Published in Antipode 53(2) in March 2021, Teona Williams’ “For ‘Peace, Quiet, and Respect’: Race, Policing, and Land Grabbing on Chicago’s South Side” won the Clyde Woods Black Geographies Specialty Group Graduate Student Paper Award in 2018.
The goal of the BGSG Graduate Student Paper Award is to honour the legacy of late scholar Clyde Woods by supporting graduate students whose work focuses on Black Geographies. Woods invested his time in the intellectual life of Black Studies and with Black scholars, particularly students. Woods was known for providing intellectual validity to students who were unable to divorce embodied and alternative knowledge systems from their scholarship. Instead, Woods mentored students towards scholarly interventions that deciphered new practices and social visions. In the wake of Woods’ passing, his legacy has permeated a new generation of Black Geographies scholars. As with the students Woods mentored directly, this generation is working towards the transformation of scientific inquiry, resisting the exclusion of Indigenous intellectual traditions of Black landscapes and geographic thought found in their projects.
The Clyde Woods Black Geographies Graduate Student Paper Award is given to the best paper on a Black Geographies topic written by an MA or PhD student, who is a BGSG member. One award is given each year, and the winner works with Antipode’s Editorial Collective to prepare their paper for peer review and, if successful, publication in the journal. Throughout this process, the author receives mentorship from a senior scholar on the Antipode team. Teona Williams worked with Katherine McKittrick, and the paper she produced is simply stunning. We caught up with Teona (who is a PhD candidate in History and African American Studies at Yale University) earlier this year to hear what it’s all about…
This past summer, Black Lives Matter activists around the world chanted “People over Property” – a powerful rebuttal that silenced movement detractors who tried to delegitimize a movement for Black humanity – in response to the open rebellion against the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of the police. BLM protesters were met with militarized police forces armed with guns and tear gas. And it became clear that property did indeed outweigh the value of Black life. Excavating the deep ties between the built environment and the police allow us to see how systems of policing are created to preserve urban ecosystems at the defiance of Black lives. As scholars such as Willie J. Wright and J.T. Roane have argued, white supremacy and antiblackness are embedded in the very ecosystems in which we exist. As the cries for environmental justice come to fruition with visions of a Green New Deal, it is important to realize that we cannot heal the environment without healing the land from antiblack racism and police violence. Movements to abolish the police should be on every environmental organization list of priorities. In my article For “Peace, Quiet, and Respect”: Race, Policing, and Land Grabbing on Chicago’s South Side, I extend arguments of environmental justice and police abolition to extend to campus and other private police forces across the world. Focusing on Hyde Park and the University of Chicago, I show how the birth of the University of Chicago’s police force had little to do with public safety than to physically enforce urban renewal, eventual gentrification, and a white racial order.
By the turn of the century, UChicago prided itself as a garden in the city and a beacon of intellectualism in Chicago. The marketing of a garden campus attracted students and faculty. By the 1930s, however, Black migration to Hyde Park threatened the university’s landscape, and officials grew concerned about how to preserve its built environment. In 1952, Lawrence Kimpton, then University Chancellor, helped found the Southeast Chicago Commission (SECC), with the mission of urban conservation by driving out crime and urban decline on the Southside. The university invested in its first private police force who were used to eradicate low-income Black communities, block public housing, and push thousands of Black people out of Hyde Park. It harnessed the language of environmental preservation in order to maintain the pristine quality of the campus for its faculty and students, with one student famously advocating that the university “build a wall around Hyde Park” in order to convince students to attend the university. By 2012, the university touted one of the largest private police forces in the world, second at the time to the Vatican, and held jurisdiction over 65,000 residents not affiliated with the university. The expansion of the UCPD enabled the expansion of the university’s own borders, raising concerns about continued land grabbing. While the language of urban renewal has passed, its vestiges live on. In 2015, a massive campaign to abolish the UCPD emerged in response to hundreds of reports of Black residents and youth being stopped, harassed, and at times beaten by the UCPD, when they attempted to utilize the campus’ green spaces. Campus police forces have long worked to instil a racial management of the built environment, the associated so-called “natural” environments, and protection of white wealth and property at the expense of Black lives.
This returns me to the work of Mariame Kaba, and the turn toward abolition and futurity. I conjure the local residents and students in Hyde Park, who in their mourning of #BreonnaTaylor and others murdered by the police have reignited the campaign #CareNotCops, which dreams of a world beyond policing, where the care of the community is in the hands of the people. It is their use of care and healing that could radically inform the environmental movement, and truly the environmental movement writ large.
We are also delighted to present two responses to the essay and Teona’s reply. Willie Wright and Camilla Hawthorne from the Black Geographies Specialty Group worked with Antipode’s Editorial Collective to commission commentaries by Celeste Winston (Temple University) and Julie Sze (University of California, Davis). Both engaged with the paper generously, and we’d like to thank them, again, for their labours. Together with Teona’s, we think that their thoughts make wonderful material for thinking with about the present condition and possible futures of one of our discipline’s most vital areas, Black Geographies.
- Celeste Winston (Geography and Urban Studies, Temple University)
- Julie Sze (American Studies, University of California, Davis)
The 2020 Clyde Woods Black Geographies Specialty Group Graduate Student Paper Award went to Kaily Heitz for “Unfolding the Frame: The Geographic Matter of Black Life, Image, and Form”. Congratulations! Kaily is a PhD candidate in Geography at the University of California, Berkeley, and will be working with Katherine McKittrick on her paper in due course.