We Do This ‘Til We Free Us
A reflection on prison industrial complex abolition and a vision for collective liberation from organizer and educator Mariame Kaba.
Abolitionist Organizing and Transforming Justice
By Mariame Kaba
Edited by Tamara K. Nopper
Foreword by Naomi Murakawa
“Organizing is both science and art. It is thinking through a vision, a strategy, and then figuring out who your targets are, always being concerned about power, always being concerned about how you’re going to actually build power in order to be able to push your issues, in order to be able to get the target to actually move in the way that you want to.”
What if social transformation and liberation isn’t about waiting for someone else to come along and save us? What if ordinary people have the power to collectively free ourselves? In this timely collection of essays and interviews, Mariame Kaba reflects on the deep work of abolition and transformative political struggle.
With a foreword by Naomi Murakawa and chapters on seeking justice beyond the punishment system, transforming how we deal with harm and accountability, and finding hope in collective struggle for abolition, Kaba’s work is deeply rooted in the relentless belief that we can fundamentally change the world. As Kaba writes, “Nothing that we do that is worthwhile is done alone.”
“I want to say this is a ‘generation-defining’ book, but that feels wrong because I know it will be shaping political imaginations for a century or more. It’s generations-defining. This is a classic in the vein of Sister Outsider, a book that will spark countless radical imaginations.”—Eve L. Ewing, author of Electric Arches and 1919
“Mariame Kaba’s clarity, firm-but-gentle guidance, embracing spirit, deep creativity, and love of laughter, demonstrate how abolition is, in deed, presence. Thank goodness for this urgent book.”—Ruth Wilson Gilmore, author of Change Everything
“One of the most fascinating developments during this age of Black Lives Matter is how ‘abolition’ has been integrated into mainstream debates on how to change the United States. Yet there is still so much not known or understood about the history, politics and practice of abolition-informed politics. Longtime organizer and educator, Mariame Kaba, is one of the most important voices in the emergent abolitionist movement. We have all been waiting on this book! Kaba and her collaborators write with urgency, while imbuing critical insights with clarifying analyses into what it means to demand an end to the reflexive impulse toward punishment that defines much of our society.”—Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, author of From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation
“Mariame Kaba is a people’s historian, an ultra-practical problem solver, and a visionary prophet whose work dreams and builds a world made by collaboration and healing where putting people in cages is unimaginable. We Do This ‘Til We Free Us is packed with Kaba’s brilliant insights and detailed examples of how the work of abolition is put into practice in grassroots campaigns. Kaba’s boundless creativity is rooted in her rigorous study of resistance and inspiration, and the wisdom of her words is woven through with poetry, literature, history and music, so that her offerings are both grounded in practical discernment and inclined toward our most robust imagination of what freedom could mean. This book will be both a practical tool and a source of comfort in hard times for change-makers and world-builders.”—Dean Spade, author of Mutual Aid: Building Solidarity During This Crisis (and the Next)
“We Do This ‘Til We Free Us has so much wisdom to offer, particularly at this unprecedented moment. Kaba not only challenges the corrosive notions that only policing and prisons keep us safe, but invites us to see abolition not as a far-away goal, but an everyday adventure that we can embark upon in our daily lives. Mariame Kaba is a galactic treasure. Her passion, dedication and commitment to abolition, safety and accountability are unparalleled. Read this book.”—Victoria Law, author of Prison by Any Other Name and Resistance Behind Bars
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