January 2021

Welcome to a new year of love and struggle.

We closed out 2020 co-facilitating several workshops hosted by the #DefundCPD campaign. It was an unprecedented year for abolition, and the mainstreaming of the demand to defund the police and prison systems and reallocate resources to the social programs that actually keep us safe. If you live in Chicago, you need to be supporting this campaign and the struggle to abolish our police department! If you live elsewhere, follow #DefundCPD and uplift its messaging in your own town or city.

We’re kicking off the new year by looking back on the old one. We’ll participate in a virtual poetry reading on January 8th for the Signs of Change exhibit opening, hosted by the Gallery of Contemporary Mosaics, alongside other poets and artists such as Elizabeth Marino, Cori Lin, and Natalia Virafuentes. The show displays signs, banners, and other visuals from the global uprisings that occurred over the course of 2020. We’ll be reading our poem Layleen’s Bill (With Revisions) in honor of the Black trans lives we lost this year, but also in acknowledgement of the unparalleled developments in the movements to end solitary confinement, defund police, and abolish prisons.

We’ll also be reconnecting with our friends at The Funambulist. We first worked with the Paris-based magazine when they came to Chicago in 2019 as part of the Chicago Architecture Biennial. In 2021, we’ll be writing two essays for them, representing Chicago alongside 25 other global cities as part of their Corespondents series. Keep an eye out!

While the struggles of 2020 continue into the New Year, we hope to see them flourish and expand in ways unpredicted. Stay posted here as our own work shifts and evolves in this next chapter.

BH

November 2020

We’re writing to you with limited internet access from MacDowell in Peterborough, New Hampshire. Our original fellowship here in May was postponed due to COVID-19, and the campus has now reopened with new social distancing measures. We are here focusing on our in-progress performance World After This One. We recently finished the script for this piece (huge thanks to our editor Kemi Alabi) and are now delving into movement and staging, looking to some of our longtime collaborators like Nic Kay, Ivelisse Díaz, and Anna Martine Whitehead. Send us some creative vibes as we work on getting the piece ready to share publicly sometime in the next year!

We’re also excited to be a (virtual) guest speaker in Dr. Ninoska M’bewe Escobar’s class Black Performance History at Smith College on November 24th. We’ll be sharing some of our current work, discussing what creative practice looks like for contemporary Black artists, as well as the role of the arts in grassroots movements, specifically in the fight to abolish prisons and police.

Let This Radicalize You: A COVID Memorial Mixtape to which we contributed as part of last month’s National Week of Mourning can be listened to and read in transcript form here. Organized by Kelly Hayes, and featuring words from other fighters we admire like Juliana Pino Alcaraz, Aislinn Pulley, and Bresha Meadows, the full recording was played at a vigil outside the Metropolitan Correctional Facility in downtown Chicago, honoring those still incarcerated during this pandemic, and those on the inside who have already died. Don’t forget their names. Don’t forget we are owed reparations from this government, that universal healthcare is long overdue, and that incarceration and public health can never coexist.

Highlights from our discussion with Jae Jin Pak and Dior Vargas as part of Advancing Leadership’s panel Building Intersectional Movements last month can be viewed here. We also sat down with South Side Weekly Radio to discuss the strategies and practices for imagining liberated futures alongside our larger communities, the recording of which we will share soon.

There’s not a lot we can say about the uncertainty and imminent violence we are facing this election week, but we do want to share some important resources that have been useful to us:

Prepare and breathe : Bystander intervention and de-escalation training from American Friends Service Committee

Why Treating White Nationalism as Domestic Terrorism Won’t Work and How to Not Fall For it by Nicole Nguyen & Yazan Zahzah

The Long Shadow of Racial Fascism by Alberto Toscano

Reclaiming Possibility: A Rant Against Despair by Kelly Hayes

And for a little joy, here is footage of activist Keiajah Brooks reading the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners for filth.

There are more of us than there are of the fascist forces, but that doesn’t matter unless we join together and fight back actively.

Take care of each other, we’ll see you next month,

BH

October 2020

We forgot an important August update back in September! You can read our piece in Noname Book Club’s publication Out Of Print here. The essay, In A Pandemic, Prison Abolition Is Necessary & More Possible Than Ever, came out a little late, but is still pertinent. We hope it can provide some guidance and hopeful visions in these crucial weeks.

We’re proud to be featured this month on a panel for Advancing Leadership’s annual symposium, this year celebrating the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act. The panel, Building Intersectional Movements: Disability Justice & Racial Equity, on Wednesday the 14th, will examine the intersections of disability and Black and brown freedom movements, and imagine future visions for abolition that don’t just include but unite communities of color and those with disabilities.

We’ll additionally be participating in a smattering of teaching and speaking engagements. We’ll be talking briefly to members of Building Healthy Communities in East Salinas, California on defunding police, participating in a second panel for Southern New Hampshire University on why voting is a necessary but also insufficient tool for social change, and leading an Abolition 101 workshop for students and faculty in the Occupational Therapy Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Lastly, we’re grateful to organizer Kelly Hayes for including our voice in the COVID Mixtape, part of a series of digital events for the National Week of Mourning, honoring the more than 200,000 people lost in the U.S. to the pandemic thus far. We know one of the ways fascism takes hold is by normalizing and numbing us to its own violence, by not allowing us the space we need to grieve and process the immeasurable losses we are collectively experiencing in this moment. We hope this offering can be a small piece of both healing and resistance in the face of death and indifference, and encourage you to participate in collective mourning however you can, both out of respect for those we’ve lost, but also out of respect for your own right to feel pain, knowing that you are worth more than we are currently being offered by the state.

BH