Private Security Alongside Community Safety
Providence Youth Student Movement
Thursday, December 15th 2016
“Please try to remember that what they believe, as well as what they do and cause you to endure, does not testify to your inferiority, but to their inhumanity and fear.”
- James Baldwin, MY DUNGEON SHOOK: Letter to My Nephew on the One-Hundredth Anniversary of Emancipation (December 1962)
Who is PrYSM?
Providence Youth Student Movement (PrYSM) is a community based organization whose mission is to mobilize Southeast Asian (SEA) youth and queer youth of color and their families, and allies to build grassroots power and organize collectively for social justice. For over 15 years, we’ve worked in the SEA community of Providence, Rhode Island to build the power of young people and lift the voices of those most marginalized in this state.
Between Sunday afternoon (12/11) and Monday morning (12/12), PrYSM’s community space was invaded and violated. At around 10 AM, PrYSM staff entered the space and noticed things were amiss. Furniture, office supplies, and eating utensils were arranged in meticulously unsettling ways; file cabinet doors and desk drawers were all left open. The space was relatively clean, there was no mess and no papers were strewn about. We swept both rooms and did not notice anything missing or taken. However, in the middle of the community room, there were knives stabbed into our table and a nylon rope hanging from a hook in ceiling, the end tied into a noose.
The noose, as symbol of lynching and a tool of white supremacist terror, is a threat to Black lives and cannot be ignored. Its presence in our sacred space means we must fight back by recommitting ourselves to the movement for Black lives in Providence, the United States, and globally.
At this moment, many of our supporters have encouraged us to secure our space by installing cameras and an alarm system. We take this decision seriously, as heightened security measures undermine our principle of decreasing surveillance of already heavily policed groups. At the same time, the physical and emotional safety of youth and other communities who use our space is a priority. Frankly, this is a discussion that cuts to the core of what many other community organizations are grappling with--maintaining safe spaces in an era of heightened state surveillance–and we would love to open up this discussion to the Providence community.
Ultimately, these tensions reflect broader issues that underlie our campaign for the Community Safety Act (CSA) [www.providencecommunitysafetyact.wordpress.com] and the Community Defense Project (CDP) [www.prysm.us/programs/communitydefenseproject]. To this end, we hope that this attack will not be seen as an isolated incident, but one which continues to implicate long-standing concerns regarding systemic injustice, racism, safety and policing in our communities. For instance, the recent vandalism of mosques and Islamic centers throughout Rhode Island; explicit homophobia; aggressive deportation campaigns targeting undocumented immigrants; restrictions on refugee admissions; and the revival of anti-abortion politics; reflect just a sampling of anti-Black racism, islamophobia, xenophobia, transphobia, homophobia, misogyny, anti-semitism and anti-immigrant sentiment that will continue to grow in the Trump era.
Calling the police was never an option we considered. PrYSM is inspired by a dedication to decreasing state violence. Rather than engage local law enforcement, who pose a consistent threat to our safety and dignity, as they patrol and surveille our community, we hope to engage community models of safety, based on transformative justice, so that we can start imagining abolition of prison and policing as reality. Given the explicit racism evident through this vandalism, we are in the process of registering this incident with the Southern Poverty Law Center. In this moment, it is imperative to register this as a hate crime so that it is recorded amidst the growing database of national hate crimes in the fallout of a white supremacist political climate.
The outpouring of love and support has been tremendous and humbling. We are so thankful for the generous donations that have arrived and are embroiled within serious internal discussions about the best way to ensure our safety. These discussions have been incorporated into our ongoing efforts to pass the CSA–as this will create pathways to transformative justice, which will empower community members to address the underlying feeling of insecurity within our community. We take the issue of our private security concerns very seriously, but are working to resolve them alongside the priorities of community safety. Many people have asked how they can support PrYSM in other ways. As always, we ask that people support community-based struggles and our ongoing liberation work, such as the CSA and the CDP.
Rather than close down the space as we regroup from this traumatic violation, we are committed to keeping our space as open as possible. In the spirit and belief in community, we would love to convene an open meeting with community members Friday, January 6th 2017, from 6-8 PM at PrYSM (669 Elmwood Avenue, Suite B7; Providence, RI).
For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or (401) 383-7450.