Defend/Defund: A Visual History of Organizing Against the Police

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    Interference Archive

    Publisher: Common Notions

    Year: 2023

    Format: Paperback

    Size: 176 pages

    ISBN: 9781942173885

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A sweeping and poignant history of community response to the violence of white supremacy and carceral systems in the US, told through interviews, archival reproductions, and narrative.

In the summer of 2020, the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Tony McDade ignited a movement that led to the largest street protests in American history. Abolitionist grassroots organizers around the country unified around a clear demand: defund the police and refund our communities. While the majority of the country supported the call to reform the police, what followed was a backlash from mainstream politicians and the press, all but defeating the movement to end the continued violence against Black Americans. 

Defend / Defund examines the history of how communities have responded to the violence of white supremacy and carceral systems in the United States and asks what lessons the modern abolitionist movement can draw from this past. Organized in a series of thematic sections from the use of self-defense by Black organizers, to queer resistance in urban spaces, the narrative is accompanied by over one hundred full-color images including archival materials produced by Emory Douglas, the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense and the Young Lords in the 1960s and 70s, CopWatch and the Stolen Lives Project in the 1980s and 1990s, and contemporary material from the Movement for Black Lives, Project NIA, and INCITE!, Defend / Defund shows how deep the struggles for abolition go and how urgent they remain.  

In addition to full-color reproduction of archival materials, the narrative includes transcripts of interviews with activists, scholars, and artists such as Mariame Kaba, Dread Scott, Dennis Flores, Dr. Joshua Myers, Jawanza Williams (VOCAL-NY and Free Black Radicals), Cheryl Rivera (NYC-DSA Racial Justice Working Group and Abolition Action), and Bianca Cunningham (Free Black Radicals). Each conversation dives into the history of specific struggles with, and organizing against, police and police brutality. 

In total, the publication shows how the modern Defund movement builds on powerful Black feminist and abolitionist movements past and imagines alternatives to policing for community safety for our present.

About the Authors

Interference Archive is a community-supported archive of material from social movements around the world, created with a mission to explore the relationship between cultural production and social movements. This work manifests in an open stacks archival collection, publications, a study center, and public programs including exhibitions, workshops, talks, and screenings, all of which encourage critical and creative engagement with the rich history of social movements.

Brooke Darrah Shuman is a video producer at More Perfect Union covering labor and workers' rights. Her video and writing has appeared in HuffPost, Bon Appétit, The New Yorker and the Southern Foodways Alliance. She is a volunteer at Interference Archive, an open stacks archive of political movement material, where she has worked on exhibitions on antifascism in the United States and disability/crip activism.

Jen Hoyer is a librarian at CUNY New York City College of Technology and has volunteered on collections, exhibitions, and education projects at Interference Archive since 2013. Her writing about the intersections of education, archives, and social movement history is available in The Social Movement Archive (Litwin Books, 2021) and What Primary Sources Teach: Lessons for Every Classroom (Libraries Unlimited, 2022).

Josh MacPhee has been collaboratively making, researching, and collecting political art for over twenty years. In 2011, he cofounded the Interference Archive, a library, exhibition, event, and research space in Brooklyn dedicated to the exploration of social movement culture. He is also a member of the Justseeds Artists' Cooperative, and the author/editor of multiple books including Celebrate People's History: The Poster Book of Resistance and Revolution (Feminist Press, 2010 and 2020), An Encyclopedia of Political Record Labels (Common Notions, 2019), and Graphic Liberation: Perspectives on Image Making and Political Movements (Common Notions, 2023). His solo exhibition We Want Everything was hosted by the Cleveland Institute of Art in 2022.

Mariame Kaba is the founder of Project NIA, and has received numerous honors and awards, including the 2019 Morton Deutsch Award for Social Justice, 2019 Visionary Voice Award, and Essence Magazine 2018 #Woke100; an acknowledged expert on the topic of youth incarceration she’s had appearances on NBC News, the Guardian, and Vice.

Dread Scott is a visual artist who makes revolutionary art to propel history forward. He is a 2021 Guggenheim Fellow and a 2020 United States Artists Fellow, whose work has been included in exhibitions at MoMA PS1, the Walker Art Center, Jack Shainman Gallery, and Gallery MOMO in South Africa. It is in the collection of the Whitney Museum and the Brooklyn Museum. The New York Times selected his art as one of The 25 Most Influential Works of American Protest Art Since World War II. In 2019 he presented Slave Rebellion Reenactment, a project that reenacted the largest rebellion of enslaved people in US history. The project was featured in Vanity Fair and on CNN.

Dennis Flores is a Nuyorican multimedia artist, activist and educator born and raised in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. He is the cofounder of El Grito de Sunset Park, a grassroots community-based organization that advocates around issues of discriminatory policing and housing rights.

Dr. Joshua Myers is an Associate Professor of Africana Studies at Howard University. He is the author of Of Black Study, Cedric Robinson: The Time of the Black Radical Tradition, and We are Worth Fighting For: A History of the Howard University Protest of 1989.

Jawanza Williams has won awards including Citizen Action of New York 2019 Everyday Hero Award and 2020 Village Independent Democrats Honor for Progressive Activism. He has been featured in The New York Times, The Nation, Slate Magazine, NBC News and Vice.

Cheryl Rivera is a Brooklyn-based organizer with NYC-DSA and Abolition Action and an editor of Lux.

Bianca Cunningham is a DSA member in Brooklyn and chair of the NYC DSA Labor Branch. She led her coworkers to join Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1109 in 2014, becoming the first-ever Verizon Wireless retail workers to unionize.

Table of Contents

Introduction Legacies of Violence
Self Defense
Living Under Disinvestment
Whose Streets? Our Streets! 
Civilian Watch Groups
A Conversation with Mariame Kaba
Attempts at Reform  
Civilian Complaint Review Board  
Diversifying The Force  
Eyes on the State
Stolen Lives Project  
A Conversation with Dread Scott
A Conversation with Dennis Flores

Naming the Problem: Pig Nation  
The Black Worker and Police Brutality
Queer Resistance
Fighting for Demilitarization
Cultural Organizing
A Conversation with Joshua Myers
Imagining An Abolitionist Future
A Conversation with Occupy City Hall

Tags: abolition ....... activism ....... Bianca Cunningham ....... Black Liberation ....... Brooke Darrah Shuman ....... Cheryl Rivera ....... Common Notions ....... Dennis Flores ....... Dread Scott ....... history ....... Interference Archive ....... Jawanza Williams ....... Jen Hoyer ....... Josh MacPhee ....... Joshua Myers ....... Mariame Kaba ....... policing and repression ....... queer liberation .......