Other Group

Decolonize This Place

Type:

Activist Movement

Location:

New York, New York

Parent Company:

MTL+ Collective

Decolonize This Place is a radical-left social movement and activist collective based in New York City that seeks to “decolonize” art museums and push for radical-left policies. It is a proponent of reparations for slavery and the repatriation of land to indigenous peoples. [1]

The movement is “facilitated” by MTL+ Collective. [2] According to blog website HyperAllergic, articles posted from MTL+ Collective were written by Amin Husain, Nicholas Mirzoeff, and Nitasha Dhillon. [3]

Background

Decolonize This Place emerged in the wake of a protest led by activist Alicia Boyd at the Brooklyn Museum in 2016. Protestors disrupted museum attendees with chants including “decolonize this place!” and condemned the alleged displacement of black communities in New York Cities and of Palestinians in Israel. [4]

Positions

The movement’s website claims that it brings together several “traditions of resistance” including “indigenous insurgence,” Black liberation, free Palestine, free Puerto Rico, the struggles of workers and debtors, de-gentrification, migrant justice, and dismantling the patriarchy. It states that its activists “have used cultural institutions as platforms and amplifiers for movement demands,” but it does not think the “transformation of these institutions” can serve as “an end in and of itself.” [5]

It states that “decolonization necessitates abolition,” and that “abolition” means the abolition of prisons, police, bosses, and borders, as well as the capitalist society that “could have” such things. Quoting from NYU professor Fred Moten and Singapore Management University professor Stefano Harney, the movement’s website states that “abolition” seeks “the founding of a new society.” [6]

It cites Marxist theorist Grace Lee Boggs, Marxist psychologist Frantz Fanon, Marxist and longtime Communist Party USA (CPUSA) member Angela Davis, and decolonial theorist Aime Cesaire among its chief intellectual inspirations. [7] [8]

Activity

The movement hosts a weekly program of public events and collaborates with New York activists to hold assemblies, trainings, readings, screenings, meals, and “healing sessions.” It seeks to move “beyond politics that rely upon loose definitions of commonality” and “instead mobilize complex differences to decenter whiteness, and enact reparations and repatriate land.” [9]

In 2017, Decolonize This Place held a three-month residency at the New York nonprofit Artists Space, recruiting many different movements and activist groups to discuss new ways of organizing, making art, and conducting activism centered around the issues of Palestine, indigenous, and black liberation, “global wage workers,” and de-gentrification. Decolonize This Place used the residency to encourage artists and art galleries to form partnerships with housing activists that fight against the eviction of low-income tenants. It also called on activists to march on the headquarters of Artis, an arts organization, and demand that it publicly support the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement; fight for higher wages for museum employees; and stage a protest at the American Museum of Natural History to call for the removal of the statue of American president Theodore Roosevelt outside of its entrance. [10]

This protest at the America Museum of Natural History came to fruition in 2017, and the activists demanded that the museum administration admit to its history of “glorifying white supremacy at the expense of indigenous cultures.” The protestors covered the statue of Roosevelt with a giant tarp and held signs outside reading “Indigenous Peoples Rights,” “the Right to Live Free of Racism” and “The Right to History.” [11] [12] The museum did not accede to demands to remove the statue until the Black Lives Matter protests erupted after the death of George Floyd in 2020, at which point the museum announced it would remove the statue. In June 2020, then-mayor of New York Bill de Blasio (D) said he supported the museum’s decision to remove the statue. [13]

However, the statue was not removed until 2022. Unidentified activists covered the base of the statue with red paint in October 2021 to protests the museum for not living up to its promise. [14] As of December 2021, scaffolding was placed around the still-present statue and plans were announced to move the statue to the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library in Medora, North Dakota. [15] [16]

In 2019, Decolonize This Place staged a series of protests against Warren B. Kanders, the board vice chair of the Whitney Museum in New York City. Reporters had discovered that Kanders had connections to Safariland, a company that makes tear gas canisters. Protestors demanded the Kanders resign from the museum’s board. [17]

References

  1. “Movement Space.” Decolonize this Place. Accessed January 17, 2022. https://decolonizethisplace.org/movement-space. ^
  2. [1] “Contact.” Decolonize This Place. Accessed January 17, 2022. https://decolonizethisplace.org/contact. ^
  3. “MTL+ Collective.” HyperAllergic. Accessed January 17, 2022. https://hyperallergic.com/author/mtl-collective/. ^
  4. Michelle Chen. “Gentrification and Occupation at the Brooklyn Museum.” The Nation. May 11, 2016. Accessed January 17, 2022. https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/occupying-museums/. ^
  5. “FAXXX.” Decolonize this Place. Accessed January 17, 2022. https://decolonizethisplace.org/faxxx-1. ^
  6. “FAXXX.” Decolonize this Place. Accessed January 17, 2022. https://decolonizethisplace.org/faxxx-1. ^
  7. “FAXXX.” Decolonize this Place. Accessed January 17, 2022. https://decolonizethisplace.org/faxxx-1. ^
  8. “Resources.” Decolonize this Place. Accessed January 17, 2022. https://decolonizethisplace.org/resources. ^
  9.  “Movement Space.” Decolonize this Place. Accessed January 17, 2022. https://decolonizethisplace.org/movement-space. ^
  10. Ilana Novick. “Learning from Decolonize This Place.” HyperAllergic. January 9, 2017. Accessed January 17, 2022. https://hyperallergic.com/350186/learning-from-decolonize-this-place/. ^
  11. Ilana Novick. “Learning from Decolonize This Place.” HyperAllergic. January 9, 2017. Accessed January 17, 2022. https://hyperallergic.com/350186/learning-from-decolonize-this-place/. ^
  12. Hakim Bishara. “After Years of Protest, Theodore Roosevelt Statue Will Be Removed From American Natural History Museum.” HyperAllergic. June 22, 2020. Accessed January 17, 2022. https://hyperallergic.com/572552/after-years-of-protest-theodore-roosevelt-statue-will-be-removed-from-american-natural-history-museum/. ^
  13. Hakim Bishara. “After Years of Protest, Theodore Roosevelt Statue Will Be Removed From American Natural History Museum.” HyperAllergic. June 22, 2020. Accessed January 17, 2022. https://hyperallergic.com/572552/after-years-of-protest-theodore-roosevelt-statue-will-be-removed-from-american-natural-history-museum/. ^
  14. Hakim Bishara. “Controversial Roosevelt Monument Doused in Red Paint at American Museum of Natural History.” HyperAllergic. October 6, 2021. Accessed January 17, 2022. https://hyperallergic.com/682520/roosevelt-monument-doused-in-red-paint-at-american-museum-of-natural-history/. ^
  15. Carol Tannenhauser. “Teddy Roosevelt Statue Headed for North Dakota; ‘Farewell or Good Riddance Depends on Your Point of View.” West Side Rag. December 3, 2021. Accessed January 17, 2022. https://www.westsiderag.com/2021/12/03/teddy-roosevelt-statue-headed-for-north-dakota-farewell-or-good-riddance-depends-on-your-point-of-view. ^
  16. Tim Fitzsimons. “Controversial Teddy Roosevelt statue removed from outside New York City museum.” NBC News. January 19, 2022. Accessed January 26, 2022. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/controversial-teddy-roosevelt-statue-removed-new-york-city-museum-rcna12813. ^
  17. Alex Greenberger. “‘We Will Come Back’: Decolonize This Place Leads Protest at Whitney, Marches to Controversial Board Member’s House.” ARTNews. May 17, 2019. Accessed January 17, 2022. https://www.artnews.com/art-news/news/we-will-come-back-decolonize-this-place-leads-protest-at-whitney-marches-to-controversial-board-members-house-12590/. ^
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