I had the deep honor of co-facilitating a conversation on justice and healing with a group of dynamic humans who are detained at the Cook County Jail. Over the course of 4 virtual sessions, facilitators engaged in a rich dialogue with 10 men detained at the Cook County Department of Corrections. Using Lama Rod Owens’ text “Love and Rage: The Path to Liberation through Anger,” Survival Economies report produced by Equity and Transformation, and several other selected readings, students were invited to wrestle with question such as:
How do we use anger for our liberation?
How do we understand justice?
What do we mean by trauma and healing?
What does a beloved community look like?
How do we understand “homecoming” and what are promising paths forward?
Jia Johnson, SBI program director, shares a short reflection on her experience:
We formed the type of community that invites your soul to crawl out from its hiding place.
We were vulnerable.
We were honest.
We were transparent.
We suspended judgement.
We encouraged each other.
We learned from each other.
We listened to each one other.
We laughed together.
We cried a bit.
We grew together.
We named the pain and trauma we have experienced, both systemically and interpersonally.
We wrestled with the inner struggle of wanting to get free on the inside while not knowing exactly how to get free.
We imagined together about what healing and justice mean to folks who have been made to be marginalized.
When reflecting on our time together, one of the men said, “I am grateful to be part of a group where I can be my myself.”
As I reflected on our experience, I kept thinking about the many times, I have called myself broken or referred to someone else as being a broken person. The more I am intentional about being attentive to doing my own healing work, the more I am convinced that no one is broken. We are all wounded people in search of healing. We carry in our bodies experiences of deep pain and hurt. Some of us have been given the tools and space and resources to heal our wounds while others have been deprived and withheld the resources to heal.
I once heard bell hooks point out that too often the only places available for Black men to reflect on life are carceral spaces. She lamented this reality and challenged the audience to consider why. In spite of the systemic inequality that makes America the Carceral Capital of the world, even when those on the margins are withheld access to the vital resources that aid in healing, they survive and persevere anyways. Their resilience to overcome and not only survive but flourish is evidence of their humanity. We are hardwired for resilience and healing.
Each of the men in the Justice and Healing Conversation series, shared the ways in which they heal themselves while being confined to incarceration. In the process, they were reminded of their individual and collective resourcefulness and resilience. And they bore witness to their ongoing work to heal themselves and their community.
bell hooks proclaims, “To heal our wounded communities, which are diverse and multilayered, we must return to a love ethic, one that is exemplified by the combined forces of care, respect, knowledge and responsibility.” The students in the Justice and Healing Conversation Series embodied and modeled this love ethic!
How do you and the communities you’re connected to embody and model hooks’ love ethic?