I have a simple analogy I use to describe our movement: a bird. Abolitionist principles and ethics are the head of the bird. They guide us. They direct the work. Without them, we are dead. We will get nothing done. It is important that we keep are head clear. It is important that we remember that it is not groups or personalities that guide us; it’s principles and ethics. An abolitionist principle like not remedying harm with harm reminds me that caging and exiling people who do harm is not the answer. An abolitionist ethic like radical compassion reminds me that the time to love someone is not when they’ve done well or pleased me, but when they’ve messed up or angered me. Principles and ethics must guide us.
The wings of the bird are inside and outside activists. In order for the bird to fly well, to fly straight, it needs two equally strong wings. If one of the wings is weaker than the other, the bird will fly in a crooked way. If one of the wings is broken, the bird won’t be able to fly at all. It becomes easy prey. Each wing is critical to the bird’s ability to fly well. Inside and outside activists need each other. One without the other leads to failure. Inside activists need outside activists to listen, to provide material support, to be study partners/sponsors, to be accomplices: involve themselves in actions. Inside activists need outside activists to remember that we are not one type: many not us are not able-bodied, neurotypical, cis-het males. Our different social positions affects our incarceration experiences. Inside activists need outside activists to make room for us at the table: invite us to participate in workshops and conferences. And formerly incarceration is not a substitute for currently incarcerated. We are tired of being the topic but not a participant in the conversation.
Together, we can effect great changes in this world. With strong principles and strong wings, we win.