Community Voices

(click arrows to see next)

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

Abolition is non-binary in the broadest, most wide-open sense of the term. It is not either/or, but BOTH/AND. All of us ARE both/AND. The invention within which we live, commonly called the U.S., and the vectors of powers that have shaped it (whiteness, patriarchy, capitalism) have categorized us as this OR that, arranged in a hierarchy. Abolition is losing the grip of this hierarchical set of binaries, expanding our communities as multiple and ourselves as complex, singular, AND multiple too. Abolition is allowing for the multitudes within each of us with love and openness. None of us can ever be fully known AND we seek just that — to connect, to be known, and to know. Abolition is not knowing and stretching into uncertainty with curiosity. Our multiplicity matters — as much as, yet never more than any other human’s or being’s complexity. We are each of us queer and weird somewhere within us — whether we embrace those magical, unique, and human edges and curves or not — Abolition includes embracing the queerness of our own humanness with playful, loving compassion. When we can do this we are able to also see another in all of their dynamic expression, however, they choose to present their singularity. Each of us deserves to be singular and to belong within the collective whole of being. Abolition is saying YES to life-giving alternatives to materialism, extraction, and fossil fuel dependency AND it is making a full-fledged possibility for all who dwell on this planet. Abolition is power with, checking in and checking back, and building coalitions across differences, AND goals and dreams. Abolition is dissent AND humility. It is fluid AND deeply rooted in values for collective liberation. Abolition is learning AND unlearning. It is re-imagining from a full-hearted, brave, AND whole-bodied, playful place of possibility and thriving. Abolition is reading the world with sharp focus, and a critical eye, it is knowing what frames our seeing, what boxes us in— and with courage and clarity asking braver questions that push beyond frames that constrict love, creativity, exploration, justice, and liberation. Abolition is upending what isn’t working and what seems fixed and unmoveable. It is dreaming, reimagining, and making anew. When Ta-Nehisi Coates (2015) wrote the following, I read his as urging an abolitionist mindset: “resist the common urge toward a comforting narrative of divine law, toward fairy tales that imply irresponsible justice. The enslaved were not bricks in your (or anyone of our) road, and their lives were not chapters in your redemptive history… Enslavement was not destined to end”(p.53). Abolition is struggling and sticking with knowing the hard, the nuanced, the mistakes, and difficulties. Abolition is committing to doing one’s own internal work and knowing one’s own past. We equip ourselves to work with inevitable conflicts, tensions, and differences with our whole hearts and minds when we do our own searching with self-compassion. Abolition is asking the most vulnerable people — the tiniest and biggest children, elders, and those furthest from educational, environmental, economic, and social justice what they want and need — and making it happen. Abolition is tangible — the tiniest and biggest children, elders, and those furthest from educational, environmental, economic, and social justice can feel, taste, hear, see, and smell it because they are the central makers, doers, thinkers, players. Abolition is white-bodied humans with the “right” answers, setting those aside completely. AND listening, again and again. Abolition is working internally — AND power-sharing. Abolition is working to repair one’s pain and trauma in healing ways. It is resting for resting’s sake AND for sustained, focused, work for the long haul. Abolition is all of our individual AND collective work. Abolition is for everyone. It is inclusive. It is not a one-time deal. – Jen Lindsay

All eyez on me All eyez on me We’ve been failed by a fixed system Me, you , my little brother my dad my aunt my grandma Philando george sandra Being put down just to bring others up as i’m tired of being stepped on Crying and sinking deeper deeper and deeper but not two deep because one has no right in white america to feel to vulnerable All eyes on me Sitting in a self proclaimed penitentiary being shackled by emotional trauma Sitting in a state of distorted self image neck to neck in accusations that should be protected by proclamations So deep in self enslavement that the self induced death penalty is the only option sitting in front of me but not wanting to have the same fate to fame as michael or rekia but wanting to be praised like ketanji and mrs Gorman Oh but it doesn’t matter what I want It’s what they give to me All eyes on me All i see to rep black boy joy and black girl pride are rappers athletes and comedians were are the doctors lawyers and lawmakers All eyes on me Middle child role model slowly piled up in responsibilities Only celebrated after your self image is obliterated They start yelling All lives matter , blue lives matter ,”don’t we matter too?” That’s the sound of The Protests to our protest All eyes on me I repeat in my head what is abolition what is abolition. Abolition is taking away white power in a white system Abolition is having equity to reach equality but truly equality isn’t what we strive for Because aren’t we still under the white man’s control was slavery really abolished? In the last 30 years we’ve learned that we can take care of ourselves better then law-enforcement can Worried about your life and carrier so you take ours man i cant breathe How does one take a gun out instead of a taser there two different colors just like you and Me We’re blessed we’re still breathing and not bleeding All eyes on me – Malea

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.

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:

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.

Reflection on art-making: “ABOLITION is … a dance response.”

Click image to read the Beachcomber article:

“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