We hope that this issue of The Abolitionist contributes to the growing thought and movement seeking to strengthen and sharpen our collective resistance in this current moment, and for the coming years. With pieces including an opening from former Black Panther and current political prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal, to an elaboration of the BPP’s internationalism by civil rights and Black Power scholar Robyn Spencer, to the sharp prescriptions from imprisoned writers on responding to Trump’s fascism, we are humbled by the range of contributions to this issue, the historical lessons they draw, and their reflection on current struggles toward liberation in the spirit and ongoing legacy of the Black Panther Party, fifty years later.
The ground is shifting beneath us. The harm and violence of the prison industrial complex (PIC) – including policing, imprisonment, and surveillance – have been pushed to the fore of people’s consciousness. Yet we are not mere spectators to this shift; on the contrary, we know very well that this is the cumulative effect of collective struggle on many fronts. For instance, without the dedication and sacrifice of the California hunger strikers in 2011 and 2013, particularly those in Pelican Bay’s solitary units and their supporters on the outside, we would not be witnessing an unprecedented denunciation of solitary confinement coming from virtually all layers of society. Similarly, without combative and sustained outrage by people in Ferguson in response to the killing of Michael Brown in 2014, we are doubtful that today’s increased attention and resistance to policing would be as far-reaching. We are deeply inspired by this shift, and are energized by the potential to challenge the PIC in significant and lasting ways.
For PIC abolitionists, the question is, what is the most strategic way to build and escalate the struggle during this time of increased calls to reform policing and prisons? What kinds of demands and strategies should we pursue that don’t simply adjust the operations of the PIC, but disempower it? Ultimately, how do we expand the radical potential of our moment to realize what we want – a world free of policing, imprisonment, surveillance, and all the forms of political, social, and economic violence that they maintain?
It is precisely a future beyond the PIC that we are fighting to achieve. Our vision is abolition, and we humbly join all those who seek to find every opportunity to make our movement flourish.
Welcome to Issue 25 of The Abolitionist ! This issue we delve into “Policing and Abolition” with hard hitting pieces from powerful authors like Fred Moten, Robin D.G. Kelley, Rachel Herzing, Aida Seif al-Dawla, Ali Issa, and Chanelle Gallant (see below for full list), who lend a critical eye to the various movements against policing. Their insights are particularly impactful as community organizing against the cops continues to grow “After August 9,” as Herzing’s piece is titled, when Ferguson and the rest of the country rose up against the murder of Michael Brown.
Issue 18 (“Surveillance”) is out now! In this issue we examine the ways surveillance limits our communities’ capacities to act in liberatory ways.
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As we know, surveillance is an integral component of the prison industrial complex. Equally as important is our ability to confront surveillance in order to create a society in which people are free of constant tracking and cataloging as a means of driving them into cages or turning their homes and neighborhoods into virtual prisons. This issue seeks not only to document the terrifying sophistication of surveillance systems, while offering examples and spurring dialogue about how to abolish them.
While the topic of surveillance spans a vast variety of issues and sectors, the pieces in this installment of The Abolitionist offer some points of entry for understanding the topic. From how it is used to limit funding of political organizations, to its role inside Security Housing Units (SHUs), the authors and artists featured in this issue of The Abolitionist help us think about both the impacts of surveillance, and means of resisting those impacts. In these pages, we will see the socio-economic costs of surveillance as well as the history of surveillance used against our organizations and our responses to that pressure. While not directly addressing the surveillance, we are also excited to bring you Letters to The Abolitionist in response to past issues of the paper, and two authors, David Gilbert and Eric A. Stanley in dialogue via reviews of each other’s books.
Walking the fine line between caution and paralysis takes patience and care. We hope that the sampling of perspectives offered here provides new insights and information and generates energy and a renewed commitment to fighting for a world free of the fear and mistrust on which surveillance depends.
Thanks to all our contributors!
Kijana Tashiri Askari
Inger P. Brink
Larry James DeRossett
Eric A. Stanley