Category Archives: Practice

New Year Intentions and Practicing Accountability

By Mia Mingus

[photo of a page in a day planner of January 1st with writing that reads, “new year — fresh start.”]

A new year is upon us and millions of people have resolutions and intentions they have set for 2018. I enjoy the collective reflecting, visioning and dreaming, as folks take stock of their lives and themselves. There is a hungry hope in the air that is contagious, a willingness to commit and try that bubbles up in us.

This collective practice of motivation and tapping into our desires has become tradition for many. Rituals are held, vision boards are made, we create new alters, make new lists and we make a silent resolve to ourselves of how we will do better—how we will be better.

Some of us may be struggling to break old habits or to start new ones. Common resolutions and intentions I hear include: getting more sleep, prioritizing self care, drinking more water, less screen time, less social media, more time with family and friends, staying in touch better, doing more art, moving your body in ways that bring you joy, more time in nature, committing to your spiritual or healing journey, eating food that nourishes your body, conquering fears, quitting an addiction, or starting that project or hobby you’ve been putting off or neglecting.

The weeks and months that follow the beginning of the year can teach us many things about accountability and the work it takes to change. This is a fertile time of year for practicing accountability—especially self accountability—and noticing what helps and supports, as well as what hinders and holds us back.

It may seem strange to talk about New Year’s resolutions in the context of transformative justice (TJ), but often when we are supporting someone to take accountability, we are working with them to change their behaviors. True accountability is not only apologizing, understanding the impact your actions have caused on yourself and others, making amends or reparations to the harmed parties, but most importantly, true accountability is changing your behavior so that the harm, violence, abuse does not happen again. So, any time we are working to change our behavior (or supporting someone else to change their behavior), it is an opportunity to learn more about accountability.

When it comes to accountability work, we can start small (e.g. resolutions, intentions) and build up our capacities to be able to respond to big things such as violence, harm and abuse. In the same way that we would start small learning any kind of new skill or craft. For example, if you were to learn how to play the piano, you would practice scales and simple exercises that would help to build your skills to be able to play more complicated pieces. You would practice your two hands separately before you began to play them together. You would learn the notes and beats one by one. You would play things that did not sound like music for a long time until you were able to execute chords, rhythm, melody, treble and bass all at the same time. You would not sit down at a piano, having never played, and expect to be able to play a flawless sonata. And you would not expect this of anyone else who had never played piano before.

Being accountable to others and ourselves is something we must learn how to do well, just like anything else. These are hard skills that require the discipline of practice, commitment and faith, knowing that we will make mistakes and fall short many times—most times. This is especially true in a society steeped in punishment, privilege and criminalization; that actively avoids accountability and does not encourage the kind of culture, relationships or skills needed to support true accountability. For many of us in years past, I am sure we have made resolutions or set new intentions, only to find them broken or given-up on within months, weeks or sometimes days. This is very common and many of us carry familiar shame and guilt every year about it. It is important to remember that resisting accountability is a natural part of accountability. It doesn’t mean we are bad people, it means we are human. In our TJ work, I always encourage people to stop treating resisting accountability as something to be outraged or thrown-off-guard by, but instead to understand it and plan for it, knowing that all of us have resisted accountability at some point in our life and will again. Get a plan in place for when you will inevitably resist accountability. Practicing this in small ways can help us down the line when the stakes are much higher.

A good reminder is to get support from those you trust around your accountability. For example, if you are trying to start a new daily practice, set-up an accountability buddy that you text every day—even if your text is “I didn’t do my practice today.” Or connect with others who are working on similar goals. Or find someone that you can check in with consistently who will be able to support you and with whom you can have nuanced conversations about your accountability. Note: it is not their job to “hold you accountable,” that is your job.

One thing we know from our work is that accountability happens in relationship. Attempting to transform deep-seated behaviors, habits and beliefs is incredibly hard to do alone and even smaller, seemingly benign behaviors often have deeper roots. Accountability is often bound up with healing and tackling our trauma is work best done with someone(s) we trust and can rely on. For example: if you are trying to prioritize your self care, you will at some point have to confront why you have been neglecting your self care for so long. You will have to feel into why you have not been valuing yourself or how you put other people’s needs in front of your own. After all, if it were as simple as just scheduling time in your calendar, it would have already been done.

Supporting someone else in their new year’s resolution or intention is also a great opportunity for learning. Often when we are in TJ processes, we have an accountability team, a group of people who are supporting the person who caused harm to take accountability. This is a different kind of skill set that is critical for us to practice. Supporting someone in their accountability is hard work and anyone who has ever tried to do it knows what I am talking about. Learning how to support someone in their accountability without minimizing the harm they’ve done or demonizing them is much easier said than done. Again, we can practice these skills now, which can help us prepare for later. Similar to fire drills, we can practice when there is little-to-no-threat, so that when there is a fire, we are not starting from zero.

There are so many opportunities as we start the year to intentionally engage in work around accountability. It has the power to teach us about commitment, the distance between theory and practice, discipline, rigor, compassion, empathy and resilience. We can get curious about the ways we resist accountability, instead of blaming each other and ourselves. We can challenge ourselves to build more accountability infrastructure into our lives, such as our pods. We can be humbled by how hard it is to change our behavior around benign, non-violent things, let alone harm, full-blown violence and abuse. We can realize that we all have places in our lives where we can and need to be more accountable, including being accountable to ourselves, and that the best way to learn is through doing. Practice yields the sharpest analysis. We can build our skills and integrate them into our everyday lives and support each other to do the same because transformative justice is not only about how the person who caused harm can be accountable, but how we can all be (more) accountable. It is about how we can create a culture of accountability in our lives, families and communities that exists beyond only interventions.

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Prelude to Transformation

Prelude to Transformation

By Sean Norris

While both learning and doing Transformative Justice work there have been many eye opening moments, maybe none more eye opening than this realization: We will not live to see the change we are building toward.

I am in no way saying that this is some revelatory assertion, or that Martin Luther King Jr. never said “I might not get there with you,” but as someone new to organizing, this felt very important for me to ground in as soon as possible.

This is the somber, sobering reality of radical work; it is also one to the most liberating aspects. This truth connects us to all of those who came before us who spent their lives in service of freedom. It connects us to all of those that did not live to see the change they fought hard to set the stage for, that they diligently devoted so much of their being to. From Grace Lee Bogs, to Martin Luther King Jr., to Sojourner Truth, to Cesar Chavez, to Audre Lorde, and to the countless agents of liberation that have gone unrecorded and unacknowledged, yet have had an immeasurable impact on us being here in this moment that we are. None of them lived to see what they envisioned and labored for come to fruition.

And neither will we.

Liberation is too big a task for any one individual, or collective, or organization, or governing body. Liberation is too big a task for any one generation. As much as we rely on our ancestors for education and guidance, we must rely on those who come after us, our descendants, to not only take care of us, but to take care of our work.

This is generational work. This is something we leave behind for our descendants to continue. This is decentralized, collaborative work. This is something we hand off to as many people as we can so that they can build and grow it with, or without us.

This does not mean that we do not do the work, this means that we approach it in a different way. We do not approach it with the pressure of having to solve CSA in our lifetime, to abolish prisons in our lifetime; those issues are much too big to conceive solutions for in one lifetime. However, when we think of the strength, knowledge, and wisdom of those who have come before us and those that will come after us, when we set a better stage, set our sights on moving things forward for our descendants, the work gets a lot lighter and a lot more manageable.

In our collective, we make sure we leave space for visioning. The more I do this work, the more I realize just how important visioning is, and how cut off we are from it in our myopic day to day lives.  We vision across lengths of time ranging from one year from now to fifty years from now; we experience what it is to imagine something that you will never see, but move towards it any way. Engaging in that type of visioning makes you realize how important it is to, not only develop your own leadership, but grow the leadership of others; we begin to understand that everyone needs to take ownership and leadership of TJ, or it will not be sustainable. If and when we die, this thing, our movements, our ideals can’t die with us, or become inert, aloof, or content because of what one individual accomplished in their lifetime.

In the workforce (as far as my understanding being socialized in a capitalist country), you set short term and long term goals, or deadlines, or benchmarks, or what have you, you work toward those until a project or task is either complete or abandoned because the goal cannot be accomplished, then you move on to your next goal and the cycle repeats.  We are afraid to start projects we cannot finish, we consider that failure in our professional lives; Transformative Justice requires that you begin something that you cannot finish, as well as redefine success and failure in the process. Did you make sure that one child was a little safer, that immediate harm stopped, even if you did not address all the systemic factors that caused the violence and transform a community? Did you make sure that someone going through abuse had a respite, that they had a meal, helped them find housing or a job, even if you did nothing to address their abuser?  Did you get someone to connect to the conditions (i.e. alcoholism, internalized oppression, patriarchal modeling, etc…) that cause them to act in unaccountable and or abusive ways in their communities and interpersonal lives so that they can do their own accountability/healing work? These are all ways of pushing TJ forward, these are all ways to take care of and build community. These things are the foundation of Transformative Justice, that get us thinking about being accountable for ourselves and those around us.
We are in the prelude of the long story of liberation, and as with any great work of art, the prelude is just as important as the body; the prelude sets the stage for everything to come.

EVENT: Transformative Justice Lab – March 4, 2017

labs-flyer

 

BATJC TRANSFORMATIVE JUSTICE LAB
March 4th, 2017 from 12pm – 4pm
Organized by the Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective*

This event is being organized in conjunction with the BATJC Transformative Justice and Pods 101 on January 28, 2017 from 1pm-3:30pm. We are encouraging those who would like to attend the Lab and are not familiar with transformative justice (TJ) or “pods” to attend the TJ and Pods Teach-In. The 101 is also a great opportunity to invite people in your pods to learn about TJ.

TRANSFORMATIVE JUSTICE LAB DESCRIPTION:
Join the BATJC for our first Transformative Justice Lab! The TJ Labs are a new part of our work and we are excited to collectively grow them together. We hope it will be a space to allow people to practice and build transformative justice in the Bay Area with the people in their everyday lives.  

What are The BATJC TJ Labs?
The TJ Labs are a place to collectively workshop and practice our skills for transformative justice. The Labs are for people and their pods who are trying to practice TJ in their lives. The Labs will be a self-organized community space where people can come together and work on different parts of transformative justice. All participants are encouraged to self-organize TJ-related groups based on their needs and interests. There will be BATJC folks on-hand to help support different groups, if needed.

Groups that have already been organized and confirmed are listed below and participants are welcome to join them (please note in your registration). Though the BATJC focuses on child sexual abuse, the Labs will be a place to address all forms of violence. Below are some examples of groups and work that will be available:

Response Support Groups: Brainstorm and support TJ responses to current situations of violence, abuse or harm for participants who have specific situations they are facing in their lives. This is both for people who are experiencing harm, as well as for those who would like practice in supporting others in responding to harm. There will be people in the room who have been involved in this work who can help support and we hope this can be a place for new folks to learn. In providing a space to address violence, harm and abuse, we strongly encourage all participants to bring people they trust with them to the Lab.

Case Studies: The BATJC will have different scenarios/case studies on-hand for those who would like to practice thinking through response support. This is a great place to practice response support with folks from your pod.  

Pod Work: The Labs are a good place to meet with your pod and tackle any number of things such as: having conversations with them about transformative justice; doing work around your shared values; talking about accountability; setting up safety plans; working on a case study together (mentioned above).

Pod Building Support: There will be a group specifically designated for those who would like to gain support on how to build their pods.

Accountability Support for People Who Have Harmed: BATJC members will support a group of people who specifically are currently working on being accountable or have been seeking to be accountable for harm they’ve caused. The Labs will help provide a space to process through incidents of harm and/or violence. However we especially ask of people who have harmed to plan to practice self-care before, during and after the labs.

Parents and People Raising Children: For those who would like to meet together to support one another in preventing and/or responding to child sexual abuse as parents and people who are raising children.

Educator and Youth Workers: For educators and youth workers who are interested in transformative justice.

 

This event is open to the public with a suggested donation of $5 – $40. No one turned away for lack of funds. All funds go directly to support the BATJC.

There will be free food and childcare provided (please see information below).

 

PLEASE REGISTER HERE FOR THE LAB so that we may plan accordingly and please review the BATJC’s shared values, principles and practices before you attend.

For questions, please contact batjcinfo@gmail.com.

WHEN: March 4th, 2017 from 12pm – 4pm

WHERE: The BATJC TJ Lab will take place at Little Pilgrims’ Preschool and Daycare, 3900 35th Ave, Oakland, CA 94619. Please use the entrance on Magee Ave.

PARKING: There is free onsite parking in the parking lot behind the church, accessible from Magee Ave.

BART AND BUS:

From Fruitvale BART station: Take the 54 bus heading toward “Campus Dr & Merritt College”(East). Get off at the California St. stop (past MacArthur BLVD), the Lab will be located less than a block up. The stop for the return bus to Fruitvale Station (54 West) is located across the street on the corner of Arizona St. and 35th Ave.  

From Downtown Oakland: Take BART to 19th Street Oakland (@Thomas L. Berkley Way and Broadway). From there take the NL bus heading toward “Eastmont Transit Center.” Get off at 35th Avenue and MacArthur Blvd, about four blocks from the Lab.

From the MacArthur BART station: Take the 57 bus heading toward “Foothill Square.” Get off at 35th Avenue and MacArthur Blvd, about four blocks from the Lab.

From South Berkeley: Take the 12 bus heading to Lakeshore. Walk to MacArthur Blvd. & Lakeshore Ave. Take the NL bus heading toward “Eastmont Transit Ctr.” Get off at 35th Avenue and MacArthur Blvd, about four blocks from the Lab.

 

CARPOOL: Please indicate on the registration form if you can offer a ride, or if you need a ride to the Lab. We will coordinate carpooling

FOOD: We would like to make sure to have food and beverages for everyone to enjoy and will be providing a variety of dishes. In order to make sure everyone is well fed and we meet strict dietary needs and food allergies, we would appreciate volunteers who would like to bring a dish, beverages or snacks to share. Please indicate on the registration form if you would like to contribute food, beverages or snacks.

ACCESS: The space for the Lab is wheelchair accessible with gender neutral and wheelchair accessible bathrooms and has access to outside space and picnic tables. Please help us support a fragrance free space, by attending chemical and fragrance free. This will also help support the children who use the daycare space we are in.

CHILD CARE: The BATJC will provide free childcare during the Lab. We actively support the participation of people with children in this work. Because some content may not be appropriate for young children, childcare will be provided in a separate room on site. If you’d like to use this service during the event, please go to the registration form to share some more information with us!

SELF/GROUP CARE: We encourage all attendees to take care of themselves before, during and after this event. Caring for ourselves and others is important in this work and we want to make sure everyone takes some time to think about what they might need. We will be talking about violence/abuse and it may bring up unexpected things for you. Below are some suggestions that may be useful, especially if you think some of the content may be triggering for you:

– Attend the event with a friend and/or support person. Or have at least one person who knows you will be attending this event that you can reach out to if you need support.

– Think about what might be best for you before, during and after this event. Some examples might be: Planning to do things that bring you resilience, joy, reflection or nourishment.  Planning down time or to be around people who support you in taking care of yourself. Bringing a meaningful object with you that will help ground/comfort you during the event  (something you can wear, hold in your hand and/or look at are often helpful).

*The Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective (BATJC) works to build and support transformative justice responses to child sexual abuse. The BATJC orients all of our work, including events, from our shared values, principles and practices.

If you would like to know about future BATJC events, please join our BATJC Community list, a  low-volume list that is only used to announce BATJC events and work. You can also follow our BATJC Page