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Fri, 06.05.1970

Mariame Kaba, Activist born

Mariame Kaba

*The birth of Mariame Kaba is celebrated on this date in 1970. She is a Black activist, grassroots organizer, and educator.

Mariame Kaba was born in New York City to parents who had immigrated from Guinea and the Ivory Coast. She grew up in the Lower East Side of Manhattan and attended Lycée Français. Kaba viewed the world through a black nationalist framework and tried to help others as a child. In 1995 she moved to Chicago to study sociology at Northwestern University.

In Chicago, she founded the Chicago Freedom School, the Rogers Park Young Women's Action Team (YWAT), Chicago Taskforce on Violence against Girls and Young Women, Chicago Alliance to Free Marissa Alexander, and We Charge Genocide (WCG). In 2009, Kaba founded Project NIA, which advocates ending youth incarceration. She views prison abolition as the total dismantling of prison and policing while building up community services and opposes the reform of policing. Her work has created the framework for current abolitionist organizations, including Black Youth Project 100, Black Lives Matter Chicago, and Assata's Daughters.

In 2010, Kaba maintained a blog, "U.S. Prison Culture," and has been active on Twitter under the account @prisonculture. In 2012, she wrote Resisting Police Violence in Harlem, a historical pamphlet detailing the policing and violence in Harlem. In 2018, she wrote Lifting As They Climbed: Mapping A History Of Black Women On Chicago's South Side with Essence McDowell. The book maps the history of the influential Black women who developed Chicago during the 19th and 20th centuries.

In 2021, she published We Do This 'Til We Free Us with Haymarket Books. It debuted at number nine on The New York Times bestseller list for non-fiction paperbacks. In a review for the Chicago Reader, Ariel Parrella-Aureli described it as "a collection of talks, interviews, and past work that can serve as an initial primer on the PIC [prison-industrial complex] abolition and community building rooted in transformative justice." Kaba was reluctant to write the book, but the mass protests in the summer of 2020 persuaded her to lend her tools for collective action to newly activated organizers. She advocates for abolishing the prison industrial complex, including all police.

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