On Tuesday, March 30, the Washington State Senate voted to ban private, for-profit prisons and detention centers. Immigration and human rights activists who have shed light on the last 20 years of human rights violations at Northwest ICE Processing Center (NWIPC) are celebrating this major development. “This is a win of the People,” announced Maru Mora Villalpando of the grassroots undocumented immigrant-led group La Resistencia, following the news. “Thanks to all that supported this fight throughout the years and thanks to all legislators.”
Nikkita Oliver has made a name for themselves in Seattle and beyond. The lawyer, artist, professor, and abolitionist is bringing their many skills to the race for Position 9, one of two at-large seats on the Seattle City Council.
On Mar. 10, Oliver announced their candidacy, a grassroots campaign centered around mutual aid that prioritizes providing community members with basic needs. This is not Oliver’s first attempt at a bid for public office — in 2017 they began their political career with a run for mayor, narrowly missing out on the general election.
Oliver is currently the executive director of Creative Justice, an organization that focuses on providing art therapy as an alternative to incarceration. They are also deeply involved in Seattle’s Black Lives Matter movement and have worked closely with organizations to serve marginalized communities.
From Fannie Lou Hamer to Stacey Abrams, Black womxn organizers have historically had one of the biggest impacts on transforming our communities and improving the social outcomes of our neighborhoods. In the last year in Seattle, there is no doubt Nikkita Oliver (they/them) has served as one of the community’s north stars as we look for solutions for eradicating police and State violence and building a community that we want to live in. In this pivotal moment in U.S. history, where more people have joined the fight for Black and Brown Liberation, Lola’s Ink journalist Jenna Hanchard was in conversation with Nikkita Oliver to talk about their leadership and imagining a future where someday they could just fade into the background.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity
Jenna Hanchard: What does Black Liberation look like, smell like, taste like, feel like?
Many years ago, I sat dejected as a judge sentenced me to life in prison for crimes committed as a 15 year old. At the time, I felt as if the world was falling away and I was hanging on without a parachute or a place for a soft landing. The arms of somebody that would catch and hold me couldn’t be found. I never felt so alone as I did in that moment. Aside from three random strangers, the packed courtroom on that day was there to encourage the punishment of a criminalized teenage me. When the punishment was officially announced, the satisfaction of the audience in that room was eerie. I still feel the chills from that day years ago today.
As Hurricane Florence smacks the Carolinas and mandatory evacuations go into effect, one group of people was not evacuated. Despite the flooding and winds speeding at 100 miles per hour, South Carolina prisoners remained in harm’s way. Prisoners at Ridgeland, MacDougall, and Lieber Correctional Institutions have been left behind, and, not surprising, this is not an isolated incident. In fact it’s a common procedure across the prison system. What makes it more insidious is that, when disasters happen, imprisoned bodies are locked in cells, meaning if something starts to go wrong there is nothing anyone can do to get to safety and protect their life.