“Our survival depends on being creative“
– Gloria Anzaldua
“Community accountability is the practice of imagining, creating, and applying alternative responses to violence from and within communities“
– Ana Clarissa Rojas Durazo
It may sound impossible but we are capable of healing ourselves if we become determined to construct a collective healing culture. For the past eight months, I have been fascinated by the concept of community accountability. Community accountability derives from the prison abolition movement(s). Angela Davis, one of my favorite radical political feminist activist, like many, is involved in the critique of the prison-industrial complex and its various ways of destroying lives instead of rehabilitating people to transformation. The criminal justice and law enforcement systems are part of the prison-industrial complex that work for a capitalist state, which use tools such as sexism and racism to punish individuals and communities.
Take for instance, the constant criminalization of people of color and/or LGTBQ by law enforcement officials be it from racial profiling, deportations, or hate crimes. Also, there is the lack of reporting to the police by victims of domestic and sexual violence which stems from fear of retaliation or family deportations. Communities of color are fearful to engage with state institutions because their situation will be criminalized instead of restored. “The state’s response to violence (in specific) is unidirectional, retributive, and uninterested in assessing the root causes of violence” (Rojas, 2011). The current punitive culture the state sponsors endangers us all without having an alternative response.
Angela Davis and feminist organizations like INCITE! (National radical feminist organization) advocate for an alternative approach is community accountability which discredits punishment, dehumanization, and sickness, instead it can heal and transform communities. Community accountability practices have been learned from older generations and even ourselves because usually we rely on a friend, ally, and neighbor to confide in when we feel endangered.
What is community accountability? How can we put it into practice? How do we reclaim it?
Community accountability is an alternative response to be used to heal our community from interpersonal or structural violence. Is a practice that empowers us to be the decision makers of our situation(s) and to rely on one another by creating the best solution possible for individuals or a community.
INCITE! provides general guidelines to put community accountability into practice:
- Create and affirm values and practices that resist abuse and oppression and encourage safety, support and accountability
- Develop sustainable strategies to address community members’ abusive behavior, creating a process for them to account for their actions and transform their behavior
- Provide safety and support to community members who are violently targeted that respect their self-determination
- Commit to ongoing development of all members of the community, and the community itself, to transform political conditions that reinforce oppression and violence
Additionally, some practices collective spaces in the East-side have been initiating to heal ourselves have been:
- Creating safe spaces to educate us about the root causes of violence
- Women and men circles with intentions and exploring topics such as body image, moon cycles, and journaling
- Building sisterhood solidarity to support each other with projects and personal transitions
The above practices are some examples you can use in your own collective spaces or with friends and family if it feels right.
We are reclaiming the practices of community accountability slowly but with confidence because we have been forced to lose a sense of community and when we begin to build community and feel it we can begin to take control of our own journey together.
References from: Color of Violence, The INCITE! Anthology (2006)
Thank you to Karla Paola Mejia and Ana Clarissa Rojas for inspiring me to continue in the women of color against violence movement and use community accountability as an empowerment tool for myself and comrades!