Love & Protect originally began in late 2013 as the Chicago Alliance to Free Marissa Alexander (CAFMA), which organized to fight for the freedom of Marissa Alexander, a Black mother of three in Jacksonville, Florida who had been criminalized (sentenced to 20 years in prison) for defending herself in a violent attack from her estranged husband. It was during this time of organizing for Marissa’s freedom that CAFMA co-founder Mariame Kaba raised awareness around the fact that women of color, particularly Black women, and gender non-conforming people of color, are viewed by the state as having “no selves to defend” and, therefore, have historically been criminalized for self-defense.

Thanks to organizing efforts and Marissa Alexander’s own advocacy, she averted that 20-year prison sentence, taking a plea deal in 2015. At that time, we transitioned the group to become Love & Protect, with the broader mission of supporting women and gender non-conforming/non-binary people of color who are criminalized or harmed by state and interpersonal violence. We are also a founding member organization of Survived & Punished, a national organizing project to end the criminalization of survivors of domestic and sexual violence. The support we provide includes teach-ins, letter writing campaigns, court support, Twitter town halls and general awareness raising. In 2018, we launched the Sustaining Survivors Donor Campaign to provide monetary support to incarcerated survivors and to build an emergency fund to support survivors in Illinois who have recently been released from jail or prison. These funds will go towards basic needs such as housing, transportation, and food. We believe that supporting criminalized survivors in this way will remind them that they are not alone and not forgotten.