FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 23, 2023
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The Estate of Jen Angel Responds to Arrest of Suspect in Death of Oakland Baker and Activist
Statement Calls for No Incarceration, Policing, State Violence, and Perpetuating Cycles of Harm in Jen Angel’s Name; Asserts a Resounding Yes to Community Responsibility, Accountability, and Mutual Aid
OAKLAND, CA–The Estate of Jen Angel, a group of dear and trusted friends of the late activist working to support and honor her life and legacy issued the following statement in response to the announcement that a person has been arrested and charged related to her death.
“We have come together to honor her life and legacy, including her commitment to restorative and transformative justice. The community that Jen built and surrounded herself with was vast. The group of us working to carry out her wishes reflect a variety of life experiences. Some of us share Jen’s political beliefs and ideals. Some of us are newer to alternatives to the status quo. Others of us may make very different decisions on our own behalf than what Jen believed in. Among all of us, no matter where we stand individually, collectively we are committed to ensuring that harm is not done in Jen’s name. We are committed to working together to uphold the values Jen lived for.
Jen lived her full and vibrant life with the understanding that the potential for a healthy and just society depends on replacing racist and violent institutions like policing, jails, and prisons with models of public safety that actually keep everyone safe. This case is an opportunity for Alameda County to not only honor the wishes of Jen and her loved ones, but also to model a framework that seeks to address the root causes of harmful behavior and find meaningful ways to ensure true justice in our communities.
To believe in restorative justice and transformative justice is to believe in a deeper and more effective form of accountability than is possible under our current criminal legal system. Accountability is essential. As Jen once wrote, ‘Accountability processes attempt to put many of my values into practice—mutual aid, respect, direct action, a DIY ethic, an acknowledgement that “crime,” safety, harm, and support are complex.’
Jen believed in the possibility of a world in which everyone can live a dignified and joyful life. She worked toward an ecologically sustainable and deeply participatory society in which all people have access to the things they need, decisions are made by those most directly affected by those decisions, and all people are free and equal. Jen supported efforts to shine a light on the limitations within the Prison Industrial Complex because she understood that this system is a problem, not a solution. She believed deeply in addressing the root causes of social injustice and supporting the healing of survivors.
Steps absolutely need to be taken to ensure that those who caused this horrendous violence against Jen do not harm other people, and that these circumstances are not allowed to be replicated in our society. However, Jen believed that the current legal system is not effective in ensuring either of these things, and that the existing system of carceral punishment does not make society safer. Jen recognized that jails and prisons are sites of extreme violence and dehumanizing control, resulting in a great deal of trauma that only continues cycles of harm, and that imprisonment does not change the social and economic conditions that lead to instability and violence in our society. Jen knew that inflicting more harm is not the same thing as preventing further harm; it is the opposite.
In a complex situation like this, there are many stakeholders and many people in society who are impacted, as well as many people who are responsible. We recognize that, under the existing systems and laws, it is likely that conventional prosecution will be pursued in this case, despite what Jen would have wanted.
Yet even under the status quo, there are still many ways that justice and accountability can be pursued, beyond the heaviest charges and the longest sentences. Because the State has discretion in charging and sentencing, we know that Jen would want the DA to work towards generating true accountability and healing. Jen believed that extreme sentencing is not a pathway to true justice.
Although restorative justice measures often rely on State involvement and administration, especially in a legal case like this one, it is important to stress that Jen was an anarchist. Jen believed in cooperation, not coercion, and her work and life was informed by an anti-authoritarian commitment to both personal freedom and collective responsibility. Self-organization is key to such a commitment. We, as Jen’s loved ones, have been organizing in this spirit since her injury, and we have continued organizing together after her death. Alongside the pursuit of restorative justice in a potential prosecution and legal case, Jen’s community is also committed to practicing transformative justice as a community, no matter what happens under the law.
The extensive networks of mutual aid and solidarity that have been organized to support Jen’s closest loved ones and honor her legacy by lifting up her work is a form of transformative justice. So too was Jen’s organ donation and the hospital’s ‘honor walk’ in celebration of it, both of which were especially meaningful to Jen’s mother. No matter what the State does in this case, transformative justice is already at work, and we will continue these efforts. To that end, in the weeks and months since Jen’s death, her community has organized spaces for grief and healing, and sought support from local restorative justice organizations like Restore Oakland.
Jen’s own ideas and writings help to articulate why it is so important that we honor and amplify her positions. As she reminded us in one publication, ‘Howard Zinn once said that the greatest obstacle to social change is not to convince people that injustice exists, but to convince them that they have the power to change it.’
We honor Jen Angel’s life, legacy, and values by saying no to incarceration, policing, state violence, and perpetuating cycles of harm in her name. We assert a resounding yes to community responsibility, accountability, and mutual aid.”
Representatives of the Estate of Jen Angel and of her formal support group are available for interviews along with community organizers who work on criminal legal system reform in Oakland and nationwide.
About Jen Angel
Beloved Oakland baker, small business owner, social justice activist, and community member Jen Angel passed away on February 9, 2023. Jen was born in 1975 in Dearborn, Michigan, and was living in Oakland, California at the time of her death. A group of dear and trusted friends of Jen are working under the name the Estate of Jen Angel to organize support and make important decisions during this difficult time. The group respectfully requests space and discretion at this time.
Angel Cakes, the popular community-based bakery that Jen founded in 2008, will remain open, supported by Jen’s estate, and staffed by the talented team that Jen built. Community members who wish to support the bakery can especially help through buying gift certificates and committing to long-term patronage.
For previous press releases, other background information, and contact information, please see: https://linktr.ee/LovedOnesOfJenAngel