Sharing What Safety Is

Ella Baker Center Aswan Boudreaux attended one of the series of panel discussions hosted by the Ella Baker Center in June and shared her experience.
The poetic verses of Tunisia Owens, the Ella Baker Center Policy Manager, opened the second Safety is... Rethinking Violence Using a Restorative Justice Lens, a series of panel discussions and planning sessions where community members engage with advocates defining and re-envisioning safety.
As we settle in, the evening begins with what safety means to us personally and collectively. Moderator David Muhammad, Executive Director of National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform and panelists Reverend Daniel Buford (Berkeley Organizing Congregations for Action), John Jones III (Community and Political Engagement Director, East Oakland Black Cultural Zone) and Jessica Travenia (Development Coordinator, Roots Community Health Center) covered topics including:
  • How exposure to violence, trauma, and stress destabilizes families, and the importance of community health;
  • How we might shape restorative justice to communities that historically lacked having fair and just systems;
  • Innovative programs that help to identify and target areas to reduce gun violence.
As the discussion continued, my thoughts drifted in and out of familiar experiences relating to the topics as they were covered, realizing that at some point the adverse conditions in our communities had seemingly become common place and a “general desensitization” had settled in.
The “who, what, when, where, and how” violence is pervasive among families, friends and communities. Surprisingly I was startled. We deeply embed those memories and painful experiences that often surface later as deep, emotional and angry responses to the slightest affront. Domestic violence, gun violence, road rage, physical and mental abuse are encountered in daily life. I, as have many of us, been touched by one or all of these conditions. So how do we heal ourselves, our families, our communities?
Returning my focus to the panelists, I became aware of how connected and uplifted I felt by the stories and efforts of the organizations they represent. But my mind again went elsewhere. I left early to check in on a family member who is in ICU - a result of violence.
The next Safety is... Rethinking Violence Using a Restorative Justice Lens event will be Thursday, July 19 in Richmond, and will culminate with Night Out for Safety and Liberation on August 7, 2018 at San Antonio Park in Oakland.