Becoming Abolitionists– A History of Failed Police Reforms & Vision for True Public Safety

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. ‍

FEBRUARY 3, 2022
4:00 PM - 5:00 PM PST

This event is part of our MCF Book Club: Reading for a Liberated Future series. The MCF Book Club shares the ideas of leaders who encourage us to imagine how we can radically transform our democracy, economy, and society.

Becoming Abolitionists: Police, Protests, and the Pursuit of Freedom

Millions of people continue to protest police violence because these “solutions” do not match the problem: the police cannot be reformed. In her critically acclaimed first book Becoming Abolitionists, Purnell draws from her experiences as a lawyer, writer, and organizer initially skeptical about police abolition.

Purnell details how multi-racial social movements rooted in rebellion, risk-taking, and revolutionary love pushed her and a generation of activists toward abolition. The book travels across geography and time, and offers lessons that activists have learned from Ferguson to South Africa, from Reconstruction to contemporary protests against police shootings.

Featured Participants

Derecka Purnell

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

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