INQ13 | Michelle Fine and Maria Elena Torre – “Knowing” Inequality and Social Justice Research

INQ13 | Michelle Fine and Maria Elena Torre – “Knowing” Inequality and Social Justice Research


(city sounds) (pumping hip hop music) – Thank you, so welcome everybody, tonight we’re gonna be focusing on the topic, knowing inequality and
social justice research, as a a way to start off our seminar. And it’s my great privilege
and honor to introduce two people who I love,
and who I’ve learned so much from and with over the years. Michelle and Maria are my
mentors and comrades in arms, and for many of us, the work they do, along with the Public Science Project is about reclaiming the
relevance of scholarship. Their cutting-edge work
engages critical questions about the purpose and
audiences of research. Who is scholarship for? What changes when those
who are most affected by the research are asking the questions? Who has the right to research, and how can we, in Paolo Ferri’s words, move beyond an armchair revolution. Doctor Michelle Fine is
distinguished professor of psychology, urban
education, and women’s studies here at The Graduate Center, and her work has focused on participatory
action research, and the circuits of
dispossession and resistance in schools, communities, and prisons. Her work focuses on social
change and educational justice. She has written so many books, the first, Framing Dropouts, flips
the gaze to consider the critique of educational institutions from the perspective of
students who have left. And this is the hallmark
of her critical feminist scholarship, and amplifications
of those perspectives that have been silenced or delegitimized. A later book that she collaborated on with Maria Torre, Echoes of Brown, a participatory action
research project looks at the resegregation of schools 50 years after the landmark decision
and the ways in which structural racism has
informed the opportunity gap, so reframing the achievement gap. To her work, she brings
what she and Lois Weis identify as a critical bifocality, an analysis that considers
both the structures or circuits of inequality
and their lived experience. Michelle has written many
books, countless articles, and reading her work is
like drinking fresh water because of the clear,
fluid way that she writes about people’s lives. So we’re delighted that
you’re joining us today. Maria Torre is the founding director of the Public Science Project here at The Graduate Center of CUNY. For more than 10 years she has conducted participatory action research nationally, and internationally with schools, prisons, and community-based organizations. Her work has introduced the concept of participatory contact
zones, asking how might we build a radically inclusive ‘we,’ from which to build
knowledge, relationships, and policies that
interrupt social injustice. I find myself turning to
Maria’s work again and again because of the thoughtful, critical ways that she engages critical,
complex questions of difference and solidarity, keeping the analysis
complicated and thick, drawing upon borderlands scholarship, critical race and feminist theories. In a moment, you’re gonna learn more about the Public Science Project,
but just a few words to say how this is a
labor of love for Maria, and Maria and Michelle have envisioned, and created, and shepherded
the Public Science Project over the years, drawing
many of us into the field to create one of the most
vibrant research centers in CUNY that is active in most boros, working with and not
on or for communities. The Public Science
Project is itself building a social movement to shift
and reimagine the academy, and to transform the ways
in which we conceptualize and do research and know,
and understand, and act to challenge inequalities. So thank you so much for
everything that you’ve done, and for joining us tonight. – Thank you – And so we begin. – [Female] And so be we begin. – Hi everyone, hi everyone, I’m Michelle. It’s really an honor to
be here, this course is a (guitar sound plays on computer) this course is a concert of sorts, with harmonies and disharmonies,
and lots of audiences. I guess I’m gonna frame what we do at the Public Science Project,
and some of the commitments that we bring to community-based research. As I understand it, part of
the requirement of this course is that people engage in
community-based research, so we’re gonna give you the thin outlines, and then feel free to email
or tweet or call me at home or stop me in the bathroom,
for those of you who can. I’m currently writing
a paper, it’s a letter to Audre Lorde, I often write to people who are no longer with
us, and it kind of says, come on Audre, it’s our house, too. You know the piece that she wrote on you can’t dismantle the master’s house with the master’s tools,
and so the question is, what does is it mean today, in 2013, particularly in a public
university, our university, a university paid for by taxpayer dollars, a university under siege
financially with disinvestment and most recently, for those
of you who are connected to Brooklyn College, you’ll
know the city council asked the Brooklyn College
political science department to disinvite two speakers who
were invited to talk about the BDS movement and Palestinian rights. So intellectually, and
politically, and financially, we are a system under
siege, and what’s great about CUNY is we know how to fight back. So I’m particularly
committed to thinking about what’s it mean to be
part of a social movement of activist researchers
working from within a university setting
that views the university as part of community struggle. So my historic heroes are
people like Jane Addams, and W.E.B. Du Bois, and Myles Horton, and Kurt Lewin, many of whom were involved in creating community-based
activist research collectives, almost all of which were not in the academy. And the hypothesis I want to prove wrong is that you can sustain
the vibrancy of this work with activists colleagues in the academy, I do not want to think that
we can be cleansed out. So a lot of our work is
about troubling the borders of what constitutes scholarship, and what constitutes action,
and a lot of our work is about what we would consider the debt of the public university to advance issues of social justice, and to speak and study the unsayable. Does that make sense as a frame? Can you bear another five minutes, good. So the work that more
centrally Maria and I and Caitlin and Wendy
and Sonja and many people around this room are engaged in is what we call critical
participatory action research. There is a long and dedicated
history of such work in psychology and sociology and geography, even in political
science, in anthropology, and it usually gets cleansed
out of the histories of those disciplines. So a lot of Maria’s
work has been excavating the history of critical
participatory action research in our field. I wanna talk about seven commitments that we bring to the work. If you go online to the
Public Science Project, you’ll find a whole set of
readings that are available to people, but it will give you
images of this kind of work, but the seven commitments for today that I want to talk about. First commitment has to do
with a deep epistemological commitment to participation,
and the recognition that expertise is widely distributed, even if legitimacy is not. More specifically, we
begin with the assumption that people who have most
experienced injustice have a deep, intimate,
and embodied knowledge of injustice that is rarely recognized as a legitimate base
for conducting research. So we are very committed to
bringing around the table a participatory collective of individuals to help shape the research and the commitments of the research. So the first commitment is participation. We can talk to you about how we do that, but mostly, in simple terms,
we create research camps, where we sit around with
very different people, and everybody contributes the
piece they understand best, and together we develop a
language, set of methods, and an understanding about the
problem we’re investigating, whether that’s the rights
of undocumented students to education, or the rights
of women and men in prison to college education, or
the scar tissue created in communities by stop and
frisk, or the needs of women who are experiencing
violence, but don’t have the documents with which
to go to the police. It’s a range of projects, so the first commitment is participation. The second commitment
is that we’re interested in what Jessica Ruglis and I have called theoretically circuits of dispossession and resistance. And by circuits what we
mean to signal is that it’s not just that some groups
of people are being denied access to higher ed, but when some groups are
denied access to higher ed, there are economic consequences,
child-rearing consequences, health consequences, criminal
justice consequences, housing consequences. So the consequences of a single policy, what’s your SAT score,
bleeds across sectors. That’s one version of circuits,
a second version of circuits is that some people’s
privilege is deeply dependent on other people’s marginalization. So when schools get good
on the Upper West Side because suddenly there are more resources and they are selecting some kids in, they’re selecting other kids out. Right, does that make sense? So the second commitment
is that we’re not studying a problem as it is defined as a problem, like diabetes, or obesity,
or domestic violence in this zip code, but we’re
understand how those issues are circuited across a city that’s deeply grounded in inequality. Does that make sense? So the unit of analysis
shifts from the given problem to a much broader analysis of, who’s served by stop and frisk? Who’s making money off
of high-stakes testing, and who’s paying the price? How has mass incarceration
devastated some communities? Rather than saying, oh my god, it’s so sad that some children have
incarcerated parents, which is a piece of
work we must attend to, but we have to ask
these broader questions, so we’re jumping scales, so
that’s the second commitment, I’m still on number two. The third commitment is that everybody has a right to research. Research is not a privileged enterprise. And in fact, we are radically committed to democratizing the
right and the entitlement to inquiry, particularly
inquiry in one’s own community. But even inquiry in others’ communities. Young people who have been
pushed out of high school have a right to investigate
what does a fancy high school in Westchester County look like. They have a right to reanalyze NYPD data and ask, how come there are so many police in my neighborhood if you’re
picking up the same number of guns in the Bronx as
you are on the east side, but you’re stopping us at rates that are 10 and 20 times greater
than you are stopping them. So this right to research
is not just a rhetorical notion, it suggests
that particularly people who have been excluded from the academy have a right to research,
and have a right to challenge research, and that those of
us who have been privileged by the academy need to be
wary of what Thomas Teo calls epistemological violence, that is research that
represents communities in disparaging, demeaning,
and victim-blaming ways. That’s the third, okay,
I’m on number four. Number four comes to you from Maria Torre, which is a really brilliant
concept that she has developed for us and with
us, which is that research is in some ways most
powerful and, I would add, most valid when it is
developed by what she calls a contact zone of folks. That is people who are
deeply, intimately affected, and outsiders, and people
of hybrid identities. So when we do work on stop
and frisk, it might involve young people and old community members, and former police offers,
and bodega owners, and lawyers, and researchers,
and public health, because together we bring
very different knowledges to the table. There are some folks I should say, even at the Public Science
Project, who are not so into the contact idea, are like
we need to do research in our own communities, thanks a lot. That’s also a position worth holding onto, it’s not my preference,
but I really get it. Certainly Yasser Payne
has done work with men who lead a street life,
is really interested in doing work with that
community themselves. And happy to connect with
us and present to us, but the idea of contact, Eve Tuck, who’s native would tell you, you know contact just
reminds me of white people counting my grandmother’s
ribs and putting her blood in a museum, so you can
do your contact work, and we’ll do our in-community work. So that’s a debate worth having, but it’s an interesting one. My fifth and I’m gonna run
through this now quickly, because Maria’s got lots to tell you is that we try to do research
in place and across place. That is we don’t want
to split off the notion that one can do deep ethnographic
or statistical research in a community, that needs to happen to understand the local
texture, but part of what the Public Science Project
does so beautifully is then connecting
those communities to see where do the similar dynamics
that are operating across, and what are the particularities in place. Does that make sense? So Cindi Katz has develop the notion of a counter-topography
to look at how issues operate across place. In some ways, we’re in a similar argument. So when we were working
with colleagues in Detroit, and all of a sudden they were
closing all these schools, it seemed really important
to bring advocates and researchers from
Detroit together with folks from Cleveland, together
with folks from Newark and Philadelphia, and it
took very different forms in very different places. And everybody was studying school closings in their neighborhoods, but last weekend 18 cities marched down to
Washington to bring a lawsuit, simply to say one thing we have in common is this is happening in our
poorest, blackest communities, and it’s disproportionately
disrupting the educations of black, Latino kids and
black and Latino educators. So this notion of working deeply in place and across place is also a commitment. And then I guess the last
one, maybe it was six, who knows, is that we think a lot about who owns the research, and what are the actions that
come out of the research. What are the products,
what are the actions, and what are the consequences? And lots of the advocates
that we work with are very interested in
research that’ll take you to Albany and Washington,
or Geneva, right, to fight the big fights. Other communities are
just about doing research in community to make
visible a set of injustices that are otherwise underground. So when we do work with undocumented women experiencing violence in their community, who can’t call the cops and
get an order of protection, their issue probably isn’t going to Albany to knock on doors to get
more police protection, but it is to make visible
within the orthodox Jewish, the Arab, the Latina,
the Korean, the Japanese, the Ecuadorean communities
to raise the visibility so that women and male allies can begin to work together on these issues. So the question of who owns
it, and what’s the action, that’s our seventh commitment. Okay, Maria. – Hi everyone. So the images that have
been behind Michelle are images from across
many of our projects. And they’ll be rolling
and repeating, so sort of if you miss them, you can
glance up as you like. I’m gonna interrupt it
now just to take you inside a moment of a project. I’m gonna spend some time
grounding what Michelle talked about and introduced in a project called the Morris Justice Project. It’s been looking at one
particular community’s relationship to policing
in the context of policies like stop and frisk. And so we’re just gonna,
I’ll interrupt this, and take you into a slice of the project when we had our first action,
sort of public presentation of the data back to the community. Do you have a question? (audience member speaks) Sure it was the Morris, she asked me to repeat
the name of the project, and it’s the Morris Justice Project. Alright, let me call that up. Okay, so this short clip
was actually created not by the project, but by a collaborator. We partnered with this group
called The Illuminator, I’ll explain a little
more in a little bit. We had an opportunity to partner
with these activist artists who sort of were born out
of Occupy Wall Street, and who run around the city
now, and parts of the world, projecting injustice and
speaking back, literally taking spaces on building with this, like the bat-signal from years before. At any rate, they partnered
with us and helped us project our data on a
public housing building one evening last fall. (pumping dance beat) – [Female Through Megaphone] Dear NYPD, we are the Morris Justice Project. We surveyed over 1,000 local residents to study police in the neighborhood. Over the last year, the NYPD
made 3,920 police stops, that’s just in our neighborhood alone. – [Male Through Megaphone]
90 percent of those stops were neither given a summons nor arrested. In other words, they were innocent. – We’re a group of community members here in, around these blocks, and also university
professors, and lawyers, and the Public Science Project,
and we’ve come together, basically, to study
experiences with police, and the stop and frisk, and
attitudes towards police in this neighborhood. – And this was our first
presentation to the community of the findings of our survey
that over 1,000 people took. – So we wanted to introduce
it to the community. Let them know what the
survey that we took, that we gave them, and they
filled out for us, over 1,000 surveys, we wanted them
to know the outcome of it. – As a group, we created a presentation, which was projected from The Illuminator. Also, Julie Dressner’s documentary
from the New York Times was filmed, and the Community Safety Act, we projected that. And so all that went down
just to essentially give back and feed back this information
to the neighborhood. – [Female Through Megaphone]
And for all those stops last year, you only recovered eight guns. Don’t misunderstand us,
we’re not against the police, it’s how you police. – The majority of the
people that took the survey, like 51 percent were saying
how when they were stopped, they were stopped to ask for ID. – [Female Through
Megaphone] This is our home. We belong here. – [Male Through Megaphone]
Please, don’t treat us like we’re strangers. – We also had a question
asking if they were ever called names, and we had a fill-in answer, and they put in every
name you can imagine, and they were on it. – And like she said, it was several names, so many racist names that was on that list that was unbelievable,
it was kind of like, there ain’t too much gonna shock me, ’cause I live in the area, but I was like kind of
shocked about it myself. – [Female Through
Megaphone] This is our home. – [Male Through Megaphone] We shop here. Please don’t stop us
without a good reason. – [Female Through Megaphone]
67 percent of those who took our survey reported
being stopped by the police. – Part of what the
survey showed is how much the community members
here love their community, care for their community. And that they’re not
asking the NYPD to leave, they’re just asking the
NYPD to police differently. – Right, we wanna be able to get along. It’s not like back in
the days when you had Officer Joe who walked the block, and was familiar with his
neighborhood where he walked, his beat that he walked,
he was familiar with it. Now, we’re not familiar with him, them, and they’re not familiar with us. So we gotta get a little bit closer, something gotta happen
that we can communicate a lot more, some type of
program that I can understand your job, and you can understand that this is where I live at. – The data that we shared tonight was from a preliminary analysis. We’re gonna keep working
on it, and keep working and sharing back with the
community, and helping folks understand that their
experiences with the police, and the level of harassment and injustice that they’re experiencing
is happening everywhere, and helping folks decide what
they want to do about that, and how we might work better with the cops so that, and the police,
so that we can have fair and just and respectful
and responsible policing in the neighborhood, which is really what everybody wants. – And I think we all
deserve a little respect. You know, you have to give
it in order to receive it. And I think we deserve that,
and any community, you know. We need them, we want them
here, but we just want it with respect, I mean give us
our dignity that we deserve. – [Male Through Megaphone] Dear NYPD, we are the Morris Justice Project. – [Female Through Megaphone] We deserve fair and just policing. (crowd cheers and applauds) – So that’s just to
take you into the space of what this reaction research looks like. This is after data had been collected, and as I obsessed about in the interview, was the preliminary data we
were a little bit panicked that folks would go too far
with what we were trying to share back and still
continue to think through with the community. But just to give you a
little bit of the flavor of what happened, and I’ll
backtrack a little bit to tell you more about how and
where this project started. The Morris Justice Project
is a grandchild of sorts of work that Michelle, that Brett Stoudt, who’s on the faculty here
at the CUNY Graduate Center in environmental psychology,
and at John Jay College in psychology and gender studies, and Madeline Fox, another
graduate student here at the CUNY graduate program
in social psychology. And many other graduate
students have been involved with projects on mass incarceration,
and growing up policed, particularly here in New York City. This project grew, sort of
began in the fall of 2011. Brett and colleagues were made aware of this particular
neighborhood from a survey called Polling for Justice. Young people that took that
survey identified this area as having incredibly high
rates of negative interactions between young people and police. They were sort of off the charts,
right, in this particular, a couple other neighborhoods
in New York City, as well, but this was one of them. Around the same time, that
our interest was growing in these particular hot spots,
Brett Stoudt, my colleague, met up with Chris Fabricant,
a lawyer at the time at Pace University, who
was also very interested in what was going on, was
representing some people in this Morris Avenue area. He introduced us to those families, to Jackie Robinson and
Fawn Bracy in particular, they introduced us to friends
and family and neighbors. We had a couple of graduate students, Jan Haldipur and Lauren
Dewey, who were hanging out in basketball courts,
laundromats, street corners, and after about a month of
flyering and talking to folks, meeting the Crab Man, who
sells really phenomenal crabs if you’re ever up on the
South Bronx, on 161st Street and Park Avenue, Crab Man
introduced us to Miss Pearl. Miss Pearl’s 80 years old
and lives in a building right near where he sells his crabs, and never really leaves
the house after dark, because sort of isn’t quite
sure what the neighborhood will reveal for her,
although she has lived there for more than 30 years,
raised all three of her sons, who are now grown, there. So we are currently about
a team of 15, 12 of us who meet regularly on
Saturdays in a public library on Morris Avenue. If you were gonna look
at us, we are everything from Crystal, who’s about 16 years old. to Miss Pearl, who I introduced
to you already, who’s 80. Together we are young,
we are mothers, uncles, grandmothers, professors,
graduate students, those who maybe are considering
a GED, I’m not really sure. We have lived in the
neighborhood, most of us have lived in the neighborhood
for most of our lives. Some of us are immigrants,
one of us has only come recently to the neighborhood,
and is living in a shelter. I live in Brooklyn, Brett
in the East Village. So we really kind of
span in our differences. We’ve grown more recently,
over time there’s more graduate students who are involved, Scott Lizama, Einat Manoff,
and Hillary Caldwell. And then there’s a few folks who, the Public Science Project
runs these Critical PAR Institutes in the summertimes, and in talking about the
work, there’s sort of an infections quality about it, and so now there are three people who
came up through our institutes that are now working with us. And I raise all of these bodies and people and all of their
descriptions just to sort of, again, illustrate this
idea of what it means to have this kind of a contact zone, where folks who don’t normally
sit next to each other are asking questions
of each other’s lives, of our collective climate. So at our very first neighborhood, this was in the slides that
you saw rolling before, what is a neighborhood, right? So our very first neighborhood
we brought in a big, blown-up Google map of the area, and said, so where do you hang out, where are the streets that
you walk every single day, where are the streets
that you stay away from? Where do you shop, go to
school, get your hair cut? So we started to map out,
and we ended up with a map of 40 blocks that surround Morris Avenue, that run from, on the west
side, Sheridan Avenue, which is one block in
from the Grand Concourse for anybody who’s familiar
with the Bronx, South Bronx, all the way over to Park Avenue,
which curves up to Webster, from 161st to 167th. So it’s a community, a
very vibrant community, about seven blocks east of Yankee Stadium. We chose to meet at the library, because there was a church
who had actually given us some space, and it turned
out that the young men who were in our early
meetings weren’t comfortable, they liked the church,
but across the street there was a building and a corner that was not a comfortable spot for them, so they told us they
wouldn’t go to the church, so we hung out at the library. Just keep again, complicated,
that neighborhoods are full of all kinds of spaces, right, both cherished and those that you avoid. Together, Michelle referenced
research camps, right, in participatory projects
you have to think about and scaffold in ways for
people to participate as equally as possible. So part of that is sharing
and exchanging knowledges. And together we discussed
our experiences of policing, which you can imagine across
us were really different. I’d only been arrested
once, most of the young men had been arrested two
or three times a week for long stretches. Certainly mothers, there was a
period when we were going up, again, every Saturday, every
other Saturday depending and we would start a meeting
and the meeting would start with who spent what time at the precinct, how many arrests there were that weekend. We learned that Thursday
nights, there’s a spike, and mothers tend to
keep their sons inside. We, as you heard, created
a survey together, after culling through
NYPD data and housing data and education data all for the 40 blocks, we crafted a survey that
went out to 1,000 residents, so that meant walking around the streets, asking people to fill it out,
translating it into Spanish when we ran out of Spanish surveys. We did interviews and
focus groups with mothers, with young people, with young
people who identify as LGBT. And then as we were staring to analyze, and doing things like stats in action, what Brett calls stats in action, which is a way of analyzing
quantitative data, which often feels very scary to folks who are not comfortable with math, whether you’re a graduate
student, a professor, or someone who is thinking about the GED, again, how do you
scaffold in participation? One of the ways that we do that is through stats in action, so we
took the survey data in SPSS form, projected it up
onto the wall in the library, and started to run cross tabulations. So what are cross tabulations? We always have food at the meetings. I, generally, how gender
works, tend to go get the food. So I was about to run out
when we started projecting these, and Brett started
go give a run-through for everyone, so they would
be able to read the output, right, looking at two different, so looking at how stops
are by race and gender, for example, two different
variables at the same time. Amazingly in the 20 minutes it took me to get sandwiches for
everyone, I came back and folks were not just bumbling along, but really asking questions of Brett, so he could rerun the stats, and so in real time, they
could say, okay, that’s by race and gender, what happens
if you factor in age? What if you look at location? What if, and so keep running those. So people in our whole
team is actually engaged in analysis of the data, right. But I should tell you before I left, Nadine pulled me over,
who’s one of my colleagues, in her 50s, and said, Maria, are we gonna be doing this all day? And I was like, yeah, you
know, remember we talked about this is stats in
action, this is how, alright, I forgot my glasses. And she lives in a fifth-floor
walkup, so she wanted to know if we were gonna be doing,
if it was worth the run back and hiking up the stairs. By the time I’m back, she’s already, not only does she have her glasses, but she’s like glued to the wall, ’cause even with your
glasses, you know, it’s not, so she’s glued to the wall,
and she’s like taking charge of the whole thing, right. Moments like that, it really, it’s just very exciting to
think about what’s possible in really a very short amount of time. It doesn’t take forever
to do some of this stuff. What it takes is sort of
the theoretical commitment to the the idea that people
have these capacities, and then the practical
commitment of then how do you, so they have the capacity,
then how do you create a space where they can engage that. Okay, so The Illuminator
that you just saw. We had run into him before,
he had actually contacted us about wanting to do some
work on stop and frisk. We thought this was gonna be a project months and months away,
when we had all our data, we are ready to talk to the world. They were running out of
money, they had been funded by Ben and Jerry’s, Ben and
Jerry’s was pulling the plug, actually it was Ben, so if you want to write an angry letter. They were like if you want
to do it, it’s now or never. So we went back to the team and said, we have this opportunity,
our colleagues in the Bronx, very few of them actually
had been involved in Occupy Wall Street, or
really knew what it was about. Although, everybody knew Ben and Jerry’s. But the idea of projecting
our data was so exciting, and so beyond what we
though would be possible, that it was too difficult to pass up. So we said, let’s do it,
we had huge, huge ideas that over the span of two weeks shrunk and shrunk and shrunk and shrunk, and we just really put
together a PowerPoint, that was just a simple
PowerPoint that took, what we felt, was sort of
the most concise version of our strongest data. And what was really interesting,
and this sort of hits back at some of the issues that Michelle raised around circuits, around
the right to research, around counter-topographies,
that the idea that, and moving between individual
lives and larger systems and structures, so we’ve
tried to craft something that in two minutes would
take the data from a survey that took all of those principles that she outlined seriously, and would hold those at
the same time, right. So would talk strongly about the injustice that there were 3,920 stops,
that’s what we thought at the time, actually
after we finished cleaning all the data, and removing
all the question tabs, the number has now risen to 4,882. We had this realization over the holidays when we just finished all
of our cleaning of our data, and at our last research
meeting, Jackie, who you saw at one point talking about Officer Joe, she’s been playing in the
lotto 32-90, or 39-20 rather, so she’s like, oh, now I
have to play another number. You can use these numbers in
all different kinds of ways. They are both strong
statements of injustice and potential millionaire
winning, anyways. But actually that’s another
illustration, right, it’s about the 90 percent of the people that we surveyed were stopped in the area. Or rather, of the people
that were stopped, sorry. Let me rewind that. Of all of the people that were
stopped in the neighborhood, of that 4,882, 90 percent of
those people were innocent. By innocent, I mean they
were neither given a summons or an arrest, nothing happened. I mean after they were
stopped, potentially frisked, potentially thrown onto the ground, called all kinds of racist names, right. During that year of 2011
when we interviewed folks, eight guns, right. We have since learned
that those eight guns were retrieved from six stops, and one of the stops had
a group of young people, and three guns were
reported from that stop. But after looking at all the police data, we’re starting to notice
patterns where large groups are all being arrested,
or that guns are counted for each person, and
we’re starting to wonder in these group stops, if there
really are the same amount of guns as there are. You can arrest people for
possession even if it’s not their’s, but you can’t
count it in the police data, right, that you have
recovered that many guns, if there’s actually only one. So anyway, so there’s somewhere
between six and eight guns, but even still, eight guns
for nearly 5,000 stops is a little extreme. But how to hold these
50 percent of the people who were stopped, there was
physical force involved. How do you hold that, and at
the same time hold that this is a community, right,
that this is our home. And that this is our
home that we shop there, we pray there, we raise kids there, that all came from the qualitative data that we had coded all
together, and so those were all statements that people were saying, yes, this is happening, but
this is also where we live, and this is a place we
don’t want to leave, this is our home. That night when the research
team was yelling the data into the microphone, the
big ideas that kind of had to shrink a little bit, one
of them was that we thought we’d have this great
soundtrack, and it turned out we all had to yell into a
jerry-rigged microphone, but there was something really powerful about people yelling the data,
the voices, the experiences, of the 1,000 people that
had taken that survey. How that was then
becoming a reflection back to the neighborhood, embodied
in their own children’s stops, in their own personal
interactions with police. And their call for not for no policing, right, when we talk about
this work, outside of this community, or communities
that have been so impacted, the first thing people say
is why don’t people leave, and why don’t they just
tell the cops to get out? People don’t leave ’cause it’s their home. And they don’t want, they
remember what it was like when there was a lack of
attention from the police. That’s not what they
want, they want to enact their citizen rights. They want to be safe
in their neighborhoods, they want to feel protected,
they want to feel people, that there are people that
are responsible to them. As they say over and over, they want policing with
dignity and respect. I just want to dig into a
little bit about the idea of this being their home. We engage a lot in community analysis, so we’ve gone back to the
blocks with the survey after this, a lot less
glitzy, we have things like flyers of, not flyers, so we want back into the
blocks and the same way that we went out to survey
folks with the survey, and then with sort of a flip
chart of different items, and then the results, to
have folks help us interpret what we’re doing, so we
have a participatory team that’s doing that all
in a collective fashion. And then within these 40 blocks, we’re also doing it
again on street corners. So we ran into one local
politician who after looking through this was like, well of course, we’re living in a police state. We’re refugees, he said, in a
camp, they’re always watching. We’ve been funneling this data
to, right now it’s a very, as you probably know,
for those of you who live in New York City, and
if those of you don’t, it’s happening in cities across
the nation, unfortunately, that there’s a lot of organizing
around stop and frisk, and other aggressive policing
practices, right now. There are some very large
court cases that are in the federal courts. In New York City, we have something called Communities United for
Police Reform, which is 80 organizations from
lawyers and the ACLU, or NYCLU, the Center for
Constitutional Rights, Bronx Defenders, to
community-based organizations, and activists and academics. So Brett Stoudt and
others are taking our data and funneling it into that group, and it’s also being
funneled into the lawyers, so it’s very exciting
to think about the work that our project did is
really actually moving, right, into very important hands, hopefully. But even more importantly,
we’re thinking about ways of infusing it back into the neighborhood. And again, I had started to
say that to unpack a little bit what it means that this is our home. How, and when engaging
in this kind of work in local communities,
how might people respond differently if they were
able to see their lives in the collective data? The right to research informs every level of participatory processes. Our co-researchers who lived these stops have a deep understanding of
the criminal justice system, of the policy of stop and frisk, and all of its consequences. And we operate knowing that
this knowledge is valued equally alongside Brett
and others’ mastery of the NYPD data. If people have the right
to ask important questions of their lives and experiences, and they have the right to
answer those through research, they also have the right to respond. And what these kinds of projects can do is something what Ignacio Martin-Baro talked about surveys as social mirrors, and so in some ways The Illuminator event was a dramatic example of that. Folks literally were throwing down signs from their windows about stop and frisk. You know, folks who were
not a part of the project, who were just responding to the, and reminding us that in taking this data, now as the co-researchers
are taking this data into the blocks, and giving
people an opportunity to see their own stories,
their own experience of stop and frisk, their friends,
collectively in the data. There’s all kind of
possibilities for action, or for mobilization beyond just, in addition to the lawsuits. So we’ve been starting to
think about how to engage the number of 4,882. We took a trip to the
Bronx Museum on Saturday, and started to see whether or not that might be a space for us. It turned out that it
didn’t feel so hospitable, although there was a lot
of ideas that percolated. We’ve started to think
about community barbecues, of block parties, of movies,
of vans that would rove around and make t-shirts that had the number emblazoned on the front, and then this is our home,
or we raise children here on the back. What’s interesting about
some of the ideas that have been coming about is
that it’s not just about nice community collaboration
or just all of us getting along but it’s more about a fundamental belief in human rights, human
potential, neighborhoods, generations, it’s listening to, it’s listening to people’s
assertion that this is a community, and that
these policies are taking, are sort of disrupting that. They’re making it
impossible to be a community when you’re under, when you’re living in a police state basically. So just to sum it up since we’re running a little bit out of time. I think one of the powerful
aspects of participatory work when it’s engaged through critical theory, through history, through
power, is that it demands work that, as Caitlin and others
and Michelle have said earlier, is in constant motion
between individual lives, collective practices, and
larger social-political systems and structures. And that informs each stage of the work. And it holds us both
responsible to policy, to producing new and useful knowledge, but also to our
relationships to each other. Not just the relationships themselves, but the dynamics that are
happening between them, and then what those teach us about how those dynamics are produced. So I think I’ll end it with that, and we can entertain
questions about anything that’s percolating in
your bodies and minds. Thank you. – Thank you, thank you,
that was wonderful. (crowed applauds) – So first just for
everyone who’s in the room, questions, thoughts,
comments, provocations, yeah. – Sure, so the question was,
as outsiders coming into this neighborhood, did we get resistance? So what’s interesting is
that we didn’t experience a lot of resistance. We did run into people
who were concerned about what it would mean to do
something that was counter to police, and to policing,
because the police have such a powerful
influence in the neighborhood. But I think the reason that
we didn’t get resistance was because of how we
positioned ourselves. So while it was true
that we were outsiders, so the first four people that
were sort of roaming around, myself and Brett, and then Lauren and Jan, the two graduate students
that I mentioned, didn’t live in the Bronx. That was just one piece of who we were, and how we introduced ourselves. We actually first entered
into the neighborhood to meet Jackie and Fawn. So it was through a
relationship that they had with someone who was
already working on issues around stop and frisk, and defending them, or launching a defense. They then introduced us to other folks, and so we started to form networks and relationships with people. And then we spent time, like I said, in public places where
people were hanging out, and saying things like, hey,
we’re a group of researchers, we’ve done a lot of work, we talked about Polling for Justice, and how that led us to this neighborhood and
neighborhoods like this, that we wanted to continue working, that we were really outraged
about aggressive policing, and we wanted to work on that, and you know, were they interested? We were thinking about launching a community research project
for folks who’d never heard about research, we explained
what that would be, and were you interested? And so then we had a community meeting talking about it, giving
examples of our work, and so I think because it was, we were sort of coming in solidarity, and we weren’t coming to study on, I think that makes a big difference. (female audience member speaks) – At this point there hasn’t
been any large-scale change around policing, but the fight is really just beginning. In the spring, these court cases, I think, are gonna make a really big difference. I can just tell you that the night of, but our alliances do matter,
for better or for worse, revealing how things are so
unequal in terms of treatment. The night that we were shut down, there were, I think, three
paddy wagons that the police brought as they do when
there are things going on, and when we were processing
the event afterwards together as a research
team, it didn’t come up in the beginning, but then by
the middle of our discussion, people were laughing about
how it was the first time, African-American members
of the team were laughing it was the first time that
they’d ever been in the Bronx where three paddy wagons rolled up on the scene and left empty. And the police did shut us down, and there was big to-do in that process, and we had talked about a
plan, how to keep people who are more vulnerable out of harm’s way, not really wanting to be
confrontational with the police, but might potentially be read that way. So we joked Brett is a
very white, blonde person, male person, and so we
had a plan that he would be first arrested, and then
we, you know, in dealing with both the reality of racism, and structural racism, we joked, and also, both the reality meaning the pain of it, and then also just this is where we are, and then how do we leverage
our power with each other. We sort of had a ridiculous
joke that we should shrink him, photocopy
him, and shrink him down, and have people carry him in their pocket, and that that would be a, you know, in the meantime, it
would be like a witness, or protection against the police. Anyways, Michelle was gonna say something. – I was just thinking about time and maybe would it be useful to
popcorn up some questions, and then we can respond. You know, this is a high-drama example of a piece of work, but I don’t even know if we had any funding. There’s something kind
of magical about these, usually we’re really deeply partnered with community-based organizations, here it kind of grew, but
work that rides on the waves of community outreach and
desire and possibility can be really magical. And so suddenly all these other people, and it didn’t really feel like invaders going to the Bronx, it
felt like groups of people, and then they took these data to courts, and then they’re working with
young people in Brooklyn, who then come to see the Bronx project, so people get to
understand this isn’t just in your neighborhood, this
is all of our problems. This isn’t, you’re paying
a big price for it, but so should we popcorn
up some questions, and then–
– There are already hands. – Yeah, I see quite a few. Yeah, and then I’m gonna ask Matthew if you see Twitter questions coming in. – Hector, you’ve been waiting. – So why don’t I take one and four, and you take two and three and I’ll say what they are, is that good? – You’ll say all four. – I’ll say all four, so
Hector, who’s clearly been thinking about things since last I saw him is interested in the extent to which PAR might be changing how we think that dissertation scholarship,
co-researchers, publishing, etc., is the first question, the second is what do we
do with our own theoretical or political positions when
we’re doing participatory work, particularly for instance
if you think there shouldn’t be police, and a community is saying we need to be protected. A third is what are the
variations, have there been conversations about
different forms of policing. And the fourth is really
how do you get concrete about identifying the
ways in which privileged communities are either
benefiting from inequality, or are off the hook
for their own problems, while we’re all focused on the problems in low-income communities. So I’m gonna take one and four
and you take two and three. Good, is that alright? So you know we’ve been
doing participatory action research here for 10, 15, maybe longer, and it has, as I said earlier,
part of what we’re doing is excavating a history in
psychology, and geography, and anthropology, and in sociology, and so people like Margaret Mead, people like Jane Addams,
people like W.E.B Du Bois, and they all had co-researchers. Sometimes they were
listed as co-researchers. Margaret Wormser and,
– Claire Sultitz. – Claire Sultitz were
doing community surveys all over the country, looking
at how many firefighters are white, and black, and Latino. Margaret Wormser was a housing organizer, right, so there is a
history of doing this, it just keeps getting shed, the kind of neo-liberal academy sheds its progressive selves,
and part of our work is to remember, like
excavating cemeteries, the work that came before. People vary in, there
have been dissertations where there, there’s
always a co-publication, but there have been
dissertations where chapters are co-authored. There have been, you know, Caitlin’s work has involved young people,
has involved a website where everybody gets authorship. Alexis Halkovic and I have
just finished a project with a group of co-researchers on formerly incarcerated college students, we’re all listed as
researchers, there’s a website, there’s a report, and there’s
a publication coming out. So it might be that one of the chapters in her dissertation will reflect that. So I think the borders of
what constitutes objectivity as opposed to strong objectivity, right, Sandra Harding’s
notion that strong objectivity is lots of different people sitting around saying, I see it this
way, you see it that way, how do we make sense
together rather than acting like there’s some fantasy of
outside, detached, or neutral. The back-end question
on how does one begin to look at the privileged
side, that’s hard work. One of the privileges of being privileged is you don’t get researched very much. And you’ve got all these
privacy protections. So when poor kids are picked up for drugs, they go to the police, when
rich kids are picked up for drugs, they go to the psychiatrist. So just whose data are low-hanging fruit are already classed and raced. So a big piece of our
work is, for instance, Brett is thinking about looking, comparing community in the Bronx
and the East Village, very differently policed, but in one year had equal numbers of guns picked up. So why are there 5,000 stops in the Bronx, and many fewer in the East
Village when, in fact, if the task is to be identifying guns, we’re getting the equivalent. So whose communities are suspect, and whose communities are assumed safe. I’ve been doing similar
work with many colleagues on education, when schools
are closed and then re-opened for another crowd,
particularly in gentrifying neighborhoods, or the ways in
which charters are moving in to kind of clear out low-income
or English-language learners or not-so-well-performing students, and then get replaced by
high-performing students, why it is that in gentrifying
neighborhoods now, white communities are calling
for community control, it’s a funny little reversal on history. So it is our work to really
be drawing those connections, but also creating allies, so that folks in the student debt movement are being joined with folks
in the college in prison movement to understand the red lining of higher education. Part of the privilege of
higher ed it seems to me is to create unsuspecting
allies to allow people to understand we are all endangered if the commons is endangered,
and that struggles that look like they’re separate, you know, wealthy parents who want good schools, and low-income parents
who want good schools, and they all hate
high-stakes testing, right, to understand that they’ve
got some shared interests. And it does seem to me like the privilege of our distance enables us
to see the points of overlap, but it’s not as apparent as, and there’s not a lot of funding to study pathology in wealthy
neighborhoods, as you might guess, but there’s plenty of pathology, go ahead. – So I’m just gonna
share a couple of things, piggybacking a little bit
of what Michelle just said, and also recognizing that
I know you guys did some readings that you want to have
a good conversation about, and so we don’t want to chip
into that time too much longer. But just a couple of things around, so Michelle mentioned strong objectivity, and earlier argued that contact,
or participatory contact to be more specific, sort of then enables a stronger validity, perhaps. So part of engaging a critical
participatory process, or project is attending to
those very inequalities. So looking at the Bronx and
the East Village, right. But part of the critical
participatory project is not just to do that,
because I in my office, or me in conversation
with Michelle is like, oh, so we should really, you
should really counterbalance, it’s not just coming from theory, it’s coming from how
you’re seeing that theory operating in the
conversation in the group. So to get to your question a little bit, and to yours, too, who
talked about different kinds of policing, and then different frames, respectful policing versus no policing, so we had a lot of, I truncated it, but we had a lot of
complicated conversations about people’s experiences of policing, both the overwhelming
oppressive experiences, and the bizarre enactments
of structural racism within the police department. So I have only been picked
up by the police once, it was a rescue mission, I was walking on like 100-and-I don’t know, 34th street or something like that,
crossing from the east side to the west side to go
to Columbia University, I was like 19, I was
picked up and two officers yelled at me until I got into the car, it was like 10 o’clock at night, I was a little freaked out,
didn’t know what was happening, get in the car, they tell
me they had rescued me. Long story follows that,
but that’s a very different experience, right, they
were taking what they saw as a white girl and saving
her from the streets, right, of Harlem, basically. So we had a conversation about that being my only experience other
than in demonstrations and protests, and their daily experience. And not just, wow, isn’t that different, but what was about that? What systems are in place
that that’s happening? Einat Manoff, who’s
just joined us recently and this is the last example, she is studying here from Israel, but has done a tremendous amount of work, she’s an architect, and done a lot of work around design and art activist work. So she’s come into the
project, and when we were at the museum, so sort of
percolate all of our ideas around different ideas of policing, how to think about research,
and activism, and the arts to help shake up and take abstract ideas and bring them home. At any rate, she brought
in this example of, it was a photograph of
an army tank that’s used as a policing vehicle in
Israel, in Palestinian neighborhoods to enforce the curfew. So this police vehicle
goes around and blares out that it’s a curfew, and
everybody needs to get inside. They have, these art activists have taken a photograph in real scale,
attached it to a shopping cart, and they’ve taken that
into plazas in Europe, fancy plazas, and through a
boombox basically set off sirens and said it’s a curfew,
everybody has to go home, sort of enacting what happens daily in these Palestinian
neighborhoods in Israel. So as she was thinking of
presenting this to the group as, like, look here’s
another example, you know, she was a little anxious
about just importing Palestine into the middle
of the South Bronx, you know, was it just her agenda? So she was raising a lot
of really interesting critical questions about
the ethics of doing that, is it recolonizing a space, even though you’re using
another marginalized population, all really interesting questions, right. But in the space of a critical
participatory project, if you’re thinking about things
like counter-topographies it opens you up to reposition that to be another, you know, the
women who were living in, some of the moms who were
living in the neighborhood, immediately responded
to that as very similar to what happens in their neighborhood. So it was one deep look in one country, another deep look in another country, and all of a sudden the
circuits were visible. And so we could have a different kind of analytical conversation
about what was going on, and some activist ideas
around maybe we should go to the Upper West Side
and either we as a team, or get some allies who
are maybe more comfortable doing this, and we should go
up to people and stop them, mimicking the same frequency of stops that are happening in highly
surveilled neighborhoods. We are researching those neighborhoods through citywide data,
but maybe we should also have them feel an embodied
experience of repeated stops. So those are two examples of how to sort of negotiates those kind of things, but always rooted in the
data that the research is collecting, and the
conversations that people are having, that creates a
shift, so that these aren’t imposing agendas, these
are the agendas that people in the research team have
and are operating from. It’s their histories
that they’re bringing in, it’s their analytical lenses
that they’re operating under, even when they’re not
using the same language, part of our job is to
help folks communicate across their languages and
to help reveal through that the many layers of what
we’re talking about. Anyways, thank you. – We’re gonna be happy for you to stay, but the camera’s coming off. And Lori and Hector, we’re
gonna give you a very short string here, because I
know you came prepared to facilitate some
conversation about readings, and how they might connect
with what we’ve just heard. And so I think in about
10 minutes, 12 minutes of all of us trying to
make some connections is what we ought to try to do now. And we’ll let you all start off, what do you see as some of the connections between what we’ve just been
listening to and the readings? – And just to say one
other thing to build on what Wendy said, to say this is, so we’re doing this in our physical space, and these discussions will be
continued on our blog posts, on our website, so for everybody
in our virtual audience, so thank you. (pounding hip hop music)

Author: Kennedi Daugherty

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