On March 23rd, our co-op had the privilege of hosting educator and activist Walidah Imarisha for a discussion about prison abolition. Walidah is the author of Angels with Dirty Faces: Three Stories of Crime, Prison, and Redemption and co-editor of Octavia's Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements. Over the course of the two hour talk, she tackled accountability without prisons, racialized systems of control, the recuperation of justice, and radical science fiction!
Walidah: So, I can stop there or I can do something a little nerdy about alternatives to prison and comic books?
Audience: Nerd-out please! ... Nerdy, nerdy!
Walidah: As I try to have these conversations, people are like "I can't even imagine what an alternative to police would look like." Yes you can! Because you've seen superheroes, girl! If police worked in these societies, superheroes would be unnecessary. Batman is an alternative to police. Every superhero is an alternative to police. Now we have to talk about how they act, right, because every alternative does not embody the values and principles of the future we want. Like electronic ankle monitoring or surveillance, Batman can be a poor substitute to transformative justice...
Walidah Imarisha has taught at Portland State University, Oregon State University and Southern New Hampshire University. She serves as a public scholar with the Oregon Humanities’ Conversation Project. Walidah co-founded the “Human Rights Coalition,” a Pennsylvania organization led by prisoners’ families and former prisoners. She also directed the 2005 Katrina documentary Finding Common Ground in New Orleans.