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Abolition Action NYC creatively resists carceral systems and mindsets

Creative Lessons from Abolition Action NYC

After the whirlwind of public health, racial, and political crises that rocked (and continue to rock) the United States over the course of 2020, social justice is on the minds of many.

What used to be cringe-worthy arguing that caused three-thousand comment flamewars on social media has now found a comfortable belonging in the consciousness of anyone younger than a boomer.

Gen-Z activists like Greta Thunberg and Little Miss Flint Mari Copeny have raised concerns about racism, ableism, misogyny, and climate destruction.

Millennial activists behind Black Lives Matter are largely Black women and gender non-conforming people. A little digging into social justice, and you’ll realize that one topic neatly flows into the other – each of the injustices is tightly linked to the next.

One topic that stained the minds of Americans, so much so that it was one of, if not the most, pressing issues that appeared in the 2020 Presidential Election, was the inherent racism of the prison industrial complex (PIC).

Abolition Action NYC (AANYC) is a grassroots collective of individuals whose stance is that abolition is the only solution to achieve not only freedom for the incarcerated and those wronged by the PIC, but for our (people of color, gender non-conforming and nonbinary, disabled, young, old, LGBTQIA, the list goes on) collective freedom.

The collective was born out of the New York City’s Democratic Socialists of America’s socialist-feminist prison abolition reading group only last year.

AANYC “creatively resists carceral systems and mindsets.”

Getting caught up in the tangible harms of the oppressive structures that benefit from and toward the prison industrial complex is understandably tiring, and purposefully so.

AANYC’s creative mindset, however, is not in “the ridding of society of prisons, but the creation of a world that has no need for such entities.”

They argue that it’s important “to allow prison abolition to exist as a practice performed in our daily lives;” where empowerment lies in imagining a world beyond the need for carceral systems.

In a practical sense, creatives can learn a valuable lesson from this mindset. AANYC establishes the significance of “starting with the self and building outward; holding space for healing and learning; and acting in solidarity with other abolitionist, anti-capitalist groups and people impacted by carcerality.”

To continue, AANYC’s work is “’multi-disciplinary,’” and “grounded in an understanding of the U.S.’s anti-Black and colonial histories.” Rooted in political education, AANYC’s rhetoric is about collectivity and community. We learn and grow from collaboration with each other.

When was the last time someone else’s work inspired you?

Community engagement emphasizes “tools for strengthening relationships with our neighbors and local friends, meeting each other’s needs, and responding to crises without cops.”

This rhetoric touches upon a concept imagined by activist and political theorist Saul Alinsky, and written about in his book Rules for Radicals, called the asset-based community development model.

It is a system of understanding what resources a community already has in place, as well as understanding their collective capacity to address their larger needs.

Look around you. Who, or what, might you be overlooking?

Where are you missing opportunities for inspiration on your newest creative project, or a creative way to fight oppressive systems? Ask yourself who might join hands with you to reach your goals for your next project or community goal.

Luckily, these concepts are becoming more mainstream, and as they begin to take a foothold on younger generations, we can continue to look toward a more just, and creative future.