The 2023 Beyond the Bars Conference: Seeding Justice brought together people, organizations and movements working on indigenous peacemaking, and restorative, transformative, healing and reparative justice to develop solidarity, share analysis, exchange strategies and practices, and together build power to create the world we need. BTB 2023 was an opportunity to learn about how people and communities are taking up these approaches in their own communities, about the tensions and possibilities of working in relationship to systems, and to build connections between and among those already doing this work.
We kicked off the weekend with a celebration of our Women Transcending Collective Leadership Institute (WTCLI). WTCLI offers leadership development for women impacted by the justice system that includes: capacity building, legislative and advocacy tools, community organizing, and communication skills. The celebration included the graduating fourth cohort and welcomed in the new incoming fifth cohort. Alum from previous cohorts were also in attendance.
We were also joined by Senator Cordell Cleare, CSSW Dean Melissa Begg, Chesa Boudin, and others from Kathy's family. Chesa led us in a tribute to his mom, Kathy Boudin, who co-founded the Center for Justice and the Collective Leadership Institute and was passionate about supporting women coming home from prison.
In line with Kathy's work to bring women home, we were joined by several women from New Orleans who were recently granted clemency.
This included Gloria Williams, aka Mama Glo, who was the longest serving woman in a Louisiana prison before she was released after 52 years of incarceration. She gave some inspiring words and led us all in a dance.
Our Right/Write to Heal group also performed a piece which included women currently incarcerated in Maine, who zoomed in for the event, and who participate in the writing group every week.
On Saturday, we gathered for three plenaries full of incredible panelists who shared about the indigenous roots of restorative justice, what we can learn from them, and what tensions, and possibilities, exist in our current restorative and transformatives practices. The day ended with a group of breakout sessions.
Morning Plenary #1: Indigenous Peacemaking and Indigenous Worldviews
Panelists: Judge Abby Abinanti, Yurok Tribal Court; Fania Davis, Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth; Dr. Manulani Meyer, University of Hawaii West Oahu / Pu’uhonua Society; Rae Nell Vaughn, Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians
Moderator: Cheryl Demmert Fairbanks, Tlingit and Haida Supreme Court / Sovereignty 360 / Life Comes From It
Morning Plenary #2: Learning the Lineages: Indigenous Peacemaking, Restorative,Transformative and Healing Justice
Panelists: Cara Page, Changing Frequencies; Christy Chapman, Pueblo of Zuni; Mike Milton, Freedom Community Center; Armand Coleman, Transformational Prison Project
Moderator: Sethu Nair, Center for Creative Conflict Resolution / Hidden Water
Afternoon Plenary: Seeding Justice: Possibilities, Tensions, and Contradictions
Panelists: Robert Yazzie, Navajo Nation; Mimi Kim, Creative Interventions; Kumi Akua Owusu, How Our Lives Link Altogether! (H.O.L.L.A!); Danielle Sered, Common Justice
Moderator: Martina Kartman, Collective Justice
On Sunday, we started the morning with a tree planting ceremony to remember our beloved co-founder Kathy Boudin. We then convened one plenary about addressing harm within our own movements. We then had a series of breakout sessions which included many practicing restorative circles together.
Morning Plenary: Addressing Conflict and Harm in Social Movements
Panelists: Shannon Perez-Darby, Building Accountable Communities Consortium / Just Beginnings Collaborative; John Page, Black Prisoners Caucus / The Village of Hope
Beyond the Panels
Throughout the weekend, we had a healing room available for people to relax, receive massages, ancestral tarot readings, and more. We also partnered with The Confined Arts on a poster exhibition with submissions from many artists including people directly impacted by incarceration, prisons, police, and punishment. View the artwork here. In the lower level, our partners H.O.L.L.A (How Our Lives Link Altogether) set up an interactive museum of the history of our movements which included an acknowledgment and libations for those we have lost. There was also opportunity for organizations to table and meet people who are interested in joining their work.
Thank you to all who joined us for an incredible weekend, and especially to all of our volunteers, Columbia staff, and partners who made this event possible! Thank you to Echoes of Incarceration for live-streaming the plenaries. Thank you to CSSW Dean Melissa Begg and Columbia School of Social Work for allowing us to use the building. And to all of our sponsors for your support.
Pictures are from Johnny Perez at www.day1pictures.com.
Image Carousel with 10 slides
A carousel is a rotating set of images. Use the previous and next buttons to change the displayed slide
Slide 1: picture of a woman speaking at a table in front of a microphone and audience with two panelists on each side of her
Slide 2: A group photo of young people smiling and putting their fists in the air with H.O.L.L.A. t-shirts on
Slide 3: a picture of two Black women posing and smiling
Slide 4: A picture of a Black woman with a white dress and yellow wrap around her head holding her arms out and smiling
Slide 5: Group photo of the Center for Justice staff
Slide 6: The back of a blue sweatshirt that says "something else is possible"
Slide 7: Two workshop leaders standing in front of a classroom with a powerpoint slide on the screen
Slide 8: A Black man with a colorful scarf on standing in the middle of a circle of people with his arms lifted
Slide 9: Two Black women, wearing all black, with short light hair standing next to each other posing and smiling
Slide 10: A large white paper on the wall with the drawing of a tree and colorful sticky notes with writing on them on top of the paper