Back in August, I prematurely celebrated the short term strikes many professional athletes and teams went on in protest of the summer’s police violence. Obviously the concept of celebrity must be abolished, but for the moment at hand, it was heartening to see people with power and money take real action regarding mass brutality from police departments. However, like with all co-opted actions influenced by neoliberals like Barack Obama, the strikes quietly and swiftly went away and the many murdered Black people turned into reasons to vote in the 2020 election. The strikes became actions in favor of voting, arenas turned into polling places, and all calls to defund and/or abolish the police silenced. But of course, not all current and former athletes believe the same proposed solutions, which is why Colin Kaepernick’s “Abolition for the People: The Movement For A Future Without Policing & Prisons” project is of such great importance. Abolition for the People is a collection of 30 essays produced by Kaepernick Publishing as a way to introduce the abolition of prisons and policing to a wider audience and redirect movements away from reform and to the ultimate goal of abolition. It’s important that someone like Colin Kaepernick, who led the 2016 protests during the National Anthem and continues to be blackballed for his actions has adopted abolition as his platform. While the NFL and NBA partner with corporations, ignorant celebrities, and neoliberal politicians to put out statements in favor of “racial equity” and “unity” and kneel during the anthem as a team, Colin’s Abolition for the People—just like his $1 million donations and Know Your Rights camps—is actually educating people about systemic racism and how the systems will always be unjust because of their roots in white supremacy and slavery. As the LEVEL editors wrote in their introductory post to the project, “Not only do police and prisons fail to make us safer, but reform has only strengthened their most toxic ingrained practices. The only answer is abolition, a full dismantling of the carceral state and the institutions that support it. Instead, we need to invest in a future that puts justice and the needs of the community first. A future that, as Colin Kaepernick himself says in his introductory essay, makes us safer, healthier, and truly free.”
Abolition for the People is separated into four weeks of 30 essays about the topics: Police & Policing (week of October 6), Prisons & Carcerality (week of October 12), Fuck Reform (week of October 19), and Abolition Now (week of October 26). Colin chose a selection of authors that are “political prisoners, family members of those impacted by police terrorism & incarceration, organizers, movement leaders, & scholars.” In the Police & Policing section, the essays are written by Colin, Angela Davis, Simone Browne, Mark Anthony Neal, Kiese Laymon/Gwendolyn Woods, Stuart Schrader, Talila Lewis, Kihana Ross, and Kimberlé Crenshaw. The Prisons & Carcerality week features essays from Morning Star Gali, Ameer Hasan Loggins, Jody D. Armour, Russell Maroon Shoatz III and Russell Maroon Shoatz Jr., Dean Spade, Kenyon Farrow, Christina Jimenez, and Cynthia Garcia. In the Fuck Reform week, the essays are written by Dylan Rodriguez, Darrick Hamilton, Naomi Murakawa, Bree Newsome Bass, Ruha Benjamin, and Derecka Purnell. And last but not least, Abolition Now sees essays from Mumia Abu-Jamal, Robin D.G. Kelley, Marlon Peterson, Rukia Lumumba, Dan Berger and David Stein, Andrew J. Ritchie, Frieda Afary and Lara al-Kateb, and Mariame Kaba. The few essays I’ve read so far are perfect gateways into a constantly growing world of abolition that answer many commonly heard questions new learners have as they breach the topic and move past reform. When the terms “abolition” and “defund” are being massively co-opted by democratic movements, it’s important we (Kaepernick included) study and organize more thoroughly and intentionally. I hope you’ll all find these essays as heartbreaking and motivating as I have!