A black crow is in the foreground, with symbolic illustrations of American institutions as part of the pink and orange background. Artwork by Lyne Lucien.

Kidada speaks with activist and organizer Mariame Kaba about the ways many of us practice abolition without realizing it, how ordinary people have the power to collectively free themselves, and why safety can only be found through community.

They discuss how the prison industrial complex and the systems it encompasses do more harm than good and identify solutions that address the underlying causes of criminalized activity and provide the resources and support needed for everyone to thrive.

Additionally, they touch on the power of public libraries to offer a safe haven for all, as well as cultivating a practice of hope to navigate difficult circumstances.

View Transcript

Kidada E. Williams: This is Seizing Freedom, I’m Kidada Williams. After the murder of George Floyd in 2020, calls to defund and abolish the police were heard around the country. For some, imagining a world without policing was new. But Black people—and Black women in particular—have been advocating for the end of policing and prisons for much longer. Think Angela Davis, Patrisse Cullors, Noname, and Ruth Wilson Gilmore.

Mariame Kaba is one of those women, and her work has deeply affected how I think about justice. When we spoke, she told me about a poem by American activist, Marge Piercy: “To be of use.” The poem informs her approach to abolition, which she describes as a practice. Here’s Mariame reading some of that poem:

Mariame Kaba: I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart, who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience, who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward, who do what has to be done, again and again.

KEW: In this episode, our season finale, Mariame tells me about the activists who paved the way for her, the ways many of us practice abolition without realizing it, and why safety can only be found through community.

MK: What was your first memory of police?

KEW: I was older, so it would have been maybe high school and it would have been something that was completely distant, you know? And it was like, it would have been like…violent attack. Like, where it really resonated, it probably would have been Rodney King’s beating.

MK: Did you know any police officers as a kid? 

KEW: No. 

MK: Did you have any…did you ever see any shows on TV about cops? 

KEW: No. 

MK: No. Your situation is so anomalous, right? Because the vast majority of people in this country, uncle Jimmy might’ve been a cop, or uncle Jimmy’s friend was a cop. You played with cop toys. You watched cop shows. You don’t even think about…it’s hard for you to trace when you first became aware of police and policing. This is like, my experience in talking with people over time has been that; that people have that experience. 

And because it’s the background noise and the climate, you don’t question their existence. You don’t even think there could be a world where they would not exist because they’ve always been there in the background, existing to keep you safe from those other “terrible” people who might go crazy and lose all…you know, become anarchist and destroy the society. And so for that to be the case, of course you can’t imagine a different world, ‘cause you’ve been literally swimming in this exact water and breathing in this air your entire life. 

To me, it’s a miracle when people actually say, well, they don’t have to be here and we can do something different. That’s a miraculous thing, because under the current system of “copaganda” and all that other kind of stuff, to think otherwise is like a huge, huge, huge lift. So I just want to say, I think it’s okay to be shocked or to have a visceral sense of like, “Oh my god, no, this can’t happen.” And to feel scared. I welcome that those feelings are happening, because it means you’re challenging something within you and it’s leaving you with questions. And that’s all we can ask.

KEW: Exactly. And the kinds of questions that aren’t easily answered and that you can’t stop hearing and you can’t stop thinking about.

[musical transition]

Mariame grew up in New York City. Her parents were from the Ivory Coast and Guinea. Her father often read and talked about leftist politics at home, and her mother’s faith meant her family let friends stay with them when they were unhoused. Those actions taught Mariame about the importance of community from an early age.

But her first encounter with abolitionist theories came much later. She was in graduate school in Chicago, and she was assigned to read a book written by someone that many of our guests named as an inspiration: Ida B. Wells-Barnett.

MK: It was the first time I ever read her. And I was very interested in the issues around state violence. And I had been already doing anti-police brutality at the time, is what I called it, organizing when I was a teenager. So I found a lot of…I found a lot of inspiration in what she was doing: literally going to sites where lynchings had occurred, doing investigations immediately after those lynchings, documenting that and then trying to push for changes, including a federal law against lynching. 

And I thought to myself, “wow, this is a person that I need to know more about.” And so over the years, I continued to read about her. I had read Crusade For Justice, her own attempt at documenting herself in history, and I loved her musings about buying clothes and spending too much money. And I just thought, this is a human being. And I loved that about her. She didn’t feel removed from my experience; rather, she felt like somebody I would be friends with. 

Subsequently, when in Chicago, her great, great granddaughter was trying to raise money for a monument in Ida B. Wells’ name a couple of years ago, I got involved in the fundraising campaign and helped to raise the funds that were necessary to build that memorial and monument. And now it exists. It was put up this year. And so it’s kind of a full circle moment in a strange way for me.

KEW: I think that’s amazing. I had a similar experience. She’s just one of those people who, once you learn more about her, you want to learn more and more and more, including about why you don’t know about her today. I think with people today to understand that they go through some of the same struggles, some of the same concerns, some of the same fears as these people we look up to from the past. 

MK: Yeah.

KEW: And it reminds me of something that you’ve said: Social transformation and liberation are not about waiting for someone else to come along and save you. And that ordinary people have the power to collectively free themselves. And so I think about someone like Ida B, Wells is doing that work, but also inspiring that work. And so I wondered, how did you come to that knowledge or understanding about ordinary people, specifically? 

MK: Yeah, that’s a great question. I think really honestly, history is my teacher. And so is my father, who told me his stories about the Guinean revolution and about how ordinary people in Guinea successfully overthrew French colonial rule. So I had a firsthand seat to understanding how this was possible and, in fact, had been done and continues to be done. And because I was also very much a voracious reader since I was a kid and have always been interested in the histories of social movements, this shaped, I think, my understanding that ordinary people have the power to collectively free ourselves. 

One of the books I read years ago that really reinforces this best for me is Charles Payne’s I’ve Got the Light of Freedom, which is about the Mississippi freedom struggle. And I always encourage young organizers to read that book, because it’s so instructive and it’s written in a way that really helps us to understand how ordinary people really have organized to be able to collectively free themselves and to move towards more freedom. And then lastly, it was actually getting involved with other young people myself and organizing together around addressing issues in our communities and our lives that we wanted to see made better. That’s the way I came to it.

KEW: I think that helping people see that people like Ida B. Wells, while she rose to become someone who we think of as extraordinary, she also started as an ordinary person, right?

MK: Absolutely!

KEW: And she’s one of many people from this time who did that, and who also inspired this kind of work…this extraordinary work amongst other ordinary people. And I think that when people recognize that, when they see themselves in some of the people we look at, they have a better understanding of their own capacity for change. 

MK: Yes! That’s exactly the point. But I think in our culture, we love to separate people from the communities they come from. And we also don’t see the full nature of all of those people and the systems and the structures that support those individual actions. Ida B. Wells-Barnett married a man, Ferdinand Barnett, who was a proto-feminist at the time. This is a man who stayed home. He made dinner, right? She’s the one who went and took her kids with her and went and lectured here and there. And he held down the home front during that time. That’s extraordinarily important. That’s how she can have four kids, you know?

She was part of a network of organizers, right? Like, she’s not all by herself; she’s coming up. There are people who are her contemporaries who are also struggling and fighting. And I think if you don’t understand the full context of that, it’s easy to actually be like, “I can’t be like that. I can’t do that work.” Because it doesn’t connect to you because it’s like, “She was so extraordinary. There was something about her. That’s not me.” But no, in fact, they’re part of a whole ecological social network of people who are also struggling, who are also fighting. We really don’t do things by ourselves.  

There’s no Ida B. Wells without people who we don’t know the names of, who were toiling and working. What about all the people who were…the Black women who were cooking every time there were gatherings of people coming together to talk about freedom? Who was doing the labor of sustaining these spaces and these movements? That’s where often you find a lot of ordinary people who took tons of actions that we don’t record in history but that without them, history isn’t the way we actually have experienced it now. 

KEW: Exactly. And all of those people matter.

[musical transition]

Since first reading Ida B. Wells-Barnett in the ‘90s, Mariame led and organized with a variety of groups in Chicago. They focused on community safety initiatives, reducing youth incarceration, supporting incarcerated survivors of sexual violence, and community bond funds. These are all interventions that minimize contact with police, and help free and keep people out of jails and prisons. 

In 2016, Mariame moved back to New York City, where she has continued teaching and organizing. She also started writing books, like last year’s bestseller We Do This ‘Til We Free Us. Her forthcoming book, co-authored with Andrea Richie, is called No More Police: A Case for Abolition. So I asked Mariame to summarize her case.

MK: The systems that currently exist to supposedly address harms—institutions like prisons, policing, surveillance, sentencing—actually cause much more harm than good and that we need to abolish those systems in order for us to be able to have a society in which people can actually thrive, not just survive. We’re focusing particularly in this book on policing as an institution, but we know that policing is not divorced from any of the other institutions of a society in general. 

I think, for me, prison industrial complex abolition is actually a vision of a restructured world; a world where we have everything that we need to basically thrive, and that includes clean water, and that includes housing for everybody, that includes health care for all, that includes all the things that are needed in order to actually promote what people say they want, which is safety. 

KEW: What does safety mean and look like to you? 

MK: It’s the hardest and most difficult question to answer, in part because I think—while safety may be a basic and universal need—it doesn’t have a universal, singular definition. It has so many different connotations, and it actually isn’t a stable category. And by that I mean, we don’t all agree about what it is. I think one thing that I do always want to bring up to people is that no society can be made “perfectly safe.” That’s not going to happen. All of us are vulnerable, but not equally so. And so all of these realities make it really difficult, I think, to think and talk about safety. 

And when I say all of us are vulnerable, I think we’re seeing that in the pandemic, where it impacts all of us but we’re not all equally vulnerable to it. So the other thing about safety that’s a tricky point is that it often can, and is, weaponized. So, you know, we criminalize particular groups. We say that they’re particularly unsafe. We make them into threats. We use them against “the rest of the populace” to justify increasing investment in the death-making institutions to make us really scared of each other. Because, after all, murder is still rare even though it’s, there’s…you know, one murder feels terrible and it’s horrible and we don’t want that, but it’s still rare that people kill each other in that way. 

And I think that’s also hard to say to people because that also makes people feel, “well, you don’t care about people killing each other.” That’s absolutely not true. But in the scheme of things, a lot more people—like by orders of a hundred—die from lack of healthcare and other kinds of structural forms of violence. And you don’t see people being up in arms about that in the same kind of way. So we have to be honest about what we mean by violence and what we understand to be safe. 

Safety is not something that I can personally possess, because safety isn’t a thing; it’s actually a social relation. So I’m more or less safe depending on my relationship to others and to the resources I need to survive. So I can only feel less or more safe. So if you ask me today, if I feel more or less safe, my answer is going to depend on so many things, like: Did I just get paid today? So I might be feeling less anxious about my rent. Did I go outside today or did I stay home all day? Did I log onto the internet and was bombarded by stories of missing people and mass shootings? It’s contingent on so many things that are out of my control. 

So as abolitionists, we usually begin by asking what is safety for our communities, but we know we can’t come to that answer ourselves. We have to do it collectively and talk with each other about what it means for each individual, and what are the conditions that we have to create that will increase safety for everyone—or at least as many people as possible. But I think the question demands it.

KEW: I agree, and I think that one of the things that I see with your work is this very clear appreciation for the fact that part of what addressing this issue of safety involves is addressing the issues of care and giving people what they need. And not just some people, not just in some neighborhoods, but everyone giving everyone what they need can address some of these larger issues. Can you tell us what a culture of care looks like, and how we build and nurture it?

MK: I think we can, and should, probably learn a lot from disabled communities about this, you know? Care is not just about how we treat each other; it’s about also how we care for the planet. It’s about enduring a world that is precarious, collectively. My friend Elliot Cooley, who is a brilliant organizer, always says that relationships are the most important resource we have. And that points to a culture of care that needs to exist, right? There will be actually no safety that we don’t make through collective care. And collective care, I always talk about and think about it as a form of reciprocal community provision. It’s how we make each other possible. It’s how we make each other possible. 

KEW: This is Seizing Freedom. I’m Kidada Williams. Mariame Kaba is best known for her writing and organizing around gender-based violence, and the abolition of the prison-industrial complex and the criminal punishment system. And while ending the use of prisons and police may seem like a lofty goal, Mariame told me that getting there starts with abolishing the internalized systems of oppression within ourselves. 

MK: I think, for me, that work of transformation of self is connected a hundred percent to the work of transformation of the broader society. These are not separate things. These are things we are doing the “both, and” of all the time. And part of it is getting aware of when you’re replicating those various systems, right? 

Part of why it’s so hard to dislodge policing is that we get involved in policing each other very much all the time, too. And so a lot of the things that we do in the world, if you don’t articulate them, you just assume they’re the way things are. And you just keep re-enacting those things all the time. So the power that these systems have over you, you’re not even questioning how that’s showing up in your thinking, in your actions, in your behaviors. 

And so you have to just keep being vigilant about that. I think that’s a huge, helpful part of doing political education is that it often helps raise for you, kind of, “Okay, well, why do I think that? Why am I not asking questions about that?” I think being vigilant and asking questions every time—instead of just assuming that that’s the answer because they gave it to you—I think all of those are ways to try to dislodge these internalized forms of oppression that we all carry.

KEW: I think that one of the things for me was that when I first started hearing about abolition, I had what I think a lot of people had, which is a sort of default response, like, “Oh, no, that’s impossible. That’s not right.” But then once you sit with it and you keep listening and you start to think it through, you can’t—at least I can’t—unhear…I can’t unhear the ways the system doesn’t work, the ways the system harms, the ways that we have bought into the system believing that it won’t do harm, when it actually continues to do even more harm—particularly to the most vulnerable people. 

And for me, as I have brought up abolition with other folks, I have gotten my own initial response, you know? And then I sit with them and I say, “Well, let’s think that through,” right? You know, “Let’s talk this out. Let’s talk about how we think the system is working and what it’s actually doing.”

MK: That’s exactly right. And you know what? I always tell people I’m not an evangelist for abolition. Like, I’m not out there trying to convert people. What I understand is that the current system that we have actually doesn’t work for anybody very well. And the question then is when something can’t be fixed, then you need to build something else. And abolition says, let’s figure out how to build something else. And the way we’ll do that is we’ll figure it out by working to get there, that we will just do step-by-step, figuring out how to get there. There is no magic solution. Things aren’t going to abruptly end. Like we’re just going to have to figure it out by working to get there. 

Really, it’s a positive project of building. It’s a tearing down, of course—we have to destroy the systems that exist that are so harmful—but it’s really also a revolutionary project of building, in the best sense. What do you want to see in the world? And let’s start making it, and folks are doing it every day. I always tell people abolition is the present. We are doing it right now, in the ways that people are taking power away from the police and offering community-based responses to mental health issues; in the ways that folks are doing food programs to help feed people; in the ways that folks are fighting for living wages so people have an ability to feed themselves and house themselves and take care of their children and, therefore, again, increasing safety for everybody through those needs. 

So we’re doing abolition all the time. It is unacceptable to accept that cops are killing three people a day, and that those people are disproportionately disabled people, and that they are disproportionately Black and brown people. Okay? That to me is not an acceptable thing. And those are not even counting the countless people they’re injuring in a day. How I can sit back and accept that as a reality and be like, that’s something I’m okay with…I’m just not. I’m just not. I’m not okay with all the people who are dying in prisons right now because of COVID. Like, it’s just not okay. 

And the fact that people keep telling me that it’s reformed? These systems were reforms in the first place, right? And when you think of the etymology of reform, what does it mean? You’re re-forming; if the root of the tree is diseased, to reform that root means to actually take the matter that exists and reform it into something else. The disease has gone nowhere, right? They have had 250 years to do proof of concept and trillions of dollars poured into those systems. And then people will say to us, well, what’s your solution? I’m like, well, if you give us the trillions of dollars you’ve given and the 250 years, I promise you we’ll do better. [laughs] How about that?

KEW: Exactly. And, you know, people who haven’t been exposed to abolitionist thought might believe that doing away with our current criminal punishment system is naive. And I’m thinking about how people have witnessed or been victims of horrible crimes, either today or in the past. So how do we help people move past this thirst for punishment and revenge, and towards care? 

MK: Yeah, that’s a great question. I will just say, if somebody hurts you deeply—and I’ve been hurt deeply, and I’ve…myself survived grievous harm—you aren’t required to forgive the people who harm you. You can want vengeance deeply. Like, you can want punishment deeply.These are feelings that are completely acceptable to have. What I understand as an abolitionist, however, is that I’m not interested in codifying feelings of revenge as policy. That’s the difference. 

And I also believe that there’s an importance in trying to figure out what repair could look like, and that that doesn’t have to be punishment, you know, and that we can figure out other ways to make sure that people are held to account. A lot of people don’t…they think about what might happen if they might experience crime, not when they actually do. And why might people who’ve been grievously harmed by somebody agree to have their cases diverted into a community-based solution? Well, because when you are harmed and you are somebody who’s been victimized…we’re very pragmatic people; we also live in the world. 

And some of us have seen the way the criminal punishment system takes years to go through and navigate, and then to potentially be in a position where you have to go and testify and then to have—if you even get to the point of a trial where there’s like potentially no conviction—in the end, you spent five years of your life. And people just don’t want that. They want to get on with their lives. They want to have access to resources they need to heal. And they want to make sure that the person who harmed them doesn’t do it to other people. 

And to think there’s a potential place where somebody will work with somebody who’s caused harm to figure out why they did it, to figure out how to be able to stop them from doing it, to give them other resources, to be able to…you know, people are like, “Okay, let’s go there. I’m totally down for that to happen.” So I think we underestimate what people actually will do when offered more than the choice of prison or nothing. Because actually when people are harmed in our culture, the vast majority of them don’t already call the police. The vast majority of them choose nothing over the current system. 

KEW: Exactly. And I think that one of the other points you’ve made is that people who have been denied protection under the law desperately want the law to live up to its promises. And so why do you think that is, and how do we get past that? Or do we get past that? 

MK: I think it’s hard to imagine getting past it. The reason why is because that has been conflated with what it means to be a citizen. So we have the difference between all these Black women over the years—in the period of time that you’re talking about, in the 19th century, who were actively harmed by the state, which treated them as chattel—who then are making appeals to that very state for protection, yeah? And so it’s this constant dance of being like, “But we deserve protection from the state, because that’s what citizens get…certain citizens get. We want that too,” right? 

And that that bifurcation has never been able to be brought together in a way that has been comfortable for particular groups of people—and particularly I’m talking here about Black people in this country—is to constantly be appealing to a system that is trying to kill you, is a form of dissonance and a source of a lot of trauma for people. And so, I don’t know. I think, to me, I’ve been thinking…a big question I’m always trying to wrestle with is like, what if freedom for Black people in the U.S. actually looks like freedom from policing rather than freedom to be policed, or freedom to have the police “protect”? 

It’s hard to turn something that’s purpose was actually to police you and surveil you and to protect other people’s property. It’s hard to turn that, then, into a “protection unit” for people who were actually the people that were intended to be surveilled. I think that’s part of the struggle here. It makes total sense to me that people very much want it. And even today I hear people say things like, “you know, we deserve protection and we deserve freedom” and I’m like, “yes, you absolutely do. And as it’s currently constituted the state can’t provide that to you.” 

[musical transition]

KEW: While Mariame is very aware of the failures of many institutions we live and interact with, there is one place she’s more optimistic about: the public library. Mariame is currently in library school, and believes that public libraries are institutions with the potential to advance freedom.

MK: To me, the library in the U.S. is one of the most—it’s the most salutary institution that’s been created, in the sense that yes, it began as an exclusionary space and an exclusionary place, particularly, for Black people in this country. I think that the public library is one of the very few places in this country where you can walk in, spend time and spend no money. And you can even leave with an object that has the power to unleash your imagination and transport you into another world. To me, that’s magical. 

It’s a place where you don’t have to be a good student. You just need to be a learner. And it is an institution that hasn’t foreclosed the possibility of an otherwise world. And we don’t need to romanticize libraries, but we can make them prefigurative. And to me, I just am really inspired by the idea of the public library. And I really want us to fight to fully realize and protect that publicness. 

And so, again, libraries are like all institutions under capitalism. They are sites of struggle, of course, and we see that with people fighting library boards, banning books, trying to do all that other kind of stuff, but really a free library is a revolutionary notion. My first job out of college when I graduated in the early nineties from McGill was to work at Countee Cullen Library, adjacent to the Schomburg Center, as an information specialist. So it’s a full circle moment for me.

KEW: I love it! So, fighting institutions seems like it would be discouraging and it could push people to fatalistic thinking, but you say hope is a discipline. The stories we’re telling this season all revolve around Black Americans finding themselves in this kind of holding pattern as Jim Crow is being built up around them. So they can’t yet…they don’t yet have the power they need to sort of fight the system to bring it all down. And so our last question is this: How do those of us who say we want and believe in freedom and justice retain a hope that is productive in hard and dark times? 

MK: Hope as a discipline for me, it helps you—I think it’s Rebecca Solnit that says that hope isn’t a substitute for action, but a basis for it, and I really agree with that. I also talk to people all the time about the fact that I don’t have hope actually, that I do hope. You know, it’s an active process that I commit to daily. It’s not an emotion, it’s a practice; a materialist practice. And that doing hope means showing up; showing up for myself and showing up for other people, every single day on a regular basis. Like, nothing is just one thing. 

And for me, again, I think that a lot of times I’m struck by how cynical people are—like, oftentimes their protective shield is cynicism—and to me, sincerity is actually a virtue. Like I’m a fan of uncynical people who don’t justify their inaction by suggesting that nothing will actually change. Like, how ridiculous it is to even say that, because everything is changing all the time. I think, to me, that way of being in the world—of being uncynical, seeing that sincerity is a virtue, the concept of doing hope—those things all help you to be able to navigate difficult times and hard times and what people sometimes call dark times. So I don’t think times are really dark.

KEW: And It and it matters so much, you know, and I think that Ida B. Wells couldn’t have done what she did if she was cynical, you know, she was committed to building a world that she might not live in. 

MK: She knew she was doing that, in fact. She knew it because she was living that moment. To live in—to be born in 1863—she’s born during the Civil War, she’s born to parents who were formerly enslaved people. She had a vision of what was possible. I mean, a lot of cynical people just, “Nothing’s going to change. It is as it always was.” This is a lie, actually! Your existence proves that it’s a lie. You aren’t enslaved right now. We are not living in that time. People have fought like hell—the people you’re talking about in this series—to make that so. 

And what a slap in the face to them, and their work, and their legacy. I’ve spent a lifetime so far co-creating spaces with, and for, young people to practice new social relations and to learn how to step into their power and transform their condition. So it’s clear to me that this is happening all the time and everywhere, and if people were alive last year, they saw that. Wondrous things happen alongside and parallel to the terrible every day.

KEW: Mariame Kaba is an organizer, educator, and future librarian. You can keep up with her work on her website: mariamekaba.com. Her books for adults and children are available everywhere, including your public library.

The stories we’ve told this season show that there are many different ways to advance freedom and exercise hope. From the better known…

Ida B. Wells: The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them. Somebody must show that the Afro-American race is more sinned against than sinning, and it seems to have fallen upon me to do so. 

KEW: …To the unexpected:

The Atlanta Constitution: To Barron Wilkins’ place came the flow and wash of all Manhattan’s raciest nightlife…

KEW: Not all of them agreed on what that freedom could look like. Or how to get there. 

Booker T. Washington: In all these things that are purely social we can be as separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress. 

William Monroe Trotter: Every dollar given to Booker T. Washington’s Institute at the recent meeting in New York is a nail in the coffin of Negro liberty.

Booker T. Washington: It is at the bottom of life we must begin, and not at the top.

W.E.B. Du Bois: Naturally the bumptious, irritated, young Black intelligentsia of the day declared, “I don’t give a damn what Booker Washington thinks! This is what I think, and I have a right to think.”

KEW: But ordinary people, eager to build lives they could only envision, changed the course of history. And they did it together.

Jessie Redmon Fauset: And when the stories are of real people who have passed through real suffering and have achieved real triumph, my admiration goes beyond all bounds. Everything that has been done once, may be done again, and someday some man realizing what one before his time has accomplished, will do all that and more. 

KEW: What we can learn from the freedom fighters who came before us and are alongside us is that we can envision a more just world and work towards it, even if we don’t think we’ll see it in our lifetime. 

Jamelle Bouie: A free black future, the vision I have in mind…people can live secure lives, can fulfill themselves as individuals, as members of communities, can flourish and can thrive in however manner they want, free of hierarchy.  

Kinshasha Holman Conwill: And freedom to be fully human, whatever one’s sexuality, gender, race, but particularly for Black people. 

Blair L.M. Kelley: You know, I think of our communities and our schools. And I pray for a world where there are good places to educate Black children, where they’ll be supported not only in sort of the resources in front of them, but in terms of the stories that they are told about who they are and what they’re capable of doing.

Julia Craven: They don’t have to run themselves into the ground and they don’t have to grind and they don’t have to fight for everything that they have.

Jamelle Bouie: On one hand there’s nothing specifically Black about that, but on the other hand I think that Black history can provide ways of thinking about what that might look like in practice.

Seizing Freedom is a co-production of VPM and Molten Heart