2022 with the Police, Prisons, and Detention Working Group: Abolition is messy. Abolition is beautiful. Abolition is for everyone.

How do we dismantle violent systems? How do we create abolitionist futures? How do we call in our Japanese American community? These are questions that our Police, Prisons, and Detention Working Group wrestled with this year. 

 

In March, we held a two-part Abolitionist Organizing series. Our first workshop on “Narrative, Communication, and Conversation” looked at how we as organizers can challenge and change deeply held cultural narratives while opening new space and creativity for our own stories. We shared practices for identifying harmful narratives that take away our ability to heal and build solidarity. And, we practiced creating connection and community through active listening and thought of how to build up powerful stories in our own personal narrative. 

 

In Part 2 of this series, “Action, Arts, and Activism” we showcased what art and abolition look like in practice by discussing the strategy and framework behind direct action and how to get involved in direct action organizing locally. We were joined by several organizations and causes who shared actions going on in their local areas: Nikkei Uprising organizing against Cook County Jail, New York Day of Remembrance, Nikkei Progressives, La Resistencia Campaign to Shut Down Northwest Detention Center, and Deportation Defense for Lam Le. Our community really showed up for this training, as we were joined both by people who considered themselves abolitionists and by those who were new to abolition. 

 

After taking a break to rest and recharge, we resumed our meetings in September with ideas upon ideas of how to continue our fight against carceral systems, specifically as it pertains to anti-Asian violence. In this upcoming project, we hope to:

 

    • Unpack and draw connections between the racism of anti-Asian violence, white supremacy & anti-Blackness. 
    • Expose how and why Asians/Asian-Americans are being used as a wedge group. 
    • Practice skill-building around abolitionist responses.
    • Build off of Tsuru’s strength in speaking to Japanese American history and our community’s experience, and relate that to support for other groups. 
    • Be a visible Japanese American voice for abolition. 

While this upcoming project is exciting, it can feel restless and tiring to realize just how uncertain and seemingly far away “abolition” really is. How do we even measure success in organizing work, especially when organizing against something as massive and daunting as the carceral systems?

 

Organizing for abolition is not a clear and straight path and that’s been very much apparent in our work this year. In this journey, there will be moments of synergy, moments of silence, moments of confusion, and moments of clarity. We don’t have all the answers, and that’s okay. The most revolutionary ideas and relationships happen we allow ourselves room to make mistakes and be vulnerable. 

 

Thank you to Tsuru and our community for giving us the space and platform to be a voice for abolition in the Japanese American community. 

~Police, Prisons, and Detention Working Group

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