Dear Friends & Comrades of Critical Resistance (CR),
Thank you so much to everyone who joined us in-person or online for Toward Abolitionist Horizons, a benefit celebrating 25 years of Critical Resistance at San Francisco State University in the Bay Area in California.
On Friday, May 5, we were joined by over 350 people in person from multiple states in the US and over 350 comrades internationally online via livestream. Leading up to and during the night, we were able to raise over $40,000 all because of your support. Be it through ticket sales, sponsorships from movement partners and loyal CR sustainers, or donations during the event itself, CR’s community really showed up and showed out.
In addition to so many new and familiar faces in the in-person and virtual audiences, we want to thank our movement partners who supported programming for the event.
- We are honored to have begun our event with longtime Bay Area community partner, Morning Star Gali, sharing grounding reminders of the historical stewards of the Ohlone land we were on, as well as remind us of the urgent necessity to organize toward decolonization.
- Bay Area community education initiative Abundant Beginnings provided radical childcare and engaging activities for youngsters in attendance, and we were honored to have hometown favorite Mama Lamees feed all of us at McKenna Theater a delicious and nutritious “feast from the Middle East.”
- Thank you to Repertoire Productions for providing livestream support.
- Thank you to Norman and Danny, our Spanish language translators, as well as Lisa and Lixa, our ASL interpreters. We can’t thank you all enough!
- Thank you to Brooke Anderson and Glenn “Muggs” for capturing photos of this beautiful night, as well as Jules Retzlaff for taking additional video footage.
We strongly encourage all Bay Area based organizations to consider partnering with any and all of these individuals and groups – don’t hesitate to reach out to us directly if you wish for CR to connect you.
After guests mingled, (re) connected over good food, and participated in an interactive timeline activity covering some of CR’s extensive 25-year history, the program of the main event started in McKenna Theater with Dancing Through Prison Walls—a California-based dance and performance project whose mission is to dance with, choreograph with, and tell stories within embodied carceral landscapes and beyond, amplifying voices of incarcerated people to address imprisonment—poetically bookending the program for that night with their pieces DATA: 9 Ways to Dance Through Prison Walls and Undanced Dances Through Prison Walls During a Pandemic, which highlights the deadly impacts of COVID-19 on imprisoned people.
Following the first dance performance, CR’s National Campaigns Director Mohamed Shehk shared a retrospective of CR’s work across the past few decades, uplifting several key turning-point gains made in the struggle for prison industrial complex (PIC) abolition, and looking forward into the next 25 years by introducing the audience to some of CR’s current statewide campaign work to close California prisons and curtail immigrant detention in New York.
We were fortunate to be able to share a direct statement from Stephen Wilson, CR’s columnist of The Abolitionist newspaper imprisoned in Pennsylvania, about the impacts CR has made in the past 25 years. Across our printed program, as well as in the in-person CR timeline activity, we were able to share thoughtful words from more of our imprisoned comrades about where the PIC abolitionist movement has been, what we stand to learn from those organizing gains, and what’s needed to get our people free in the future. We invite you read or revisit our printed program, as well as CR’s Prisoner Speak Out page on our website, to view these statements from our comrades across the walls. As Stevie points out:
“What is especially noteworthy is how CR has been able to keep us informed of the PIC throughout its many reforms, adaptations, adjustments and makeovers. […] Moving forward, we need to continue to connect with people, inside and outside, so we can build a broad-based movement. […] In order to connect with people inside, we must stay invested in print publications. People inside, those experiencing policing and imprisonment everyday, those closest to the problem, don’t have internet access. Print media is how they get their news. The Abolitionist connects people inside to the movement. It provides analysis, history, current events, and a forum for discussion. It is a space where community is created and practiced. So much of our activism has moved online. We need to remember that many of our community members don’t have internet access. Supporting print media enables them to be in the conversation. And we need to hear their voices.”
We also worked to bring in the voices of our cofounders, movement elders, and longtime CR comrades into the space. In the recording of the event as well as a pre-show slideshow of CR’s first 25 years of organizing, you can find full clips of well-wishes and inspiration from these beloved organizers, including Ruth Wilson Gilmore, one of CR’s cofounders, former CR conference organizer and an organizer of CR’s first campaign to stop the construction of Californian’s last state prison—Delano II.
Finally, Mohamed also made space to honor some CR members and close movement partners who have passed away in the past 25 years—including Rose Braz, Bo Brown, Elder Ronald Freeman, Mike Davis, Linda Thurston, Zachary Ontiveros, Marilyn Buck, and Paul Redd–and reminded the room: “The work of Critical Resistance is for all these people and the countless more who have passed. It is for our ancestors, the people and communities we currently hold and cherish, and the many that will come after us – that we continue to fight and to struggle for liberation.”
The panel conversation with CR founding conference organizer, Angela Davis, along longtime movement partner and advisor, Interrupting Criminalization’s Andrea Ritchie, and Asian Prisoner Support Committee’s Ny Nourn, moderated by Right to the City Alliance’s (and CR’s very own) Kamau Walton inspired deep reflection in the audience and provoked clear vision for carrying the struggle to abolish the PIC across multiple generations, geographies and fronts of organizing in the years to come as we navigate the tough organizing terrain of converging crises of late-stage capitalism, climate catastrophe, the pandemic and subsequent healthcare collapse, and far right escalating fascism.
This was CR’s first large in-person event since the pandemic began several years ago, and we continue to be grateful for our guests’ commitment to protocols for collective health and accessibility. Such strong community bonds and commitments enabled us to witness a thought-provoking panel, participate in dance performances that brought us out our seats, and take in many movement reflections and victories, all in shared (physical and digital) space. We will continue to release footage from this event for you to relive the excitement, and are already working on event transcriptions to send to our comrades inside. We also hope to do more events, actions, and projects this year to celebrate CR’s first 25 years of strategy and struggle to abolish the PIC.
Thank you for making our 25th anniversary celebration and fundraiser such a success. It has been a long and fruitful 25 years, and we look forward to our work in the next 25. PIC abolition is long-haul work, and we invite you to support CR’s continued contributions to the fight for liberation. We call on you to sustain CR with your time or with your donations. Every penny helps us chip away at the prison industrial complex.