From “Me Too” to “All of Us”: Organizing to End Sexual Violence, Without Prisons

To transform the conditions of sexual violence, we must not rely on violent systems of incarceration.

Sarah Jaffe October 17, 2017

A conversation with organizers Mariame Kaba and Shira Hassan. (Shutterstock.com)

Wel­come to Inter­views for Resis­tance. We’re now sev­er­al months into the Trump admin­is­tra­tion, and activists have scored some impor­tant vic­to­ries in those months. Yet there is always more to be done, and the ques­tion of where to focus and how to help remains. In this series, we talk with orga­niz­ers, agi­ta­tors and edu­ca­tors about how to resist and build a bet­ter world.

What does it mean to actually center a survivor who is harmed? What does it mean to actually support people who have caused harm?

Mari­ame Kaba: This is Mari­ame Kaba. I am an orga­niz­er and an edu­ca­tor. I run an orga­ni­za­tion called Project NIA, an abo­li­tion­ist orga­ni­za­tion focused on end­ing youth incar­cer­a­tion. I also have a long his­to­ry of doing work around end­ing racial­ized gen­der vio­lence, hav­ing worked in domes­tic vio­lence orga­ni­za­tions, as well as anti-sex­u­al assault orga­ni­za­tions. I cur­rent­ly orga­nize with a for­ma­tion called Sur­vived and Pun­ished, which I helped to cofound. Sur­vived and Pun­ished works to sup­port and uplift the sto­ries and lives of crim­i­nal­ized sur­vivors of vio­lence. I am also a part of a col­lab­o­ra­tive called Just Practice.

Shi­ra Has­san: My name is Shi­ra Has­san. I am the founder of Just Prac­tice. What Just Prac­tice does is work to give peo­ple the space to put into prac­tice how com­mu­ni­ty account­abil­i­ty works. Com­mu­ni­ty account­abil­i­ty is the idea that we can solve prob­lems with­out using the police or state sys­tems. Specif­i­cal­ly, Just Prac­tice looks at sex­u­al vio­lence and inti­mate part­ner vio­lence with­out the use of social ser­vices or state sys­tems. It is the sur­vivors who want that. Just Prac­tice is a com­mu­ni­ty project that works to give peo­ple the oppor­tu­ni­ty to work out what that looks like and to cre­ate safe space for peo­ple to grow and make mis­takes while they are learn­ing how to hold peo­ple accountable.

My his­to­ry and what brought me to Just Prac­tice is that I spent the last 25 years work­ing with young peo­ple in the sex trade indus­try through a harm reduc­tion lens. Our work required us to solve prob­lems with­out the use of police and state sys­tems, because we are very often pushed out of those sys­tems or crim­i­nal­ized if we try to act with­in those sys­tems. We had to come up with oth­er solu­tions. We spent years refin­ing those ideas. Now we are try­ing to put them into prac­tice in the larg­er world.

Sarah Jaffe: Sex­u­al harass­ment and sex­u­al assault are in the news because of a pow­er­ful, famous man. I want­ed to start off with a ques­tion for both of you, who have been doing this work for a while. Do you feel like the pub­lic con­ver­sa­tion around these peo­ple — in the media, on social media or wher­ev­er you are hear­ing it — has pro­gressed at all? Does it look dif­fer­ent right now from when you began doing this work?

Mari­ame: The con­ver­sa­tion is absolute­ly dif­fer­ent from when I start­ed doing work around sex­u­al assault. I began doing anti-sex­u­al assault work on my col­lege cam­pus. That was in the late 1980s/​early 1990s. The focus at that point was real­ly on the ques­tion of date rape on cam­pus, and the con­ver­sa­tion revolved most­ly around peo­ple drink­ing and then assault­ing people.

I also came of age before social media. The con­ver­sa­tion was very much lim­it­ed to hav­ing talks with your friends. It wasn’t this kind of gen­er­al­ized con­ver­sa­tion that is not even real­ly a con­ver­sa­tion. It’s more often a one-way harangue or a one-way rant or just vent­ing. It real­ly wasn’t like that. You had to talk to peo­ple you knew. Beyond that, you were talk­ing with folks in a sup­port-group set­ting, sto­ry­telling and divulging that you had been raped. It wasn’t this envi­ron­ment of com­pul­so­ry con­fes­sion, where you were being forced into dis­clos­ing that you were a sur­vivor of sex­u­al vio­lence. It didn’t feel like you had to premise your con­ver­sa­tion on dis­clos­ing your own expe­ri­ence before you could actu­al­ly speak to this in a real way. I, yes indeed, am a sur­vivor of sex­u­al assault and vio­lence, but it just felt dif­fer­ent at that time. It felt some­how more inti­mate and less tied to media and social media.

I don’t know when the movie The Accused came out. I often see that movie in my tra­jec­to­ry of com­ing into my own and under­stand­ing sex­u­al vio­lence. That movie felt like a moment that made sex­u­al vio­lence con­nect much more with the larg­er media con­ver­sa­tion. But, maybe I am remem­ber­ing that wrong.

Shi­ra: I total­ly remem­ber when that movie came out, and it real­ly did change the con­ver­sa­tion. Bless Jodie Foster.

I think the con­ver­sa­tion has def­i­nite­ly changed. We have the con­ver­sa­tion much more pub­licly. It is a lot dif­fer­ent from writ­ing people’s names on the bath­room walls, which is what we were doing in the 1990s. Face­book has become the bath­room wall, in a way. I think the way we have the con­ver­sa­tion changes. Then, I think because it is a more democ­ra­tized plat­form, to some degree, dif­fer­ent peo­ple are in the con­ver­sa­tion than used to be. I do think that, by and large, the peo­ple who are hav­ing the con­ver­sa­tion are still the same, though.

I don’t see this con­ver­sa­tion hap­pen­ing in the same way about young peo­ple in the sex trade, for exam­ple. A lot of the young peo­ple I know are more street-based: The idea of sex­u­al harass­ment is some­thing that peo­ple are think­ing about and angry about. Gwyneth Pal­trow is not com­ment­ing on their expe­ri­ences. She is com­ment­ing on actress­es in Hol­ly­wood. I don’t want to dimin­ish or demean how impor­tant those expe­ri­ences of vio­lence are. At the same time, it is a cer­tain kind of sur­vivor and a cer­tain kind of vio­lence that we are all talk­ing about. I think that part is the same.

Sarah: One of the things about this big pub­lic con­ver­sa­tion is that, for me, it actu­al­ly feels more over­whelm­ing. What Mari­ame called this cul­ture of com­pul­so­ry con­fes­sion feels smoth­er­ing. It just feels like there is noth­ing we can do. You have been doing work around this for a while and deal­ing direct­ly with sur­vivors. How do you fight that feel­ing that this is nev­er going to end?

Shi­ra: There are sto­ries that over­whelm me and stop me in my tracks. But they are also the sto­ries of peo­ple I love, and there is a face to the sto­ry most of the time for me. The feel­ing of being over­whelmed is some­thing that I counter with action and I counter with heal­ing. This idea of heal­ing jus­tice, where speak­ing out is part of that heal­ing. I feel con­nect­ed to that as an action, not so much con­nect­ed to that as a bur­den. I feel like it is a bless­ing to be amongst sur­vivor sto­ries. I don’t actu­al­ly feel over­whelmed by sur­vivor sto­ries. I feel over­whelmed by inac­tion around sur­vivor stories.

Mari­ame: For me, it is the dif­fer­ence between the ques­tion of ask­ing what I can per­son­al­ly do, ver­sus what we can do. When I think of what I can do as an indi­vid­ual per­son, it feels more over­whelm­ing. It is like, Well, a lot of my friends are sur­vivors. A lot of peo­ple I care and love are sur­vivors. I can’t per­son­al­ly take respon­si­bil­i­ty for mak­ing all of their lives and their pain, I can’t take all of that on.”

You can’t also just take on everybody’s joy either. When I think about it in that kind of indi­vid­u­al­is­tic way, it can feel over­whelm­ing. But I have worked towards a col­lec­tive idea of heal­ing and a col­lec­tive idea of action and orga­niz­ing. I don’t think that the issue we have right now is that we have too many orga­niz­ers. I think we have too few orga­niz­ers, and that can also feel super debil­i­tat­ing when there is a lot of hand­wring­ing or a lot of out­rage, but with­out any direc­tion. I think that can feel over­whelm­ing. Since 1988, since I have been in this field, what has kept me going is that col­lec­tiv­i­ty. And seek­ing to actu­al­ly under­stand and to heal and to be part of that heal­ing process with oth­er people.

Sarah: We end up with this sto­ry of one sur­vivor who has to come for­ward and file charges with the police, and then this one per­pe­tra­tor will be held account­able. But that doesn’t work.

Mari­ame: And it doesn’t hap­pen. I think that is anoth­er aspect of this, for peo­ple who are count­ing on a crim­i­nal pun­ish­ment response to this. I under­stand feel­ing com­plete­ly depressed and debil­i­tat­ed, because that sys­tem doesn’t actu­al­ly know how to hold firm for sur­vivors. It doesn’t know how to trans­form harm that occurs. It is a sys­tem that most peo­ple don’t access, and most sur­vivors still nev­er access for lots of rea­sons: because they don’t want to, because they have been trau­ma­tized in the past by the sys­tem, because they don’t want the per­son who harmed them nec­es­sar­i­ly caught up in the sys­tem. There are a mil­lion rea­sons. Because they don’t want to be raked over the coals them­selves. Because they try to solve prob­lems in community.

When peo­ple do access the sys­tem, they are screwed over by it, lit­er­al­ly, in all dif­fer­ent kinds of ways. They then feel a sense of dis­em­pow­er­ment. I can under­stand that, if the way you think we are actu­al­ly going to solve this prob­lem is through that sys­tem, I can under­stand that sense of com­plete debil­i­tat­ing depres­sion, because that sys­tem actu­al­ly can’t do that.

Shi­ra: Not only can’t the sys­tem do it, but I think our belief that it can is part of why we feel so betrayed. Some of us who have let go of that betray­al, because we have just stopped try­ing to get water from a stone. Frankly, the stone is being thrown at us. So, we are now try­ing to build shel­ter from the stone and talk to every­one who is com­ing inside the shel­ter about what we can do. That, for me, is per­haps why I feel less over­whelmed. It isn’t that I don’t feel like Wow, we have an unbe­liev­able amount to do,” because I do feel like that. But, I do feel like we have so many more things to try away from the sys­tem than with it. What we have begun to cre­ate is this shel­ter togeth­er, where we real­ly can focus on who is inside this hud­dle and work with each per­son who is there in a more mean­ing­ful way to move forward.

Sarah: In the wake of the Wein­stein rev­e­la­tions, one of the things that some peo­ple have been talk­ing about is the whis­per net­work. This is the way that women warn each oth­er about cer­tain men in their polit­i­cal cir­cles or in their work cir­cles. And yet, these feel inad­e­quate too — they are not par­tic­u­lar­ly account­able for the peo­ple mak­ing accu­sa­tions, which is less a prob­lem than the fact that they just end up assum­ing that it is still our job to avoid perpetrators.

Mari­ame: You can’t force some­body into being account­able for things they do. That is not pos­si­ble. Peo­ple have to take account­abil­i­ty for things that they actu­al­ly do wrong. They have to decide that this is wrong. They have to say, This is wrong and I want to be part of mak­ing some sort of amends or repair­ing this or not doing it again.” The ques­tion is: What in our cul­ture allows peo­ple to do that? What are the struc­tur­al things that exist? What in our cul­ture encour­ages peo­ple who assault peo­ple and harm peo­ple to take respon­si­bil­i­ty? What I see is almost nothing.

That means, for exam­ple, peo­ple con­tin­ue to be reward­ed when they do bad things to oth­er peo­ple or take neg­a­tive action against peo­ple. We are in a sit­u­a­tion where peo­ple try to argue over seman­tics. We don’t have a sense that peo­ple are pre­pared to say, There is a spec­trum of sex­u­al harm. Not every­thing is rape. And yet, every­thing that feels like a vio­la­tion is harm.” We just don’t have that with­in the larg­er cul­ture that allows for peo­ple to feel like they can take respon­si­bil­i­ty and that they can be accountable.

The oth­er thing is, we do have the threat that if you do admit that you do this, you might be caught up in the crim­i­nal pun­ish­ment sys­tem. You might see the inside of a jail. So your incli­na­tion is to deny, deny, deny until the very end. There is just no incen­tive for you to come clean” and be like, I actu­al­ly did this. Yes, I did rape this per­son. I did sex­u­al­ly assault them. I did harass them. I did molest them.” We are in this adver­sar­i­al mod­el where you don’t admit it, and the per­son who is actu­al­ly being placed on tri­al is the sur­vivor, to prove that you actu­al­ly did this.

I under­stand, with­in that, why peo­ple feel like they have to whis­per and why sur­vivors then have to take on the weight of actu­al­ly fig­ur­ing out how to bring some­body to account­abil­i­ty.” The incen­tive struc­ture is set up this way.

Sarah: And, of course, not all sur­vivors are women.

Mari­ame: Exact­ly. This is what is, to me, the work that we have to do. We have to make com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers under­stand what sex­u­al harm looks like, what it feels like, why it is unac­cept­able. We have to make vio­lence unthink­able in our cul­ture. We have to make inter­per­son­al vio­lence unthink­able. It has to become that. This is not about pun­ish­ment, but about orga­niz­ing. Most peo­ple don’t want to orga­nize around these things. That, to me, is the nexus. That is the place that we have to work from if we are real­ly going to trans­form this into some­thing where it isn’t the sur­vivors or the vic­tims who have to car­ry the load all the time.

Shi­ra: I want to add one thing: where the his­to­ry of those lists come from. Those kinds of lists got start­ed with peo­ple in the sex trade, in par­tic­u­lar trans­gen­der women of col­or, who start­ed cre­at­ing bad date sheets. These were infor­mal sheets, lit­er­al­ly, that were writ­ten down and passed around through the com­mu­ni­ty. We used to pho­to­copy them, copy them down and hand them out with people’s phys­i­cal descrip­tions. The rest of the world looks at peo­ple in the sex trade as com­plete­ly dis­pos­able, but we bor­row their tools all the time when we feel disposable.

I want to be sure that we rec­og­nize the his­to­ry and lega­cy of the tools that are being used, how they are being used and why they are being used before we say that they are not work­ing or impor­tant. Because the next thing just has to grow out of that. What is the next thing we are going to do with those lists? We went from the bath­room wall to Face­book. We went from pho­to­copy­ing the sheet with descrip­tions to pass­ing it around online. We do have the pow­er and capac­i­ty to think of What next?” but we haven’t quite yet. In part, it’s because we don’t have sol­i­dar­i­ty with each oth­er, and we don’t rec­og­nize that the spec­trum of sex­u­al vio­lence is some­thing that is hap­pen­ing to all of us. We live in rape cul­ture, and all of this is going to keep hap­pen­ing to us until we can col­lec­tive­ly fig­ure out what we are doing here.

Sarah: You have done work around the way that sur­vivors of this vio­lence are often crim­i­nal­ized, them­selves. I am think­ing about black women and black trans women like Cece McDon­ald and Melis­sa Alexan­der. Talk about that as an under­stand­ing that has to also come into these dis­cus­sions of, What can we do?”

Mari­ame: In terms of Sur­vived and Pun­ished, we have come togeth­er nation­al­ly to put a spot­light on the fact that when you look at who is actu­al­ly incar­cer­at­ed and crim­i­nal­ized in the cur­rent crim­i­nal pun­ish­ment sys­tem, in terms of women and gen­der non­con­form­ing peo­ple, in par­tic­u­lar, often these are peo­ple who are sur­vivors of sex­u­al vio­lence and domes­tic vio­lence pri­or to their crim­i­nal­iza­tion and pri­or to their incar­cer­a­tion. They have been vio­lat­ed in the first place. They end up crim­i­nal­ized with­in the sys­tem, often for defend­ing them­selves against vio­lence or for crim­i­nal­ized sur­vival actions like hav­ing self-med­icat­ed and used drugs in order to get over some of the stress that they have been put under, being brought in under con­spir­a­cy charges for their abu­sive part­ner who coerced them into actions. Tak­ing their kids and flee­ing and then being charged with kid­nap­ping. All sorts of sur­vival actions.

We under­stand that the link between crim­i­nal­iza­tion and domes­tic and sex­u­al vio­lence is inex­tri­ca­ble and unde­ni­able, and peo­ple find them­selves caught up in the sys­tem and end up re-vio­lat­ed and re-trau­ma­tized with­in that very sys­tem. Then, you are in prison or in jail or an immi­grant deten­tion cen­ter and those insti­tu­tions basi­cal­ly are rapists, them­selves. Peo­ple come in, they have to be pat­ted down, they have strip search­es, women are made to show­er with male cor­rec­tions offi­cers watch­ing them and leer­ing. Some­times peo­ple are raped in those par­tic­u­lar institutions.

We have to be mind­ful of the fact that the very thing we say we want to end — vio­lence — is being per­pe­trat­ed by that very same sys­tem. We are try­ing to end vio­lence with more vio­lence. It just doesn’t make any sense. Our work has been to uplift the par­tic­u­lar cas­es of peo­ple who have been crim­i­nal­ized by the sys­tem and make those con­nec­tions. It is not just that we are lift­ing up those cas­es as excep­tion­al cas­es, as cas­es that prove that this one good per­son” needs to be released or this one inno­cent per­son needs to be released. We are mak­ing a broad­er case that every­body should be free, because almost every­body with­in these sys­tems has these his­to­ries that they bring with them and these insti­tu­tions are re-trau­ma­tiz­ing insti­tu­tions. They make no one bet­ter. In fact, they make every­body worse.

Recent­ly, we orga­nized to help free Bre­sha Mead­ows, a 14-year-old girl who killed her father in self-defense. We came togeth­er, ini­tial­ly, through the work that so many of us had been involved in in terms of free­ing Melis­sa Alexan­der. We are part of a long tra­di­tion of defense cam­paigns for Joan Lit­tle and Cas­san­dra Keaton and any num­ber of oth­er sur­vivors of vio­lence who have been crim­i­nal­ized for defend­ing their lives or for actions they took in the attempt of sur­viv­ing. We are try­ing to bring togeth­er many, many dif­fer­ent kinds of peo­ple, groups, ideas, to lever­age this in order to be able to free more peo­ple. These are free­dom campaigns.

As Shi­ra men­tioned ear­ly on, who are the sur­vivors we are actu­al­ly uplift­ing? Who are the peo­ple? What is sex­u­al vio­lence? When we put peo­ple in pris­ons and in jails, often we are sen­tenc­ing them to judi­cial rape because we know they are going to be assault­ed when they go inside. Yet we are still putting peo­ple in that envi­ron­ment to be assault­ed. How are you going to be an anti-rape advo­cate or orga­niz­er and still be press­ing for peo­ple to be put into rape factories?

We have to com­pli­cate this con­ver­sa­tion around sex­u­al vio­lence and see all the dif­fer­ent ways that it is used as a form of social con­trol across-the-board, with many dif­fer­ent peo­ple from all dif­fer­ent gen­ders and all dif­fer­ent races and all dif­fer­ent social loca­tions. If we under­stand the prob­lem in that way, we have a bet­ter shot at actu­al­ly uproot­ing all of the con­di­tions that lead to this, and address­ing all of the ways in which sex­u­al vio­lence rein­forces oth­er forms of vio­lence. Our work over a cou­ple of decades now has been devot­ed to com­pli­cat­ing these nar­ra­tives that are too easy, these real­ly sim­ple nar­ra­tives around a per­fect vic­tim who is assault­ed by an evil mon­ster and that is the end of the sto­ry. The Kill all rapists” con­ver­sa­tion, which just kind of flat­tens what sex­u­al vio­lence real­ly is, that doesn’t take into con­sid­er­a­tion the spec­trum of sex­u­al vio­lence, there­fore min­i­miz­ing cer­tain people’s expe­ri­ences and mak­ing oth­ers more valid.

The last thing I want to add here is my con­cern over not just the per­fect vic­tim” nar­ra­tive, but also this idea that we all have the same expe­ri­ence because we have been raped, and we all think the same way about how to address it, and that for all of us being a rape sur­vivor becomes your iden­ti­ty. We were raped. Some­thing bad hap­pened to us. We are try­ing to address that, but we are not tak­ing on the sur­vivor as a total­iz­ing iden­ti­ty for every­thing we do in our lives and how that mat­ters. I want more of those kinds of con­ver­sa­tions to be hap­pen­ing in pub­lic, but some­how, we can’t have those. We can’t have com­pli­cat­ed con­ver­sa­tions about sex­u­al vio­lence because then you are accused of rape apolo­gia or you are accused of cod­dling rapists. That is very, very lim­it­ing. It means that we are not going to be able to uproot and real­ly solve the prob­lem ultimately.

Shi­ra: I don’t know what is going to hap­pen with Mr. Wein­stein, but I know that he has enough mon­ey to make what he wants to hap­pen a pos­si­bil­i­ty. The con­se­quences that are going to hap­pen to him, they may nev­er mea­sure up to the harm that he cre­at­ed. Yet we see wide-scale harm hap­pen­ing for peo­ple who may ulti­mate­ly want to be account­able. Sex­u­al vio­lence is very nuanced, and the sys­tem that we have is not.

Prison is as not fem­i­nist. That is one of Mariame’s famous points. Prison isn’t fem­i­nist, because it recre­ates the same sex­u­al vio­lence and the same fear, the same kinds of oppres­sion. It is the pin on the head of the racist and sex­ist sys­tem that we live in.

That does not mean, how­ev­er, there should be no con­se­quences. It means real con­se­quences. Con­se­quences that real­ly mat­ter. It means trans­form­ing the con­di­tions that exist in the first place for this to even have hap­pened. It is real­ly crit­i­cal for peo­ple to think the dif­fer­ence between pun­ish­ment and con­se­quences. Pun­ish­ment often is actu­al­ly not the same as trans­for­ma­tion. Even though it feels good to wear the Kill the rapists” t‑shirt, that isn’t the thing that is actu­al­ly going to get us the world we want to live in.

Mari­ame: I also want to talk a lit­tle bit about what is hope­ful about what is hap­pen­ing in the world around these issues. Shi­ra and I just spent three and a half days in Chica­go with 50 peo­ple from around the coun­try doing train­ings and facil­i­tat­ing dis­cus­sion and dia­logue about how we do com­mu­ni­ty account­abil­i­ty to address sex­u­al harm and inter­per­son­al vio­lence. These folks came togeth­er from all around the coun­try and took that much time out of their day, because we under­stand this as a moment of oppor­tu­ni­ty for some­thing dif­fer­ent. A lot of peo­ple are talk­ing now, and there is much more aware­ness around the fact that the prison-indus­tri­al-com­plex has churned com­mu­ni­ties and peo­ple through a meat grinder, dev­as­tat­ing peo­ple. Yet, peo­ple don’t feel safer. Peo­ple don’t feel as though vio­lence is curbed” in any way.

We have to build up the skills of being able to ask ques­tions like: What does it mean to actu­al­ly cen­ter a sur­vivor who is harmed? What does it mean to actu­al­ly sup­port peo­ple who have caused harm? What does it mean to take respon­si­bil­i­ty for say­ing, We refuse in our com­mu­ni­ty to con­done when this hap­pens”? One of the things that is so impor­tant is that harm caus­es wounds that neces­si­tate heal­ing. That is what so many peo­ple are look­ing for — a way to begin to heal. How are we going to cre­ate in our com­mu­ni­ties, spaces that allow peo­ple real oppor­tu­ni­ty to heal?

Again, this will not nec­es­sar­i­ly be accom­plished through com­pul­so­ry con­fes­sion in a pub­lic way. But, how do we hold that peo­ple who have been harmed deserve an oppor­tu­ni­ty for that harm to be addressed in a real way? Often, that is all peo­ple want: a real acknowl­edge­ment that, I was hurt. Some­body did it. I want them to know that they did it. I want to see that they have some remorse for hav­ing done it and I want them to start a process by which they will ensure to them­selves, at least, and be account­able to their com­mu­ni­ty for not doing it again. That is what I am try­ing to get as a sur­vivor.” I think there is hope in that.

Peo­ple are doing this work all around the coun­try. Peo­ple want to be able to engage this. Maybe if more of us do this, maybe we will be talk­ing in 20 years about some­thing total­ly dif­fer­ent, a land­scape that is total­ly dif­fer­ent, a way that peo­ple start tak­ing account­abil­i­ty for actions that they do that are harm­ful to oth­er peo­ple in a total­ly dif­fer­ent way.

Shi­ra: I think about the Mal­colm X quote all the time, If you stick a knife in my back nine inch­es and pull it out six inch­es, there’s no progress. If you pull it all the way out that’s not progress. Progress is heal­ing the wound that the blow made.” What we are doing right now, that we are all active­ly com­mit­ted to, is fig­ur­ing out not only how to heal the wound, but how to trans­form the con­di­tions we are liv­ing in. The premise of the com­mu­ni­ty account­abil­i­ty week­end that we spent togeth­er was not only around skill trans­fer, but about reclaim­ing our imag­i­na­tions. How do we reclaim our imag­i­na­tion from what the prison-indus­tri­al-com­plex has forced us into think­ing are the only solu­tions that we have? How do we reclaim our imag­i­na­tions from how cap­i­tal­ism and oppres­sion has divid­ed us? 

Sarah Jaffe is a for­mer staff writer at In These Times and author of Nec­es­sary Trou­ble: Amer­i­cans in Revolt , which Robin D.G. Kel­ley called The most com­pelling social and polit­i­cal por­trait of our age.” You can fol­low her on Twit­ter @sarahljaffe.
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