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praxis

Robust Imaginaries
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Informed Practice

Welcome to the Praxis Center, an online resource center for scholars, activists and artists hosted by the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership at Kalamazoo College. From action research and radical scholarship to engaged teaching and grassroots activism to community and cultural organizing, and revelatory art practice, we make visible imperative social justice work being done today.

Praxis is
the synergy between
theory and practice,
knowledge and relevance,
ideas, images, and the real.

Contact

Karla Aguilar
Program Coordinator
Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership
karla.aguilar@kzoo.edu
269-337-7033

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Youth Resistance Unleashed: Black Lives Matter

By Bernardine Dohrn

“Those who kill their own children and discriminate daily against them because of the color of their skin; those who let the murderers of blacks remain free, protecting them, and furthermore punishing the black population because they demand their legitimate rights as free men—how can those who do this consider themselves guardians of freedom?”

Che Guevara
Before the United Nations
12-11-1964

In my lifetime young people rose up to challenge and change the world in Little Rock and Birmingham, in Soweto and Tiananmen, in Palestine and Chiapas. In the last decade we saw the rise of Arab Spring and Occupy, and now we are in the midst of vivid mass resistance to the police killing of unarmed Black men and women spurred by the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Now and historically, it is the youth who reject taken-for-granted injustices.[1] In this moment, young people are the social actors – the leadership, catalysts,  the activists, and the organizers – who seized and defined a continuing travesty of North American life: the police murder of Black lives. Rising up against the thickening layers of institutionalized white supremacy, young people are insisting that Black Lives Matter. Continue reading →

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Doing the Right Thing: Ending the Criminalization of Mental Illness

By Michelle Lugalia-Hollon, Contributing Editor, Global Health

In an unprecedented national call-to-action to lower the number of people with mental illness in the jails, the Council of State Governments Justice Center (CSG) and the National Association of Counties (NaCo) convened leaders in behavioral health and criminal justice at the end of last year. In the United States, where dealing with mentally ill citizens has caused much hand wringing and little sustainable progress over the last few centuries, this is a big deal.

The mentally ill have cycled through various institutions, from asylums to nursing homes, which have all assumed and lost the responsibility for treating them depending on the reform of the day. Though evidence-based solutions have been well researched, implemented and documented, years of effort to adequately address severe mental illness have failed to take root primarily due to inadequate financial support for well-meaning reforms. Across the nation, as best-practices have continued to be gutted, these primarily poor and under-resourced individuals have lost access to the mental health and social services that can keep them healthy, housed and employed. Without access to these vital services mentally ill citizens are left to survive in communities where their unmanaged mental illnesses drive their repeated involvement in illegal behaviors that lead to their arrests. This criminalization of mental illness has led to a disproportionate number of these citizens detained in jails and prisons. Consequently, prisons and jails have become the largest and most utilized mental health institutions across the United States. Continue reading →

Comments on Doing the Right Thing: Ending the Criminalization of Mental Illness

Alex Morgan says:

Just like the national picture, individual states (like Michigan under Republican John Engler) slashed funding for state hospitals and put folks out on the streets. I hope that one day we treat people with mental illness with the same dignity and respect we give anyone else.

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Excavating Our History: What does it mean to be a Social Justice Archivist?

By Skylah S. Hearn

Activism Revisited

Last year I participated in a conversation on WSTS (West Side) Radio’s roundtable on community engagement and activism called “Activism in Our Community, Honoring MLK” on “The Corner,” a topical show that focuses on current news, events, hot topics and issues relevant to diverse communities in Chicago.[1] The creator and co-host Nicole Harrison provided all of the participants – which included Kimeco Roberson, Jasson Perez, Tillman “TC” Curtis and myself – with brief bios in an effort to have us familiarize ourselves with one another. I was familiar with the majority of the panel and knew them to be activists. But when I read “activist” in my list of descriptors I was taken aback.

Until that moment, I hadn’t thought of myself as an activist and was surprised that Nicole, who is a good friend of mine, viewed me as such. She was equally surprised that I’d never considered myself an activist. I confessed that I’d always viewed myself as a behind-the-scenes accomplice and solutionary, a change agent. I wasn’t bold enough, so to speak, to be on the front lines with picket signs. After a short debate, discussing and juxtaposing said actions of “the activist” and “the change agent”, we determined that, at the core, the roles are synonymous. Whether the actions are on the frontlines or behind-the-scenes, all are carried out by people who have accepted the charge to be committed to changing the current injustices in the social climate and therefore committed to social justice. Continue reading →

Comments on Excavating Our History: What does it mean to be a Social Justice Archivist?

Tamar Dougherty says:

Skylah, I am so proud of you. Your work in Chicago is the perfect example of how our roles and responsibilities as archivists are multifaceted and include documenting social movements and promoting historical democracy (and accuracy); rather than the more limited observation of our profession which focuses only on our duties as processors and preservers. Social justice “Activist Archivists” such as yourself, take the archival profession further by expanding our influence as memory keepers to create outreach programs which inspire public action. Archival social justice outreach should be designed to raise awareness around marginalized communities like those on the Westside of Chicago. As a native Chicago “westside girl” I also thank you.
Your work on these projects will bring about change in the historical record as well as a sense of empowerment within the African American community. Bravo!

Betty Hearn says:

I am so proud of Skyla and I will support her.

Rodney Chambers says:

Very interesting article and perscpective on how we see ourselves, how others may view us and what our mission and purpose should be in this world. Well written and eye-opening and good inspriation to self-reflect. (P.S – Love Sweetback!)

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