Johnson, the last incarcerated member of the New Jersey 7, and CeCe McDonald in Minneapolis, MN,
- and because we condemn the FBI’s continued and escalated pursuit of Assata Shakur,
- and because domestic violence survivors of color have been targets of law enforcement violence through lack of protection, mandatory arrest policies, and physical violence,
- and because 90% of people in women’s prisons experience sexual and domestic violence prior to their incarceration and there is a crisis of sexual abuse within prisons, including juvenile and immigration detention centers,
- and because collaboration programs between ICE and local police, such as Secure Communities (S-COMM), endanger the lives of undocumented immigrant survivors of violence,
- and because law enforcement agencies routinely fail to respond to violence against Native women, allowing others to violate them with impunity,
- and because of militarized law enforcement violence, children like Aiyana Jones do not have the right to safety in their own homes,
- and because organizers had to sue Louisiana to remove black women and LGBT people charged with prostitution from the state’s sex offender registry,
- and because stop-and-frisk against women of color, including trans women of color, is state-enforced sexual harassment,
- and because doctors pressure and coerce inmates in California women’s prisons to get sterilized as a cost-cutting measure,
- and because, in two out of three states, pregnant inmates can still be shackled to their hospital beds while giving birth,
- and because the US is a prison nation that not only cages the most people in the world, but extends punishment and surveillance into the daily lives of low income women of color and our communities in the US and abroad,
- and because we support organized resistance to the prison nation such as the Dream 9, the Dream Defenders sit-in, and the California Prisoner Hunger Strike, the largest prisoner hunger strike in the history of California,
- and because we mourn the horrific murder of Trayvon Martin and send love, strength, and solidarity to his family and community,
- and because we honor all of the women, queer, and trans people of color who have been attacked, brutalized, or murdered and who have been given no opportunity for redress or public recognition,
- and because we call on our communities to support survivors of domestic and sexual violence and develop transformative community-based responses to violence so we aren’t forced to rely on an abusive criminal punishment system for safety and accountability…
Because of all of these reasons, INCITE! endorses the call to FREE MARISSA ALEXANDER from prison immediately. Marissa Alexander is a black mother of three and survivor of domestic violence from Jacksonville, FL. In August 2010, she fired a warning shot in the wall to defend herself from a life-threatening beating from her estranged husband. She had just given birth to a premature baby nine days before. Despite the fact that Marissa Alexander caused no injuries and has no previous criminal record, and despite the fact that Florida’s self-defense law includes the right to “Stand Your Ground,” she was subsequently arrested, prosecuted, and sentenced to a mandatory minimum of 20 years in prison. She plans to appeal. More details on her experience can be found here and this pdf download. The treatment of Marissa Alexander is a consequence of the growing crisis of prisons and policing in the US as well as a product of anti-black racism and sexism which drives individuals and institutions to punish black women when they defend themselves from violence. Her case is one of many that shows us how black women and other marginalized people are especially likely to be blamed and criminalized while trying to navigate and survive the conditions of violence in their lives. We call all members of anti-violence, reproductive justice, and anti-police/prison movements and our allies to also support the call to Free Marissa Alexander!
ORGANIZE to free Marissa Alexander! Hold rallies, do a banner drop, have house parties, blog, write letters, organize workshops, make art, fundraise and donate, and sign this petition. Visit http://freemarissanow.tumblr.com/action for more ideas.
Urge your campus, organization, faith community, collective, union, or business to ENDORSE the call to Free Marissa Alexander: tiny.cc/EndorseFreeMarissa
Thank you for all you do to create communities and movements based on radical freedom, mutual accountability, and passionate reciprocity!