Call for Participation — Investing in Futures: Beyond Policing
Investing in Futures: Beyond Policing is a free workshop of structured conversation, imagination, and play, designed in urgent response to the injustices and racism that resulted in the death of George Floyd which spurred protests across all 50 states and around the globe. We are a group of artists, technologists, teachers, and researchers with the common goal of facilitating the co-imagining of equitable worlds that may reveal insights, forewarnings or methodologies to use in pursuit of defunding, reforming and abolishing the police.
We will be running our first iteration of this workshop on Monday, June 15, online from 6–9pm EST. Though this workshop is certainly for everyone, we’re ensuring that we prioritize black applicants in an effort to centre the voices and experiences of identities closest to the issue. If you’re interested in participating, please fill out the following expression of interest, or reach out directly to get in touch.
A bit of background about how this came to be:
About three months ago, at the beginning of lockdown, we came across this quote from the writer Arundhati Roy:
Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.
Around the same time, we had pulled out our 2016 card deck, Investing in Futures: a constraint-based tool created to spur imagination, conversation, and experiential understanding of the relationship between the personal, communal, and systemic in our society.
Somewhere between the lock-step created by the relentless COVID news cycle and the collective work to flatten the curve, the truth that communities can affect change through their action became abundantly clear. A new world seemed more possible than ever — and much faster than we expected. At the same time, we couldn’t help but dwell on a video by author and activist Naomi Klein, in which she subverts a quote by Milton Friedman to warn us that there is no guarantee the right ideas will win: “Only a crisis — actual or perceived — produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around.”
Then, George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer. At this moment of crisis when millions of people took to the streets to demand justice, a friend reminded us of the potential to put our card deck to use — to raise up the ideas that our communities have “lying around” (perhaps reframed as fermenting) and discover new portals together:
“Hey Ashley, didn’t you collab on a future imagination game with tangible restrictions? Wouldn’t that be helpful in imagining a world without police? I think people need to play right now”
In the past two weeks, protesters have made the potential for this new world visible. In Minneapolis, nine members of the City Council have declared their commitment to defunding and dismantling the city’s police department. Los Angeles is redirecting $150 million in police funding towards youth jobs, health initiatives and “peace centers” — a huge reversal from the Mayor’s April proposal to increase the LAPD budget by 7%. New York City has announced a reallocation of NYPD funds for youth and social services. In Portland, OR, police officers will be removed from public schools and $1 million originally budgeted for these officers will be directed towards community programming. In Toronto, council members have added a motion to the next City Council agenda to defund the Toronto Police by 10% and put the funds towards community services. These changes were unimaginable only a couple weeks ago, but this is not enough.
For this world to truly take form, we need to use our imaginations, and imagination is a muscle exercised through play.
So starting this week, we are running a new workshop using the Investing in Futures structure, with additional constraints to focus on imagining a society — and most importantly, one we would want to live in — where police departments are reformed, defunded and abolished. The resulting worlds could be tangible and realistic but could just as easily be playful, silly, and maybe even absurd. Our methodology relies on the idea that the freedom of play provides a safe forum to try on and generate new frameworks, and that co-imagining a world you want to live in draws connections between the personal, communal, and systemic. The trickle down effect could help us take steps towards better futures.
Ultimately, our hope is that, while these worlds may be unrealistic, the exercise strengthens us, together, to imagine and enact real change.
We’re inspired by the call to action echoing through protests, manifesting in tweets and circulating via zines, how-to’s and workshops. We’re hoping that, together, we might draw motivation from some of the most poignant and poetic demands for change and visions for the future.
Meet the Team
Ayodamola Tanimowo Okunseinde — Guest Artist
Ayodamola Tanimowo Okunseinde (Ayo)(he/his) is a Nigerian-American artist, designer, and time-traveler living and working in New York. He studied Visual Arts and Philosophy at Rutgers the State University of New Jersey where he earned his B.A. His works range from painting and speculative design to physically interactive works, wearable technology and explorations of “Reclamation”. Okunseinde was the co-founder and creative director of Dissident Display Studios, an award winning studio and art gallery based in Washington DC.Okunseinde holds a BA in Visual Arts from Rutgers University and an MFA in Design + Technology from Parsons School of Design where he serves as Assistant Professor of Interaction and Media Design.
Omari Soulfinger — Guest Artist
Omari Soulfinger (b. 1986 in Brooklyn, NY) is a performing artist dedicated to creative advocacy. Since 2001, Omari has worked with under served families and their communities in various capacities, including as a classroom teacher, social worker and advocate. Adjacent to his community work, Omari has performed stand-up comedy, improv, storytelling, puppetry, musical, forum, street theater, mime, clowning, and burlesque.
Marina Zurkow — Facilitator
Marina Zurkow (she/they) is a multi-disciplinary artist focused on near-impossible nature-culture intersections. She uses life science, materials, and technologies — including food, software, animation, clay and other biomaterials — to foster intimate connections in the more-than-human world.
She is a co-developer of the original Investing in Futures deck. She is currently a teaching fellow in the Center for the Advancement of Public Action at Bennington College and a fellow at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) in Tisch School of the Arts.
Sarah Rothberg — Facilitator
Sarah Rothberg (she/they) is an artist/educator who works with interactive media, most often with immersive experiences like virtual/augmented reality and computer mediated performance. SR’s work engages with embodiment, the impact of new media, and the relationship between the personal and complex systems. She teaches at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) in Tisch School of the Arts.
Ashley Jane Lewis — Facilitator
Ashley Jane Lewis (she/her) is an interactive artist with a focus on equity and speculative design. Her practice reclaims black culture of the past, present and future through computational and analog mediums. Her award winning work has exhibited in Canada and the US, most notably on the White House website during the Obama presidency. She holds a master’s degree from NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program, a BFA in New Media Art from Ryerson University as well as a listed spot on the 2016 Top 100 Black Women to Watch in Canada.
Lydia Jessup — Facilitator
Lydia Jessup (she/her) is an artist-researcher and public interest technologist who makes work that combines policy and governance with art and technology. She was part of the IFF team that led a workshop at Rice University to develop an edition of the deck focused on waste and trash. Previously, she worked in public policy research at UChicago Urban Labs and in Peru at Innovations for Poverty Action. She holds a master’s degree from NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program and a BA in International Relations from Tufts University.
Neta Bomani — Content Collaborator
Neta Bomani is a worker who engages in oral history, direct action and social practices through organizing and making archives, writings, prints, zines, circuits and workshops. Neta’s work has materialized as an educator of Pioneer Works after school programs, an organizer of the School for Poetic Computation, a member of Stephanie Dinkins Studio and a participator in grassroots organizing against prisons and borders in New York City and beyond.
Ladan Mohamad Siad — Facilitator
Ladan Mohamed Siad is Toronto and New York based interdisciplinary storyteller and designer, who explores the relationships between design, technology and the universalities of the black diasporic experience.
Siad works to tell narratives about the world that are possible when radical visionary change flourishes. Siad is a self-taught and community
supported creative, quilting together global black genres into a visual and audio tapestry of home everywhere. A theme of Ladan’s work is bringing a studied analysis of race, class and gender as they are reflected and impacted by technology, art, design, and new media. Over the course of their career, they have challenged themselves to evolve their methods and perspectives to create bridges to understanding and agency for the betterment of their communities.
Kellee Massey — Facilitator
Kellee is a Brooklyn based Creative Technologist, whose work sits at the intersection of technology, design, and social justice. She’s also interested in combining her love for theater with the skills she’s gained while at ITP.
Cy X — Facilitator
Cy X (they/theirs) is a black queer multidisciplinary artist based in Brooklyn, NY. They received their BA in Film and Media Studies from Colorado College in 2017. They are currently a MPS candidate at The Interactive Telecommunications Program, New York University Tisch School of the Arts. Cy is interested in exploring black queer futures and abolitionist possibilities through emerging technology, immersive environments, and performances.
Elizabeth Perez — Facilitator
I do a lot of things but the work I am most proud of is mothering my son. I work in NYC as a doula and childbirth educator, and sometimes as an artist committed to gettin’ free. Currently, I am updating my emergency preparedness kit as an MPS candidate at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program. You can learn more about me here.
Nicole Lloyd — Facilitator
Past Investing in Futures workshops:
Investing in Futures has been played around the country and world! As part of More&More Unlimited, Marina and Sarah have led workshops for college students at Haverford College, NYU, University of Rochester, and NYUAD, as well as at NADA Art Fair, SLSA, and their studio. Marina has recently taught a semester-long version as a course at Bennington College in Vermont. Ashley and Lydia have facilitated the workshop for university professors and scholars at a Waste Workshop hosted by the Center for Energy & Environments of Rice University in Houston, Texas. IiF is used by educators at all levels independently.
Educational Resources on Prison and Police Abolition (Mary Blair)
The Marshall Project’s curated collection of links on Police Abolition (The Marshall Project)
Collection of Police Abolition Resources (Transform Harm)
Multimedia Resource Guide (Micah Herskind)
The End of Policing free PDF (Alex Vitale)
Abolitionist Policing Policy Database (maintained by Shyamala Ramakrishna)
Are Prisons Obsolete? (Angela Davis)
Reforms vs. Abolitionist Steps In Policing (critical resistance)
A collection of shareable graphics on police abolition (8toabolition)
Public Safety Posters: Imagine A Police-free future (created by Amber Hughson of Ann Arbor and reprinted by the Coalition Against Police Crimes & Repression)
Abolish the Police (MPD150 FAQ) (graphic by @wretchedflowers)