Palestine Labor Abolition Commentary Print

Documenting and amplifying 5C organizing

About Join Read issue 1

October 6, 2022

Laila Kent SC ’23: “I’m now really prime and ready to be doing this work, but it took a while.”

Nobody Fails at Scripps pushed Kent into abolition work after freshman and sophomore year "event paralysis"

Samson Zhang

This interview was conducted on Oct. 4, originally for a story about the Sep. 27, 2022 Board of Supervisors. Laila Kent was a student in Prof. Tom Kim’s Practicing Abolition Democracy class who helped mobilize students to protest motions to build new locked mental health facilities at the meeting.

My freshman and sophomore year, coming into the 5Cs, I think I had event paralysis. I was like, I wanna join SJP [Students for Justice in Palestine], I wanna join inner tube water polo, I wanna join SEED [Scripps Environmental Education and Development], the sustainability group at Scripps, and I wanna join advocates. And then I was on a very high time commitment sports team as well. My freshman and sophomore year, I think I mainly dedicated my time to my sports team and getting my social bearings.

And then I would attend all these incredible events, including leftist events, mutual aid dinners, speaker series. I attended a few CR [Critical Resistance] speaker series that were great. But my freshman and sophomore year [prisab] felt like more of a space for people that were already really well versed in abolition. And I think that the leaders were already really knowledgeable about their vision and their direction. There were like five or six people doing a ton of work. And I think for me, as someone that was new to these concepts and really interested, I just had a ton of questions, and I don’t think prisab [Prison Abolition Collective] 2018, 2019 was necessarily like the space for me to get my questions answered.

To some people, I think that energy came off as a little bit intimidating or a little bit gate kept. But I think those statements are honestly kind of racialized too. The leadership, they were so powerful and did a lot of incredible organizing work that I saw from afar. I didn’t wanna slow that momentum down by being like, can you explain this, this, this, and this. So I think a lot of my interest in abolition came from just observing the organizers here, observing them just really being incredible speakers and having incredible mobilizing organizing efforts that I dipped in and out of, but wasn’t a part of the fold.

Over the course of my time here, particularly COVID, not just COVID, I think I’ve seen…I’ve been here since 2018 and I’ve seen the cracks in how the administrations, specifically Scripps, like oftentimes use bureaucracy as this veil to…in the way they’ve always done things as ways to not necessarily listen to student needs and student demands, in ways that were so frustrating. I was seeing my friends and my communities really become hurt as a response to Scripps not listening to students.

Particularly once we did get sent home and the Nobody Fails at Scripps Mutual Aid collective formed and there was this big push for a universal pass and Scripps ultimately denied that. That felt like a big catalyst in my brain where I was like, Okay, I want to be dedicating concerted effort towards spaces here that are truly rooted in building equity into the infrastructure of our schools. It was a big wake up call where I was like, holy shit. Scripps actually did that. We now have to create mutual aid funds to support people being in survival mode because Scripps won’t support them. That’s so fucked.

That was a big catalyst for me wanting to dedicate more time to that. I’ve always really gotten a lot out of the intro to the PIC [prison industrial complex] workshops that CR [Critical Resistance] puts on every year. A lot of my learnings about abolition and now my development as a budding abolitionist, it’s been like done outside of prisab, but now I think coming back, it being 2022…I’m obviously still learning a lot, but I think I’m coming to this space ready to do work, confident that I know how to get people excited and answer questions and take up a little bit more space. This hesitancy is really common here. Your first few years when you’re just trying to figure out what the hell you wanna major in and who your friends are, and the event paralysis. I think I’m now really prime and ready to be doing this work, but it took a while.

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Thanks for reading Undercurrents

Undercurrents reports on labor, Palestine liberation, prison abolition and other community organizing at and around the Claremont Colleges.

Issue 1 / Spring 2023

Setting the Standard

How Pomona workers won a historic $25 minimum wage; a new union in Claremont; Tony Hoang on organizing

Read issue 1