Building Your Abolitionist Toolbox

Everyday Resources for a Punishment-Free World

Graphic notes by Radical Roadmaps

Abolitionist Bystander Intervention for Youth

with JJ Skolnik and Mariame Kaba

Bystander intervention and de-escalation can be an abolitionist practice for dealing with harm or potential harm in your community without involving the police. Have you ever been on the train when someone starts yelling and intimidating the other riders? Have you been at a party and observed someone trying to take advantage of someone who’s intoxicated? Have you seen cops harassing someone living on the street? These are just a few of the situations in which you might want to intervene to prevent further harm from being caused.

It may seem scary at first, but with a few different strategies in your pocket—which we’ll go over in this zine—you might feel more equipped to approach a variety of situations. The more you practice, the easier it will become.

In this session, JJ and Mariame introduced our new pocket zine for a mini-training that is good for any abolitionist and particularly geared towards youth.


JJ Skolnik is an activist, musician, and writer who lives primarily in Chicago, but was raised in and around Washington, DC by two hippie parents and the local punk scene. Skolnik advocates for the working class, LGBTQ+ movements, and sexual assault survivors, and against state violence and prisons. They’ve written for zines, broadsheets, and alt-weeklies throughout their career, as well as for large outlets like Pitchfork, Buzzfeed, and the New York Times.

Skolnik was most recently a senior editor at Bandcamp Daily, Bandcamp’s in-house music magazine. Their work marries systemic analyses of political power with pop culture criticism, intimate narrative, and a deep love for music, always with an eye toward the innovations and shortcomings of subcultures. They currently yell in the band Daddy’s Boy.

Mariame Kaba is an educator, organizer, and librarian who is active in movements for racial, gender, and transformative justice. She is the founder and director of Project NIA, a grassroots abolitionist organization with a vision to end youth incarceration. Mariame co-leads the initiative Interrupting Criminalization, a project she co-founded with Andrea Ritchie in 2018. She has co-founded multiple organizations and projects over the years including We Charge Genocide, the Chicago Freedom School, the Chicago Taskforce on Violence against Girls and Young Women, Chicago Alliance to Free Marissa Alexander (now Love & Protect), Just Practice Collaborative, Survived & Punished, and For the People Lefitist Library Project.


Abolitionist Bystander Intervention: A Pocket Zine

BCRW’s “Don't be a Bystander: 6 Tips for Responding to Racist Attacks” Video

BCRW’s De-escalation 101 (This session was part of Project NIA's 2nd Abolitionist Summer Youth Organizing Institute, specifically for young people 16 to 25.)

SEED’s 40-Hour Conflict Resolution and Mediation Certification