‘American Policing: Lessons on Resistance’ is the title of a panel discussion that took place at the Schomburg in New York on 18th February 2015 as a follow-up conversation to their recent town-hall-style debate on ‘American Policing: The War on Black Bodies’. The session featured wide-ranging commentary on issues related to police brutality, racial discrimination, ‘stop and frisk’/’stop and search’ policies, and community-led responses to the killing of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Aiyana Stanley-Jones and others in recent news.
The panel discussion was moderated by writer Mychal Denzel Smith (The Nation), with contributions from the following four political activists and social commentators: Ashley Yates (poet and co-creator of Millennial Activists United), Dante Barry (Director of Million Hoodies Movement for Justice), Philip Agnew (Co-founder of Dream Defenders) and Cherrell Brown (National Organizer with Equal Justice USA). Closing comments were also provided by Dr Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
Central to the debate were questions about what justice might look like if black lives actually mattered in the USA; strategies for restructuring, de-militarizing and dismantling policing systems so that their historical origins in the States as organisations founded on the surveillance and restriction of the lives, mobilities and freedoms of black and brown people did not continue to perpetuate racialized discrimination; critiquing the complexities of campaigning against the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC) and the increasing monetization of incarcerated black bodies; envisioning safe communities; aligning anti-racist political activism with wider education and culture agendas – including activism via the arts; routes into community-based activism and leadership for young people; self-esteem/’self-love’/self-care and spirituality issues within movements for social change; and effective ways to disseminate counter-narratives to help challenge the normalisation of privileged white citizenship to the detriment of others’ lived realities.
As an educator and activist interested in the way the arts can be used to (re-)present powerful movements and serve as catalytic agitations for social and political change, it was interesting to note just how centrally placed (and highly valued) creativity was within the lives of all the panel participants – as researchers, writers, historians and producers of visual and literary narratives that help to document (and generate an archival record of) the justice campaigns they are involved in, and also as leaders sustained and empowered to be more resilient by engaging in creative pursuits as part of individual and community ‘self-care’.
To view the debate online, please click here. The total running time is approx. 1 hour 30 minutes (and includes a Q&A with members of the audience).
Additional details about key organisations mentioned during the discussion are also available on the following websites:
- We the Protesters (Ferguson and beyond) – http://www.wetheprotesters.org/
- Millennial Activists United – http://www.millennialau.org/
- Equal Justice USA – http://ejusa.org/
- Dream Defenders – http://dreamdefenders.org/
- Million Hoodies Movement for Justice – http://www.mhoodies.org/