In 2012 CTJM created a call for proposals for a speculative monument to memorialize the Chicago Police torture cases. We sought to make visible the social and political conditions that made torture possible, as well as the acts of courage that exposed the culture of impunity that thwarted justice for so long. We welcomed proposals of radical imagination that honored the survivors of torture, their family members and the African American communities affected by the torture. To prompt expansive thinking about what a memorial could be—to think beyond statues or other static objects-- the group organized design charrettes and roundtable discussions in several locations in the city. Survivors talked about their experiences and collectively imagined the role of a memorial to this history.
We received more than 70 proposals from around the world and organized an exhibition hosted at SAIC Sullivan gallery called Opening the Black Box. We exhibited all the submitted proposals, as each submission was an act of solidarity with torture survivors. CTJM members also contributed to the exhibition with video documentation, a timeline of the torture and cases, and a memorial wall with all the names of every Burge torture survivors; at the exhibition opening, survivors who attended signed their own names to the wall.
We used the space of the exhibition to keep alive discussions about the cases, the history and the survivors who are still locked up. The exhibition was a new meaningful space to articulate what had been happening most recently is the legal spaces; it reactivated early activism of families and communities; and it brought in artists and cultural producers to think about how to use our tools with precision and with aim. One of the pieces in this exhibition was a proposal for a Reparations Ordinance in City Hall, an idea that floated around almost a decade earlier from a Lawyer Stan Willis and other activists who had worked with survivors. The Ordinance as a speculative memorial pushed CTJM to think more about what reparations looked around the nation and the world.