an autonomous movement for the future of South Atlanta

Media advisory: Spelman College faculty call to “Stop Cop City”

Original letter available as a living document here

February 22, 2023

Dear Reader,                                                                              

The undersigned members of the Spelman College faculty join our students, our colleagues at Morehouse College, and community activists to publicly denounce Atlanta’s initiative to build a $90 million police training facility, popularly known as “Cop City.” The potential site for Cop City is the Old Atlanta Prison Farm which was once a slave labor camp and, before that, the Weelaunee Forest of the Muscogee Creek people. The violent histories of settler colonialism and slavery abound in this project which will contribute to militarization, deforestation and gentrification, making the lives of Atlanta’s Black population infinitely more difficult. The cancellation of Cop City would thus be a profound act of abolition and a step toward letting the world know that, in Atlanta, Black lives truly matter.

As Morehouse faculty point out, the most famous alumnus of the Atlanta University Center, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., repeatedly spoke against police violence. In his often quoted “I Have a Dream” (1963) speech, he clearly stated: “We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality.” It’s ironic, then, that Georgia, the state from which MLK hailed, has the highest rates of correctional control in the nation, twice as many as almost every state — and the city in which he was born is not rectifying, but compounding the state’s tendency toward militarization. Indeed, history has shown that the systemic violence of “law enforcement” has not eased since the 1960s; rather, it has escalated. NBC and other news outlets have reported that, after all the attention the Black Lives Matter-led racial justice movement generated after George Floyd’s death, the number of Black people killed by police has actually increased over the last two years. Latinx environmental activist and Cop City protestor Manuel Terán, known lovingly as Tortuguita, has already been tragically murdered — shot at least 13 times — by authorities on the potential site.

We commiserate with our Morehouse colleagues. Time and again, we have held the hands of our saddened and frustrated students who regularly confront the dehumanizing horrors of policing. As Black feminists like Kimberlé CrenshawChe Gossett, and our very own students remind us, Black cis and trans women are not shielded from the violence of law enforcement. Though their names are not always amplified in the same ways as their male counterparts, Black cis and trans women are brutalized and killed by the police. As such, abolition has always been a touchstone of Black feminism. Angela Davis has been protesting the prison industrial complex since the 1960s, reminding us that, “There is an unbroken line of police violence in the United States that takes us all the way back to the days of slavery” and “just as we hear calls today for more humane policing, people then called for more humane slavery.”

Following rich and radical Black feminist thought, the undersigned Spelman faculty say, loudly,  STOP COP CITY — before it becomes a national hub, attracting police from all over the country for law enforcement “training” that has no evidence of assuaging violence. We urge our civil leaders to heed history, engage a Black feminist praxis, listen to the people, and cancel the project. We urge Spelman’s president and the college’s board to use their prestigious platforms and join us in the denunciation of Cop City.

As teachers and mentors, we link arms with our students who — energized by the organizing legacy of the AUC and motivated by their own hostile encounters with the police — offer an alternative vision for the city of Atlanta. Their hope is ours: that the city, as the country’s historic “Black mecca,” becomes a global model not for militarization and fear, but for robustly loving and fostering Black life.

In solidarity,

1Rebecca ‘Reb’ Kumar, Ph.D.Assistant Professor, English
2Deanna P. Koretsky, Ph.D.Associate Professor, English
3Erica L. Williams, Ph.D.Associate Professor, Sociology and Anthropology
4Fernando Esquivel-Suarez, Ph.D.Assistant Professor, English
5Luis González-Barrios, Ph.D.Assistant Professor, Spanish
6Cocoa M. Williams, Ph.D.Senior Lecturer, English
7Sequoia Maner, Ph.D.Assistant Professor, English
8Mathew RudeWalker, Ph. D.Lecturer, English
9Pushpa Parekh, PhDProfessor, English; Chair, ADW
10Julie B. Johnson, PhDAssistant Professor; Chair, Dance Performance & Choreography
11Kelly PiggottLecturer, English
12Al-YashaAssociate Professor of Philosophy
13R. Nicole Smith, Ph.D.Senior Lecturer, English
14Katie Schaag, Ph.D.Assistant Professor, Theatre & Performance
15Sharan StrangeSenior Lecturer, English
16Stephen KnadlerProfessor and Chair of English
17Nami KimProfessor, Religious Studies
19Richard LuAssociate Professor, World Languages & Cultures
20Patricia VenturaAssociate Professor, English
21Maira GoytiaAssistant Professor, Biology
22Alexandria Ree HaddAssistant Professor, Psychology
23Michael McGinnisAssociate Professor, Biology
24Anna Powolny VenturaSenior Lecturer, Biology
25Bailey Brown Ph.D.Assistant Professor, Sociology
26Banah Ghadbian, Ph.D.Assistant Professor, Comparative Women’s Studies
27Robert BrownAssociate Professor, Political Science
28Romie TribbleProfessor of Economics
29James Daria, Ph.D.Assistant Professor, Anthropology
30Aku KadogoChair, Dept. of Theatre & Performance
31Adesi Canaglia-BrownAssociate Professor, Education
32shady Radical, Ph.D.Visiting Assistant Professor, Art and Visual Culture
33M. Bahati Kuumba, Ph.D.Professor, Comparative Women’s Studies
34Nicole JohnstonLecturer, Biology
35Ouida WashingtonLecturer, Documentary Filmmaking
36Kathleen Phillips LewisAssoc.Prof,. History
37Esther O. Ajayi-Lowo itAssistant Professor, Comparative Women’s Studies
38Celeste N. LeeAssistant Professor, Sociology and Anthropology
39Chad DawkinsVisiting Assistant Professor, Art History and Curatorial Studies
40Moon CharaniaAssociate Professor, International Studies
41Sara BusdieckerAssociate Professor, International Studies
42Daniel AshleyAssistant Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry
43Davita CampAssistant Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry
44Félix M. Rosario-Ortiz, Ph.D.Assistant Professor, Spanish
45Melanie McKieSenior Instructor, English
46Luisa ArrietaAssistant Professor, History
47Janike Ruginis GrossSenior Lecturer, Spanish
48Peter ChenProfessor, Chemistry and Biochemistry
49Noah MacDonaldInstructor, Economics
50Francisco Chen-LópezAssistant Professor, World Languages and Cultures
51Evelynn M. HammondsVisiting Professor
52Trina Gould WilliamsFaculty Reader, Braven@Spelman
53Rosetta E. RossProfessor, Religious Studies
54Jacqueline Alvarez-RosalesAssociate Professor, World Languages and Cultures
55Joan McCartyLecturer, Theatre and Performance
56Suneye Rae HolmesSenior Lecturer, Economics
57Gustavo SeguraLecturer, World Languages and Cultures
58Fernanda GuidaAssistant Professor, World Languages and Cultures
59P. Kimberleigh JordanLecturer, Humanities & Fine Arts Divisions
60Amber ReedAssistant Professor, International Studies
61kwame-osagyefo kalimara ADW Lecturer
62John GivensAssociate Professor, International Studies
63Anastasia ValecceAssociate Professor, World Languages and Cultures
64Alexxiss JacksonInstructor, Arts & Visual Culture
65Beverly Guy-SheftallAnna Julia Cooper Professor of Women’s Studies; Director of the Women’s Research and Resource Center
66Jaycee Hermida HolmesCo-Director of the Spelman Innovation Lab

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