Mariame Kaba

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Mariame Kaba
EducationMcGill University (BA)
Notable workWe Do This 'Til We Free Us

Mariame Kaba is an American activist, grassroots organizer, and educator who advocates for the abolition of the prison industrial complex, including all police.[1] She is the author of We Do This 'Til We Free Us (2021). The Mariame Kaba Papers are held by the Chicago Public Library Special Collections.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Mariame Kaba was born in New York City to immigrant parents.[3] Her mother emigrated from the Ivory Coast;[3] her father was involved in the independence struggle in Guinea.[4]

Mariame grew up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and attended Lycée Français.[5] As a child, she viewed the world through a black nationalist framework and looked for ways to help others.[6] Kaba received a B.A. in Sociology from McGill University in 1992.[7] In 1995 she moved to Chicago to study sociology at Northwestern University.[3][8] She completed her master's degree in Library and Information Science at Pratt Institute.[9]


In Chicago, she founded the Chicago Freedom School,[10] the Rogers Park Young Women's Action Team (YWAT),[3] Chicago Taskforce on Violence against Girls and Young Women,[11][12] Chicago Alliance to Free Marissa Alexander,[13] and We Charge Genocide (WCG).[14] In 2009, Kaba founded the organization Project NIA, which advocates to end youth incarceration.[15][16]

Kaba views prison abolition as the total dismantling of prison and policing while building up community services and opposes the reform of policing.[17][18] Her work has created the framework for current abolitionist organizations including Black Youth Project 100, Black Lives Matter Chicago, and Assata's Daughters.[6] She also helped found the organization Survived and Punished, an abolitionist organization that seeks to end sentencing for victims of intimate partner violence who defend themselves.[19] This project grew out of efforts to free Marissa Alexander.[20]


Kaba maintained a blog, "US Prison Culture," beginning in 2010. She has been active on Twitter under the account @prisonculture.[21][22]

In 2012, she wrote Resisting Police Violence in Harlem, a historical pamphlet detailing the policing and violence in Harlem.[23]

In March 2018, she wrote Lifting As They Climbed: Mapping A History Of Black Women On Chicago’s South Side with Essence McDowell. Started in 2012, the book is written as a guidebook that maps the history of the influential Black women who contributed to the development of Chicago during the 19th and 20th centuries.[24][8]

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.[25] 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.”[26] Kaba was reluctant to write the book, but the mass protests in the summer of 2020 persuaded her, in the interests of lending her tools for collective action to newly activated organizers.[26]


Anti-violence projects[edit]

  • A World Without Prisons Art Exhibit[41] curated by Project NIA and Free Write Jail Arts & Literacy Program.[42]
  • Restorative Posters Project[43][44]
  • Co-curated No Selves to Defend.[45]
  • Co-curated Blood at the Root – Unearthing the Stories of State Violence Against Black Women and Girls.[46][47][48]
  • Co-curated Making Niggers: Demonizing and Distorting Blackness[49]
  • Co-curated Black/Inside. Black/Inside: A History of Captivity & Confinement in the U.S. Art Exhibit on display at African American Cultural Center Gallery[50]


  • Kaba, Mariame (2012). "An (Abridged) History of Resisting Police Violence in Harlem" (PDF). Retrieved June 8, 2020.
  • Kaba, Mariame (June 12, 2020). "Opinion | Yes, We Mean Literally Abolish the Police". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 8, 2020.
  • Kaba, Mariame (December 28, 2015). "All of Chicago – not just its police – must see systemic change to save black lives | Mariame Kaba". The Guardian. Retrieved July 24, 2018.
  • "For blacks, America is dangerous by default". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 24, 2018.
  • Kaba, Mariame (May 2, 2018). "Why I'm Raising Money to Build an Ida B. Wells Monument". Huffington Post. Retrieved July 24, 2018.
  • Kaba, Mariame; Smith, Andrea; Adelman, Lori; Gay, Roxane. "Where Twitter and Feminism Meet | The Nation". The Nation. ISSN 0027-8378. Retrieved July 24, 2018.
  • "How to Repair the Criminal Justice System". October 5, 2015. Retrieved July 24, 2018.
  • "To Live and Die in "Chiraq."" The End of Chiraq: A Literary Mixtape. Eds Javon Johnson and Kevin Coval. Northwestern University Press.[51]
  • "Bresha Meadows Returns Home After Collective Organizing Efforts." Teen Vogue.[52]
  • "For Mother's Day, Activists Are Bailing Black Mamas out of Jail." Broadly.[53]
  • Foreword, As Black As Resistance: Finding the Conditions for Liberation, by Zoé Samudzi and William C. Anderson. AK Press. 2018.[54]
  • Introduction, Trying To Make the Personal Political, with the Women's Action Alliance, Lori Sharpe, Jane Ginsburg and Gail Gordon, and Jacqui Shine. Half-Letter Press. 2017.[55]


  1. ^ Kaba, Mariame (June 12, 2020). "Opinion | Yes, We Mean Literally Abolish the Police". The New York Times. Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  2. ^ "Mariame Kaba Papers".
  3. ^ a b c d "#WarriorWednesdays: Mariame Kaba Is Our Very Own Modern Day Abolitionist". Essence. Retrieved June 9, 2020.
  4. ^ Ewing, Eve L. (Fall 2019). "Mariame Kaba: Everything Worthwhile Is Done With Other People". Adi magazine. Retrieved May 11, 2022.
  5. ^ "Why Is This Happening? Thinking about how to abolish prisons with Mariame Kaba". NBC News. Retrieved June 9, 2020.
  6. ^ a b Dukmasova, Maya (August 25, 2016). "Abolish the police? Organizers say it's less crazy than it sounds". Chicago Reader. Retrieved June 9, 2020.
  7. ^ "New website celebrates Black McGill grads". July 8, 2020.
  8. ^ a b Bowean, Lolly. "Guidebook maps the legacy of black women on Chicago's South Side". Retrieved June 9, 2020.
  9. ^ Richardson, Catherine. "LibGuides: Bestselling Books by Black Authors: Home". Retrieved May 6, 2022.
  10. ^ Nair, Yasmin (May 11, 2016). "Talking with prison abolitionist Mariame Kaba - LGBT News - Windy City Times". Windy City Times. Retrieved October 28, 2020.
  11. ^ "Chicago Taskforce on Violence Against Girls & Young Women". Retrieved July 24, 2018.
  12. ^ Harding, Kate (August 25, 2015). Asking for It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture--and What We Can Do about It (in Arabic). Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-0-7382-17031.
  13. ^ "No Selves to Defend: Poetry about Criminalization and Violence Against Women". September 29, 2014. Retrieved July 24, 2018.
  14. ^ "We Charge Genocide". Retrieved July 24, 2018.
  15. ^ "Project NIA > About Us". Retrieved July 24, 2018.
  16. ^ "How to Never Call the Cops Again: A Guide with a Few Alternatives to Calling Police". Autostraddle. June 3, 2020. Retrieved June 9, 2020.
  17. ^ Kaba, Mariame (June 12, 2020). "Opinion: Yes, We Mean Literally Abolish the Police". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 14, 2020.
  18. ^ Kaba, Mariame. "Police "Reforms" You Should Always Oppose". Truthout. Retrieved June 9, 2020.
  19. ^ Pollitt, Katha (July 28, 2019). "Give Your Heart Out!". The Nation. Archived from the original on July 28, 2019. Retrieved June 2, 2023.
  20. ^ Kaba, Mariame (January 3, 2019). "Black women punished for self-defense must be freed from their cages". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Archived from the original on May 2, 2023. Retrieved June 2, 2023.
  21. ^ "Prison Culture". Retrieved May 18, 2021.
  22. ^ "prisonculture". Twitter. Retrieved May 18, 2021.
  23. ^ Martin, Douglas (October 8, 2014). "Robert Mangum, a City and Civil Rights Leader, Dies at 93". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 9, 2020.
  24. ^ "A Tour Of Black Women's Stories On Chicago's South Side". WBEZ Chicago. August 27, 2019. Retrieved June 9, 2020.
  25. ^ "Paperback Nonfiction Books - Best Sellers - Books - The New York Times". The New York Times. March 14, 2021. Retrieved March 5, 2021.
  26. ^ a b Parrella-Aureli, Ariel (February 15, 2020). "'Nothing that we do that is worthwhile is done alone'". The Chicago Reader. Retrieved March 5, 2021.
  27. ^ "Illinois State Senator Heather Steans". Retrieved July 24, 2018.
  28. ^ "A Long Walk Home | Stars Foundation". Retrieved July 24, 2018.
  29. ^ "Awards". Retrieved July 24, 2018.
  30. ^ "2018 Impact Awards - Chicago Foundation for Women". Chicago Foundation for Women. Retrieved July 24, 2018.
  31. ^ "Join us for Women Who Dared 2014!". Chicago NOW. August 29, 2014. Retrieved July 24, 2018.
  32. ^ "Lawndale Christian Legal Center". Retrieved July 24, 2018.
  33. ^ "Women to Celebrate". Transformative Spaces. March 5, 2015. Retrieved July 24, 2018.
  34. ^ "Awards". Retrieved July 24, 2018.
  35. ^ "Mariame Kaba". Open Society Foundations. Retrieved July 24, 2018.
  36. ^ "Ron Sable Award for Activism | Crossroads Fund". Retrieved July 24, 2018.
  37. ^ "WRL Peace Awards Recipients and Annual Dinner Speakers". War Resisters League. March 27, 2015. Retrieved July 24, 2018.
  38. ^[bare URL]
  39. ^
  40. ^ "Marguerite Casey Foundation announces 2022 Freedom Scholars". Retrieved April 22, 2023.
  41. ^ "A World Without Prisons: A Conversation with Mariame Kaba". Lumpen Magazine. April 8, 2016. Retrieved July 24, 2018.
  42. ^ Dubler, Joshua; Lloyd, Vincent (May 19, 2018). "Think prison abolition in America is impossible? It once felt inevitable | Joshua Dubler and Vincent Lloyd". The Guardian. Retrieved July 24, 2018.
  43. ^ "Restorative Posters | Representing Justice Visually". Retrieved July 24, 2018.
  44. ^ "The Art of Restorative Questions". Cultural Organizing. October 5, 2016. Retrieved July 24, 2018.
  45. ^ "Disappearing Acts: Domestic Violence & Black Legal Subjects | UCB Center for Race & Gender". University of California, Berkeley. Retrieved July 24, 2018.
  46. ^ "Prison Culture » Video: Blood at the Root Exhibition". Retrieved July 24, 2018.
  47. ^ "the art of the black lives matter movement". I-d. September 11, 2015. Retrieved July 24, 2018.
  48. ^ "Rekia Boyd, Other Female Victims of Police Violence Honored in Exhibit". DNAinfo Chicago. Archived from the original on July 25, 2018. Retrieved July 24, 2018.
  49. ^ "Prison Culture » Making Niggers: Demonizing and Distorting Blackness". Retrieved July 24, 2018.
  50. ^ "Black/Inside". African American Cultural Center.
  51. ^ "The End of Chiraq | Northwestern University Press". Retrieved July 24, 2018.
  52. ^ Kaba, Mariame; Lenz, Colby. "How We Worked to #FreeBresha Meadows from Incarceration". Teen Vogue. Retrieved July 24, 2018.
  53. ^ "For Mother's Day, Activists Are Bailing Black Mamas out of Jail". Broadly. May 10, 2017. Retrieved July 24, 2018.
  54. ^ Samudzi, Zoé; Anderson, William C.; Kaba, Mariame (June 5, 2018). As Black As Resistance: Finding the Conditions for Liberation. Chico, California: AK Press. ISBN 9781849353168.
  55. ^ "Trying to Make the Personal Political: Feminism and Consciousness-Raising".

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]