By Kim Katrin Milan
Slave patrols and Night Watches, which later became modern police departments, were both designed to protect the ‘property’ of slaveowners. Enslaved African people were that property. “Slave patrols helped to maintain the economic order and to assist the wealthy landowners in recovering and punishing (enslaved African people) who essentially were considered property.” That is still largely what they do.
I think that as Black people it is important that we set up community-based support systems so when we need help, we have places to call with people who aren’t going to murder us with impunity. Ciphers, kitchen circles, neighborhood watches and healing justice spaces are a few of the many responses that we have developed collectively. Personally, with folks that I know may be vulnerable for violence, I have been part of a phone tree of people they can call in an emergency. Structures like this are important for finding ways to navigate intimate violence while finding ways to evade the increasing levels of violence from service providers. Black women between the ages of 18 to 35 are most likely to die due to domestic abuse. Black Trans* women are disproportionately targeted. We are always the ones to take the best care of ourselves; these structures have been flexible and changing and have always been more reliable than anything external. These structures are significant for all Black people and is one of the many reasons why remaining grounded in acknowledging multiple and intersecting forms of systemic violence as we continue this work is an absolute necessity. We have so much to learn from each other, and so much misogyny and gender-based violence that will continue to plague our communities if we don’t address them.
“Here’s the truth: friendships between women are often the deepest and most profound love stories, but they are often discussed as if they are ancillary, “bonus” relationships to the truly important ones. Women’s friendships outlast jobs, parents, husbands, boyfriends, lovers, and– Emily Rapp
sometimes children…it’s possible to transcend the limits of your skin in a friendship…This kind of friendship is not a frivolous connection, a supplementary relationship to the ones we’re taught and told are primary – spouses, children, parents. It is love…Support, salvation, transformation, life: this is what women give to one another when they are true friends, soul
So often this work that is unpaid and life-changing isn’t valued in the movements that are formed or in the institutions providing resources. Especially as Black women in this work, the violence that we navigate is not only street based but is also in our homes. I don’t think that counseling programs that are set up by these racist white institutions run by people with declared and undeclared prejudice against Black people are ever going to work to ‘rehabilitate’ our communities. They might provide a service, but they don’t provide care. When I ask for more in these situations of domestic violence I am thinking of community-based healing work, transformative justice, things that would involve our peers, that involve Black women, other Black people – I am interested in the ways that we change families, and communities and shift paradigms. As Black people we transform the world all the time! From Hip Hop to Jazz, we impact culture globally – as well as locally. I am completely convinced of our capacity when we are honest about the ineffectiveness of existing institutions. I am so interested in movements around transformative justice and prison abolition. Generation 5 has some really amazing approaches to healing domestic violence and child abuse and to healing communities via justice circles as held by Indigenous communities across North America. These processes recognize the need for healing to happen within communities and for accountability to grow, rather than to attempt to disappear social problems by disappearing people.
The things that are currently in place clearly don’t work and prison definitely doesn’t. With only five percent of the world’s population with twenty-five percent of the world’s prison population; if prison worked, the United States would be the safest country in the world. I am suggesting that things should be radically different.
We need to be willing to trust in our capacity to create the solutions we need in our own communities. We have a responsibility to make this world more ethical than the one we came in to.
Kim Katrin Milan is a daughter of the diaspora, Arawak, West African, Indian and Dutch, hailing from Trinidad and living between Toronto & New York. Kim Katrin Milan is an award-winning internationally acclaimed artist, educator, and writer. Kim is the co-founder and the Executive Director of The People Project, 8 years in the making; a movement of queer and trans folks of color and our allies, committed to individual and community empowerment through alternative education, art activism, and collaboration. A public researcher and human rights educator, she shares over 80 unique resources and presentations as well as delivered hundreds of workshops around race, gender, power, privilege, consent, creation, food and entrepreneurship. Kim also engages in community based healing initiatives including teaching Queer and Brown Girls Yoga. Check her out here