The Morris Justice Project (MJP) is a participatory action research (PAR) collective of South Bronx residents and academics from the CUNY Graduate Center and John Jay College of Criminal Justice. For four years, MJP has focused on the impacts of aggressive policing in a 42-block area of the Bronx. PAR is rooted in the call for “no research about us, without us,” or what Arjun Appaduri calls the “right to research.” It challenges notions of expertise by repositioning subjects of research as the architects, ultimately shifting what knowledge is actionable.
I began working with MJP in 2014 on a research and media strategy we developed to counter the racialized logic of broken windows policing, which aggressively targets “disorder.” The posters, other visuals and writings were distributed extensively in the neighborhood, which borders Yankee Stadium.
MJP’s iterative research process originated with community surveys and focus groups. This grew into complex “sidewalk science” installations. These participatory contact zones are symbolic reclamations of public space and community solidarity, and practical methods of communication, relationship building, debate, and data collection. Additionally, the research is mobilized through articles, presentations (including at the Whitehouse), with Communities United for Police Reform (the largest police reform coalition in NYC) and in the judicially mandated process to reform NYPD’s “stop and frisk” practices.
MJP members hold up a poster that we designed before it will be wheatpasted in the neighborhood/research area.
One of three posters designed with MJP over the summer of 2014. The posters, which were given out and wheatpasted throughout the neighborhood, sought to counter the narrative that the area was "disorderly" and thus required heavy policing.
The posters also sought to draw connections between stop-and-frisk policing and the "new" form of policing known as "broken windows" policing. Stop-and-frisk, which was ruled unconstitutional in New York is a practice of broken windows policing, or order-maintenance policing. It seeks to aggressively target small, disorderly issues in order to prevent more serious crime. There is no reputable study that shows it increases safety.
MJP collects and shares the bulk of its data, reports, posters, stickers and writings through "sidewalk science" actions. Here, residents are writing postcards to the NYPD. The postcards also include findings from previous sidewalk science actions, so with each iteration of data collection, the dialogue builds on itself.
A sticker distributed at sidewalk science actions and Yankees games (the stadium borders the research area).
One of the MJP researchers shows off the outside of the letter that was distributed to over 1,000 visitors to Yankees stadium at Derek Jeter's last home game.
The text of the collaboratively written letter that was distributed to Yankees fans.