Transformative Justice Has Been a Struggle Lately

by Layel Camargo

[photo of a colorful wool coat collar and clasp and the neck of someone looking sideways.]

I have struggled to my core with making time for Transformative Justice lately. With having a full-time job to unpredictable family dynamics to wanting to have some quiet alone time. I have not made time to support friends in navigating difficult instances in their lives nor making myself available to show up for my community in ways that I’d like. And I’ve begun to wonder whether Transformative Justice is even possible, if we can really respond to instances of violence or even harm, for that matter without calling the police. This week alone, I have attempted to deescalate a confrontation outside of my house, shown up to a vigil down the street from my house because of a shooting that led to a fatality, and had a mini conflict with my upstairs neighbors about doing some weed work while they were on vacation. It has left me feeling like if this is the kind of harm and violence I should be wanting to respond to I don’t even know if I would have time to go work at my job for 8 hours because I would be in community accountability processes for days. 

Does anyone else feel like this? Does anyone else feel like we can’t escape the easy fix feeling that can come from calling 911? Does anyone else feel like the day to day motion is actually more important than supporting our neighbors? 

After such a difficult week I felt it necessary to write about what Transformative Justice actually demands of me. It doesn’t demand that I respond to every incident of harm and violence around me, it doesn’t demand I carve out 5-10 hours a week to organize around alternatives to the police or criminal legal system. It demands that I find small and big ways to practice core values. Values that foster interdependence, compassion and humanity and this week, especially, this week the most I can do is practice that for myself. 

This week Nia Wilson was brutally murdered by a white supremacist, I truly feel and believe that I should be participating in protests, dropping banners, and sharing my enraged feelings with others, even so that felt like the most difficult thing to do. 

How can I demand justice when I myself feel chaos in my own neighborhood? When just a week ago a woman was shot not even a block away from where I live and sleep? So what does Transformative Justice demand of me right now? I think its that I have to stay true to how I can best continue spreading the values that will prepare us to live outside of the prison industrial complex and into a world were we will all have skills to deescalate situations and abolish racism. I must make space for those I care about in whatever way that is but especially for myself to bring healing, liberation and the spirit of possibility in difficult times. Transformative Justice simply asks us to stay aligned with our integrity as much as possible not to be perfect in responding to everything but doing what feels best at the time, whether it be crying, screaming or dropping banners. Although there is plenty going on and I’m sure there is plenty going on with you, I challenge myself and would like to invite you, these next few days to do what is best for yourself and I hope that this extends to whats best for those around us whether it be  housemates, neighborhood or larger community. Transformation and liberation doesn’t happen over night and it doesn’t happen perfectly, we must be gentle and consistent. Here is to mine and ours recommitment to being accountable to those around us. 

BATJC at Incite! Color of Violence 4 Conference

Hey everybody, we apologize for not being on top of the blog game, but just in case you want to know some of what we’ve been up to, the BATJC presented last month at the conference organized by INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence, called Color of Violence 4 (COV4) Beyond the State: Inciting Transformative Possibilities.  Here’s the workshop we presented:

Building for the Long Haul: Strategy, Structure and Work

Transformative justice and community accountability (TJ/CA) offer compelling visions and possibilities for liberatory responses to violence in our communities and help us to better envision the world we want to build, but how do we build it? What does TJ/CA organizing actually look like not in theory, but in practice; and not just when we are directly responding to violence, but before then? How do we actively do the slow, long-term, day-in and day-out work to prepare? What could a TJ/CA long-term organizing strategy look like, outside of campaigns and non-profits? And how do we build the kind of liberatory (infra)structures, processes and tools we will need to be sustainable? How could we build work that actively reflects and cultivates our values?

The Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective is a local community collective working to build and support TJ/CA responses to child sexual abuse in the Bay Area. For the past four years we have been developing strategies, tools, values, structures and work that can build a strong foundation for generations to come. We continue to engage in the daily work of building the kinds of relationships and structures that could actually support community responses to violence. This workshop will give participants a chance to hear about a local TJ/CA collective and how it has developed its work, strategy, values, tools and structures. By sharing our work and tools, we hope to spark ideas in participants for their own communities and how they can build foundations for their passionate TJ/CA work. There is no one-way to do TJ/CA work and we offer our work with humility and a commitment to interdependence.  Participants will develop a deeper thinking about how to support the work of community-based responses to violence. Specifically, the kinds of tools, strategies, (infra)structure and values that can help us prepare for and prevent violence. We meet so many people who are analysis-wise “on-board” with TJ/CA, but then who don’t know exactly how to start or how to conceive of the work outside of direct interventions to violence. We hope to offer some concrete examples of what that work has looked like for us and why.

**This workshop is ideally for folks who have a basic-good grasp of knowledge about community-responses to violence, even if they haven’t had any experience in it.  Of course, we would welcome everyone who wants to attend.