Justice for Sayed Arif Faisal - Solidarity Statement and Call-to-Action by Educators

On January 4th, 2023 Sayed Arif Faisal, a 20 year old Bangladeshi-American student, was shot and killed by Cambridge Police in broad daylight. The circumstances of this murder are bewildering and outrageous. Faisal was likely going through a mental health crisis to which the police, called by a "concerned" party, responded by chasing him for several blocks, shooting a sponge round in their effort to “de-escalate” the situation, and then lethally shooting him five times. There were six police cars on the scene and 12 officers dispatched to subdue Faisal. 

Sayed Arif Faisal was a student of Computer Engineering in the College of Science and Mathematics at University of Massachusetts Boston. A graduate of Somerville High School, he came from an immigrant Bangladeshi family living in Cambridge. An only child, he supported his family financially by working alongside his university studies. He also volunteered with The Welcome Project, and The Liaison Interpreters Program of Somerville. While in high school, Faisal actively participated in teen empowerment programs, and helped paint the Mystic Mural Project of the Somerville Art Council, which brought together an international community of youth to work on environmental education through art. Friends and teachers in his community describe Faisal  as “bright,” “hardworking,” “studious” and as someone who would “join all the community activities and help the community in every aspect.” 

 Faisal’s killing follows in the wake of a long history of xenophobic rhetoric, discrimination, and violence against South Asian working class immigrants. In fact, law enforcement is one of the biggest perpetrators of violence against South Asian working class immigrants, rendering them susceptible to criminalization and deportation. After 9/11, South Asian Muslims have been increasingly targeted by Islamophobia, resulting in hate crimes, employment discrimination, bullying, harassment, surveillance, and profiling. 

As educators—many of us immigrant educators of Color—are intimately acquainted with the struggles of our immigrant students and students of color—mental health and otherwise—as they contend with the inherent violence of a racial capitalist system. The brutal killing of Sayed Arif Faisal follows a long line of systemic and systematic violence against racialized black and brown people in the United States. Faisal’s right to dignity, in fact his very right to exist was obliterated by the 12 police officers, who on that fateful day stood in for and enforced the racialized violence sanctioned by the system. We recognize that the Prison/Military Industrial Complex is part of the problem and not the solution. It has not been, nor will it ever be sufficient to incarcerate a handful of seemingly “bad apples” while the very systems are geared toward criminalizing black and brown bodies and rendering them disposable. 

 Even as Faisal’s family and community mourn his violent death, it is his very humanity that is put on trial by the Cambridge Police Department instead of the actions of the men who murdered him, or the system that normalizes such violence. Regardless of the circumstances of death/killing, it is inevitably black and brown bodies that are put on trial. As the Cambridge Police Department vilified Faisal, even in his death, we—as educators, families, parents, organizers, and others—found ourselves having to defend Faisal’s right to exist. We found ourselves having to make a case for Faisal’s humanity, his immense potential that is now truncated so brutally, the excruciating void left in the wake of his loss. We are compelled to this, not primarily as a way of honoring Faisal, but as a necessary response to the systemic onslaughts against his humanity. As educators, we denounce these dehumanizing discourses that tie the humanity of black and brown people to their productivity or being worthy as “good immigrants.” This narrative is a strategy to create divisions. We assert our unequivocal and inalienable right to exist as black and brown people in all of our complexities and contradictions! 

 Justice is not served by incarcerating when systems and structures are relentless in their persecution of black and brown bodies. In fact, NOW is the time for us to re-envision what justice looks like – a collective vision that is defined by people at the frontlines of struggle, and NOT by systems that have historically oppressed black and brown people. In these endeavors, we walk in the legacy spaces of peoples’ movements that have been demanding accountability for systemic violence including police terror for a long time.

 In the wake of recent police murders of Sayed Arif Faisal in Cambridge, Tyre Nichols in Memphis, and so many others, we stand in solidarity with the families and communities who have lost their loved ones to police violence. We honor and respect the pathways of justice and accountability that they seek. 

We stand in solidarity with people who are choosing these moments of rage and pain to organize. We stand in solidarity with people who choose to occupy our streets demanding justice for black and brown lives. We stand in solidarity with people who are choosing to express joy, desire, and life. We also stand in solidarity with people who need to shield their bodies and spirits from trauma. 

We consider how we may be led into action by the profound grief, the irreconcilable loss of a life and possibilities that are truncated. In addition to demands for procedural justice (viz., identification of perpetrators and transparent and independent investigation) as educators we commit to, and propose a call for mobilization and action around the following:  

  1. We urge educators to actively engage the ways in which racial capitalism, imperialism, neoliberalism, heteropatriarchy, (settler) colonial legacies/occupations are killing young BIPOC people. How do these violent systems manifest in the everyday life of our institutions, departments, curricula, pedagogies, and overall institutional life? How can we mobilize solidarity and facilitate collective actions within our institutions and beyond? What are the actions that WE need to take as educators to stop future deaths through racism?
  2. We call for a collective rethinking of mental health outside the carceral logic as well as neoliberal appropriations of self-care. Mental health must not be considered in isolation of or merely as an alternative to a law enforcement response. Both mental health/well-being and associated supports/resources are mediated by structural violence. What are some ways in which we can work to disrupt racist and other violent systems that are the source of deep-rooted harm and trauma in our BIPOC communities, and especially in young people? How can we reclaim mental health as collective care, as healing from trauma, and as capacities for radical hope? What collective actions can we take to help young people access these possibilities for survival and thriving?

In solidarity,

Initial Signatories
Urmitapa Dutta, University of Massachusetts Lowell
Elora Chowdhury, University of Massachusetts Boston
Rakhshanda Saleem, Lesley University
Pratyush Bharati, University of Massachusetts Boston
Nafisa Tanjeem, Worcester State University

Full List of Signatories
Peiwei Li, Lesley University
Uma Chandrika Millner, Lesley University
Sharon Joseph, Lesley University
Sherrie Gammage, Lesley University, Cambridge, MA
Kelvin Ramirez, Lesley University. Cambridge, MA
Catalina Tang Yan, Lesley University, Cambridge, MA
Meg Chang, Lesley University, Cambridge, MA
Victoria Gill, Lesley University, Cambridge, MA
Meenakshi Chhabra, Lesley University
Louise Michelle Vital, Lesley University
Michelle Napoli, Lesley University
Shaquille Jones, Boston Public Schools
Selena Coburn, Lesley University
Cicely Carew Cicely, FSS
Rodney Durand, Lesley University
Nasya Smith, Lesley University
Oscar Palacio, Lesley University, Cambridge
Sunanda K Sanyal, Lesley University
Yasemin isler, Lesley University
Murhab Tamura, Lesley University
Kazuyo Kubo, Lesley University
Katherine Shozawa, Lesley University, Cambridge
Jean Clarke-Mitchell, Lesley University
Brandon Strathmann, Lesley University
John Kim, Lesley University
Azadeh Tajpour, Lesley University
Rocio Rosales, University of Massachusetts Lowell
Phitsamay S. Uy, University of Massachusetts Lowell
Cherry Lim, UMass Lowell
Sunil Bhatia, Connecticut College
Jenna Vinson, University of Massachusetts Lowell
Cassidy Rivera-Keefe, University of Massachusetts Lowell
Claudia Rinaldi, Lasell University
Ashleigh Hillier, University of Massachusetts Lowell
Julia Dean, UMass Lowell
Teresa Irene Gonzales, Loyola University Chicago
Devin Atallah, UMass Boston
Zsuzsa Kaldy, University of Massachusetts Boston
Susan Zup, UMass Boston
Susanna Gallor, UMass Boston
Evan Auguste, UMass Boston
Leland K. Ackerson, University of Massachusetts Lowell
Blake Hereth, UMass Lowell
Karen Suyemoto, University of Massachusetts Boston
Randy Corpuz, UMass Boston
Regina Day Langhout, UC Santa Cruz
Gordon Crean, University of Massachusetts Lowell
Amanda Lasahaw, University of California Santa Cruz
Lizabeth Roemer, University of Massachusetts Boston
Abbey Eisenhower, University of Massachusetts Boston
Bob Majzler, UC Santa Cruz
Hana R. Masud, Pacifica Graduate Institution
Tj Demos, UC Santa Cruz
Sarah Hayes-Skelton, University of Massachusetts Boston
Kaushik Ragunathan, Brandeis University
Alex Bisson, Brandeis University
Shahnaaz Suffla, University of South Africa
Karen Humphrey-Johnson, University of Massachusetts Lowell
Prakash Kashwan, Brandeis University
Sankha Bhowmick, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth
Tanni Chaudhuri, Rhode Island College
Brendan Gibson, Andover Public Schools
Abha Sur, MIT
Arup Dey, Suffolk University
Michael Illuzzi, Lesley University
Amanda Kennedy, Curry College
Vandana Singh, 
Framingham State University
Sukanya Pyne, REJENGA
Erik Blaser, University of Massachusetts Boston 
Zeb Khan, University of Massachusetts
Satyak Som, UMass Lowell
Angelina Ruiz, Lesley University
Grace Enriquez, Lesley University
Steve Striffler, UMass Boston
Lisa Rivera, University of Massachusetts. Boston
Ping-Ann Addo, UMass Boston
Karen Grayson, University of Massachusetts Boston
Ajantha Subramanian, Harvard University
Marisol Negrón, Director, Latino Studies, UMass Boston
Christopher Fung, UMass Boston
Karen Ross, UMass Boston
Heike Schotten, University of Massachusetts Boston
Lynne Byall Benson, UMass Boston
Stanley Thangaraj, Stonehill College
Valeria Schmidt, University of Massachusetts Boston
Sara Hoang, UMass Boston
Patricia Neilson, University of Massachusetts Boston
Rajini Srikanth, University of Massachusetts Boston
Catherine Ma, The City University of New York
Shabana Mir, American Islamic College
Soham Patel, Pitzer College
Viergelyn Chery-Reed, Lesley University
Chris Bobel, UMass Boston
Grace Lotti, University of Massachusetts Boston
Sarah Figge Hussain, Cambridge Community Learning Center
Vijaya L Maroju, Boston Study Group
Prema Bangera, Boston South Asian Coalition
Ania Loomba, University of Pennsylania
Susan Massad, Framingham State University
Khai Zhi Sim, Eastern Connecticut State University
Noa Shaindlinger, Worcester State University
Aishwarya Joshi, The University of Vermont
Catriona Standfield, Worcester State University
María Carvajal Regidor, University of Massachusetts Boston
Riley McGuire, Worcester State University
Kaushik Mukherjee, Worcester State University
Jon Gordils, 
University of Hartford
Sana Haroon, University of Massachusetts Boston
Jared Poole, University of Massacusetts Boston
Laurena Tsudama, University of Massachusetts Boston
Andrea Leverentz, UMass Boston
Helen Poynton, University of Massachusetts Boston
Michael Tlusty, University of Massachusetts Boston
Reyes Coll-Tellechea, Latin American & Iberian Studies, University of Massachusetts Boston
Tracy Wallach, U Mass Boston
Christopher Martell, UMass Boston
Mohsin Habib, College of Management, UMass-Boston
Jin Ho Park, University of Massachusetts Boston
S. Tiffany Donaldson, University of Massachusetts Boston
Kimberly Urbanski, University of Massachusetts Boston
Betsy Klimasmith, University of Massachusetts, Boston
Dana Francisco Miranda, University of Massachusetts Boston
Dominick Knowles, UMass Boston
Peggy Vaughan, UMass Boston
Lynne Byall Benson, UMass Boston
Katherine Almeida Spencer, UMB
Andrew Nevin, University of Massachusetts Boston
Alessia Contu, UMass Boston
Alex Mueller, University of Massachusetts Boston
Peter Barrios-Lech, University of Massachusetts Boston
Stacey Sloboda, University of Massachusetts Boston
Nazli Kibria, Boston University
Nusrat S Chowdhury, Amherst College
Nadine Shaanta Murshid, University at Buffalo
Denise Krause, University at Buffalo
Celeste Curington, Boston University
Japonica Brown-Saracino, Boston University
Wooksoo Kim, University at Buffalo
Elizabeth Bowen, University at Buffalo
Merry I White, Boston University
Yunju Nam, University at Buffalo, School of Social Work
Lamia Karim, University of Oregon
Bandana Purkayastha, University of Connecticut
Farida Khan, University of Colorado Colorado Springd
Gemini wahhaj, LONE STAR COLLEGE
Prema Kurien, Syracuse University
Dina M. Siddiqi, New York University
Nancy J. Smyth, University at Buffalo
Navine Murshid, Colgate University
Tamzen Flanders, Boston University
Heba Gowayed, Boston University
Nazli Kibria, Boston University
Mehnaaz Momen, Texas A&M International University
Talya Havivi, Boston University
Fabiola Carrio, BU 
Christian Kelley, Boston University
Ella Sanderson, Boston University
Mei Juan Ruan, Boston University
Shre Venkatesan, Boston University
HOANG NGUYEN HUU DUY, Boston University
Ann Eldridge Malone, University of Massachusetts, Boston
Ariya Blow, Boston University
Safiya Umrani, Boston University
Srushti Upadhyay, University at Bufallo
Sabrina Lundsgaard, Boston University
Sarah Horsley, University of Massachusetts, Boston
Jon Ball, UMass Boston
Joya Misra, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Margaret Nelson, Middlebury College
Mary Jo Connelly, Professional Staff Union, UMass Boston
Jennifer Kling, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs
Heather Schoenfeld, 
Boston University 

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