Dane County TimeBank made this video in response to statements made by elected officials that demonstrate a lack of understanding of restorative justice within our city's systems and institutions. This video is meant to correct common misrepresentations of restorative justice, explain why is is not a personal but an institutional issue, and present a more accurate role of restorative justice practitioners and what we want to see in community justice.
Transformative Action Network
What is the Transformative Action Network (TAN)?
Transformative Action Network members are committed to co-conspirator abolitionist action, in line with restorative justice principles.
By learning to relate effectively with racism and interrupt patterns of white supremacist culture, TAN members become allies and co-conspirators to Black and Brown community members. Using restorative justice work, TAN is helping Timebank build resilience instead of fragility, action instead of silence and solidarity instead of hierarchy. Abolitionist restorative practices become powerful tools that enhance mutuality and respect across gender, race and class lines. They lead to the kind of collaboration that can move Madison beyond anemic liberalism to real progressive alternatives. Anti-racist restorative practice among Timebankers is leading to racial justice.
As James Baldwin wrote, “Any citizen of this country who figures himself as responsible – and particularly those of you who deal with the minds and hearts of young people – must be prepared to “go for broke.” As a network, we are striving to give racial justice everything we have.
How to Get Involved
- Abolitionist / Co-Conspirator Restorative Justice Training
- Community Lab for Intentional Practice (CLIP)
- Open House
Open Letter To End Violence Against Black People
by Damita Brown
Our country's national crime is lynching. It is not the creature of an hour, the sudden outburst of uncontrolled fury, or the unspeakable brutality of an insane mob.
Ida B. Wells
They never stood trial. Their humanity was denied and their lives were taken. For centuries on end, black lives have been considered disposable. And the terror of white violence haunts our communities today. Rightfully so, protesters in Minneapolis call for charges of murder. They are demanding that the officers that murdered George Floyd are brought to justice. What kind of justice can mitigate the harm and the unbearable suffering that this history of violence has brought to bear on the black community in America? How can true justice endure? This question needs to be resolved with a national call for a truth and reconciliation commission. It is not enough to rely on a justice system that has consistently and systematically protected the blue code within the police regime. We know that organized elements of hate are rampant within our police forces in this country. We know that these policing bodies are abusing their power and executing Black men and women. These atrocities occur daily. We can no longer entrust our lives to this institutionalized brutality. Black communities most impacted by this violence must be at the center of any definition about true justice.
At least in deed, if not in name, these officers are part of a white supremacist group. If they’re not members now, they may well join if they’re convicted. What does justice look like if accountability cannot be exacted at the level of acknowledging the harm that one causes and committing oneself to repairing that harm? The capacity to cause this harm is one this society shares as a whole. It is not enough to try, charge, and convict these murderers. Justice demands that the cultural and structural violence that legitimates their actions is dismantled. We may march in the streets, as well we should, as we did with Michael Brown, as we did with Freddie Gray, Philando Castille, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin, Breonna Taylor. But what is the mechanism that is driving this killing? As Freedom Inc Director M. Adams reminds us ‘Police are trained to protect property, not life, especially not Black life’.
This is a spectacle of white hate to satisfying their blood lust and rage against Black people. What are they trying to tell us by standing over these dead Black bodies. These videos being are part of all of our psyches now. It is terrorism. This mechanism goes beyond “I hate you.” It is also the feeling of the mob, it is smugness and the sense of satisfaction with raw, violent dominance. This is the spectacle that’s being played out. This is the way terror is indelibly imprinted into our minds. No one can unsee that murder. The spectacle has to terrorize, and our witnessing helps accomplish that terror. He was murdered in broad daylight for that reason. They wanted people to see it. The officer asked, ‘you’re a tough guy, aren’t you?’ This is about submission of black people in general. No, we will not submit. We will not bow down. We will stand together. What we need now is solidarity. If you’re outraged, if you’re afraid, if you’re heartbroken or confused, let whatever you’re feeling right now be your stepping stone to struggle for justice. Use that feeling as an act of grace -- it’s a gift of your humanity. Nothing you’re feeling right now needs to be put away or repressed. But we do need to make that feeling a viable place from which to launch collective action. Find your voice and write a letter to End Violence Against Black People. Find your courage and join the protests to amplify that voice. Muster your strength and offer support to Black leaders waging this struggle. Extend your kindness and generosity to the families who are bearing the brunt of this loss. And remember that these singular acts must be sustained with ongoing resistance, vigilance, and resolve. As long as this particular terrorist organization is allowed to take Black lives, commit yourself to its utter destruction and replacement.
Here are the demands for the Lettering writing campaign:
1. Remove all harmful punitive policies, practices, and people from school environments, including police, suspension, and expulsion.
2. We want public institutions to engage in 360 degree accountability through abolitionist restorative justice.
3. Support and fund a Black-lead committee with decision making and implementation power to remedy the deep patterns of harm caused by racist violence in all of its harms.
4. Using recommendations of said committee, invest in a campaign to decriminalize and humanize Black people.
5. Provide reparations to said committee to create educational initiatives for the Black community.
6. Provide reparations for Black land trusts and other remedies for gentrification and hyper-segregation.
7. Create a truth and reconciliation process to replace the punitive criminal justice system with abolitionist restorative justice.
8. Adopt the demands developed by the Movement for Black Lives.
To join the letter writing campaign, contact the Transformative Action Network committee (firstname.lastname@example.org).
To learn more about other actions in solidarity with the Minneapolis resistance, contact Freedom, Inc. (email@example.com)
Task Force to End Violence Against Black People is asking people to include these requests in their letters.
“Let’s begin by saying that we are living through a very dangerous time. Everyone in this room is in one way or another aware of that. We are in a revolutionary situation, no matter how unpopular that word has become in this country...To any citizen of this country who figures himself as responsible – and particularly those of you who deal with the minds and hearts of young people – must be prepared to “go for broke.” Or to put it another way, you must understand that in the attempt to correct so many generations of bad faith and cruelty, when it is operating not only in the classroom but in society, you will meet the most fantastic, the most brutal, and the most determined resistance. There is no point in pretending that this won’t happen.” - James Baldwin, 1963
The first time I heard this quote from James Baldwin, I felt it deep in my chest, somewhere between my heart and stomach. Reflecting on this feeling I realize that it was a combination of pure resonance, passion, and unease. In a world where we are taught to please, knowing that many of the things I have and will do will make others upset, and put myself at risk, is ultimately how I know I’m doing something right. This, to me - the unquestioning devotion to collective wellbeing despite risk - is what it really means to “go for broke”.
So many people before us have spent their lives going for broke. From Marsha P. Johnson and Angela Davis to Sojourner Truth and Audre Lorde, not to mention the hundreds of unnamed devotees, many dedicated people have put their lives on the line (and faced the very real consequences) when it comes to abolitionism and liberation. So, when we talk about being a co-conspirator, that means much more than supporting these movements, but also being willing to put ourselves at risk for the sake of these movements’ progress.
The element of risk is important to co-conspiracy because it means that one’s beliefs transcend the systems and structures in place that benefit them. They are willing to sacrifice those benefits in order to support the people who these systems harm. If someone is unwilling to give up the things that benefit them for the sake of collective growth and repair, then they are ultimately still concerned with self interest. Interests that benefit one and not all are what perpetuate white supremacy and capitalism, and impede any sense of mutual accountability. As such, it is my belief that feeling like you’re risking something when doing abolitionist work, means that you not only have a stake in it, but that you’re doing something right. That’s not to say that abolitionist work is all about doing “right” or “wrong”, but it does mean that this work is that which benefits everyone, together, in order to achieve freedom from the legacy of violence and racism in this country.
With this, I would like to directly reference our excellent co-conspirator checklist. In order to consistently support abolitionist restorative justice work, we all must implement the facets of this checklist into our daily lives and understand that co-conspiracy is not a single act, but a livelihood, a continued state of being, and ultimately, a willingness to risk it all to “go for broke”.
Here are some ways to get involved with TAN and go for broke:
As parents and caregivers are well aware, childcare during this pandemic has been an obstacle that our community has had to tackle together. However, caregivers have often had to go at this alone. Like in all times of crisis (Hurricane Katrina, 2019 wildfires in California, Hurricane Sandy, etc), the gaping social inequalities present in our communities are even more exacerbated. Further, responses to meet the needs of those who are deemed essential and vulnerable are prioritized and continue cycles of oppression rooted in racism, sexism, classism, and educational elitism. In the state of Wisconsin and the Madison community, this is happening with our child care system.
The Department of Children and Families (DCF), as of March 26, released information for families, providers, and who they consider essential workers, about child care resources. The information circulated by DCF is representative of Governor Evers’ Stay-At-Home order, where essential activities have been deemed those that “engage in activities or perform tasks essential to their health and safety.”
Yet, there is an order to who is prioritized to be essential. The order suggests that child care settings should prioritize care for families based on a tier system. The tiers are as follows:
Tier 1: employees, contractors, and other support staff working in health care
Tier 2: employees, contractors, and other staff in vital areas including but not limited to military; long term care; residential care; pharmacies; child care; child welfare; government’ operations; public safety and critical infrastructure such as sanitation, transportation, utilities, telecommunications; grocery and food services; supply chain operations; and other sectors as determined by the SEcretary of the Department of Children and Families.
The elements of this order that I want to draw attention to are bolded.
Broadly speaking, long term care and residential care (nursing home facilities, assisted living) in other settings are not considered as entirely separate from other health care workers. They are all direct care workers who perform tasks essential for health and safety. However, this separation is natural for the government and powerful people because it is representative of covertly and overtly racist policies that have contributed to segregation. This separation of direct care workers is based on the workforce demographics and educational and occupational status.
The Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute (PHI), a national organization that works to ensure quality care for older adults and people with disabilities by creating quality jobs for direct care workers, has studied the demographics of direct care workers, including long term and residential workers. In their 2020 annual report, they indicate that 59 percent of direct care workers are people of color. Home care workers, which would fall into the Tier 2 category, are 62 percent workers of color. Further, the direct care workforce heavily relies on immigrant workers where approximately one in four were born outside of the US.
The health care staff that are privileged in Tier 1 can be considered hospital workers, such as nurses and doctors. As of 2017, the nursing workforce in the US is 80.8 percent white, reported by the National Council of State Boards Nursing. Overall, when holistically compared to the long-term care workforce, nurses and doctors have higher educational and occupational statuses which often come from means of access to wealth and privilege. Based on how the systems of domination operate in the US, we all know that whiteness is increasingly interrelated to wealth and privilege.
Overall, the Stay-At-Home order Tier system intensifies the gap between white folks and communities of color’s equity in access to child care--an essential service. Even before the pandemic, accessible and affordable child care services in Madison was slim to none and reaching crisis levels. The majority of services are not affordable for low income communities, do not accommodate the second and third shift workforce, and do not reflect culturally responsive care. Ultimately, while this analysis is centered on race, it is absolutely necessary to acknowledge the intersections of identity to include that it is primarily Black and brown women who are feeling the effects of this system most intensely.
Right now, we need to collectively recognize the fundamental value of all care workers and recognize divisive measures that claim we need to “prioritize” accessibility. Since the Tier system in the executive order is not being considered for edits, it is important to understand access to child care as an indicator for broader, systemic issues and as a service that severely affects the wellbeing of families who are part of communities of color and one-parent households.
DCF Covid-19: https://dcf.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/childcare/providers
Tony Evers Stay-At-Home Order: https://evers.wi.gov/Documents/COVID19/EMO12-SaferAtHome.pdf
PHI 2020 Annual Report: https://phinational.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Its-Time-to-Care-2020-PHI.pdf
National Council of State Boards Nursing national nursing workforce study: https://www.ncsbn.org/workforce.htm
Freedom Inc and the Transformative Action Network is collaborating on a letter writing campaign to demand the end of violence against black children in Madison. This coordinated abolitionist effort will bring together members of the community to make sure injustices against children do not go unseen, unchallenged, or met with silence. Community members will write letters directed to media outlets, school administrators, city officials and community based organizations to urge them to address the the structural and physical violence Black youth face and to take anti-racist action.
To further explain the goals of the letter writing campaign, here is an interview between Ryan Eykholt, member of the Transformative Action Network Coordinating Committee, and Dr. Damita Brown, Restorative Justice Director at the Dane County TimeBank. Damita is a community based educator with experience in restorative justice circles and anti-racism workshop facilitation using creative process and contemplative self awareness practices.
RE: How did the letter writing campaign emerge, and what inspired it?
DB: I think there are a couple of sources of inspiration for it. One was the ongoing work that Freedom, Inc. is doing around getting police-free schools. They have been looking at the dangers that our kids face with respect to that in the schools for a lot of years now. So I knew that that resource was there, and it’s always in the back of my mind, like how to work with them. And the other direct impetus was that I was mentoring a kid that got arrested at gunpoint in December. He was a kid with special needs, he had an IEP. He was already kind of limited in his social environment because he didn’t go to school all day. I think he was in school for like three hours a day. And so, he was already experiencing some isolation. But after he got arrested, I reached out to his mom about showing up for the hearings and supporting her in whatever way we could. She was afraid that the judge might look at our presence in the courtroom unfavorably. And we couldn’t publish any information about the arrest. I felt like my hands were tied, and I also heard a lot of other stories, that young black kids are facing a lot of violence. Structural, physical, and cultural violence in Madison. So, we wanted to do something around ending that violence, and the letter campaign came out of that.
RE: In your piece ‘Choosing Liberation’, you talk about ‘unpacking white dominated identity structures’ and rewriting ourselves within a racial/black liberation narrative. How do you see the letter writing campaign as an individual and collective action that helps to make the liberation narrative thrive?
DB: That’s a great question. Because I think, at any given moment, we all have an opportunity to start fresh. Whatever we haven’t done in the past or we’ve done poorly, or maybe we haven’t responded at all, all those things go out the window the minute we take the new act. Every moment is an opportunity to do something differently, or do the same thing you did before but do it again. So, we need to keep giving ourselves opportunities to act. The question isn’t whether we ever did it right in the past or if we don’t know how to do it now, but to create so many opportunities to practice ending this violence. The actual practice of ending this violence, and speaking about it is an incredibly powerful way to transform this narrative. If we are worried about what to say, or afraid that we’ll be considered too radical or maybe a race traitor – I’m not sure what internal dialogue people are dealing with, but whatever that is, let’s air it out.
RE: What are the strengths of restorative justice for responding to crisis? How does the mission of restorative justice overlap with the letter writing campaign?
DB: One of the interesting things about restorative justice, especially as it’s being implemented in the Madison community, is that it already is experiencing a lot of co-optation. We’re looking at how it’s being implemented into the school district. It’s been going on at different capacities for many years. Recently, because of the alternatives to ticketing initiatives that have changed the dynamic somewhat, we’re getting a much more defined picture of how the disparities have been getting created in terms of incarceration and police contact with our communities and our youth. People like to talk about how the numbers are going down in terms of citations, because of restorative justice. And that’s good. But we need to be asking ourselves if the outcomes are also changing in terms of what black communities look like. Are incarceration rates changing? Are our children getting the kind of skills and academic resources that allow them to show up in their communities as leaders, to be able to understand and experience their own sense of power and to thrive? Are they getting that sense of being valued members of their community? Are they still experiencing the level of white rage and hostility in their schools that they did before these numbers started to change? With police contact that they’re having in schools, they’re being pretty much surveilled. Every moment they’re in school, there’s a cop there. Are we changing their level of contact with police? Or, are we creating school environments in which kids are being policed all day? The school-to-prison pipeline, is that changing?
If we can look at the numbers in Dane County and see how they compare to the rest of the country, we’re one of the worst. We’re one of the worst, and other Midwestern states are also horrible, disproportionate compared to the rest of the country. I like the fact that people are thinking about alternatives to ticketing, but officer discretion has not been removed, and it is still very much a matter of normalizing this kind of structural violence in the lives of our kids.
We can’t forget the kid who had a bag put over his head when he was being arrested. We can’t forget the 8- and 9-year-olds who have had the law enforcement called on them by their principals. What principal in this school district does not know how to handle an 8-year-old? If you do not have enough trust and respect with your 8-year-olds that you can’t resolve a conflict without calling the police, should you be in that job? I don’t think so. I think if there’s enough white rage in our schools to where 8- and 9-year-olds are having the police called on them, that’s a crisis right there. This is not an isolated incident. We started this interview talking about the 14-year-old who was arrested in December. It goes on all the time. Let’s look at the crisis of that. I don’t want us to always be feeling like we’re in crisis mode. But if there’s one that needs to be handled, let’s not pretend like it’s not there.
RE: What are the best ways for people to get involved with this letter writing campaign?
DB: Upcoming this week, we have a session people are welcome to join – Friday, April 10 from 7-8pm – where people can come and learn what the campaign is about, and figure out how to set up a letter writing Zoom session with their peers. There will be a template of the letter. The campaign launches for the broader community, April 24th. We’ll talk about different forms of the template because some letters will go to editors, some letters will go to the school board, some letters will go to the city council, so how to target the community you want to address the letter to. This week we’re just starting with the people who signed up during our Open House to get them to know how to host a letter writing meeting on Zoom. Then, the idea is to expand out from there and the people who come to those initial instructional meetings can learn how to set up their own letter writing gathering online. Exponentially, we’ll have more and more of these meetings. Over time, we’ll generate hopefully hundreds of millions of letters.
The Restorative Justice Open House at the Timebank is a gathering intended to offer the general public music and other entertainment and refreshments to provide a easy going, activity based and fun environment in which to exchange ideas and learn from each other about restorative justice and current projects.
The Open Houses are currentlly on hold due to COVID-19. The next date for an Open House will be announced in the future.
Created by Gretchen Trast
Consistently Working to Be:
- Anti-Racist & Action-Oriented
- Preferential to Co-Conspiracy over Allyship
- Liberation-Focused & Reflective
- Actively Developing Self-Awareness
- Deeply Curious
- Creative & Collaborative
- Empathetic & Humble
- Honor All Forms of Life
- Transform Silence Into Action
- Understand Impact Matters Over Intent
- Trust & Accept Others' Lived Experiences
- Commit to Safety, Healing, and Agency for All
- Open to Receiving Feedback & Being Challenged
- Maintain a Sense of Accountability and Blamelessness
- Invest in Black and Brown Youth and Community Self-Determination
- Practice Restorative Justice to Achieve Transformative Justice
- Interrupt Organizational Practices that Maintain Oppression
- Address Violence at its Roots, at both Individual and Collective Levels
- Dismantle White Supremacy and Reassemble Black Liberation Consciousness and Autonomy
Co-Conspiracy is integral to our work with restorative justice. This is the definition we operate by.
Restorative Justice is a theory and practice of community-based approach to doing community building, responding when harm is caused or healing damaged relationships. This work is based on 360-degree accountability, mutual concern, dignity and respect.
Grounded in the view that all members of a community are worthy and interdependent, the practice promotes community building, self-awareness, and empathy to create justice, equity and freedom. Through the creation of collective agreements people work to resolve conflict and respond to deep patterns of harm which are often grounded in historical, structural and physical racism and violence.
Getting involved with TAN means first taking an orientation that explores diaspora identity and racial disparities. The diaspora activity gives participants an opportunity to examine elements of entitlement and dispossession connected to identity, history, and perceptions of belonging. At the core of this introduction to diaspora identity is the question: ‘how does one’s personal investment in narratives of domination perpetuate white supremacist culture?’ In any given moment, we have a choice about which narrative we’re going to subscribe to. That choice is enacted in our every day actions. By examining our own cultural identities, we create the possibility of dismantling hierarchies grounded in privilege, racism, and ignorance.
Approaching racial disparities from the perspective that we all inherited the social conditions and inequities that we’re experiencing provides further opportunity to change the way we act. We can transform the cultural practices that we have inherited. Transformative Action Network takes this as its first priority. Within this context, ‘action’ is not grounded in guilt or shame or blame. Rather, it emerges from a self-awareness and conviction about personal power to make change. We engage in this work through Community Lab for Intentional Practice (CLIP) and other opportunities to build collaborations and to seek out co-conspirator alliances that end racial disparities.
Our CLIP labs are loosely guided by the work of Dr. Bettina Love and her book ‘We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom’. The abolitionist approach is valuable because it is committed to the idea of replacing institutional harm. The educational survival complex is something that is replicated in all of our institutions. We use that premise in building collaborations with other organizations and groups that seek to do similar abolitionist and anti-racist work in other institutions.
The Timebank Tranformative Action Network is presenting a training that meets people where they are on the journey of creating collaborative, sustainable change.
- Learn how to engage in liberated narratives
- Learn how to identify and reject scripted complicity in white supremacist culture
- Learn how to trust your heart and those of others in our ability to manifest justice on the spot
- Build solidarity within and across communities of color
This intensive will challenge you, support your existing liberation practice, and help connect you with other like minded folx.
To register email firstname.lastname@example.org
Donations accepted and go to the Timebank's Black Leaders Scholarship Fund. Participants can earn Timebank hours for investing their time in this work.
The Lab is focused on providing an alternative community space for developing abolitionist, co-conspirator and restorative justice practices that eliminate racial disparities in Dane County and empower the voices of those most impacted. CLIP prioritizes expanding self-awareness and the ability to offer transformative practice at interpersonal and institutional levels of engagement. Recognizing that unlearning the ways we participate in white supremacist culture are deeply ingrained, members are committed to consistent and long term work.
CLIP offers ongoing restorative circle opportunities, anti-racism, institutional harm, and practice that builds capacity to relate to real life and hypothetical scenarios. Our work in the lab also includes opportunities to engage in creative, contemplative and collaborative projects that dismantle institutional injustice and develops alternative infrastructure.
Organizations are welcome to request lab sessions that respond to their specific needs. Currently labs are meeting on the third Monday of every month from 2:30-3:30pm.