It’s been my great pleasure to collaborate with the Philly-based abolitionists Amistad Law Project on a series of animations illustrating practical alternatives to police and prisons. In the words of Amistad-
Sending people armed with guns to respond to mental health crises and public nuisance complaints is dangerous. It is often counterproductive and sometimes fatal. But what could take the place of policing? And in response to an epidemic of homicide, what are ways that we can keep our communities safer? In collaboration with artist Erik Ruin, Amistad Law Project staked out a creative path in lifting up alternatives to policing. In this two part series, we explore two ideas for programs that could both reduce reliance on police and reduce street violence.
See below for the videos and a few brief notes on the process-
In part one, narrator Kris Henderson (executive director of Amistad) lays out a variety of ways tax dollars could be diverted from policing and into communities to address harm. For this one, the animation is rooted in one gradually transforming image, based on a street corner in North Philly with a high incidence of gun violence. I show what the potential impact of redirecting resources might look like, employing a combination of a scratchboard-style ink drawing on acetate and layered watercolors.
Part 2 focuses on violence interrupter programs, specifically using the example of returning citizens with life sentences to their communities to help interrupt cycles of violence. This video is narrated by Kempis “Ghani” Songster, who was himself locked up on a life sentence at the age of 15, and has been an inspiring leader in anti-carceral struggles since his release in 2017, as an organizer with Amistad, Right to Redemption, Ubuntu Philadelphia, and now as Restorative Justice Program Manager for the Youth Art & Self-Empowerment Project.
The primary visual basis for this animation was a role-play in conflict resolution I staged with Ghani and other staff at Amistad, in a series of frame-by-frame sumi ink re-drawings that were then looped, transformed and layered with various other hand-drawn elements.
For both of these videos, brilliant local hip-hop producer John Morrison loaned us some dreamy instrumentals, drawn from his album Southwest Psychedelphia, which I highly recommend.
Absolutely! Restorative justice is not lofty–it’s practical and humane! Powerful argument and the graphics and instrumentals make it even more impactful. Kudos to Erik, Kris, Kempis (“Ghami”), John and everyone in the Amistad Law Project for the amazing work you’re doing!