Monday, May 18, 2015

No Selves to Defend

No Selves to Defend: A Legacy of Criminalizing Women of Color for Self-Defense is a compelling anthology edited by Mariame Kaba of Project Nia and the Chicago Alliance to Free Marissa Alexander. The anthology is a collection of examples of how women who have defended themselves (particularly women of color) have been criminalized and punished. Featured are Marissa Alexander, Lena Baker, Inez Garcia, Rosa Lee Ingram, Joan Little, Cece McDonald, New Jersey 4, Cassandra Peten, Bernadette Powell, Juanita Thomas, Yvonne Wanrow, and Dessie Woods.

Kaba created the book as a consciousness-raising tool as well as a means of raising money for Marissa Alexander’s defense fund. Supporters and activists who created the Free Marissa Campaign fought for the freedom of Marissa, a survivor of domestic violence who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing one warning shot upwards to stop her abusive husband during a life-threatening beating. Her warning shot caused no injuries and she had no previous criminal record, yet the Jacksonville Florida police arrested her and charged her with aggravated assault. Earlier this year, Marissa was released from prison after a three-year term, but will remain under house arrest for two more years.

The Free Marissa Campaign kept Marissa Alexander’s case in the public eye, revealing the problems of Florida’s mandatory minimum sentencing laws and the failure of the criminal justice system to adequately protect domestic violence survivors, particularly women of color, who defend themselves against domestic violence.

Ayanna Harris, co-organizer of the Chicago Alliance to Free Marissa Alexander said: "One of the biggest issues and injustices Marissa’s prosecution and incarceration illuminates is the criminalization of women who defend themselves. Marissa Alexander was bound at an intersection that illuminated many ills in our justice system, including mandatory minimum sentencing, the criminalizing of those who defend themselves, [and] inconsistent application of Stand Your Ground laws….(Prupis 2015).”

For more, check out the resources below.


Free Marassia Campaign 

Prison Culture Blog

Project NIA: Building Peaceful Communities

Prupis, Nadia. 2015. “Race, domestic abuse, and a warning shot:Marissa Alexander released from prison, but still not free.” Common Dreams, January 28.

Martha Thompson, IMPACT Chicago Instructor

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