Shanna Merola: Expect Resistance/Another Country


Artist, activist, and National Lawyers Guild worker Shanna Merola is coming to the Institute for the Humanities.

Monday, March 6
3:30-5:30 p.m.
Institute for the Humanities
Osterman Common Room

202 S. Thayer

From the Institute for the Humanities website:

In her lecture, “Expect Resistance,” Merola will discuss the various roles that art and activism play in her work with grassroots movements across the country—from the historic fight to reclaim Richmond, Virginia’s African Burial Ground to the deeply embattled struggle over water privatization in Detroit and Flint, Michigan. Within her different bodies of work Merola will also draw parallels between historic flashpoints in American history, through an archival exploration of the Detroit 67 Rebellion to firsthand documentation from the front lines of Ferguson, Missouri and Standing Rock, North Dakota.

Merola’s talk will be followed by an opening reception for her pop-up exhibition Another Country. Read the rest here.


Attica Film Screening


March 3, 2017
The Trumbullplex
4210 Trumbull St.
Detroit, MI 48208

Doors at 6:30 p.m. / Film at 7:00 p.m.

Afterwards hear from members of the Attica Legal Team, Bill Goodman and Linda Borus, and from a member of Michigan Abolition and Prisoner Solidarity (MAPS), who will share excerpts from prisoner letters about the Kinross Correctional Facility uprising in fall 2016.

This is a FREE event! No one will ever get turned away for lack of funds. Donations  collected at the door will be shared between Michigan Abolition and Prisoner Solidarity and the National Lawyers Guild.

Special thanks to the folks of the Trumbullplex, who have offered their space to host these monthly movie nights. Check out their upcoming screenings.

Catherine Despard, Abolitionist

Peter Linebaugh

I am an abolitionist. Abolition is a plot against racial capitalism which is all capitalism, not just some of it. It is a plot in a narrative sense. It is a plot in which the arc of change is always going resolutely towards freedom. It is a plot in a geographic sense. It is a plot in which we aim to make all space, not just some space, free in two senses. Free in the sense it cannot be alienated which is to say it cannot be sold by anybody to anybody, and free in the sense of non-exclusion—no boundary, no border, which would keep somebody in or keep somebody out. —Ruth Wilson Gilmore, on Rustbelt Abolition Radio

February 21st is special. On this day in 1803, Colonel Edward Marcus Despard was executed in London as a traitor. His comrade and partner, Catherine, was among the thousands who witnessed the hanging and decapitation. She had helped him in the days preceding to write the address which he delivered from the gallows. He explained that he was a friend to the poor and oppressed and trusted that “the principles of freedom, of humanity, and of justice will finally triumph over falsehood, tyranny, and delusion.”

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Fight for Yousef Ajin


From the filmmaker:

Yousef Ajin is a father who has lived in America for 18 years, with four children attending school in Ann Arbor. He has been working toward citizenship for many years and routinely checks in with immigration offices in Detroit, every other week. On January 30, 2017, Yousef went for a routine check-in and never came home. He is now being held in a detention center in Kalamazoo. Yousef and his family are actively engaged in the Ann Arbor community. His daughter, Betoul (featured in this video), is a leading tech crew head in her high school theatre program. His son is severely disabled and requires considerable at-home care.

Yousef is the sole income provider in his home and his absence is causing great stress for the family. His wife, who has been out of the workforce for 16 years to tend to her son, has found a job and is working twelve hour shifts on the weekends while her daughters care for their brother. All four children are struggling to keep up with academics due to the stress of their father’s detainment.

On Tuesday, February 28 at 1:45 p.m., while Yousef faces a deportation hearing, community members will be rallying outside the federal building in vocal, visible support. The Ajins are a beloved family in the Ann Arbor community. Please show up to share your support during this vulnerable time for them.

Demonstration for Yousef Ajin
Tuesday, February 28 at 12:00 p.m.
McNamara Federal Building
477 Michigan Ave., Detroit

More event details are available here.


Another way to fight for Yousef Ajin’s release is to write a letter of support to his attorney, Christopher Vreeland:

Include your name, address, and phone number, and sign the letter. Letters should be emailed to Mr. Vreeland by midnight, Monday, February 27.


Read more about the Ajin family, courtesy of this piece by Joel Appel-Kraut in Community High School’s newspaper.

Dark Skin: A Mobility Impediment

D’Real Graham

A field officer used the infamous spotlight lamp to signal me to stop walking in Normal Park a minute before midnight. I’d not traveled far that cold November night before I was standing in the middle of swirling red and blue lights, with my hands up.

“Turn around,” an officer barked over the megaphone. I turned around, standing several feet away on the sidewalk, before the officer proceeded with, “Do what I say, and we’ll explain everything.”

I stood with my hands up for sixty seconds in cold silence before another patrol car arrived on the scene.

Questions and thoughts ran through my head. What is the purpose of this encounter? Why am I being targeted? Do not incriminate yourself. Prove to them that you’re not a criminal. Will I survive whatever happens tonight?

Remembering that I’d dressed well for an event earlier that day brought temporary relief. With squinting eyes, my hands up, and the patrol car spotlight detailing my barely broken-in jacket and shoes, I’d thought that the officers would have had noticed.

“You don’t have any weapons on you, do you?” The second officer arrived with more questions. “Do you have ID on you?” he asked. Before being patted down, I was told to spread my feet apart. “Do you have a medical marijuana card, by chance?” and “Did you smoke tonight?” were questions lodged while red and blue lights swirled. I produced an ID, kept my hands up, and prepared for more questioning.

Without an explanation, just a causal, “Thanks,” the two officers departed. I returned my ID to my wallet.

I am an almost-thirty-year-old African American. The officers were white. Yes, all three of us survived that November night in Ypsilanti, and the footage of this particular police interaction hasn’t gone social media viral. Why would it when similar scenarios happen so commonly?

The abuse of stop and frisk is a violation of individual rights, but it also poisons police and community relations. As recognized by the Department of Justice, the “experience of disproportionately being subjected to stops and arrests in violation of the Fourth Amendment shapes black residents’ interactions with the [the police], to the detriment of community trust,” and “makes the job of delivering police services … more dangerous and less effective.” —American Civil Liberties Union

I took a breath and walked on home through Ypsilanti—the city where I have lived nearly my entire life and worked hard with other concerned folk to improve.

Late-July 2016, out of some frustration with first responder maladministration, I ran a creative write-in campaign for Washtenaw County Prosecutor. I received a lot of support, mostly because I am not a lawyer. (One does not need to practice law in order to serve as County Prosecutor in Washtenaw County.) For one hundred days, my name, D’Real, filtered through social media and was screenprinted on t-shirts and stickers. Voters across Washtenaw County believed then what I do: it’s time to examine the functionality of civic and municipal offices, as well as how dominator culture affects the public health of its citizenry, including the African-American community.

I’ve used my voice at Ypsilanti City Council meetings, and have helped manage after-school programs in the City of Ypsilanti since 2012. In June 2016, I was appointed to serve as a City of Ypsilanti BLM/Police-Community Task Force subcommittee member, charged with studying human relations across the country.

I don’t tell you this because I am proud of being a team player in Ypsilanti. I tell you this because the officer who questioned me that cold fall night—a few weeks after the election in which I was able to earn 3,500 votes for County Prosecutor—didn’t register any familiarity with me. “Is that how you pronounce your name?” she asked, immediately after having mispronounced it.

Ypsilanti is the home to 20,000 people in about four square miles with a law enforcement agency that has resisted the public outcry to “ensure accountability of the Ypsilanti Police Department.” Imagine what’s happening in communities that haven’t made such a pledge. Can you imagine what happens in larger, more complex cities to citizens less prominent in their communities than I am in mine?

I learned the following week that I had walked near the scene of a reported abandoned car, which the police presumed to be stolen, and that the auto thief have yet to be caught. There is no description of the suspect on file.

When the officers bid me goodnight with “thanks,” they didn’t tell me that I’d walked near a crime scene. Imagine if they would have warned me that an armed thief had entered the area, and that I should remain alert on my way home. They didn’t ask whether I’d seen anything unusual on the street that night. They didn’t explain why they’d stopped me in the first place. They didn’t record the brief detainment in their official logbook—the encounter isn’t part of public record.

The officers did promise that they’d explain if I complied. That would have been a great start.

After nearly ten months of Task Force meetings it was suggested that a subcommittee be formed to examine the role of Citizen/Community Oversight in Police Relations. The Community-Police Relations subcommittee held three meetings—July 11, July 20, and September 6, 2016—with the objective of making a recommendation to the Task Force for consideration in moving toward the implementation of change.

The BLM/Community-Police Taskforce motioned to present recommendations developed by the subcommittee on BLM/Community-Police Relations Commission. It is the subcommittee’s recommendation that City Council launch a Community-Police Commission charged to ensure procedural justice across Ypsilanti proper.

Until the Ypsilanti Police Departments takes responsibility for its day-to-day operations, the responsibility will continue to lie with the community—with women and men of color in particular—to quietly endure interactions like mine and their aftermaths, to comply without explanation in the face of police mistrust, and to wonder whether our names and faces have been marked suspicious on lists we are not permitted to see.

Meditations on Masculinity

Patricia J. Williams

Suffer the Little Children

I take my son to the playground several times a week. At two years of age, he requires lots of exercise before either he or I get any rest. If I go to the playground closest to my house, he is almost always the only black child there. This alone makes the playground political. Two incidents, for quick examples, happened on two consecutive days: On Monday, my son went over to the benches to play with a little girl who lives on our street. He sat on one end of the park bench, she on the other. They laughed and swung their feet back and forth as though they were trying to see who could swing their legs harder. Another little girl of about three ran up to the little girl with whom my son was playing and tried to drag her away. She told her to stop playing with him and she told my son to go away. She whispered in the neighbor girl’s ear and they both looked at him with sober faces. But the leg-swinging game was too much fun for the first little girl, who, after all, knew my son, and she went on kicking her legs—though considerably subdued. The second little girl gave up and ran to her mother who was standing within earshot, and said, “I don’t like that little boy. He’s scary.” Her mother advised her, “Well, stay close to me then.”

On Tuesday, we arrived at the playground and my son ran immediately to the sandbox. There were two little girls of about four already there. The moment my son got into the sandbox, one of the little girls started screaming: “Get out of here! Don’t you get near me! Go back to where you came from! Get out! I said get out!” My son was startled—his face literally crumpled and he burst into tears immediately. He came running over to me, threw himself into my arms and sobbed on my shoulder as though his heart would break. I held onto him tightly, trying desperately to figure out some adult response or neutral intervention, but still the little girl kept screaming, waving her plastic shovel like a can of mace: “I said get out of here and don’t you ever come back!”

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EMU as Sanctuary


Eastern Michigan University’s Faculty Senate and union have issued a joint resolution to declare EMU a Sanctuary School. Please sign your name to convey to the Administration the urgency of making the university a safe space for all its students, and share widely with family, comrades, and coworkers.