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LFQ2.2 – Ghana Think Tank, Esteemed Officer

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“Esteemed Officer/Oficial Estimado” is the cordial greeting offered by this passing card, intended to mediate an uneasy immigrant-officer encounter. Ghana Think Tank members Christopher Robbins, John Ewing, and Carmen Montoya drafted the text in response to a problem the group collected at its outpost at the Queens Museum of Art in Corona: immigrants feel harassed by members of the police force, who are authorized to question them for pausing on the sidewalk. The card is one example of a Ghana Think Tank solution; the group gathers local concerns in the “first world” using problem-collection postcards and a roving trailer equipped with a video-recording booth, and sends them across geographic, socioeconomic, and sociopolitical divides to be addressed by a growing network in the United States and in developing nations. The passing card concept was developed by a think tank of prisoners in the Boston penal system. Referencing Adrian Piper’s diplomatic yet scathing Calling Card confrontations (1986–90) that censured perpetrators of racist remarks, it asks for nothing more than the motto emblazoned on New York State police cars, “courtesy, professionalism, and respect.” Loitering laws initiated in New York in 1965 remain part of the state’s penal code, and are routinely applied despite decisions in three separate court cases—in 1983, 1988, and 1992—that deemed the rules unconstitutional and instructed the city to stop enforcing them. In response to the same problem, Ghana Think Tank also installed green, aluminum, municipal signs establishing “legal waiting zones” on a stretch of Roosevelt Avenue where immigrants said they were most often approached. The signs read: “It is OK for you to wait here, and in all public places, for a friend, your mom, or simply because it is too hot in your apartment.” The passing card is included in the Fall 2011 issue of Landfill Quarterly.