CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Immigrant justice activists will talk about their work in a panel discussion that kicks off a series of spring events focused on the theme of abolition.
The discussion “Abolition and Immigrant Justice” is at 4 p.m. Thursday in the Knight Auditorium at Spurlock Museum, 600 S. Gregory, Urbana. The event is free and open to the public.
The panelists will talk about their work, particularly in Chicago, as grassroots organizers against detentions, deportations and the criminalization of immigrant and other targeted communities. They will discuss strategies they use – such as policy work, legal activism, strategic communications and civil disobedience – to combat racism and xenophobia, and what a sustained organizing campaign looks like.
The panelists are 35th Ward Chicago Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa; Arianna Salgado and Rey Wences, both of Organized Communities Against Deportations; and Bárbara Suarez Galeano, of Detention Watch Network. Communication professor Josue David Cisneros will moderate the discussion.
The panel discussion is part of the Abolition Initiative of the Center for Advanced Study, looking at what W.E.B. Du Bois and Angela Davis call “abolition democracy,” encompassing not just a rebellion against massive policing, surveillance and incarceration, but also a process of creation. The initiative is examining interconnected power dynamics across prisons, police, immigration, gendered and sexual violence, environmental justice and disability justice.
“This felt really timely for our current moment. There are many people wanting to imagine a better world, and they want the tools to do that,” said Toby Beauchamp, a professor of gender and women’s studies who co-organized the initiative with Naomi Paik, a professor of Asian American studies. Their research looks at policing, surveillance and incarceration.
Abolition democracy includes reinvesting in institutions and structures that build healthy communities, such as education, health care, preschool, child care, elder care and mental health services, Paik said.
Paik and Beauchamp said they hope the panel discussion will provide a range of models for the way organizers put ideas into practice.
“Sometimes we don’t know how to contribute or what we can contribute. We hope that by providing all these models, we can show people different entry points into community-building,” Paik said. “It’s also thinking about what it takes to sustain it. Doing movement building from grassroots is really hard.”
As part of the Abolition Initiative, Paik and Beauchamp are teaching a graduate seminar this semester that also is examining practices to redirect resources away from oppressive systems, including a look at efforts to dismantle the prison industrial complex.
The other spring events of the Abolition Initiative are:
– “Indigenous Resistance, Anti-Colonial Politics, and Global Environmental Justice,” 4 p.m. March 3, Knight Auditorium, Spurlock Museum. Jaskiran Dhillon, a professor of global studies and anthropology at The New School and an anti-colonial scholar and organizer, will talk about how environmental crises are tied to colonial violence and about Indigenous peoples’ involvement in environmental justice movements.
– “Visual Resistance: Demanding the Impossible,” 5-7 p.m. March 26, University YMCA, 1001 S. Wright St., Champaign. This exhibition of work by artist Monica Trinidad and others is part of the Y’s “Art at the Y program, which uses art to engage with issues of social justice, environmental activism and cultural understanding. Trinidad creates narrative-centered illustrations to support social justice movements, and she founded For the People Artists Collective in Chicago. The exhibition will be up in the YMCA gallery through May 17.
– “#BlackLivesMatter: From the Frontlines of Criminal Justice Reform,” 4 p.m. April 14, Knight Auditorium, Spurlock Museum. Artist, organizer and co-founder of Black Lives Matter Patrisse Cullors will be the speaker.
Fall 2019 events included discussions examining the prison industrial complex; queer and transgender mutual aid projects; and survivors of violence and people with disabilities in the transformative justice movement.
Most of the year’s events have included workshops led by the speakers, “so students and community members have the opportunity to work with people who are doing work on the ground and have organizing experience,” Beauchamp said. Some of the participants from Thursday’s panel discussion will be meeting with students and community members to talk about the anatomy of a campaign and organizing over the long term. The workshop, which is free and open to the public, is 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Thursday in Levis Center, 919 W. Illinois St., Urbana.
The Abolition Initiative will continue for the 2020-21 academic year with two to three events of different formats.