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The Life after Life Collective is a community organization and an action group of the Centre for Gender Advocacy. We are a Montreal-based collective dedicated to de-criminalization and de-carceration.
Our Mandate: We are an intergenerational collective run mutually by girls, women, queer, transgender, and feminists. Our aim is to build a viable community for people coming out of punitive state institutions who need a space to heal and support each other, and nurture their leadership. We are committed to de-criminalization and to de-carceration and to troubling any common sense notion that prisons are normal, necessary, or that those who are living “inside” prison walls are somehow different from those living “outside.” We center an intersectional, critical race feminist, trans-inclusive and anti-oppressive praxis. By learning together in social action, we may be able to transform ourselves and each other by challenging the distortions of the mainstream media, educational institutions, and legal system.
Our History: Ideas for this group emerged from numerous discussions, including one specific conversation on the realities facing criminalized women during a Blue Print workshop at the Centre for Gender Advocacy in 2012. Through various interactions and experiences with group homes, child protective services, mental institutions, jails, and prison, those involved in this group have acknowledged how the Prison Industrial Complex in Canada is criminalizing and incarcerating ever growing numbers of poor and racialized girls, women, transgender and gender non-conforming people. Life after Life aims to find new ways of organizing and building community that center upon and draws from those girls, women, transgender and gender non-conforming people who have been directly affected by state violence. We are not a social services agency and do not see ourselves as “victims in need of services” dependent upon the state. We do, however, understand ourselves as capable of creating community and supporting each other. Our goal is to promote the holistic development of criminalized girls and women, inspiring them to establish strong leadership roles in local communities.
Our Approach: Our mandate is to be as organic, spontaneous and creative as possible. It’s why we believe in the transformative power of cultural mediums such as dance, media, music, poetry, spoken word, filmmaking, cooking, etc. The activities and issues are determined by the participants themselves, a point that reflects how our collective is grounded in the primary principle of self-determination with respect to each participant’s personal, spiritual, and political empowerment process. We believe in process and consensus-based development, not necessarily in an explicit end goal. If participants want to learn how to style hair, we will learn how to style hair, period. If participants want to take a break from talking about policy change, we will take a break and paint our nails instead; these artistic pursuits are not goal-oriented. Our approach recognizes that in order to maintain a responsive and responsible sense of community for our leadership, we cannot privilege any activity as more or less legitimate.
Life after Life is an action group of the Centre for Gender Advocacy and holds open meetings every other week at 1500 de Maisonneuve West, Suite 404.
Please e-mail us at lifeafterlife[at]centre2110.org for meeting times or drop by and speak with the Centre’s Action Group liaison.
We are always looking for new members!
ATTN: Life after Life Project Co-coordinator
Center for Gender Advocacy
1500 de Maisonneuve West, Suite 404,
Montreal, Quebec H3G 1N1 CANADA
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The Life after Life collective believes in liberatory means for liberatory ends. We aim to work with allies across movements to learn about and practice a Transformative Justice (TJ) approach. The general goals of this approach are:
•“Safety, healing, and agency for survivors of interpersonal and community violence
•Accountability and transformation for people who harm
•Community action, healing, and accountability
•Transformation of the social conditions that perpetuate violence—systems of oppression and exploitation, domination, and state violence” (Generation FIVE 2007)
The following is a list of organizations that seek to address violence from a political organizing perspective, rather than relying on the criminal legal system or “professionalized” social services. These organizations:
•Refuse to leverage the racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, and ableism of state and systemic violence in their efforts to create safety, healing and self-determination for survivors of interpersonal and community violence
•Recognize that gender violence is not simply a tool of patriarchal control, but “must be understood within larger systems of capitalism, settler colonialism, white supremacy, and heteropatriarchy” (Smith 2011, xiv)
•Recognize that strategies designed to combat sexual and domestic violence within communities must be linked to strategies that combat violence directed against communities, including settler-state violence
•Do not rely on the criminal justice system nor do they encourage survivors to engage with it. At the same time they do not tell survivors that they should never call the police or rape crisis hotlines. Instead they ask “Why have we given survivors no other option but to engage the criminal justice system?”
•Hold a prison abolitionist perspective and believe in crowding-out prisons with other forms of justice-making that will eventually demonstrate both the ineffectiveness and the brutality of prisons
•Seek to build new forms of grassroots-based community organization based on mutual respect, substantive participation and interrelatedness rather than on domination, violence and control
•Seek not only to “take power” but to “make power” and therefore build community accountability structures that are not reliant on state power (e.g. do not claim non-profit status to accept money from the state and foundation founding stream grants)
Generation FIVE. 2007. Toward Transformative Justice: A Liberatory Approach to Child Sexual Abuse and Other Forms of Intimate and Community Violence (A Call to Action for the Left and the Sexual and Domestic Violence Sectors). Oakland, CA. http://www.generationfive.org/downloads/G5_Toward_Transformative_Justice.pdf.
Smith, Andrea. 2011. “Preface.” In The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities, ed. Ching-In Chen, Jai Dulani, and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, xiii–xvii. Brooklyn, NY: South End Press.
To find out more about TJ goals, principals, and application, check-out these organizations:
1. CONNECT: Safe Families, Peaceful Communities
2. Incite! Women of Color Against Violence
3. Sista II Sista—Sisters Liberated Ground
4. Young Women’s Empowerment Project
5. CARA Communities Against Rape and Abuse
6. Generation FIVE (US and Canada)
7. STOP StoryTelling & Organizing Project
8. FAR-OUT Friends Are Reaching Out
9. Raksha’s Breaking the Silence Project
10. Justice NOW!
11. Critical Resistance
12. TGI Justice Project
And check-out these resources:
Chen, Ching-In, Jai Dulani, and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, eds. 2011. The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence within Activist Communities. Brooklyn, NY: South End Press.
Community Accountability: Emerging Movements to Transform Violence, a special issue of Social Justice: A Journal of Crime, Conflict & World Order (Vol 37, No. 4, 2011-2012).