Ribbon Cutting Ceremony at Abolition Plaza

On the afternoon of Sunday, November 21, members of the Human Rights Coalition (HRC), the Coalition to Abolish Death By Incarceration (CADBI), Lombard Central Presbyterian Church, and the larger community came together for a ribbon-cutting/inauguration ceremony for Abolition Plaza. Abolition Plaza is a multi-use, solar-powered, wifi-enabled outdoor meeting area and community garden located directly behind the Little House of Lombard Central Presbyterian Church in West Philadelphia, where the HRC/CADBI offices are.

Across six long, crisp weeks in October and November, Holobiont Laboratory along with many volunteers from CADBI, HRC, and beyond worked to build this new outdoor, sustainability-centered meeting area.

Together people cleared weeds, dug post holes, completed platforms for the rainwater catchment system, shoveled out the new patio area, laid permeable pavers, and most triumphantly, lifted the hefty pergola (a shade structure which holds/supports the solar panels) up into the air!! These solar panels that were used to cover the pergola will generate energy for outdoor power/plug-in stations and an irrigation system for the nearby garden beds.

Rev Chris breaking down the church's abolitionist history.

For the inauguration ceremony, some thirty-plus people gathered to enjoy warm cider, warm company, and many delicious baked goods, as well as to share their future visions both for this space and for the larger and more just world which they are working to bring into being. Since its formation in 2015, CADBI has been working to build a mass movement both inside and outside of prison to take a stand against death by incarceration (DBI) and other harsh sentencing practices.

Pennsylvania prisons hold over 5000 people serving DBI sentences (or life sentences without the possibility of parole). As Patricia Vickers, member of CADBI and HRC observes: “In PA, a life sentence means your natural life--it is a sentence that condemns you to die in prison--which is why I and many other people call it death by incarceration. We know that it will take a mass movement to abolish death by incarceration. We are building that movement.”

The name Abolition Plaza draws upon both the abolitionist past and heritage of the church site, as well as the current movement to end mass incarceration. It was selected in acknowledgement of the prior anti-slavery history of this location as a stop along the Underground Railroad, vividly connecting our abolitionist past to an abolitionist future.

The plaza will allow CADBI and HRC members to safely and comfortably meet outside in person to further our movement organizing in the year to come (something that has proven especially important in these past two years of the Covid pandemic). We are extremely grateful to all those who supported this work, whether that was with power tools and shovels; with ideas and words of encouragement; with shared celebration and raised glasses; or with their ceaseless efforts in the struggle to end oppression that this space is meant to honor and provide fertile ground for.

Read more about Abolition Plaza here.

Group pic

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