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praxis

Robust Imaginaries
             +
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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What’s Your Story?

By Bill Ayers

We are all refugees from our childhoods. And so we turn, among other things, to stories. To write a story, to read a story, is to be a refugee from the state of refugees. Writers and readers seek a solution to the problem that time passes, that those who have gone are gone and those who will go, which is to say every one of us, will go. For there was a moment when anything was possible. And there will be a moment when nothing is possible. But in between we can create.
~Moshin Hamid, How to get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia

I shall create!/ If not a note, a hole/ If not an overture, a desecration.
~Gwendolyn Brooks, “Boy Breaking Glass”
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Opening the Black Box: Reparations and the Power of Radical Imagination

By Alice Kim

Last week, the city of Chicago made history when the City Council unanimously voted to pass a reparations package for Chicago Police torture survivors, specifically a group of African American men who were tortured by former Commander Jon Burge and detectives under his command. The culmination of decades of struggle against Burge torture and a more recent #RahmRepNow campaign led by Chicago Torture Justice Memorials (CTJM), Amnesty International, Project NIA, and We Charge Genocide, this marks the first time in the United States that a municipality will provide reparations to African Americans in response to police violence.

 The package was based on the Reparations Ordinance introduced to the City Council in October 2013 by Aldermen Joe Moreno and Howard Brookins. One year before this, the ordinance had made its first public appearance on the walls of an exhibit called “Opening the Black Box: The Charge is Torture.” Curated by CTJM, a collective of artists, educators, activists and attorneys, this exhibit illustrated the power of art as a call to action.

 “Artists are here to disturb the peace,” James Baldwin said. And that was the intent of our collective. Preceding the exhibit, we put out a call for proposals asking justice seekers to unleash their radical imaginations and create speculative monuments that memorialized the brutal history of Burge torture and the struggle against it. Our call for proposals was not a juried contest, instead we promised to showcase all proposals received in an art exhibit or a dedicated website. Over 70 artists from around the world responded with submissions, and one year after we put out our call for proposals, we produced the “Opening the Black Box” exhibit at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Sullivan Gallery.
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Darrell Cannon: Surviving Chicago Police Torture

By Darrell Cannon 

Editor’s note: Darrell Cannon was tortured by Chicago police detectives under the command of former Police Commander Jon Burge. He was a leading voice in the struggle for reparations and continues to be an advocate for justice. He and I spoke with students in Lisa Brock’s class on Ferguson at the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership at Kalamazoo College the week after Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that he had agreed to a reparations package for Burge torture survivors. Darrell’s story is one of horror and hope, and he never minces words when he speaks. In detail, he describes his harrowing experience of torture, the uphill legal battle he faced to win his freedom, and the recent fight for reparations. Here is an excerpt from the story Darrell shared that day. ~ Alice Kim

Speaking out at a Sing-In for Reparations at City Hall. Photo credit: Sarah Jane Rhee

During that particular day on November 2nd, 1983, during the entire time that these white detectives tortured me, my name was never Darrell Cannon, my name was always “nigger” this, “nigger” that. And when they took me to the torture site [an abandoned parking lot] to torture me, one detective, the most sadistic detective one out of all of them was named Peter Dignan. He was so racist that he the one that took the shotgun. For any of you that know anything about weapons, if I say he played Russian Roulette with me with a shotgun, if you know anything about a shot gun you’d say how can he do that when there’s no chamber to spin around. Okay, I’m going to explain to you how they did it. Continue reading →

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