Intro Message from Jamani Montague, CR’s New Membership Coordinator
My name is Jamani Montague and in October 2019 I stepped into the role of National Membership Coordinator with Critical Resistance. In my role, I’ll be supporting healthy member, volunteer and partner engagement, recruitment and onboarding, political education, and skill-building & leadership development across each of our chapters. I am excited to work alongside the amazing leadership of Critical Resistance’s volunteer-membership base, continuing sharpening our political ideology, engaging new folks in our abolitionist organizing work, and developing new language and alternative resources to what’s offered by the state.
CR has been my political home for most of adult life, offering reports, toolkits, and videos/media that have been instrumental in shaping my understanding of the PIC and abolition and in guiding my theory and practice throughout my organizing career. I’ve been organizing against jail construction with the Critical Resistance-Los Angeles chapter since June 2018, and I’m beyond excited to be joining as a national staff member.
I come to this work as a Black, queer woman from Newark, NJ who grew up watching my community and family members, including my parents, be tossed in and out of carceral cages. As a teenager, I was unjustly arrested, charged, caged, and sentenced to half a decade felony probation – a sentence that I am still serving and that continues to shape my life daily. Like so many of you, I’ve experienced the multifaceted ways in which the prison industrial complex operates to control Black (and Brown, queer, youth, undocumented, and differently-abled, etc.) bodies, dismantle already marginalized communities and destroy lives, and I have committed my life’s work to building abolition.
Over the years, I’ve worked with community groups on numerous campaigns and projects, with the goal of stripping power from the prison-industrial-complex and building power in people and communities. Since 2014, I’ve been working on inside-outside campaigns with imprisoned folks across the country, organizing against inhumane living conditions like contaminated drinking water, extreme deadly heat, excessive use of force by guards, and other conditions that threaten survival. This work continues to inform my commitment to abolition and dismantling the PIC.
Before coming on board with CR, I worked as a Research & Project Associate with The Bail Project for close to two years, where I helped manage data collection and reporting outcomes to communities, and helped develop internal systems to build leadership, accountability and cultural competency across the organization. Prior to that, I worked with grassroots community groups in Hillside, NJ and Atlanta, GA to help develop training materials and evaluation tools for local pre-arrest diversion initiatives. And in 2017, I founded Emory SPEAR (Students for Prison Education, Activism and Resistance), an organizing group for directly impacted graduate and undergraduate students on Emory University’s campus. SPEAR manages an Incarceration Hardship Fund for directly impacted students on campus and runs a weekly tutoring program at Lee Arrendale State Women’s Prison.
I am not exaggerating when I say Critical Resistance has provided instrumental building blocks for every project or organization that I have worked with.
At CR, we have taken on the task of building towards for a world free of state-sanctioned and interpersonal violence and full of community-based resources and safety nets that make us feel supported, safe and free. We have a long road ahead of us for sure – but I’m excited to be working alongside you all, organizing for concrete material gains and cultural shifts towards abolition as well as doing the everyday work to support our communities in building strong networks of support and care so that we can completely eliminate our reliance on the PIC.
I come to you all as a community organizer, political strategist, and data analyst, with a Black queer feminist lens. CR is my home and I pay homage to my ancestors through this work. Let’s get free.