March 13, 2019
Imagining Abolitionist and Decolonizing Futures in a Time of Global Pandemic
Abolition Convergence 2020 has been postponed.
In light of recent global developments regarding the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), after careful consideration the Toronto coordinating committee of Abolition 2020 has decided that we must postpone our convergence planned for May 4-6th 2020. It is with heavy hearts (but with an ethic of responsibility and accountability) that we make this decision. But don’t forget that we will be re-scheduling the convergence once we have more information about when that will be possible.
Why and how did we make this decision?
The difficult decision to postpone the Abolition Convergence was guided by the need to limit mass social gatherings in order to slow the spread of COVID-19, particularly among those people who are most at risk.
In coming to this decision, coordinating committee members asked ourselves some fundamental questions: How do we envision care and accessibility for every participant in this Convergence? How do we protect our communities while also rejecting the simplified authoritarian strategy of “social distancing” and individualist survival? What is an abolitionist response to this global pandemic, and how do we create this future in the here and now?
The Convergence is a space to forefront the courage, resistance and struggles of poor people, disabled people, incarcerated people, people with precarious immigration status, people who live in remote communities, neuro-diverse and neuro-atypical people, and people most directly affected and targeted by the carceral and settler colonial state. We recognize that during times of pandemic, it is these communities that have the least access to resources and are disproportionately impacted by the crisis. The most vulnerable among us are often excluded from decision-making,, even within social justice movements.
So although we are postponing this public gathering, we believe it is more important now than ever that we continue to practice social connection and mutual aid in our communities. Rather than putting a hold on this work, we must find new ways to support and look out for each other in a time of limited physical contact. We must closely monitor our homeless shelters, prisons and refugee camps. We must reach out to our neighbours, colleagues and acquaintances and ask what people need. We must envision healing as something that is broader than our physical health alone. We must understand this moment as a renewed political horizon for struggle.
In organizing and preparing for this convergence, we have been guided by the incredibly important mutual aid strategies, transformative justice, and decolonial love work of folks such as Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, adrienne maree brown, Leah Lakshmi Piepna-Samarasinha and spaces such as the Allied Media Conference and other radical spaces of healing justice. These same sources have now become vital to our decision-making response in face of the growing global reality that the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) will require a strategy of limiting mass in-person gatherings to slow its spread.
We already see COVID-19 being used as yet another tool of oppression by the carceral colonial state by closing borders, limiting access to test kits and through harmful discourse aimed at stoking fear and division amongst us. We cannot let this happen!
The work of decolonization and abolition does not start and end with a convergence. We see this postponement as an opportunity to truly imagine and actualize our beliefs through our response to this pandemic. As the presenters and participants in the Abolition Convergence we would like to hear from you and others in our wider communities. Together, we can identify how to build our networks of mutual aid and mutual care to help respond to this pandemic in this given moment and to continue to lay the foundations of this work well beyond it.
In love and solidarity,
The Abolition Convergence 2020 Organizing Committee