Monica Trinidad is a visual artist and organizer, born and raised on the southeast side of Chicago. She is a co-founder of For the People Artists Collective, a radical squad of Black artists and artists of color in Chicago who create art for Chicago's most powerful justice movements. Monica creates artwork to cultivate the practice of hope and to spark imagination in both organizers immersed in the day-to-day spadework of movement building and in every resident in Chicago. Her work is currently in permanent collection at DuSable Museum of African American History. You can listen to her every week on the Lit Review podcast, a literary podcast for the movement, with her co-host Page May, founder of Assata’s Daughters.
Debbie Southorn is a queer abolitionist who works for the American Friends Service Committee in Chicago, where she supports community-based efforts to end police violence, surveillance and militarism. She’s also a founding member of the People’s Response Team, and serves on the National Committee of the War Resisters League.
From #NoCopAcademy: “#NoCopAcademy is a grassroots campaign launched by Assata’s Daughters, Black Lives Matter - Chicago, People’s Response Team, For The People Artists Collective, and 100+ grassroots organizations to mobilize against Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plans to spend $95 million for a massive training center for Chicago Police in West Garfield Park on the city’s West Side. The city’s quiet unveiling suggests they are trying to avoid public scrutiny of this latest spending scheme, but we will not be robbed of our resources quietly. We refuse any expansion of policing in Chicago, and demand accountability for decades of violence. We will fight for funding for our communities, and support each other in building genuine community safety in the face of escalating attacks.”
As two adult lead organizers in #NoCopAcademy, Monica and Debbie outline their journeys into activism, noting how they both cut their teeth in organizing in the 2000s in resistance to the Iraq War. The group discusses Chicago’s history of radical organizing from the Rainbow Coalition in the 1960s, to We Charge Genocide in 2014, to Reparations Now and Justice 4 LaQuan. BrownTown and guests dissect what the larger Invest/Divest framework means in terms of #NoCopAcademy as positioned against reformist arguments of piecemeal solutions to systemic problems. Recorded about a month after Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that he would not run for re-election in February 2019, BrownTown listens to Monica and Debbie’s take, organizers’ relationship with his administration, and the (presumed) effectiveness of public shaming people in power. With coalition-building at the helm, Monica and Debbie are clear to describe #NoCopAcademy as a campaign first-and-foremost with a coalition built around it, rather than a coalition taking on several campaigns over its tenure (like R3 Coalition Chicago). Coalition work is difficult but, at times, necessary. Debbie elaborates, giving a nod to musician, activist, and Black Feminist Bernice Johnson Reagon’s reflections on the subject, as well as noting some of the endorsing organizations who throw down for #NoCopAcademy through their own unique perspective, experience, and analysis (noted: i2i in the Lunar New Year parade, SURJ, etc.). Last but certainly not least, the group takes their hats of to the youth who consistently spearhead the campaign, and look forward to the next iteration of the fight, the upcoming municipal election season, and what it means for the future of Chicago.
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