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 and to fans who travel to the area to go to games at Yankees 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.