MIC Center Roundtable: Abolition Democracy and Media
Featuring Joy James, Tauhid Chappell, Clarise McCants, Diamante Ortiz, Diamond Hardiman, and Malav Kanuga
A new era of abolitionism has arrived in the United States. We see the idea of abolition reverberate across the Black Lives Matter and other BIPOC-led racial justice movements, as well as ongoing campaigns against police brutality, criminalization, mass incarceration, migrant detention and deportation, and support for political prisoners. How are today’s abolitionists challenging establishment media in their role in perpetuating racial, class, and social injustice and their responsibilities to redress historic and ongoing harm to racialized communities? What alternative abolitionist media are emerging from a range of communities and social movements?
This event brings scholars and activists into conversation to reflect on the lessons and possibilities for today’s abolitionist movements and their relation to media transformation — both institutionally in terms of the transformation of the existing media system, as well as the media transformations unfolding at the community and movement level that are building abolitionist futures.
The discussion will address the questions: What role does the media play in upholding the particular form of penal democracy to which we are asked to consent? How important is freedom to democracy? What other forms of media and democracy are possible? What does a truly free press look like?
Ultimately, we will explore the fundamental question of how the principles of democracy and abolition can guide a just media system and a free society.
Moderator: Malav Kanuga, MIC Center postdoctoral researcher
About the Speakers
Joy James is Ebenezer Fitch Professor of the Humanities at Williams College. An activist/advocate working for the release of political prisoners who challenged state violence and repression, James works with the Abolition Collective (AC) Black Internationalist Unions (BIUs), and was an editor of the AC 2016 Elections Blog. James writes on the "Captive Maternal" in political philosophy and popular culture. Her writings on politics, feminism and critical race theory, democracy and social justice have appeared in The Black Scholar, Boston Review, The New York Times, AAIHS Blog, APA Blog, and Feminist Wire.
James is the author of Seeking the 'Beloved Community'; Shadowboxing: Representations of Black Feminist Politics; Transcending the Talented Tenth: Black Leaders and American Intellectuals; and Resisting State Violence: Radicalism, Gender and Race in U.S. Culture. Her edited books on captivity and abolitionism include: Warfare in the American Homeland; The New Abolitionists: (Neo) Slave Narratives and Contemporary Prison Writings; Imprisoned Intellectuals; States of Confinement; The Black Feminist Reader (coedited with TD Sharpley-Whiting); and The Angela Y. Davis Reader. James curated the Harriet Tubman Literary Circle at UT-Austin to address abolitionist politics. She is currently working with activists and educators on a 2021 tribunal on political imprisonment and human rights violations in the US.
Tauhid Chappell is a project manager for Free Press’ News Voices project, focusing on the program’s Philadelphia initiative to reimagine how the city’s local newsrooms approach their coverage of crime, violence and the criminal justice and carceral systems. An eight-year veteran of the media industry, he most recently worked as a social-media editor at The Washington Post before joining The Philadelphia Inquirer as an engagement editor, where he analyzed reader behavior on search, social and digital platforms. Tauhid is also an executive board member and parliamentarian of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists, the first and oldest association of Black journalists in the country and the founding chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists.
Clarise McCants heads the Story Team at Movement Alliance Project (MAP) and helps lead MAP’s work building narrative power that strengthens communities’ ability to make lasting change. This includes supporting campaigns and coalition work with narrative strategy, powerful content creation, and amplification. Clarise also leads the Police and Violence Narrative Project and works to transform dominant narratives on violence, police, and mass incarceration and center communities’ needs in the conversation on what it means to completely reimagine public safety. As a native Philadelphian, her leadership stems from the starting place of her own lived experience.
Diamante Ortiz (she/her) is the cofounder and Director of Strategic Partnerships for the Black and Brown Coalition of Philadelphia and a leader in Reclaim Philadelphia’s Mass Liberation Task Force. Diamante’s passion for community engagement, advocacy, and political transparency began throughout her childhood in Los Sures Brooklyn, with gentrification and uprooting to BIPOC and this carried over to her undergraduate career at Temple University, where she continued to support groups such Stadium Stompers.
Diamond Hardiman is a coauthor and collaborator of Media 2070 report. She works as Free Press’ News Voices: Colorado manager in collaboration with community to reimagine local news. She aims to participate in the creation of a world where freedom is noncontingent—but rather, an inevitable necessity. She has worked in St.Louis and Mississippi as an advocate for tenants’ rights, bail abolition and for people sentenced to state execution. Diamond earned a B.A. in African-American Studies and Political Science from Saint Louis University.