Love & Protect is a volunteer-led and volunteer-run grassroots effort. Members are individuals working through an abolitionist framework who have affiliations with various projects and organizations across Chicago.
Love & Protect supports those who identify as women and gender non-conforming persons of color who are criminalized or harmed by state and interpersonal violence. Through love, we work towards healing and transformation with these individuals and their families. Through resistance, we seek to protect their right to defend themselves. Through love, through resistance, we protect!
On the occasion of Marissa Alexander’s birthday in September 2013, Project NIA hosted a teach-in about Marissa led by its director Mariame Kaba. Marissa, a Jacksonville, Florida black woman and mother of three who’d been criminalized for defending herself in a violent attack from her estranged husband just nine days postpartum, was appealing her 2012 conviction that resulted in a 20-year sentence. At the conclusion of the teach-in, Mariame charged those in attendance to organize to ensure Chicagoans were aware of the injustice that was Marissa’s criminalization and supporting the cause for her freedom. What emerged in the following weeks was the Chicago Alliance to Free Marissa Alexander (CAFMA), a grassroots group organized in the spirit of defense committees of the 1970s. Our mission was clear – to fight for Marissa Alexander until she was not only released but restored.
Throughout the next year and a half, CAFMA organized teach-ins, hosted art exhibits, panel discussions, community gatherings and fundraisers. Notably, CAFMA co-organizer Mariame Kaba conceptualized and co-curated the No Selves to Defend exhibit, which showcased memorabilia from defense campaigns to free those who identify as women and gender non-conforming persons of color who’ve been criminalized for defending themselves against violence.
Through our various events and Free Marissa Store, CAFMA raised more than $20,000 for Marissa’s legal defense fund. Those highlighted in the No Selves to Defend exhibit were also included in an anthology of the same name. This anthology was the most sought-after item in the store.
In late November 2014, Marissa agreed to a plea deal requiring her to spend an additional 65 days in county jail for a total imprisonment of three years. In the days prior to her release, CAFMA and the Free Marissa Now National Mobilization Campaign organized the 10 Days to Black Freedom Fundraiser to raise the nearly $11,000 to cover 2 years of ankle monitoring fees Marissa would be required to pay while on probation. The fundraiser met its goal and then some in time for Marissa’s release.
On January 27, 2015, Marissa was released from jail to begin a two-year probation and house arrest.