Abolition in Our Times: A Gathering of Pacific Islander and Asian American Communities

Background is a beach shoreline with Pacific Islanders playing on the sand and a hut in the upper left corner with a thatched roof that says “SAFE AFFORDABLE HOUSING FOR ALL.” In the foreground is a group of Pacific Islander women sitting in a line weaving a mat made of pandanus leaves. The threads of the mat spell out “childcare, healthcare, higher education, immigration, job training, mental health counseling, and substance abuse treatment.” Above the women is white text that reads “ABOLITION CREATES THRIVING COMMUNITIES”

Together, Race Forward, Mass Freedom, Empowering Pacific Islander Communities (EPIC), and Grassroots Asians Rising (GAR) gathered organizers in December 2020 with the goal of collectively learning more about the history of abolitionist movements in Pacific Islander and Asian communities, and possibilities for an abolitionist future in the same.

Our gathering embodied and centered Pacific Islander practices and experiences and also invited a broader reflection about abolition in our communities. In particular, attendees learnt about Hawai’ian history of abolition and solidarity with African-American communities and current practices from Dr Kalaniopua Young. Fahd Ahmed of Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM) shared abolitionist frameworks and opportunities for organizing with South Asian working class, youth, Muslims and elders.

We invited Mona ‘Amato-Kaufusi (@moemelinostudio) to render visuals as they witnessed the discussion at the gathering. We invite you, the viewer/reader into the conversation about abolition. Their weaving visual represents an abolitionist vision of the communities we can build together, where we have resources to house, educate, nourish and heal ourselves – and one another. It represents a vision where all of us thrive in a world without prisons, policing or militarism. We reject carceral solutions such as hate crimes legislation and imprisonment that are inherently anti-Black. Anti-black policies will not succeed in making our communities safe.

On a light brown background written in black is the text Dear Loved Ones, did you know that colonization disrupted our sense of connection to each other, and to others? All of our desires of housing, healing and community thriving is possible in abolition. And figuring out how to have these conversations is part of the abolition work.

On a dark brown background, light yellow text reads the headline “Did You Know?”. One, Hawai’i has a history of indigeneous and Black solidarity. Second, In 1852, Hawai’i’s constitutional monarch Kauikeaouli abolished slavery. Third, abolition set free any enslaved person who set foot on Hawai’ian soil. Fourth, African-Americans started settling in the kingdom.

 There are three pieces of text on a blue background with a photo of ocean waves. First text, For our youth/working class/immigrant/Muslim communities abolition means dismantling prisons, deportation and surveillance. Second text, Abolition of policing and military is interconnected. What is the US military if not to police and control the world?. Third text, our communities are policed but also find abolition scary. We have to draw from these experiences to organize.

We learned that:

  • Abolition of prisons and policing is interconnected with demilitarization and struggles against US military occupation.
  • Abolition is anti-colonial in urging us to reorganize our relationships to one another and be in greater intimacy and mutual accountability.
  • Abolition distinguishes between reformism and reform. Abolition mandates changes that shift material conditions by reinvesting resources into housing, nourishment, employment and thriving of Black, indigenous and communities of color.

Our partners in this gathering

  • Empowering Pacific Islander Communities (EPIC) is a pro-Black, pro-indigenous, anti-racist national organization based on Tongva land that advances social justice by engaging PIs in culture-centered advocacy, leadership development, and research.
  • Grassroots Asians Rising is an alliance of grassroots Asian organizers rooted in working-class organizations from across the U.S.

Links to some AAPI orgs working with an abolition focus

(this is not a complete list)

Additional Learning Resources

Community Safety Resources


Read Race Forward’s AAPI caucus letter in response to violence against Asians in Atlanta.

Please join Race Forward’s mailing list here.