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Transforming Historical Harms

The 96-page manual, Transforming Historical Harms by David Anderson Hooker and Amy Potter Czajkowski, was uploaded October 2013 on Coming to the Table‘s site. The manual gives a holistic framework to address historical injustices, in a way that engages all participants, and identifies the aftermath and legacies of [generational] trauma. This manual was developed by Coming to the Table and has been a collective effort of Eastern Mennonite University’s (EMU) Center for Justice & Peacebuilding (CJP) and their Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience (STAR) program. From the STAR program, came the group Coming to the Table, which itself was launched in 2006 when a group of EMU participants gathered to address the historical trauma between descendants of enslaved African-Americans and enslaver European-Americans.

The framework is given through the lens of trauma and provides a holistic approach to transform traumas from historical injustices for healing to occur. In order to be possible, all participants affected must be included and address all the following aspects: “Facing History; Making Connections; Healing Wounds; and Taking Action”.

The manual provides five sections and an appendix:
Section I: Overview, context and using the manual
Section II: The THH Framework
Section III: Practices of the THH Approach
Section IV: Analysis and Process Design
Section V: Tools and Resources for Practicing the THH Approach

Below is an excerpt from the manual, you can find the it in full on Coming to the Table’s site here.

From the manual…

The THH Framework
The Transforming Historical Harms (THH) manual articulates a Framework for addressing the historical harms mentioned above as well as the many others present in societies around the world. The framework looks at historical injustices and their present manifestations through the lens of trauma and identifies the mechanisms for the transmission of historical trauma: legacies and aftermaths. These are the beliefs and structures responsible for transmitting trauma responses and traumagenic circumstances between generations. The framework then offers a comprehensive approach to transforming historical harms through Facing History; Making Connections; Healing Wounds; and Taking Action. Transforming historical harms must occur through the practice of all these dimensions. The order in which they are engaged can be different, but none can be omitted. This approach will be the primary focus of the manual. Finally, the framework includes the levels at which healing needs to occur, which range from the individual to the international level. For the sake of simplicity, we will refer to analysis and interventions at the individual and group levels. (more…)

Re-imagining and Restoring Justice: Toward a Truth and Reconciliation Process to Address Violence Against African-Americans in the US

The webinar, Re-imagining and Restoring Justice: Toward a Truth and Reconciliation Process to Address Violence Against African-Americans in the US, was hosted by Carl Stauffer and speaker guest, Fania Davis, and occurred March 16, 2016 on Zehr Institute‘s site. In the hour and a half long webinar, Stauffer and Davis discuss the restorative-justice based, Truth and Reconciliation Movement. Davis begins with sharing her personal story and how her path led to restorative justice and the Truth and Reconciliation Movement. In this process, Davis explains, one asks the questions, “how can we tell the truth, promote accountability and transform social structures that are totally different?”. Like the restorative justice frame, participants come together to share their truths, listen to other perspectives, offer support to those affected, and work through the experiences in a way that heals trauma. Throughout the webinar, Stauffer and Davis talk about restorative justice processes around the world and how they shaped the Movement, current Truth and Reconciliation processes going on in the US and finally, the webinar is wrapped up with a Q&A.

You can find the full webinar below or on Zehr Institute’s site here.

From the Zehr Institute…

The recent wave of internationally publicized police killings in the U.S. has sparked a national race conversation and passionate outcry for justice. But the current justice system cannot deliver the justice we seek – it is itself a perpetrator of massive structural harm. Also, killings of unarmed black people are contemporary expressions of centuries of unhealed racial traumas reaching all the way back to the birth of our nation, morphing from slavery to sharecropping and lynching, from Jim Crow to convict leasing, and to mass incarceration and deadly police practices today. Prevailing justice lacks the capacity to redress racialized historical harm. Yet, until we as a nation interrupt intergenerationally-transmitted racial traumas, we are doomed to perpetually re-enact them.  If the justice system as we know it cannot adequately redress the long legacy of racial trauma in this country, can we imagine and engender a justice that can? A more capacious justice: one that promotes truth-telling, accountability, and reparations? Can we envision a justice that transforms relationships and social structures, grounding them in a mutual recognition of one another’s humanity?  A justice that allows us as a nation, racially-fractured for centuries, to heal and build a new future together?

This webinar explores the possibility of a restorative justice-based Truth and Reconciliation Movement as our best hope.

We need to think about justice in a completely different way. How do we envision and imagine justice that can interrupt the historical cycles of racial trauma? How do we transform this historical harms, so that the killings can stop? How do we view accountability? How do we hold system accountable?

Below is the full webinar and it can also be found on Zehr Institute’s site here.

About Dr. Fania Davis
She is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth (RJOY). Coming of age in Birmingham, Alabama during the social ferment of the civil rights era, the murder of two close childhood friends in the 1963 Sunday School bombing crystallized within Fania a passionate commitment to social transformation. For the next decades, she was active in the civil rights, Black liberation, women’s, prisoners’, peace, anti-racial violence and anti-apartheid movements.

About Zehr Institute
The leaders of EMU’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding (CJP) announced the founding of the Zehr Institute at the end of the fall 2012 semester. The Zehr Institute spreads knowledge about restorative justice and is a resource to practitioners, while facilitating conversations and cultivating connections through activities like conferences and webinars. The institute is co-directed by Howard Zehr, distinguished professor of restorative justice, and Carl Stauffer, assistant professor of justice and development studies at CJP.

Resource Link: http://zehr-institute.org/webinar/re-imagining-and-restoring-justice-toward-a-truth-and-reconciliation-process-to-address-violence-against-african-americans-in-the-united-states/

Turning To Each Other

The article, Turning To Each Other, was written by Parisa Parsa and published July 2016 on Public Conversations Project blog. In the article, Parsa discusses the need to not be a neutral party within this society because it furthers the injustices of this world. Instead she offers the alternative of multi-partiality, to not remain neutral and both hold one’s own opinion while also being able to hold alternatives perspectives, even if they differ dramatically. The dialogue and deliberation field very often is a vehicle through which conflicting opinions converge, build relations, and create change. Parsa calls for communities to turn toward each other, no matter their perspectives, in order to grow and ultimately reach liberation.

Below is the full article and it can also be found on Public Conversations Project blog here.

From Public Conversations Project…


The violence, grief and acrimony of the last week has been brutal. In the midst of such public anger and heated rhetoric, I was reminded of another piece of sad news: the death of Holocaust survivor and man of brilliance Elie Wiesel. Of a lifetime of wisdom, no words of his have felt more urgent than these; I have clung to them for both courage and challenge:

“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” ― Elie Wiesel

It seems like a forthright, straightforward–if bracing–statement. We have a duty, moral and relational, to stand with those who are suffering injustice. As an activist, I prided myself on living that commitment: to be on the side of what was right, to speak up for those who were being tormented.

Now I lead an organization that works to bring people with very different perspectives, beliefs, and backgrounds, into relationship. What we see in our work that community is not a given – it does not arise spontaneously due to our proximity in neighborhoods or workplaces. Community is a choice: an act of courage when fear and mistrust threaten to tear us asunder. Because of our commitment to being present with the many perspectives that reside around any issue that matters, we do not take a side on the issues. Yet we are not neutral. We make an active commitment to listen, to engage, to honor each person and perspective that arrives. Our practitioners call this being multi-partial – not im-partial, or lacking a side, but multi-partial: willing to hold each part, even though they may contradict each other.

This precarious balance requires careful preparation to make sure all those “parts” meet on ground that is as level as possible. Instead of asking “What do you want to say?” we ask, “What do you need in order to feel heard?” What do you need to do to prepare yourself to really listen to others? What agreements will help to secure a space for you to tell your truth, and to listen with resilience? These are not superficial questions – they live in the very heart of power differences, and invite reflections on the assumptions we make about each other that guide most of our communication.

What we find, over and over again, in our conversations is that it is rarely so simple as to say there is a single oppressor or oppressed. When we are able to really speak and listen from the depths and complexities of who we are, we find that we are all suffering from the human systems that keep us separate, fearful, misunderstood and misunderstanding. And we find that what takes real courage is the work of turning to one another, against all the tides that would tell us to pull back, to withdraw, to point fingers and build walls, and instead to ask: where are you hurting?

The gross atrocities of humanity don’t usually begin with hard lines of good and evil. They begin with people trying to make sense of the world from their place in it, limited in what they can know and see, acting to protect and promote the life of those they care about. This is true in this particular moment for men and women who are serving in law enforcement, and it is true for black and brown people who are advocating for a change in a society that has disproportionately imprisoned them. It is true for people who advocate fiercely for the right to bear arms, and it is true for those who are outraged at the lack of gun regulation. There are indeed systems and structures that have affected particular people disproportionately and yet those structures are not the ones whose bodies are sacrificed routinely on the altar of our misunderstanding. “We see the world not as it is but as we are,” wrote Anais Nin. I think it is safe to say we are all suffering.

Being told we are wrong rarely prompts a moment of awakening; instead, we retreat into the known, even though it may cause us greater pain. Finding a wider lens with which to view the world, situating ourselves in the midst of a bigger scene, helps us widen the circle of life we commit to promote and protect. Knowing our neighbor more fully makes connection more visible, and less optional. The more you see of that neighbor, the more you are truly seen. We don’t take a single side, because true liberation is a choice made from seeing the whole. That whole is painful, complicated, uncertain – and it is our great responsibility, no matter what our cause, to share our truth and let go of the belief that it is the only one. I’m not sure Wiesel would disagree, and it is my great loss that I never had the chance to ask him.

About Public Conversations ProjectPCP_logo
Public Conversations Project fosters constructive conversation where there is conflict driven by differences in identity, beliefs, and values. We work locally, nationally, and globally to provide dialogue facilitation, training, consultation, and coaching. We help groups reduce stereotyping and polarization while deepening trust and collaboration and strengthening communities.

Follow on Twitter: @pconversations

Resource Link: www.publicconversations.org/blog/turning-each-other

Democracy by Design

The 8-page article, Democracy by Design (2014), by Nancy Thomas was published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 10: Iss. 1. Thomas puts forth, Democracy by Design, which offers the framework for evolving democracy into one that is more robust and truer to the core tenets of the concept of democracy. This framework has four major foundations in order to have a better democracy: active and deliberative public participation; freedom, justice, and equal opportunity; an educated and informed citizenry, and; effective government structures. It was co-created by Thomas, the Democracy Imperative, Deliberative Democracy Consortium, the Campaign for Stronger Democracy, the Kettering Foundation, Everyday Democracy, CIRCLE, and the New England Resource Center for Higher Education.

Below is an excerpt from the article and you can find the PDF available for download from the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.

From the article…

American democracy works better when all citizens (referring to residency, not legal status) possess the knowledge, skills, social networks, and inclination, and have the opportunity, to address difficult public problems together.

In this essay, I make the case for connecting the kind of public engagement reviewed in this Special Issue with a broader reform agenda, what I will call Democracy by Design. It is a pragmatic and relatively simple framework for a robust democracy, consisting of four foundations: active and deliberative public participation; freedom, justice, and equal opportunity; an educated and informed citizenry, and; effective government structures. The language “by design” suggests a framework for democracy, not just disconnected mechanics, intentionally crafted and integrated for positive social consequences. I developed this concept, captured in the graphic below, as a road map for undergraduate education for democracy. Exploiting Thomas Huxley’s adage “learn something about everything and everything about something,” I propose that college students (and all Americans) should learn this framework or a version of it to fulfill their obligation to know “something” about how democracy works. And by the time they graduate, college students should know “everything” about at least one dimension of one of the four foundations (one “small box”).1 Democracy by Design is a work-in-progress, open to discussion, critique, and improvement. (more…)

Our Differences Do Not Have To Become Our Divisions

The article, Our Differences Do Not Have To Become Our Divisions, was written by Jessica DeBruin and posted June 20, 2016 on Everyday Democracy‘s site. DeBruin wrote this article in memory of the 49 victims from the Orlando massacre at Pulse nightclub, an LGBTQIA club. In the article, DeBruin shares her experience as a queer person in the aftermath of the massacre and calls for the urgent need to improve the civic process by demanding the need to ensure the voices of marginalized folks are at the table in an authentic way. She gives explicit ideas on how to do this by listening to affected communities, ensuring the mic is shared, and directly challenging and interrupting violence [in all forms].

Below is an excerpt from the article and read it in full on Everyday Democracy’s site here.

From the article…

It may be near impossible for all of us, even allies, even queer folk, to comprehend how we have internalized and acted out these violences on a daily basis – but it is essential that we begin to do so. When good people witness hate speech and say nothing, we have participated in that hate. By failing to challenge hateful narratives we become complicit to them. When we cling to compartmentalized notions of identity, we erase the experiences of people who live at the intersection of multiple group identities.

We will slip up. We will do all these things on occasion because these concepts have been with us most of our lives. Our progress will be imperfect, but we must continue to push ourselves to do better.

Where do we begin this process?

We begin with acknowledgement. We must acknowledge that on some level, great or small, we have all internalized homophobia. We acknowledge that the gender roles which some of us find comfort in, do not necessarily apply to or benefit us all. We acknowledge that institutional racism and colorism hold us all back, and rob us of the opportunity to better connect with one another.

Next we hand the mic to affected communities.

We uplift and magnify the voices of the marginalized, those who have been on the receiving end of violence.

We listen.

We listen to them, we listen to each other. We cannot feign deafness to avoid inconvenience or discomfort. If you consider yourself an ally to the queer, or any marginalized community, it is past time that you recognize that yielding the mic is one of the most powerful things you can do to support us. (more…)

Beyond Deliberation: A Strategy for Civic Renewal

The 6-page article, Beyond Deliberation: A Strategy for Civic Renewal (2014), by Peter Levine was published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 10: Iss. 1. Many well-organized deliberative spaces exist in the US and also, is still small activity compared to the energy used to purposely manipulate public opinion. Levine talks about how civic society has changed from organizing people en masse via churches, unions, and political parties; to a new civic society, where fewer people are organized in these traditional groups and even fewer funders are willing to put money into the engagement needed. There needs to be an active effort to expand the opportunities for discussion and deliberation within groups and organizations that are not-neutral but come together to drive change.

Find the PDF available for download from the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.

From the article…

I would not claim that our traditional civic organizations were maximally deliberative, in that they tried to promote ideologically diverse conversations that were civil and inclusive. They had agendas and they were in conflict with various opponents. My own political theory would assign some value to deliberative values—but only some. I think mobilization, contention, and negotiation are also essential elements of a democracy. Further, an important byproduct of participation in groups like churches, parties, and unions was recruitment into the broader public sphere in which individuals of diverse backgrounds and opinions exchanged ideas.

The old civil society recruited people by offering them personal (non-civic) benefits and then gave them motivations and support to talk about political issues. Its leaders were dependent on grassroots members for dues and votes, and hence accountable to the members.

In contrast, the new civil society is all nonprofit and voluntary. It asks people to participate for explicitly civic reasons. Very few do. And it depends on the grace of powerful institutions, funders and agencies. (more…)

Ben Franklin Circles

The Ben Franklin Circles (BFC) is a collaborative project of 92nd Street Y (92Y), the Hoover Institution, and Citizen University. BFC reflects a shared commitment to fostering civic participation, open dialogue, and ethics-based leadership. Ben Franklin Circles are based on the idea of a mutual improvement club started by Benjamin Franklin. Franklin gathered a group of peers once a week to hash out projects to improve their community and also, to discuss and debate 13 virtues that Franklin saw as the basis of personal improvement and civic life — qualities like justice, humility and resolution. This mutual improvement club became the jumping off point for projects like the post office, the volunteer fire department and the lending library.

92Y – in partnership with Stanford’s Hoover Institution and Citizen University — is now reviving this idea. We’ve created the tools and resources any community will need to start their own Ben Franklin Circle, with the goal of creating a network of Circles dedicated to hosting conversations about what matters most. The Ben Franklin Circles are a fun, innovative way to build and strengthen community in an increasingly disconnected and digital world. They are about asking two simple questions:

  1. How can I improve myself?
  2. How can I improve the world?


Repairing the Breach: The Power of Dialogue to Heal Relationships and Communities

The 7-page article, Repairing the Breach: The Power of Dialogue to Heal Relationships and Communities (2014), by Robert Stains Jr was published in Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 10: Iss. 1. Dialogue has an incredible power to create a space for individuals to come together and work through difficult conversations that may have previously been felt by the participants as an insurmountable task. Public Conversations Project use of the Reflexive Structured Dialogue process creates an opportunity for a profound shift in conversations, as participants share their own personal stories, emotions and identities; to see and foster the humanity in each other and explore the common ground between both “sides”.

Find the PDF available for download from the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.

From the article…

Dialogue holds the promise of healing in all these contexts in which community is broken. The sense of community depends on the quality of relationships, and relationships grow from conversations. Therefore, the quality of conversation drives the quality of relationships and the possibility of community. At the Public Conversations Project (PCP), we have found that shifting the conversation through Reflective, Structured Dialogue invites and enables people to move from certainty to curiosity to caring; from mindless stereotyping to genuine interest by changing the nature and process of their conversations. Whether it’s a church divided over theology and human sexuality, a workplace split by gender issues or a region mired in religious and ethnic conflict, in dialogue mutual curiosity and exploration build on each other and relationships move closer to being restored. Much work has been done in our field to create and facilitate these kinds of healing conversations. Because they remain less visible than other kinds of dialogue, much more work needs to be done by practitioners, scholars and funders to evaluate, expand and sustain them.

Hope for relationship and community healing comes when dialogue focuses on personal stories, emotions and identities. It can counter the effects of the stories told of others that shred relational and communal bonds and the emotions that inflame or imprison. (Black, 2008; Freedman & Combs, 2009; Seikkula & Trimble, 2005). In face-to-face dialogue, participants have the opportunity to edit and add to the stories that are told about them, changing the ways that they are seen. As Black has observed, it is “…through telling and responding to personal stories, group members craft their identities and take on others’ perspectives” (Black, 2008, p. 93). This experience of being witnessed is powerful and connecting. It opens receptivity to others’ stories, dilutes stereotypes and invites the heart 1 Stains: The Power of Dialogue to Heal Relationships and Communities as much as the mind. And heart-focus can transform enemies to friends (Eilberg, 2014; Palmer, 2011).


The Compost of Disagreement: Creating Safe Spaces for Engagement and Action

The 6-page article, The Compost of Disagreement: Creating Safe Spaces for Engagement and Action (2014), by Michele Holt-Shannon and Bruce Mallory, was published in Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 10: Iss. 1. The authors describe the experience coordinating the New Hampshire Listens campaign to address the growing concern around aggressive and combative many public events were becoming from mid-1990s and on. Over years of experience, they found that the more diverse and varied the participants and experiences, the richer the conversation that would emerge. And in order to do so, it is vital to create spaces that are safe for all parties involved, in order for transformative dialogue to take place.

Find the PDF available for download from the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.

From the article…

We understand that one of the most important contributions we can make to public life is to create safe spaces where diverse points of view can be expressed, deeply held differences can be explored, and the potential for discovering common ground amidst the cacophony can be nourished. The work runs counter to the natural tendency to want to “manage difference” or find “consensus” or help everyone to “just get along.” Paradoxically, we use the tools of deliberation to uncover those things that divide in order to find a shared path forward.

We could think about this uncovering and exploration as working the community compost. Taking the raw ingredients of values, beliefs, attitudes, cultural norms, local history, municipal policies and practices, traditional and social media, and the multifaceted personalities of local actors, we strive to create a space that allows for heat, conflict, and the transformation of old patterns and approaches to new kinds of rich, nuanced, adaptive solutions. Believing that knowledge and action are co-constructed in the milieu of community, it is logical that listening to and considering a range of perspectives can give rise to feasible, practical approaches.


Difference, Conflict & Love: How Family Can Lead Us Home

The article, Difference, Conflict & Love: How Family Can Lead Us Home by Kathy Eckles was published April 2016 on Public Conversations Project blog. In the article, Eckles shares some of her family’s history regarding dialogue and the desire growing up to have had other alternatives communication with her family, especially when it came to harder issues. She gives 3 steps for improving communication skills with family, even when differences and conflict arise.

Below is an excerpt from the article and you can find the original in full on Public Conversations Project blog here.

From Public Conversations Project…

3 Steps to Improved Communication Skills

Step 1: Build Emotional Sturdiness
Stretch your comfort zone. Break old patterns. Say ‘yes’ to opportunities. Learn new things. Build trust in yourself as you strengthen your emotional capacity to listen, speak, create, succeed, fail, give, receive, lead. There will be moments of awkwardness, but you’ll survive them and, with humility and good-heartedness, they can even be endearing. You’ll likely wish for a few ‘do-overs,’ too, but you will grow.Step one: live your life beyond what you already know.

Step 2: Understand Self & Others
Ask why do I do what I do? What motivates each of us to be so different in how we communicate, lead and interact in relationships? What are my gifts and challenges? How can I be more accepting of myself and others? How might acceptance, appreciation and knowing more about how to meet people where they are impact our relationships at home and at work? Would we be happier and more productive? One of my favorite resources is the Enneagram. It’s helped me be more compassionate, appreciate differences, and relate more effectively. Step two: know thyself. Appreciate. Diversify. Respond, not react. Communicate in ways that make sense to the receiver.

Step 3: Develop Communication Skills
…Expand your conversation toolkit beyond news, sports, weather and the 140 character comment to include how to: listen and ask genuine questions to have a conversation that’s rich with curiosity and connection; unlock stuck conversations through mutual understanding; feel more grounded in your own voice; communicate across different cultures, personalities and contexts, and develop everyday tools to resolve or transform conflict. Step three: expand your quality communication skills. Practice every day. (more…)