Thursday, April 18, 2024

“Let this radicalize you, rather than lead you to despair.”

This wisdom from incredible abolitionist leader Mariame Kaba captures what happened to me as I learned about our criminal legal system, policing and the carceral caging of humans. Even here in Massachusetts, conditions inside many prisons and jails are toxic and inhumane, and our police force has many issues despite the millions of dollars already poured into it.

But there is hope. The Holistic Emergency Alternative Response Team has passed through the City Council, an example of the success that can come when we follow the leadership of community members most affected by an issue and support their proposed solution. The Heart program is sitting with the city manager, awaiting final-stage approval and implementation.

Thanks to Cambridge Day for reporting on Heart passing (“Alternative policing proposal for ‘Heart’ unit passes City Council with hopes for fast action,” June 8), and including the nuances of the council’s vote and the process with the current city manager. This reporting missed the opportunity to name how this program could support us all! It decided to focus on the fear of increased violence with this program, rather than the immense opportunity to invest in communities, provide differentiated service and allow for people within communities to be trained to care for each other.

I am eager to see the Cambridge we can build together – a Cambridge that is better and stronger for all of us, that centers our most affected community members and that listens deeply to their voices. As Ruth Wilson Gilmore, director of the Center for Place, Culture and Politics and a prison abolitionist and prison scholar, says, “Abolition is about presence, not absence. It’s about building life-affirming institutions.” The Heart program is the affirmation of life and community that we are building together.

If this letter radicalized you, rather than lead you to despair, please take the time to talk to your loved ones about Heart and a future without policing and surveillance that would allow us to build and sustain community. I’m very supportive and excited to have the Heart program in my community, and hope you are too!

Ellie Carver, Rindgefield Street