Jasmine McBride: What led you to abolition?
Jason Sole: I never grew up with a specific number to call because 911 just wasn't an option. This was at an early age–having no deescalation. I think that's what all this really came from, and really trying to protect my mom; a young black mom. She was 19 when she had me, 16 when she had my sister, so who you think can protect them? As I got of age, I knew I was the one. I'm 16 in 1994 when the crime bill hit. ‘94 is when they really revved it up for people like me.
JM: How was it accepting the lack of protection from the police in your experience?
JS: I always had to think like, what is the pathway to safety? Keeping cops away from me is a better thing for my life. It was better for my mom. Two months ago, my mom had an incident. She had a flat tire and the insurance people sent the police to help keep her safe on the highways. She was thinking about Sandra Bland. So for me? Growing up, who's gonna protect this black woman if it ain't me? My conversations around abolition is rooted in having fast solutions when things were unsafe.
JM: You’ve had a lot of experiences as a young person leading up to your abolitionist work. One being when you moved to Waterloo, Iowa, for a change of environment as a teen. Can you elaborate on that?
JS: My Black skin couldn't go everywhere. I was a tall Black kid. I rocked braids and an afro back then. They didn't know how to deal with me–and I didn't talk like them. So who can really advocate for me? I don't know a life without thinking about abolition. That's why I co-founded REP. That's why I got an organization where we’re actually responding to calls.
JM: What are your thoughts on reform?
JS: People who want to try and work on police and figure out police, they can. I rather build with my relationships that I have. My ecosystem is of brilliant black people that I've struggled with in a way where it's just deep love and appreciation. If I keep focusing on that, they won't be able to bother us.
You can watch Jason Sole’s recent Minneapolis TedX Talk here.