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Abolitionist Community Organizing & Education

Houston Abolition Collective Newsletter

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Hello everyone!
 

Welcome to our first issue of the Houston Abolition Collective Newsletter! Thank you for reading. This upcoming Monday (12/13) we are having the December General Meeting at 6pmIn addition to our ongoing campaign updates, we will have a presentation from Anita, a Texas Staff Attorney at Immigrant Legal Resource Center, on their recent Harris County report, which looks at criminal case outcomes for non-citizens in Harris County Criminal Courts. This report highlights blunt disparities between U.S. citizens and non-citizens in arrests, charges, bail, case disposition, and sentencing, and it also provides key policy recommendations for stakeholders. We will also be discussing an upcoming event about community safety in Harris County on December 15 to coordinate and learn more to fight Harris County criminal legal system. More information will be dropped in the meeting for security purposes. We hope you can join us! 

Without further ado, here is issue 1 of the Houston Abolition Collective newsletter!

Contents


 
  • Who We Are
  • What is Abolition?
  • Topic of the Month: Surveillance
  • Calls to Action
  • Local News
  • Where to Plug-In
  • Artist of the Month
  • Book Feature
  • Closing
WHO WE ARE

The Houston Abolitionist Collective is a group of organizers committed to building power and a movement around abolition in Houston and Harris County through political education, mutual aid, transformative justice, and community organizing to end policing, punitive justice, and harm. HAC formed in response to the murder of George Floyd and the Uprising of June 2020. 

What is Abolition?


Organizer, educator, and curator Mariame Kaba defines prison industrial complex (PIC) abolition as a “political vision, a structural analysis of oppression, and a practical organizing tool.” (So You’re Thinking about Becoming an Abolitionist", LEVEL) According to Critical Resistance, a grassroots Prison Industrial Complex (PIC) abolition organization that formed in 1997, the term prison industrial complex describes “the overlapping interests of government and industry that use surveillance, policing, and imprisonment as solutions to economic, social and political problems.” PIC abolitionists believe in that the PIC was not built to keep us safe, and work towards “eliminating imprisonment, policing, and surveillance” and collectively creating a restructured society where we have what we need - food, shelter, education, clean air, etc - to have true personal and community safety (drawn from the work of Critical Resistance & Mariame Kaba). As Mariame Kaba states, PIC abolition invites us to reflect and act on the question, “What can we imagine for ourselves and the world?”

Below are ways to learn more about PIC abolition as an organizing tool and long term vision:
Brief Abolition Historical Events thoughout American History in December: (Content Warning: death/murder/racism)
  • 11 December, 1917: Houston Riot of 1917 caused by harassment from an all-white Houston Police Department towards the black community & black soldiers
  • 4 December, 1969: Black Panther’s leader Fred Hampton's assassination
  • 8 December, 2010: Georgia Prison strike (largest prison strike in US history) begins

Surveillance role in the Abolition Movement 

Surveillance is an integral component of the prison industrial complex (PIC). We must confront surveillance in order to create a society in which people are free of constant tracking and cataloging as a means of driving them into cages or turning their homes and neighborhoods into virtual prisons. This issue seeks not only to share how terrifying sophistication of surveillance systems, while offering examples and dialogue how to abolish them. 

As technology rapidly develops, police departments, governmental agencies and private companies are further relying on surveillance technologies to control and punish communities, targeting communities of color and low income communities. At times presented as positive “reforms” to the current system, replacing human police with technological surveillance, such as drones, facial recognition, predictive analytics, data extraction, electronic monitoring, and other forms of surveillance technology expand the carceral state beyond prison walls, increase the reach of policing and put more funding and resources into the PIC. Critical Resistance proposes a helpful framework for evaluating reforms: Will they continue to expand the reach of policing (reformist reforms) or are they consistent with abolition in that they work to chip away and reduce the impact of the current system of policing and surveillance?

Resources and examples of other cities within the U.S how surveillance affects them :


Current local issue on Surveillance in Houston: ShotSpotter

ShotSpotter is a gunshot detection system placed in communities by police departments to mount deployments into neighborhoods. The City of Houston is considering whether to adopt the ShotSpotter program throughout the city, after an earlier pilot program. HAC organized participation in public comment at the Public Safety Committee on Thurs. Nov. 18. Community members spoke of the program’s ineffectiveness, wastefulness, and endangerment of Black and brown communities.

The City of Chicago’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that “ShotSpotter alerts rarely produce documented evidence of a gun-related crime, investigatory stop, or recovery of a firearm.” (City of Chicago August 24, 2021; see also: MacArthur Justice Center - End Police Surveillance)

ShotSpotter analysts and the police have been accused of manually altering data provided by the technology to create the evidence that supports their narratives that we need more police. (Colorlines, July 27, 2021)

Harris County pays $260,000 a year to cover four square miles, smaller than the Houston pilot area. Community members requested that funds go toward community programs that prevent gun violence from happening in the first place, instead of increasing the number of unnecessary interactions between residents and officers who are on high alert, expecting gun violence.

We do not need more policing. We need solutions to help people who are struggling financially through direct financial and housing aid and mental health support. Community members asked the City of Houston to say no to Shotspotter, stop HPD’s use of surveillance technology, and invest in safer communities by providing aid and services like
Mobile Crisis Outreach Team., the Gun Violence Interruption Program, and HART.
 


Call To Action:

Shotspotter "Neighbors Against Spying" Campaign - We want to thank everyone who signed up to speak at public comment on the City Council Public Safety Committee meeting on Nov 18. To continue pushing the City and County to cancel their use of Shotspotter, DSA's Neighbors Against Spying campaign is going to continue holding working meetings for people to discuss the issue. DSA's monthly Abolition WG meeting is specifically set aside for the Neighbors Against Spying campaign on the third Thursday of every month; the next meeting is on December 16 at 7 PM. You can register here for the Zoom link.
 


Credit goes to Laura Chow Reeve of Radical Roadmaps
Local News:
Please join OurAfrikanFam on their LAST Story Time Bike Tour of the historic Fifth Ward on Dec. 18! They will meet at the CVS on Lyons & Lockwood. There will be free bikes and Bikes at the bike station. All of these bikes will be free to you! If you have a bike they encourage you to bring it. This tour is designed for experienced riders only! For updates check out their Instagram and subscribe to their upcoming events here.
Houston Reads Octavia E. Butler by Guest Facilitator Jaison Oliver. Discussing Fledgling in two weeks on December 19! Grab your physical copy from Kindred Stories or check your local Harris County Library for digital copies of text and audiobook.
Stacey Abrams knows a thing or two about inciting change, and in her latest book, she's challenging our little ones to change the world by using their words. Come and be inspired as Georgia's great gubernatorial candidate discusses her incredible new children's book, Stacey's Extraordinary Words! Join Kindred Stories Tuesday, December 28 at 6:00 pm CT for the virtual book launch! Ticket link here and signed copies available while supplies last! See you there!

Plug In to Our Local Partnerships:

Tune into current local organizing below! Be sure to check out Texas Mutual Aid Directory under Houston to find more.
  1. Houston Coalition for Equitable Development without Displacement (HCEDD)
  2. DSA Neighbors Against Spying
  3. HarmReduxHTX
  4. HTX Community Fridge
  5. Houseless Organizing Coalition 
  6. Texas Jail Project
  7. Stop Texas Department of Transportation i-45 (Stop TXDOTi45)
  8. West Street Recovery
  9. Air Alliance Houston

Local Artist Spotlight: Kristi Rangel


Kristi was selected by Houston Coalition Against Hate's 2021 Emerging Artist of the Year.

From Kristi's page: "I search my ancestral roots for traces to her art and drink from the same cup of celestial energy that fueled her creativity.  My work is not simply that of a Black woman artist but as a human amplifying the divinity present in women, people of color and nature."

Support her shop to view her latest creations here

"Moonlight” from the series “SEVEN" out now on her website. A portion of the Proceeds will be Donated to the Houston CoalitionAgainst Hate (HCAH)
 
As we come to a close of 2021, we want to celebrate Kindred Stories for their store opening this year. They are a black owned bookstore committed to amplifying Black voices and bringing diverse stories from throughout the African diaspora to our local community in Houston, TX. Located in the Third Ward neighborhood, they have books showing up each day and curated creations by Black artisans for you to discover. Their openings are Wed-Sat, 11AM - 6PM. We hope you can support their business and check out an abolition read of Mariame Kaba's latest release: "We Do This 'Til We Free Us". By purchasing here. To find their Holiday Hours for December check out it here.
Photo by Quia Brown
Signing Off

Thank you for reading this issue of the Houston Abolition Collective newsletter! Let's create a world with community care without prisons, policing, and surveillance.

In solidarity,

Houston Abolition Collective
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December 2021 Newsletter

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