An Interview with Mia Mingus, Oakland Champion of Change, on transformative justice

Published May 27th, 2013

Oakland activist Mia Mingus is named a Champion of Change by the White House. Oakland Local interviews Mia Mingus about disability rights, ending child sexual abuse, and transformative justice.

Mia Mingus describes herself as a queer physically disabled woman of color transracial/transnational adoptee — an identity that only begins to explain the personal background that informs Mingus’ cross-sectional social change work.

Mingus was adopted from Korea at the age of six months and grew up on St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where she was raised by a “strong feminist community” that taught her the foundations of the critical analysis she would carry into her life’s work. She then lived in Atlanta for 13 years, serving as co-Executive Director of SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW, among many other movement-building roles. She moved to the Bay Area two and a half years ago to live out a dream: to create a household with another queer disabled woman of color activist, thereby putting disability justice into practice, building interdependent and loving community, and both expanding and learning the limits of what disability advocacy might look like.

Now, at 32, Mingus is an Oakland-based, nationally-recognized organizer and writer who has traveled the country speaking about myriad frameworks for dismantling oppression, from racial justice to reproductive justice to queer liberation. Her current work centers around disability justice and child sexual abuse, which she addresses as a member of the Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective (BATJC).


Can Transformative Justice Stop Rape?

Opponents of the traditional justice system argue for a replacement that focuses on healing the community — and even the criminal. But does this approach give victims short shrift?

Posted on May 24, 2013 at 12:00pm EDT
Bridget Todd, BuzzFeed Contributor

Back in September, fifteen-year-old Audrie Pott took her own life after she was allegedly sexually assaulted while passed out at a party. According to her family’s attorney, Pott “had no idea what occurred until she woke up the following morning and had some drawings on her body and in some private areas.” Allegedly, one of her attackers wrote “I was here” on her breasts in black marker. Right before her death, Pott posted on Facebook: “I can’t do anything to fix it. I just want this to go away. The whole school knows. My life is ruined and I don’t even remember how.”

Pott’s story is eerily similar to the Steubenville rape earlier this year, where teenagers Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond were sentenced to juvenile detention after being found guilty of the rape of a classmate.

Most would probably agree that if found guilty, Pott’s attackers, along with Mays and Richmond, deserve to be punished for their crimes. But while everyone wants rapists to face justice, not everyone agrees that our current system of punishment is just. Some argue that it isn’t prison sentences that sexual attackers need, but sympathy, compassion and a chance at real healing. They propose what they call transformative justice as a better way to deal with sexual offenders and violent criminals — and some say it might even be more effective at curbing crime than more traditional methods.