Community Voices

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The definition of abolition is the action or act of stopping/ending a system, practice, or institution. We must do more than abolish, we must be prepared to strategically replace the system with something better in which all people benefit after providing reparations for the oppressed. The United States was built by creating oppressive systems that benefit white citizens, with the most oppressive and the most dangerous of those systems being the public education system. Our public education system is the place where for each generation, we continue to center whiteness and white supremacy, thereby creating a pipeline that continuously feeds the other oppressive systems. We indoctrinate students with the notion that white is best and everyone else is “other”. And while there have been many studies and loads of research as to the detrimental effects of such a system, there have not been serious national efforts to abolish the harmful practices and pedagogy within the public education system itself. Most of the people working in the public education system know the system is broken and in the worst ways harms children of color most of all. Progress cannot be made as long as the house is divided – districts vs unions, administrators vs teachers, teachers vs families, etc. – enabling lack of trust to prevent serious and lasting transformation. We must be brave enough to engage in liberation pedagogy where we recognize, undo, and replace these harmful practices, and then we must engage others in the work. We do not need to march or protest; we simply need to do the work. No standing on ceremony. Just do the work. – Trish Millines Dziko

Abolition is… A correction in direction A RIGHTeous turn from the past A clear-eyed divergence from our ugly roots A collective dance toward the light Of Justice A national road trip on the highway To Inclusion Gone will be the cannonball weights Tied to the shoes of our black and brown people Gone will be the weapons of class destruction Open will be the door to Home for every Soul Then, in Truth, we’ll sing to America the Beautiful.

Abolition is…that place in your soul where your own longing for acceptance opens your heart to all.

Abolition is…radical grace that denies no one, opens doors to all and welcomes the collective elevation.

Abolition is…embracing our fundamental sameness with humility and joy.

Susan McCabe

ABOLITION is … Abolition is the end of enslavement. Abolition is DE-funding incarceration, immigrant detention, police brutality. Abolition is refusal to accept the Lie that police Keep us safe. Abolition is a pathway forward. Abolition is love in action. Abolition is a choice, OUR choice. Abolition is a pen, a sign, A rallying cry! Let freedom ring! Let FREEDOM Ring! Abolition is an ending and a beginning. Abolition is RE-IMAGINING. Abolition is a door opening wide. Abolition is our time to choose anew, to create JUSTICE – for All us… Abolition is a breeze, a shout, a tornado Of swirling dreams made manifest, Starting right here – right NOW! Abolition is this defining moment when we center repatriation, re-entry, renewal, repair, reconciliation and REJOICING! Abolition is Up to Us! All US! ABOLITION is …  – Janie Starr

Abolition Is… A Beginning, not end. Gate change flight to the future, now. Not borrowed on credit of backs cheap platitudes or promises but paid in cash – reparations. Deep easy breaths turn the world soft Whole and beloved bodies – bodies. Play and dance make love on velvet afternoons sing songs that wake the sleeping sparrows Bodies rooted in earth, riding thermals upward you a stream effortlessly tumbling over stones, once obstacles nothing to stand in the way of your wildness – wildness. Dance barefoot stomp, spin, raise arms, wave hands use every crayon in the box to color the day, the night, every moment in between unrestrained, uncontained, hymn of life sustained no bending, binding, pretending to pass unnoticed no person, no law, no nation state, a threat to your living, breathing, loving, singing, dancing, no threat to your being, or your becoming – becoming. Yes! is our greening and our greeting, I see you. your black life matters. – Catherine Johnson

Abolition at the start is an inward journey leading to outward action and change. – Joe Okimoto, MD, Survivor of WWII American concentration camp

Attention Vashon Visionaries
A Call for Participation

Add your voice to the public art installation “ABOLITION IS…” by artist, activist, Patrisse Cullors. We will accept contributions throughout the summer. Our hope is for all contributions to be thought provoking and to reflect a variety of experiences and perspectives. We will post all contributions except for any that are deemed to be potentially insensitive or hurtful.

In Person

Write a one sentence, creative response to “ABOLITION IS…” on the panels below the neon installation in the VCA Breezeway.

August 5 from 5pm – 8pm, before Miajah Sanson Frey concert.

August 10 from 5pm – 8pm, before the Dreamkeepers “Continued Discussion” talk (details below)


Write a short or long form creative response to “ABOLITION IS…” via the online form. Titles or quotes from longer format pieces will be added to the art installation panels with a QR code link to the full piece which will be hosted at the top of this webpage.

Related Event:

Join us on August 10th for The Dream Keepers, an Atlanta-based group of Black women scientists, recovery specialists and therapists who are reframing wellness for all with an infusion of somatics and the creative arts.

Click image below for more information

“Abolition is… ” by Patrisse Cullors

Left to right: Vashon spoken word artist Malea Dickerson, Patrisse Cullors, Nikkita Oliver

Installed at the Vashon Center for the Arts Breezeway on April 8, 2022,”Abolition is… ” is part of Patrisse Cullors’ neon light fabrication series that invites viewers to center abolition as a framework that urges us to heal, imagine, create and most importantly take action on the principles of abolition. The fiery red, attention grabbing installation is meant to give viewers pause, a moment to reflect on what this word means to us individually and collectively. The ellipsis is a call to action. Reminding viewers that ‘Abolition is … ” an invitation for joy, transformation, and possibility. We get to collectively define abolition and in that collectivity we get to move closer to imagination.

This neon light piece is designed by Patrisse Cullors and fabricated and installed by Dylan Neuwirth at Western Neon and made possible by Vashon Center of the Arts. 

Patrisse Cullors and Nikkita Oliver at Vashon Center for the Arts, April 8 2022