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How Prison Abolitionists Acquired a Former Baby Store in Oakland's Temescal District | KQED Arts
“On the corner of 44th Street and Telegraph Avenue in Oakland, amid the upstart cafes and yoga studios of the Temescal district, a longtime baby shop is becoming a center for prison abolition.

Where months ago the building’s blue facade advertised toys and car seats, now murals and slogans promote a world without incarceration. An image of a white dove ascends from brown hands, and a woman blows the word “Libertad” from a conch shell. Window banners mark local campaigns against police conferences and gang injunctions, and lettering above the 7,000-square-foot corner storefront’s entrance announces the new occupants’ intentions: “Building People Power.”

This will be the new national offices of Critical Resistance. The prison abolitionist group, cofounded 20 years ago by the activist and scholar Angela Davis, recently acquired the $3.3 million real estate through a young supporter who’s vowed to “radically redistribute” her inherited wealth, and is building offices and gathering space to share with allied groups. It’s an improbable fate for commercial property in an area synonymous with the city’s influx of young professionals.

And the unlikely deal required even more surprisingly interlocked interests: The Cabellos, who ran Baby World for decades, sold the building to Critical Resistance after rejecting offers from developers and corporate retailers (including one they blame for helping drive them out of business). They wanted to mitigate gentrification in North Oakland, and were endeared to the nonprofit’s politics by their harrowing experience of the United States-backed coup in their native Chile.

“I’d just seen Black Panther,” recalled Dania Cabello, the business owners’ 36-year-old daughter, of helping solicit Critical Resistance, where her brother once interned, to buy the family property. “So I was like, ‘How do we bring a real-life Wakanda Institute to Oakland?”

Abolition, Not Reform

The acquisition means stability for Critical Resistance, which faces steep rent increases in its downtown Oakland offices, and a more conspicuous public presence at a time when its once-fringe ideas are going mainstream. “Look at the headlines—you have people proudly calling themselves abolitionists, the popularization of ‘abolish ICE,’” said communications director Mohamed Shehk. “It shows chipping away at state violence is an achievable reality.”

Critical Resistance has several full-time employees and chapters in Los Angeles, New York City, Portland and Oakland. Part of its strategy is to dismantle the infrastructure of the prison-industrial complex, and then try to redirect public resources away from policing, surveillance and incarceration. Locally, for example, it participated in a successful coalition-based campaign against Urban Shield, a law-enforcement exposition criticized for promoting police militarization with emergency preparedness funds.

Building on the momentum of the recent San Francisco youth jail closure, Critical Resistance is working with Supervisor Matt Haney to shutter the county jail on Bryant Street. There’s broad political support for closing the seismically unsafe facility; Critical Resistance wants to go further and see that it isn’t replaced. “The idea is to reduce the incarcerated population, implement bail reform and divert people into services that make a new jail unnecessary,” Shehk said.

“Oakland Power Projects,” an ongoing campaign, shows another side of Critical Resistance’s work: community-based alternatives to policing. For one project, organizers canvassed Oaklanders and then developed literature about addressing health emergencies without calling the cops. Tahirah Rasheed, an Oakland native recently hired as building project manager, said the Temescal center will make these resources more accessible. “It will be a hub for racial justice and social justice organizing—especially pushing back against gentrification,” she said.

At a time when criminal-justice reform has widespread support, even from conservatives such as the Koch Brothers, Critical Resistance is leery of its ideas being co-opted or diluted, and often assails progressive-seeming ideas that entrench incarceration. In 2016, for example, the organization opposed a California proposition to repeal capital punishment and resentence death row prisoners to life without parole, arguing it enshrined “the other death sentence.”

Lately, the group has similarly challenged liberal outrage at privately-run prisons: Ruth Wilson Gilmore, the theorist and Critical Resistance cofounder, recently stressed her critique of the reformist referendum on private prisons in a New York Times Magazine profile, saying they play only a small, parasitic role in mass incarceration. “We don’t believe the system is broken, so we don’t want it fixed,” Critical Resistance organizer Rehana Lerandeau explained to KQED. “We want it abolished.”

Philanthropy as Redistribution

Rachel Gelman grew up in what she called a wealthy, owning-class family in Washington, D.C., struggling to reconcile her sharpening social-justice convictions with her privilege. Her family’s fortune, she said, derives largely from investments that benefit shareholders and executives at the expense of workers. “So, I was confused about my role in the movement,” she said.

Gelman, 29, is program director at Jewish Youth for Community Action, an activist and leadership training program in Piedmont. She moved to Oakland six years ago and discovered Resource Generation, a nonprofit that encourages wealthy young people to back leftist and progressive causes. Members of her family are philanthropists, and she considers their giving well-meaning and inspiring. But old-world charity, she said, can be “top down” or prescriptive, and it almost always entrenches status. Gelman doesn’t want her name on a theater.

Resource Generation, by contrast, recasts philanthropy as redistribution, stressing donations as a way to diffuse instead of bolster one’s own power. Now Gelman thinks of giving as a way to help upend the forces of capitalism, patriarchy and white supremacy that underlie her inheritance. “I believe ending this economic system that creates such drastic wealth inequality is necessary for all peoples’ humanity and dignity, including my own and that of my family,” she said.

Gelman was supporting Critical Resistance when the organization approached her about the Temescal building. She knew Critical Resistance was struggling with rising rents, and saw an opportunity to offer the group stability while removing property from the speculative market with her $3.3 million purchase. The company she formed to hold the building, which Critical Resistance is considering placing in a land trust, is named for an Arundhati Roy quotation: Another World Possible.

Critical Resistance shifted Gelman’s view of incarceration. She had gone from from being disgusted at its profiteers to embracing the idea that “any system that cages people is fundamentally inhumane,” she said. The multimillion-dollar donation to an organization that in 2017 had $373,000 in revenue reflects her optimism about the prospect of abolition, and she agreed to be interviewed in order to send a message to people with backgrounds similar to hers: “Invest in a world that benefits everybody.”

‘Bittersweet’
Aldo and Cristina Cabello listed 4400 Telegraph Ave. for sale in 2017, as business at Baby World declined. Dania, their daughter, pointed to online competition and also to displacement: The family-run business, founded more than 30 years prior, found the intergenerational continuity of its customer base severed. So it was “heartbreaking,” she said, to field offers from “condo developers and mega-corporations—the antithesis of the community we want to serve.”

Selling to Critical Resistance, though, appealed to the Cabellos’ abiding quest for justice. They came to Oakland as political refugees from Chile in 1973 after Augusto Pinochet, with United States government support, seized power in a military coup. A hit squad known as the Caravan of Death had executed Aldo’s brother Winston, and they feared for their lives. “My father was actually taken in on a couple occasions and released alive,” Dania said. “That was rare.”

Living in North Oakland with Dania’s two elder sisters, the Cabellos started selling refurbished electronics and baby accessories at the Coliseum Flea Market. “My memory is bleaching used toys in the backyard,” Dania said. The hustle led to small storefronts and, in the 1990s, the property on Telegraph Avenue. All the while, Aldo and other exiled family members researched the role of Armando Fernandez Larios, an officer in the Caravan of Death, in Winston’s slaying.

The effort culminated in a 1999 civil lawsuit against Larios, who was then living in Florida as part of a plea agreement with federal prosecutors regarding other assassinations. Four years later, a jury found him liable for torture, crimes against humanity and extrajudicial killing, and awarded the Cabellos $4 million in damages. (Dania called the figure “symbolic,” saying they don’t expect to ever receive the money.) According to the Center for Justice and Accountability, it was the first time a Pinochet operative was tried in the United States for human rights violations.

The United States’ hand in Pinochet’s coup, particularly training Larios through the School of the Americas, instilled in the Cabellos a sensitivity to abuses of power that easily dovetails with prison abolitionism. Dania’s brother interned with Critical Resistance, and her activism ties enabled the acquisition. She hopes it inspires more wealthy people to support collective ownership, and beamed that Critical Resistance commissioned muralist-activists Leslie “Dime” Lopez and Dominic “Treat U Nice” Villeda to “spread messages of strength and freedom” from the building.

Still, it’s “bittersweet… [more]
prisonabolition  criticalresistance  angeladavis  daniacabello  chile  oakland  philanthropy  temescal  mohamedshehk  urbanshield  kochbrothers  ruthwilsongilmore  rehanalaerandeau  2019  resdistribution  rachelgelman  inequality  resourcegeneration  aldocabello  cristinacabello  pinochet  justice  restorativejustice  prisons  incarceration  armandofernándezlarios  police  policing  sanfrancisco  bayarea  us  activism  capitalpunishment  integrity  canon  prison-industrialcomplex  arundhatiroy  reform  samlefebvre 
august 2019 by robertogreco
What is NEOLIBERALISM? on Vimeo
"What is Neoliberalism? is a video by the Barnard Center for Research on Women, featuring interviews with Lisa Duggan, Miranda Joseph, Sealing Cheng, Elizabeth Bernstein, Dean Spade, Sandra K. Soto, Teresa Gowan, and Ana Amuchástegui. In the video, contributors describe the various meanings that have been attributed to the term “neoliberalism,” the neoliberal economic policies developed through the IMF and the World Bank, and the usefulness of “neoliberalism” as an organizing rubric for contemporary scholars and activists. Drawing from research on immigration policy, the prison-industrial complex, poverty management, and reproductive rights, they sketch some of neoliberalism’s intersections with gender, sexuality, race, class, and nation. Recorded Fall 2012.

What is Neoliberalism? was published in issue 11.1-11.2 of The Scholar & Feminist Online, “Gender, Justice, and Neoliberal Transformations.” See the entire issue at sfonline.barnard.edu/gender-justice-and-neoliberal-transformations for additional resources."

[Also here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7kL4p3llmHk ]

[See also: http://sfonline.barnard.edu/gender-justice-and-neoliberal-transformations/what-is-neoliberalism/ ]
2012  neoliberalism  lisaduggan  mirandajoseph  sealingcheng  latinamerica  worldbank  imf  globalization  economics  politics  liberalism  elizabethbernstein  deanspade  sandrasoto  teresagowan  us  anaamuchástegui  gender  sexuality  capitalism  elitism  marxism  neo-marxism  neo-foucaultism  wendybrown  nicholasrose  culture  society  markets  statetransformation  carceralstate  massincarceration  welfarestate  wealthconcentration  labor  work  trade  freetrade  exploitation  justice  socialjustice  immigration  prisons  systemsthinking  welfare  moralism  violence  deathpenalty  capitalpunishment  power  control  poverty  discipline  sovereignty  foucault  michelfoucault 
may 2017 by robertogreco
Two sentences that perfectly capture what it means to be privileged in America today - Vox
"Giridharadas's point is particularly salient now, as Robert Putnam's book about the growing fissure between upper- and lower-class America is a hot topic in political circles. Toward the end of his talk (around the 16-minute mark), he hammers home the point that there are two Americas, and that many people who reside firmly in the more privileged version don't even realize it.

"Don't console yourself that you are the 99 percent," he says. "If you live near a Whole Foods; if no one in your family serves in the military; if you are paid by the year, not the hour; if most people you know finished college; if no one you know uses meth; if you married once and remain married; if you're not one of 65 million Americans with a criminal record — if any or all of these things describe you, then accept the possibility that actually, you may not know what's going on, and you may be part of the problem."

Harsh as that sounds, Giridharadas gets at an important point that Putnam also echoed in a recent interview with Vox: as the highest and lowest incomes in the US move further apart, well-off and low-income Americans also know less and less about each other and what it truly means to be from another social class. Indeed, only 1 percent of Americans consider themselves upper-class. As economic segregation grows, it plays a part in keeping people from climbing up the social ladder."

[YouTube link for Anand Giridharadas's talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8i-pNVj5KMw ]

[Response from Connor Kilpatrick:
“Let Them Eat Privilege: Focusing on privilege diverts attention away from the real villains.”
https://www.jacobinmag.com/2015/04/1-99-percent-class-inequality/

"By forcing the middle class to divert their attention downward (and within) instead of at the real power players above, Vox and Giridharadas are playing into the Right’s hands. It’s an attempt to shame the middle class — those with some wealth but, relative to the top one or one-tenth of one percent, mere crumbs — to make them shut up about the rich and super rich and, instead, look at those below as a reminder that it could all be much worse.

[…]

Even when the income of the one percent (mostly the bottom half of that select group) is derived primarily from high salaries (as opposed to returns on investment) it’s far more likely to be reinvested in shares, bonds, and real estate — and of course elite educations and other opportunities for their children — than the income of the middle 40 percent, who have hardly anything left once the bills are paid.

That means that even with nothing more than a killer W-2, the salaried lower half of the one percent still have the means to consolidate themselves as an elite class while the rest of us are immiserated.

When a cut in capital gains taxes is paid for by hiking state tuition and slashing social services, the one percent benefits while the vast majority of the 99 percent loses. When a new law is passed making it harder to organize a union or wages are squeezed to ring out higher and higher corporate profits, it’s the one percent — and their investment portfolios — that benefits and the majority of the 99 percent who loses.

It’s real winners and losers — not a state of mind and not a “culture.” And it works like this:

[chart]

What’s bad for you economically is probably good for them. That’s why the rest of us will have to come in conflict with this tiny elite and its institutions if we’re going win a more just and egalitarian future for ourselves.

By substituting class relations for an arbitrary list of “privileges,” Vox is attempting to paint a picture of an immiserated America with no villain. It’s an America without a ruling class that directly and materially benefits from everyone else’s hard times. And this omission isn’t just incorrect — it robs us of any meaningful oppositional politics that could change it all.

It’s a conclusion that, despite Vox’s endorsement, plays into conservatives’ hands. Like the journalist Robert Fitch once wrote, it is the aim of the Right “to restrict the scope of class conflict — to bring it down to as low a level as possible. The smaller and more local the political unit, the easier it is to run it oligarchically.”

So why turn inward? Why argue over who’s got the sweeter deal and how we’re all responsible for the gross inequity of society when it’s not that much more than a tiny sliver of millionaires and billionaires at Davos sipping wine and rubbing shoulders with politicians?

Let’s try worrying more about knowing thy enemy — and building solidarity from that recognition. “Check your privilege?” Sure. But for once, let’s try checking it against the average hedge fund manager instead of a random Whole Foods shopper."]
anandgiridharadas  inequality  privilege  2015  race  military  employment  work  labor  drugs  addiction  poverty  education  marriage  class  robertputnam  politics  secondchances  religion  islam  mercy  forgiveness  grace  us  humanism  segregation  lifeexpectancy  healthcare  faith  civics  law  legal  capitalpunishment  deathpenalty  raisuddinbhuiyan  markstroman  connorkilpatrick 
april 2015 by robertogreco
The Brain on Trial - Magazine - The Atlantic
"Advances in brain science are calling into question the volition behind many criminal acts. A leading neuroscientist describes how the foundations of our criminal-justice system are beginning to crumble, and proposes a new way forward for law and order."

"Neuroscience is beginning to touch on questions that were once only in the domain of philosophers and psychologists, questions about how people make decisions and the degree to which those decisions are truly “free.” These are not idle questions. Ultimately, they will shape the future of legal theory and create a more biologically informed jurisprudence. "
science  psychology  philosophy  behavior  biology  crime  punishment  nature  nurture  naturenurture  davideagleman  2011  mentalillness  mentalhealth  brain  impulsivity  impulse-control  adolescence  incarceration  adolescents  law  legal  future  forwardthinking  thinking  somnambulism  social  socialpolicy  rehabilitation  neuroscience  criminality  recidivism  predictions  data  brainchemistry  pathology  pathologies  tourettes  alzheimers  schizophrenia  mania  depression  murder  blame  blameworthiness  capitalpunishment  logic  freewill  will  jurisprudence 
june 2011 by robertogreco

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