In the Autumn 2020 issue of Dazed Digital, there is a short package about abolition guest-edited by Chicago rapper (and radical book club founder) Noname. Through Noname Book Club, the rapper has spent the last year committed to not only uplifting the voices of writers and thinkers of color through her monthly book selections, but also to learning with and providing resources and support to incarcerated people. In her Dazed package, one of the articles “What Is Abolition?” was written by Stephen Wilson, an incarcerated writer and abolitionist organizer. (At the bottom of the package, it is noted that Wilson was placed into solitary confinement soon after completing the essay.)
Although Noname began her book club back in July 2019, more recently one of her primary focuses has been on abolition—both of the prisons, and of the police.
“I think the hardest part of abolition is really just being OK with the fact that you’re going to have to live in a world with people who have been deemed unfit for society, ‘criminals’. It’s hard for people to see that – to see the humanity of those who have been cast aside. Or to even rationalise that a lot of the reasons why people are incarcerated are completely linked to white supremacy and capitalism.”
“I think it is easier to appeal to the defunding of the police (than it is to abolishing prison), because people see police brutality more than they see how violent prisons are,” she says. “I think, also, it’s different when you see a kid get shot, (because) you can rationalise why that’s not right. You can’t rationalise a ‘criminal’, someone who you’ve decided is unfit to exist in society. It takes a lot of work.”
Noname puts a lot of thought into how she uses her platform, both in relation to the role she can play in educating others by sharing her own learning process and in terms of normalizing directly talking about abolition, capitalism, and white supremacy.
“I think I have a responsibility to use my platform in a specific way,” says Noname. “And I know that drives me to become more radical. Because I want to see these politics more in the mainstream. Even the folks who are ‘political’, who have large platforms, they’re not really radical. They would never tweet, ‘I believe (in) revolutionary violence.’ They don’t even usually use the word abolition. (There are) celebrities who never, ever use the word capitalism when they make their social critiques and I think it’s important that we do that, because those are the true issues that we need to be naming.”
Noname also talks about how the pandemic-induced lockdown (along with the rising unemployment and economic recession) has given people a new lens through which to understand the ways capitalism and other systems of oppression dismantle collective thinking by creating divisions.
“I feel like someone dreamed the world that we’re in,” Noname exclaims. “Why can’t we dream of something else?”
Read the entire piece and the rest of the abolition package here.