Marguerite Casey Foundation (MCF), in partnership with Seattle Arts and Lectures, invites you to our first book event of the year. Tune in virtually on February 3rd at 4 p.m. PST for a conversation with Derecka Purnell, author of Becoming Abolitionists: Police, Protests, and the Pursuit of Freedom and Dr. Robin D. G. Kelley, a widely published American historian and one of MCF’s 2021 Freedom Scholars.
This event is part of our MCF Book Club: Reading for a Liberated Future series. The MCF Book Club sharesthe ideas of leaders who encourage us to imagine how we can radically transform our democracy,economy, and society.
In the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd and the resurgence of Black Lives Matter the call for the abolition of the police became a central demand for the movement. In this extraordinary, revelatory memoir, Derecka Purnell recounts her own path towards abolitionism. Her story starts in St. Louis, where she was often unhoused and experienced food insecurity, and where calling 911 was often the only option in a crisis. She describes her political awakening and activism through watching the aftermaths of events including Hurricane Katrina, the murder of Trayvon Martin and the uprising in her hometown of Ferguson following the death of Michael Brown. Through Harvard Law School she comes to see that that solution can be found not just in the debate on better policing but the end of the policing itself. Through her own story she makes a powerful, passionate argument for rethinking a fair, equal society where there is no place for state violence and racial repression. Purnell confronts the history of police as a means to capture runaway slaves and uphold white supremacy, to the over-policing and murder of Black people in today's cities. She argues that the police are doing exactly what they were created to do and, in response, imagines new systems that work to address the root causes of violence instead. A revolutionary book about the hope for freedom, Becoming Abolitionists will inspire readers to imagine and create new communities that can guarantee safety, equality, and real justice for all.
Derecka Purnell is a lawyer, organizer, and author of Becoming Abolitionists: Police, Protests, and the Pursuit of Freedom. She works to end police and prison violence by providing legal assistance, research, and training in grassroots organizations through an abolitionist framework. In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Purnell co-created the COVID-19 Policing Project at the Community Resource Hub for Safety Accountability to track police arrests, harassment, citations and other enforcement through public health orders related to the pandemic. Her writing has been published widely, including in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Boston Review, Teen Vogue, and Harper's Bazaar. Purnell has lectured, studied, and strategized around social movements across the United States, The Netherlands, Belgium, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and Australia. She is currently a columnist at The Guardian, a Margaret Burroughs Fellow for the Social Justice Initiative’s Portal Project at the University of Illinois-Chicago, and a Scholar-in-Residence at Columbia Law School.
Robin D. G. Kelley was selected by Marguerite Casey Foundation and Group Health Foundation as a 2021 Freedom Scholar. Dr. Kelley is a widely published scholar, teacher, and Guggenheim Fellow. His work explores the history of social movements in the U.S., the African diaspora, and Africa, extending into research on Black intellectuals, music and visual culture, and surrealism and Marxism. Kelley’s most recent books include Africa Speaks, America Answers: Modern Jazz in Revolutionary Times and Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original. He is also co-editor of numerous books, including Walter Rodney, The Russian Revolution: A View from the Third World, and The Other Special Relationship: Race, Rights, and Riots in Britain and the United States. He is currently completing three book projects