In last week’s newsletter, I talked about how the upheaval in the past few months have resulted some conversations are now being taken seriously in a way that wasn’t the case even a short while ago.
The police as a symbol of state power and structural violence has been on my mind, especially after watching this heart-wrenching piece by Elijah Kanyi on BBC Africa that detailed police violence (ostensibly against Covid-19 and related restrictions) in Mathare, and the Daily Nation’s front page on Thursday, June 25 underscoring this gratuitous violence against Kenya’s poor. 101 people have been killed by the police in the first five months of this year, 40% more than in the same time last year, “two in five of those were unarmed and far away from crime scenes and were not in circumstances under which the law allows an officer to use a firearm.”
A recent report from the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) revealed that the 13,000+ complaints received by IPOA since the body was launched in 2012, have resulted in only six convictions. Six!
Clearly, piecemeal reform is not working, and now, conversations about defunding and even abolishing the police are rising to the fore. We as writers, journalists, visual artists and creatives broadly speaking have a leading role to play in what is deemed possible, in what is imaginable. In any case, the world as we know it has been created by art and imagination, for example ‘copaganda’ TV shows and movies (cop + propaganda, a term I only recently came across) a phenomenon in which the media promote celebratory portrayals of police officers with the intent of swaying public opinion for the benefit of police departments and law enforcement.
Here in Kenya, The Elephant have curated a series titled Abolish The Police, a move which wouldn’t just end the violence meted upon poor people but it would also weaken the colonial state which uses police violence as a tool to oppress the people.
But there’s more you could do: you could demand action by calling, emailing, texting and tweeting your MPs to demand investigations on killings of innocent civilians.
You can find extensive resources here – even draft emails and text messages, and a place to find the contact list of your local MP.
In the words of Keguro Macharia, let us not tether our imaginations to state imaginaries. A different world is possible!
Yours in solidarity,
Curator at Baraza Media Lab