To Our Community: Accountability and Marquis Bey (updated 2020-11-02)
To Our Community,
We are writing in response to social media messages we’ve received regarding Marquis Bey, the author of our just-released book Anarcho-Blackness. Someone on Twitter and Instagram has called him out as an abuser, and others have asked us to comment on the accusation.
We had previously heard an allegation about abusive behavior on Marquis’s part when he was an undergraduate. Someone contacted a comrade of ours just before Anarcho-Blackness was published and said that there had been an accusation against Marquis in, we think, 2013 or 2014. The comrade passed this information on to us.
To our knowledge the person making the accusation was neither the survivor nor speaking on behalf of the survivor. We held off production of the book for several weeks as we tried to get more information, including the nature of the harm, and any specific requests from a survivor or their direct supporters. But none of our queries got any response after the initial accusation.
So, we were in a situation where we believed that some harm had been done to someone, but weren’t sure how to proceed. We didn’t have enough information to halt publication, let alone any indication that a survivor wanted that to happen. After some discussion, we decided to publish the book with the knowledge that we would take our lead from and fulfill any requests made by a survivor should anyone come forward at any point.
We also made Marquis aware of the situation. He told us—though we can’t confirm this—that no one had come to him with an accusation or a request for accountability, but that he would absolutely engage in a survivor-led accountability process with anyone he had harmed—including supporting the book being pulled from circulation, if that was their request.
It’s sometimes hard to determine, when harm has been done, which situations call for cancelling (i.e. literally, in this case, cancelling a book) and which are amenable to healing and some form of transformative justice. Sometimes you don’t have enough information to go on and have to trust that you can navigate those waters once you do. There are always indications, though. Denial in the face of a survivor’s ask for accountability is a red flag. That’s not what is happening here, as Marquis assured us he would believe any survivor who said he had caused them harm. And we will hold him to that as best we can. Doubling down that the harmful act was inconsequential and that the accused is being unfairly treated is a red flag. That’s also not what is happening here.
Sometimes, things are clear. We cancelled a forthcoming book by Michael Schmidt (and stopped selling previous books he wrote), when, in the face of accusations, he denied harm and gaslighted those looking for accountability. We stopped distributing books written by Derrick Jensen when it was clear he wasn’t going to be accountable for the harm he was doing transgender folks. In hindsight, we haven’t always done everything perfectly when made aware of harm, though we’re learning and evolving—and we believe survivors and want whatever healing is possible for them. And we always hold out the hope that those in our communities who have caused harm can work toward real accountability.
Those of us trying to address harm can never erase it. No accountability process can do that. The best we can do is try to create the conditions for healing to happen, to let survivors guide that process and hopefully feel empowered by it. The other part of that equation is to provide harm-doers with the opportunity to transform, to receive what Shira Hassan calls “the gift of being accountable.”
None of us on the left know how to do this perfectly. We’re working it out in mid-air. It’s bound to be messy, but if we can act with integrity and compassion, the odds are much better. Social media is a difficult place to air concerns about complex situations that require care and thoughtfulness, but at the same time, we understand that it can be the only place where the silenced, oppressed, and harmed can get heard. Rather than simply a call out, let’s call in and call for accountability.
And lastly, we invite anyone who has been directly harmed by Marquis—or their supporters/team, or people who witnessed the harm or its effects at the time—to contact us directly at email@example.com. We have been spending time over the last few months working with trusted and experienced comrades to sort through best practices for addressing harm. Doing this with the care it requires takes time, but we are getting there and hope to soon have a plan regarding how we will respond to harm done by anyone in our collective or by anyone published by AK Press going forward. In this case, in lieu of a formal plan, we can say that we would absolutely support the survivor and their wishes. If they want to seek accountability, we are ready to donate the resources to help make that happen (pay for a mediator of their choice, etc).
The AK Press Collective
[Note: we will post updates below and reflect that in the title of this blog post whenever we have information we can share.]
UPDATE August 21, 2020
After posting the statement above, we received an email from someone who said they’d been harmed by Marquis Bey.
We remain committed to helping to set up a survivor-centered process of accountability. As a first step, at the request of the survivor, we have provided some suggestions of skilled mediators who can help oversee that process.
As we offered in our last statement, we will pay for the services of a mediator once one is chosen by the survivor, but we will not be involved in the process itself, which will be completely confidential. We have only requested that we be informed by the mediator about the outcome and if the survivor has any specific requests of us. Any public statements beyond that will be at the discretion of the survivor.
Clearly, these are only the very early stages of the process. We will continue updating this blog post whenever there is further information we can share.
UPDATE November 2, 2020
Since our last update, the survivor who contacted us has chosen a team of two transformative justice practitioners who are now leading a facilitated process with Marquis. We have also been contacted by additional people who have corroborated the fact that Marquis needs to be accountable not only for harming this one individual, but for a pattern of harmful behavior. We are working in collaboration with the facilitators to make sure all of the information we received will be addressed.
We believe that in this case, and in general, no one is disposable and it is important to provide opportunities for harm-doers to be accountable. We are now giving the process time to play out, and giving Marquis a chance to demonstrate accountability. We will wait to hear from the survivor or another representative about the outcome of the process, and will then discuss collectively whether we believe he has truly demonstrated accountability. If we feel that Marquis fails to demonstrate accountability throughout this process (or afterward), we commit to ending our relationship with him. In addition, as part of this process, Marquis has agreed to forego royalties from Anarcho-Blackness and AK Press has decided to donate all profits from the book to an organization focused on transformative justice. We will share more details about this donation as soon as we have them.