On Friday, March 23, 2012, several Cardozo NLG members attended the conference Removing the Bars: Take Action, which kicked off with keynote speaker Angela Davis.
Professor Davis spoke about the role of prisons in America and urged us to envision a world in which prisons are no longer necessary. She also spoke about violence against women and challenged the audience to critically examine how we punish perpetrators of sexual violence: that imprisonment and harsh sentencing has not helped to stop the cyclical nature of sexual violence and other, rehabilitative social services may be needed to stop its systemic persistence.
Throughout the night there were various tributes to Trayvon Martin. Professor Davis reminded us not to "exceptionalize" Trayvon. While Trayvon's death is a uniquely disturbing and unjust travesty, his death is reminiscent of the police killing of Amadou Diallo and Sean Bell, amongst many others. (As Marion Wright Edelman recently wrote, “Just as sadly, Travyon’s death was not unique. In 2008 and 2009, 2,582 black children and teens were killed by gunfire.”) Ms. Davis reminded us that although we all want Trayvon's killer (George Zimmerman) to be held accountable, imprisoning Zimmerman does not address, and allows us to avoid, the really challenging issues surrounding Trayvon's death—how to hold Zimmerman accountable in a way that also holds us and our systems accountable for the institutional racism that led to Trayvon's death, how to address the internalized racism that so many have, and to ensure that this does not happen again.
The program culminated with a moving event, "Making the Invisible, Visible," moderated by former political prisoner Kathy Boudin. Members of the community affected by, and who participate in, the criminal justice system were invited on stage to speak about their individual connections to the justice system.
See a video clip of Davis' speech and more about the conference here.