Abolition for the People

In a candid conversation with Kiese Laymon, Mario Woods’ mother reflects on his life — and the violence that robbed him of his future

This article is part of Abolition for the People, a series brought to you by a partnership between Kaepernick Publishing and LEVEL, a Medium publication for and about the lives of Black and Brown men. The series, which comprises 30 essays and conversations over four weeks, points to the crucial conclusion that policing and prisons are not solutions for the issues and people the state deems social problems — and calls for a future that puts justice and the needs of the community first.

It’s morning. I just got off the phone with Gwen Woods, the mother of Mario Woods…


Grocery shopping with my mother

Photo: Nicolas Balcazar/EyeEm/Getty

At Jitney Jungle, you filled our cart with cream of mushroom soup, tuna, name-brand wheat bread, and a big bottle of off-brand cranberry juice. I asked you if I could get the latest issue of Right On! magazine because Salt-N-Pepa were on the cover. You told me you’d get me a subscription to the magazine in a few months when I turned 13, so I just read it while we waited in line. When we walked up to the checkout, I put all the food on the conveyor belt and watched it glide away from us. Behind the cashier, pinned…


On history, race, and guns in America

I’m wondering, while sitting on a sturdy porch across the road from William Faulkner’s house in northern Mississippi, if President Trump and the Mississippi Legislature really want big black niggers like me to carry guns into our classrooms. As a black child from central Mississippi, I was encouraged by my mother and teachers to imitate the work of William Faulkner. Mama thought imitating Faulkner could protect me, ironically, from white men, white men’s power, and all men’s bullets. By the time I was 15, I’d read everything Faulkner had written. I knew my Faulkner like I knew my Ice Cube…

Kiese Laymon

Kiese Laymon is the author of the forthcoming memoir, Heavy. He is also the author of Long Division and How to Slowly Kill Yourselves and Others in America.

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