Why are we doing this? What does this mean to us? Check out our interview from June 2013 with CKUT radio.
CKUT: I am here today joined by Lisa Marie Alatorre and Chanelle Gallant, both of Everyday Abolition. Thank you for joining us on CKUT!
LMA and CG: Thanks so much for having us!
CKUT: Great, so I guess I’d like to start out by asking one of you to describe Everyday Abolition as a project.
LMA: Great. Well, thanks so much for having us. It’s super-exciting to be able to talk about this project. In its basic form, it’s a collaborative political art project between Chanelle and myself. We are both activists and organizers working toward PIC abolition—prison-industrial complex abolition—and see our work as abolitionists as something that essentially creates a lens and a framework that we implement in our every day, both in our personal lives but also in the work and the activism and the organizing that we do, and something that we’ve both talked about for a long time through our work together is how difficult it can be often to get the strategies of abolition, the tools of abolition, the wins, the struggles, the challenges to folks who are on the ground navigating the prison-industrial complex every day and surviving the prison-industrial complex every day, and how often those experiences get depoliticized from the larger frameworks of PIC abolition. So really, we’re approaching this project as a way of capturing those voices, capturing those strategies, and making it accessible, and in a place where we can grow from the inspiration, and we can also share it in all the different components of work and organizing that we’re doing.
CKUT: Can you both talk a little about your experience or inspiration for starting this and your own personal involvement in everyday abolition?
CG: You know, this project has come together pretty quickly. I approached Lisa Marie about this, I think really in January. It was only a few months ago. And the inspiration on my end comes from the fact that I see abolition as something that isn’t sort of a dreamy, lofty goal, that we need to wait for the revolution, but it’s something that we actually need to create in our lives every day. And that we are actually creating our lives every day. And that people act in ways that resist, and undermine, and work around, and transcend the prison-industrial complex all the time in really genius, amazing ways. But like Lisa Marie was saying, sometimes that kind of stuff isn’t politicized and then I think it’s really easy to lose hope and I think it’s easy to not recognize, lift up, share, and inspire each other with the work that we are doing on the ground. Part of where I come at that from is that as a survivor of violence myself, I’m really interested in the—and I see as really important—developing alternatives to prison and policing culture that offers us only these incredibly abusive and punitive tools for preventing and responding to harm. Just for myself and my community I need to put my energy and my love into places that are building and expanding the ways that we can create alternatives. That’s part of what this is about for me.
LMA: I totally agree with everything Chanelle just said and feel really similarly in terms of inspiration and what brought me to this project or made me super-interested when Chanelle proposed it a few months ago. The only additional thing I would say is that I’m really appreciative of the growing body of stories, of literature, of materials and resources that PIC abolitionists have been developing in terms of capturing these sorts of nuances of our work. I think that one of the things that we also want to highlight that we see is still a gap and still something that’s missing is the ways that our communities are so resilient; are preventing harm; are coming up with proactive measures that aren’t just about responding. And so I think that’s also a piece of it that inspired us to want to add to the growing body of resources and literature and things that are coming out around how we enact abolition.
CKUT: Could either of you talk a little bit about groups or community initiatives that—because I know Lisa Marie, you’re coming out of San Francisco, and Chanelle, you’re out of Toronto. Could you talk a little bit about respective projects that are going on that excite you, that deal with abolition, or harm reduction, or transformative justice initiatives in either of your respective locales?
LMA: In the Bay Area we are really, really, really lucky to have a concentration of groups and organizations that are really looking at these different frameworks for addressing harm, violence, state repression, and oppression that’s happening. Some of the organizations that are super-close to my heart would be CUAV (Community United Against Violence), which has been around since the 70’s in San Francisco, fighting violence from a PIC abolition/transformative justice/harm reduction/community accountability-based place. Critical Resistance is based in Oakland and has chapters in the US and does a lot of international connecting around PIC abolition and does local campaigns aimed at reducing the stronghold of the PIC in our communities. There are tons of groups doing prisoner support work. TGIJP (Transgender Gender Variant Intersex Justice Project) works with prisoners throughout mostly California’s men’s prisons with trans prisoners inside, doing community organizing, doing advocacy, and then also doing organizing on the outside to support those communities. Those are some of the ones that jump out.
CG: On my end, I see this work as a place within a long, unbroken, 500-year history of resistance to colonialism. So I look at things like Idle No More, which was started by four fierce women. And I look at all forms of indigenous resistance to the state. That analysis really makes a lot of sense to me. I come from a family that has been criminalized in various ways, and so I take a lot of inspiration from a holistic, grounded, spiritual sorts of resistance to the state. And so the Idle No More movement has really been an inspiration to me. Another thing I would say is I do sex work activism and I am definitely inspired on the regular by the non-state community-based safety work that street-based sex workers do and have always done. And again I see everyday abolition within sort of a longer history of work that’s been happening forever. Because sex workers, I think, similar to some other communities that face really intense forms of marginalization—on the one hand, they can’t rely on prisons and policing to keep them safe and they’ve always known that and they can see through all the false promises of criminalization. But on the other hand, they’re subject to really intense stranger violence sometimes. Where it can be a lot harder to establish responsibility and accountability. I feel like some of the strategies and ideas that have come out of sex worker organizing, street-based organizing, is some of the smartest, most holistic work, again because they have to, by necessity, come up with solutions that keep people safe and at the same time can’t afford to buy into the mystification around the state and around prisons and policing.
CKUT: Could either of you talk about what is exciting about the zine format? What do you guys kind of looking… ?
CG: Do you want to say something about that, Lisa Marie, because that was your idea?
LMA: Yeah. What I would say is that it also builds off what Chanelle was just talking about in terms of some of the inspiration that we both get from street-based folks who come up with these really brilliant means of survival and resistance and resilience to state violence and to the wounds of oppression that happen all over the place. Speaking from a place within the US, I think one of the big issues that we’re trying to tackle and deal with is just the growing economic disparity that we’re experiencing. A huge increase in street-based communities, a huge increase in the numbers of homelessness, of people living in poverty. I think that’s one of the things we really thought about in terms of Everyday Abolition is how do we get these stories and this information to folks who aren’t online, who are not using blogs, and who often get excluded from this level of political education, popular education, and just from being able to be the voice for change? So for me that’s one of the biggest excitements about the zine is that my work is really centered in poor communities, communities of color, communities that are targeted by policing or imprisonment, and these folks are not online, these folks are not part of the online communities that are talking about PIC abolition which is often where the information is available. The zine format is something that we’re really hoping will be able to be used with on-the-ground work by folks who are doing everyday abolition and will be able to normalize some of this stuff and to bring the stories and strategies that folks are using on the streets to a larger audience in that way.
CKUT: Is there anything else that you’d like to add? Any last thoughts?
LMA: Submit to us!
CKUT: Yeah! How can our listeners submit?
LMA: Our Gmail address is on the site. I think it’s just email@example.com, all one word. And you know, a lot of people are like, “Oh, I might send something…” But you know, just—it doesn’t have to be fancy. It can be like, “What’s five abolitionist things you did today?” or a way you think as a result of taking on these sorts of politics. It can be a short story, it can be audio, it can be video, we can accommodate all of them. In addition, if folks work with people inside, we have a version of our call for submissions that we tried to tailor so that it wouldn’t get flagged and not get to folks inside. And we also have a mailing address that we can give to folks if folks wanna submit a physical version or copy of their piece and we can either make it electronic or we’ll include it in the zine portion of the project.
LMA: Email us! Or have an ally on the outside email us for the mailing address and we can make sure that gets to folks!
CKUT: Thank you very much for joining us today!
LMA and CG: Thank you for having us!
[again, our deepest EA gratitude to Jed Walsh for transcription!]