6. Colorizing Restorative Justice

This sixth episode features Dr. Johonna Turner, assistant professor of restorative justice and peacebuilding here at The Center for Justice and Peacebuilding (CJP). In the episode, Turner speaks about her history of community organizing, activism, and youth development work in Washington, D.C.; the Faith Integration Task Force she helped form at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU); and her vision for CJP’s role in transnational movement-building.

Turner first came to CJP in 2010 as a participant in the Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience program. She had been doing a variety of organizing and arts-based activism in Washington, D.C., and “was looking for a place where I could get some more skills to supplement and to really support me in the work that I was doing … the youth identified trauma healing as an approach that was especially important for breaking cycles of violence that depend upon repressive, state-sponsored punitive measures.”

She joined the CJP faculty in the fall of 2015, and became the co-director of the Zehr Institute for Restorative Justice in 2018.

About three years ago, Turner found herself in a number of conversations with faculty and students who wanted “to be more intentional about creating spaces for deliberate reflection on faith in the classroom, and spirituality writ large.” She banded together with Carl StaufferTim Seidel, and Amy Knorr to create the Faith Integration Task Force to facilitate EMU as a “multi-faith space in a Christian university,” that both welcomes perspectives from other faiths while honoring its roots in Christian theology and spirituality.

Out of those conversations, Turner has created classes such as “Peacebuilding Through Biblical Narrative” and “Justice, Peace, and the Biblical Story.” One of Turner’s goals through these courses is to understand the injustice, oppression, and violence “that are preventing abundant life for all people,” and find ways to discuss these issues in the church – a space she says is “often depoliticized.”

While Turner says that CJP’s sense of community is a great strength, she also sees “the need for more intentional integration of critical theory within the curriculum, particularly feminist perspectives, critial race perspectives … queer perspectives in our curriculum and pedagogy as well, attention to racial and gender justice, attention at large to how systems of oppression are at the root of violence.”

And her vision for CJP at 50? 

“A crucible, an incubator, of peacebuilders, organizers, artists, and activists who are not only able to connect their work to what’s happening in their own local contexts, but also able to see the linkages between what’s happening at their own places and what’s happening at other places. Who are able to challenge the systemic roots of oppression that give rise to acts of direct cultural and structural violence. And who are able to more deeply work at challenging all systems of oppression, including heterosexism.”


Guest

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Dr. Johonna Turner

Dr. Johonna Turner is assistant professor of restorative justice and peacebuilding here at CJP and co-director of the Zehr Institute for Restorative Justice. For over 15 years, she has worked as part of arts collectives, community-organizing coalitions, and other social movement organizations to develop youth leadership, empower disenfranchised people, and cultivate transformational approaches to safety and justice. An interdisciplinary scholar, Turner received post-graduate training in U.S. cultural studies, women’s studies, and biblical theology/urban ministry. Her areas of scholarship, practice and teaching include restorative and transformative justice, trauma healing, faith-rooted peacebuilding, and critical race feminism. She has a PhD in American Studies for the University of Maryland.


Transcript

Johonna Turner:
Last spring I had the opportunity to teach nonviolent mobilization for social change because Carl Stauffer was on sabbatical and as a part of that class, we read Patrisse Khan-Cullors’ book “When They Call You a Terrorist,” and it was an opportunity –and she’s one of the founders of Black Lives Matter– but it was an opportunity for us, yes, to talk about the situation in the U.S., but also in our conversations we named and we talked about these connections of what’s happening globally. For example, with the global war on terrorism.

[Theme music begins and fades into back ground]

patience kamau:
Hey everybody, happy Wednesday to you!
Welcome back to Peacebuilder, a Conflict Transformation Podcast by The Center for Justice and Peacebuilding.
My name is patience kamau and with us this episode:

Johonna Turner:
Dr. Johonna Turner, assistant professor of restorative justice and peacebuilding, as well as the co-director of the Zehr Institute for Restorative Justice.

patience kamau:
Dr. Johonna Turner is assistant professor of restorative justice and peacebuilding here at The Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, and co-director of the Zehr Institute for Restorative Justice. For over 15 years, she has worked as part of arts collectives, community organizing coalitions and other social movement organizations to develop youth leadership, empower disenfranchised people and cultivate transformational approaches to safety and justice. An interdisciplinary scholar, Turner received postgraduate training in U.S. Cultural Studies, Women’s Studies and Biblical theology/urban ministry. Her areas of scholarship, practice and teaching include restorative and transformative justice, trauma healing, faith rooted peacebuilding and critical race feminism. She has a Ph.D in American Studies from the University of Maryland.

___

However, before we begin it is with great sorrow that we have decided to cancel the CJP at 25 gathering this June. Circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, caused by the Coronavirus, have left us no choice. Instead, we will postpone the event exactly a year and hope that you will join us in June 2021. Those of you who had already registered, we thank you, and we will be in touch regarding your options including receiving a full refund.

[Theme music resumes, swells and ends]

patience kamau:
Good morning, Johonna?

Johonna Turner:
Good morning patience.

patience kamau:
How are you today?

Johonna Turner:
I’m doing well, thank you. How are you?

patience kamau:
I’m fine, thank you. Thank you for doing this.

Johonna Turner:
It’s a pleasure.

patience kamau:
Uhm, how long have you held each of those roles?

Johonna Turner:
I came into The Center for Justice and Peacebuilding as assistant professor in fall 2015, I began serving as the co-director of the Zehr Institute for Restorative Justice last fall.

patience kamau:
Let’s talk about your journey –how did you end up here at CJP or what it was before…for you it’s always been CJP.

Johonna Turner:
For me it’s, it’s always been CJP.

patience kamau:
So EMU and CJP –How did you end up here?

Johonna Turner:
I first came to The Center for Justice and Peacebuilding in 2010 as a participant in the Summer Peacebuilding Institute. I was participating in the STAR program, the Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience level I and that, that was really my first experience. I came, in large part at that time of my life, as someone who had been doing community organizing work, youth leadership development work, peace education, anti-violence activism, work in Washington, D.C. I was looking for a place where I could get some more skills to supplement, and to really, uh, support me in the work that I was doing, and I found EMU in an online search; it appealed to be for a number of reasons because of its strong practice orientation specifically in terms of the CJP program, but also because it was housed in a Christian university that was really committed to faith-based work and our faith, faith rooted and faith integrate at work, and at the time of my life I was really looking for an opportunity to ground my own justice and peacebuilding work within my faith, much…in much deeper ways.

patience kamau:
Wow, so it was just a random online search?

Johonna Turner:
It was an, it was an online search.

patience kamau:
Oh my goodness! Do you remember what you searched for or was it…

Johonna Turner:
I don’t remember. I was, I was actually taking breaks in 2009 from working on my dissertation and in between, and so in between uh writing, I would take breaks and look for, where can I go to learn more [Laughter]

patience kamau:
…[laughter continues] to gain more tools and STAR is what caught your attention…

Johonna Turner:
…and STAR caught my attention for sure. I had just recently, that year in 2009, led a trauma healing program. I directed a trauma healing program with youth that was a part of an organization that I founded and led in Washington, D.C., called the “Visions to Peace Project.” We had a program called “Let’s Get Free,” and it was an arts-based trauma healing program that went on for 6 weeks. I was the director and convener of the program, but partner with a good friend of mine, a colleague who’s a counselor, and was the facilitator of the program. We developed a curriculum together and, and so I was especially thinking about trauma healing and wanting more tools and more knowledge so that I could be more effective in that. In part because the work that I was doing with young people, we identified, and particularly the youth, identified trauma healing as an approach that was especially important for breaking cycles of violence, that didn’t depend upon repressive state sponsored punitive measures.

patience kamau:
Wow. Is the organization still functional?

Johonna Turner:
No, it was really a short-lived effort. It was a, it was a project that was funded by a Soros justice fellowship, which I received in 2007.

patience kamau:
Oh, that’s awesome. “Short-lived” –how long?

Johonna Turner:
Oh, let’s see here. It, I started in 20, in 2007 and uh, continued as a volunteer effort –the primary funding came from that fellowship, which was an 18 month fellowship. And then I continued to lead various projects and programs for the next uh, the next few years after the fellowship ended. Um, we didn’t have a very clear closing date but probably activities continued until, um, perhaps 2011 or 12.

patience kamau:
So you work with youth a lot –why is that?

Johonna Turner:
I have, I have…

patience kamau:
…you have, in the past?

Johonna Turner:
…in the past…

patience kamau:
…what caused your, what was your path to that?

Johonna Turner:
Initially, the, the work actually began when I, myself was still a young adult, young person at the age of 18. I was very much involved in D.C.’s arts scene, particularly the poetry scene in D.C., and uh, that was very much connected to arts activism work. And I was a part of an arts collective that used arts, particularly performing arts, literary arts, poetry, drumming as a vehicle to engage young people in literacy efforts. And, and the art collected that I was a part of, most of us were invited to serve as teachers in a summer program for young people living in the D.C. Housing Authority, in the housing projects. So that is how at the age of 18, I began working with other young people but in a very, not as much in a peer position, but as an educator. And I continued to be involved in that both in college, leading rites-of-passage programs with young people in the housing projects that work, uh, in the same city where I went to, went to college. And then I continue to be involved in youth organizing groups and, um, really inter-generational activist efforts, when I returned to, to D.C. after college.

patience kamau:
“Rites-of-passage programs” –what, what kinds are those?

Johonna Turner:
A “rites-of-passage program” is a program that enables young people who are really at the, the age of transition between, you know, childhood and adolescence to have an intentional entryway into particularly adolescence and young-adulthood, so it’s generally around middle school age in the U.S., and many cultures have a rites-of-passage –an intentional, you know, cultural, um, journey. But in the United States, many of our communities, especially communities of color, we’ve been separated from those, those, those passageways because of processes of enslavement and you know, colonialism and so on. And so it’s a program that actually still provides something like that for young people, and so we used poetry and dance as methods for engaging these young women and thinking more about their identity and their culture and deeper self-awareness, and so through those, those methods, we met with them, um, weekly and we engage in particularly dance, dance and poetry as part of this program for them to think more about who they are and to really deepen their sense of self and, and their agency and, and the contributions that they want to make in their community, in their life overall.

patience kamau:
Yeah, so it’s a reflective processes it sounds like…

Johonna Turner:
Absolutely!

patience kamau:
Um, did anything emerge from that that was surprising to you? That was unexpected?

Johonna Turner:
It was actually more than 20 years ago when I was involved in, in that program. It, as I said, it was something that I, I was involved in when I myself was a college student, so I think it, I think, I guess I would say reflecting back all those all of those years ago, one of the powerful things that is very much resonant with the work that we do here is the sense of community that the young women were able to build among one another and that we were all able to build together.

patience kamau:
It was only women?

Johonna Turner:
Only young women in this program. There was a different program…

patience kamau:
…for young men?

Johonna Turner:
…in the same community center, based at a community center in Columbia, Missouri, which is where I went to college and and so that –there was a program with young men and there was also a program with young women and so the rites-of-passage programs are often gender specific.

patience kamau:
Hm-hm. Wow, how does that cater to people who are non-gender specific? I mean, you’ve been out of it for a while…

Johonna Turner:
At the time that, that was not as common as it is today. That was more than 20 years ago.

patience kamau:
Of course.

Johonna Turner:
Yes.

patience kamau:
Okay.

[Transition music plays]

patience kamau:
So what do you teach here at CJP?

Johonna Turner:
Currently I’m teaching Restorative Justice: history, theory and application –t’s our foundational restorative justice course. In the spring I will be teaching Foundations of Justice and Peacebuilding level II. Those are courses that I commonly teach, but I often get the opportunity to teach some new courses as well. So this semester I’m also teaching a course that’s cross listed with the Seminary. It is entitled “Justice Peace and the Biblical Story.” I’m co-teaching that with a colleague in the seminary and also in Bible and Religion [dept.], Andrew Suderman, and we’ve been really having a wonderful time with our large group of, of 20 students, two-thirds of whom are our seminary students, and one-third are our CJP students.

patience kamau:
How did that come to be? Like how did you, how did you and Andrew development it?

Johonna Turner:
We co-developed this course, but it actually, I would say that the roots of the course began long before our collaboration. And it traces back to the work that we’ve been doing in CJP over the last few years with our Faith Integration Task Force, which started four or five years ago? When did that start?

Johonna Turner:
About three, three years ago, the Faith Integration Task Force, so…

patience kamau:
…how did it start –talk a little bit about the Faith Integration Task Force?

Johonna Turner:
Sure. The Faith Integration Task Force really began with conversations among colleagues about our desires to be more intentional about creating spaces for deliberate reflection on, on faith in the classroom, and spirituality writ large even for those who have no explicit, um, connection to, uh, a religious group, but for whom, you know, all of us have some sense of spirituality. And, and it also began, not only actually among conversations with colleagues, but also students coming to us and asking for more conversation about faith in the classroom. And so out of that, uh, four of us came together…

patience kamau:
Who are the four?

Johonna Turner:
Myself, Carl Stauffer, Tim Seidel and Amy Knorr. And, and we came together to really think about what does it mean for us to…and how do we…both, what does it mean and how do we integrate more intentional conversations about faith in our community at large, not just in the classroom, in ways that are inclusive, in ways that are meaningful, and in ways that people can speak from the particularities of their experience. And also how do we meet the needs of those, who like myself, came to EMU in large part because it is a Christian university. So how do we exist as a multi-faith space in a Christian university, meeting the needs for whom…that they were, those students who were expecting to get some clear integration or some clear grounding, um, for their justice and peace practice within Christian theology or Christian spirituality, but also those from whom, from other faith traditions who were telling us, we also came, um, for example, Muslim students have said, we also came because this is a Christian university and we wanted to hear much more about Christian faith and spirituality and how that informs peacebuilding, and we’re not getting as much of that as we expected either. And so, uh, so we began to think about what is, what does it look like, and to do that also through intentional dialogue with students.

patience kamau:
Is this work you’re still doing besides the class that you’re teaching? Is this a task force that’s still doing that work?

Johonna Turner:
It still exists.

patience kamau:
It is still ongoing…

Johonna Turner:
…it’s still ongoing.

patience kamau:
What are the most recent conversations you’ve all had?

Johonna Turner:
Most, most recently we did a survey with students and we are in the process of, now I’m reviewing this that we partnered with…I actually contracted with one of our alumnae, um, Bex Simmerman who surveyed recent students and ask them about what their desires are for faith integration, what does it mean to them, what does it look like, what are their concerns? And, and that reflects some of the earlier initiatives that we’ve done, so we’ve, early earlier on when we started the task force, one of the initial projects that we took on was to facilitate, to have a facilitated dialogue about faith integration. And so we had two students, Jennifer Lee and um, was, was, was, and Brenna Case, who took that project on as part of their Facilitation Class to design and facilitate a conversation with students around faith integration and, and that conversation going back to the, the class, that conversation led to identification of really two needs here. One need was around, uh, interfaith conversation or, or more so conversations that enable people to speak across diverse faith and spiritual, um, beliefs to one another about what they believe and how it informs, um, their work in justice and peacebuilding. And the other was a desire for particularly those who came here to learn about how this work connects and, and it can be rooted in, and also be informed by the Christian tradition. We needed to create spaces to meet that need specifically, and so one of the curricular efforts that came out of that was a one credit class called “Peacebuilding Through Biblical Narrative.” We piloted that in, in the fall directly after we had done that dialogue in the spring, and in part because there were students who participated in that dialogue who were going to be going on practicum the following year, and in order to get that need met, we needed to work fast. And so over the summer we put together this 1-credit course and students were, the students who took the course, continued to, continued to share about how, um, how influential and how important it has meant to them.

patience kamau:
So it was quite impactful.

Johonna Turner:
It was quite impactful! And then another course that came out of that was a course that I co-taught with Jennifer Lee, who facilitated that dialogue as a student during SPI one summer, which is called “Christian Spirituality for Social Change.” And, and so this current class, “Justice Peace and the Biblical Story” is really integrating some of the content from the “Peacebuilding Through Biblical Narrative” class informed by my experiences teaching “Christian Spirituality for Social Change.” And also Andrew having, uh, designed classes on Biblical perspectives on peace and justice, and also as someone who teaches “Biblical Theology for Peace and Justice” at the undergraduate level and teaching “Liberation Theology.” And so we really have put our experiences, uh, our, some of our content together to create this new course that could be of benefit to not only CJP students, but seminary, given that it’s really at the intersection of what we’re teaching in our programs.

patience kamau:
Yeah, this sounds very fascinating. What sort of conversations happen in the class?

Johonna Turner:
Wow. So many conversations. Most recently we have been reading the gospel of Mark and along with a book called “Say to this Mountain” and it provides a, it’s based on a, a much longer, more extensive book called “Binding the Strong Man,” but it’s, it’s a political commentary on the gospel of Mark. And so what the authors, it is a group of authors, uh, Ched Myers being the lead author are doing, is saying that we need to be able to, it’s important to understand the social, political, economic context of the gospel and to be able to understand Jesus’ life and ministry in terms of the really subversive work that, that he was doing, the teaching and, those qualities, and, and, so there’s a really heavy emphasis on that, and students just last night in our class were, were sharing about how much, uh, that has impacted their own understanding of, of Jesus. So for example, one person, a couple of people said, you know, I always had this idea of Jesus Christ being very gentle, uh, and very, um, very kind of weak actually, and now I have an understanding of, of Jesus as being someone who was very, uh, very radical in his stance against injustice and oppression and that has impacted their understanding of then what it means to follow Jesus.

patience kamau:
Mm-hm, that’s amazing that, I mean, Jesus –the way he lived his life was very subversive for the times and he ended up being crucified for it, and that was a very political gesture.

Johonna Turner:
Yes, yes! And so even asking why, asking why, why was he crucified? Right. And…

patience kamau:
What sort of answers are coming to…why was he crucified?

Johonna Turner:
I mean, I think that, I mean actually last night we didn’t get to as much discussion around some of the, we just actually wrapped up the book yesterday as much as the text, in part because we take time in these classes, we do in, in most if not, not all CJP classes to check in with one another about what’s coming up, and there were some things that were coming up that really needed, um, space and attention.

patience kamau:
Yeah. I wonder how –in your reflections, how are they, how are they coming into what…how life is today, and because you’re taking this angle of looking at the political…

Johonna Turner:
Mm-hm…

patience kamau:
…aspects of Jesus, Jesus’ life. How is that happening? I mean, how is that crossing over to contemporary life right now? How does it appear in class?

Johonna Turner:
I mean, that has definitely been an aspect of the course, most, most recently we have also talked about, um, which definitely touches on contemporary life, but we’ve also talked about “how do we understand violence?” “How do we understand peace?” What does the Bible say about that in terms of the sense of Shalom and then thinking about what are the situations in our everyday lives, what are the situations going on today that, um, of course, even just the everyday way that we live under our systems of capitalism for example, that are preventing abundant life for all people. And so being able to name those issues as, as issues that are pertinent to not only individual Christians but uh, but the church at large, as people seeking to follow Jesus in terms of seeing those issues as part of what it means, um, to quote-unquote “do ministry” in a sense that we have two-thirds of the class being people in seminary and are…and so seeing social justice, seeing…understanding and the importance of deepening awareness of what’s happening and bringing that into spaces that are often de-politicized.

patience kamau:
That’s quite a crossover. That’s really good. How, how does the life of Christ, uhm, manifest in how you live your life and how you teach?

Johonna Turner:
I can talk about how, how I hope, how I hope it, it manifests for me how, and some of the ways that it informs me. One is I, I remember a moment when I was engaged in biblical reflection and it was, uh, I was reflecting on the story of Jesus in the temple as a boy –it’s a story about him, his parents have come, are traveling and he goes, he basically gets separated from, from his parents and he’s, …

patience kamau:
…he stays behind…

Johonna Turner:
…he stays behind. Yes…[laughs]

patience kamau:
[laughs] having a debate with a rabbi.

Johonna Turner:
[Continued laughter] Yes, exactly. And so I remember one of the ways that I enjoyed doing biblical reflection is, is through visual arts. I was journaling, um, but with doodles in my, in my Bible and I remember journaling that story through art and drawing, um, a really big ear because I, one of, they were, there were really three verbs that, um, was mentioned in terms of what Jesus was doing as a boy. One was listening and the other was, uh, was asking questions. I don’t remember the third one right now, but…could be answering, but, but I think about, um, Jesus as someone who listens very deeply and who asks questions, um, in a variety of different ways, for a variety of different purposes. And so I think even in those more mundane ways are ways that I seek to follow Jesus in my pedagogy.

patience kamau:
Hmm, that’s beautiful.

[Transition music plays]

patience kamau:
So you’ve been at CJP for five years now?

Johonna Turner:
This is my fifth year.

patience kamau:
This is your fifth year. All right. Um, so in your five years here, what do you think is something unique to celebrate about CJP at 25?

Johonna Turner:
I was recently meeting with a group of recent alumni, and they were sharing one of, um…in another graduate program, and they were sharing collectively about how some of their experiences, a couple of them have actually gone on to other graduate programs and they were sharing about how their experiences in those programs have been devoid of an intentional sense of community in the classroom, and how they had expected that much more because of their experience at CJP. And so I think, and I myself have even taken some classes even in uhm, other classes here at EMU –I enjoy learning– and I think that the way that we build community and really spend time not only about just the content, but really connecting how, how are we entering this space? How are we doing together? What, what is our, the relationship of our bodies and our spirits to the content that we’re approaching together, and how is that interacting with whatever else is going on in our lives? How do we develop relationships, um, among us in this room so that we can have the kind of conversations that are needed. And so that intentional development of, um, of a container for learning that that engages the body, the mind and the spirit, I think is definitely something worth celebrating, even as it exists in other places –I don’t think that it needs to be unique to CJP to celebrate it.

patience kamau:
It exists in other places within the campus you mean?

Johonna Turner:
No, I think it exists in many other programs as well –it’s something that even as I was teaching at the University of Maryland, when I was an instructor, I sought to do. But I believe that definitely my, my intentionality and my skills and doing that have grown since I’ve been here.

patience kamau:
Mm, that’s great! And as always, as we celebrate something, there’re always two sides of a coin –what could CJP be doing better?

Johonna Turner:
Some of the concerns that students have brought, and I understand some of these concerns have definitely…they’re new to me because I’m new here, but as I have talked with colleagues who’ve been here much longer, I understand that they’ve also been brought up before and these concerns relate to the need for intentional, more intentional integration of critical theory, within the curriculum, particularly, um, feminist perspectives, critical race, um, perspective, much more attention to, um, even I will say, uh, queer perspectives in our curriculum and pedagogy as well — attention to racial and gender justice, attention at large to how systems of oppression are at the root of, of violence, both direct and structural violence and then the need to transform those systems as part of work to in violence.

patience kamau:
Are you hopeful that CJP will do better? Are foundations being laid to do better?

Johonna Turner:
Absolutely. And I’m, I’m very grateful for the work that students have done –I would say that they have bourne, um, much more, uh, of the, of the, I don’t, I don’t want to use the term burden, but they’ve put so much effort and labor into strengthening our program in those areas because I think they see it as worth strengthening. They, because they, they value the work that happens here and they want it to be better and to grow in those ways, which is very different from coming somewhere in which you experience frustration. You experience this sense of, um, sometimes even invisibility in terms of whose voices and whose, whose perspectives are not centered in the curriculum and that can lead you to detach. But rather than detach, so many of our students have done the opposite thing, which is…

patience kamau:
…they’ve engaged…

Johonna Turner:
…indeed to dig deeper, to engage and to challenge and to inspire. And I would say for myself as someone who was not trained in a formal peace and conflict studies program, my Ph.D. is in American studies, which is U.S. Cultural Studies, and, and I also have a graduate certificate in Women’s Studies and then a separate graduate certificate in Urban Youth Ministry. And so in my, in my formal training in academia and in my training and community organizing and activism, the social movement spaces that have also been a part of my training, all of those have, have really centered these critical perspectives around race, gender, class, sexuality, and their intersections, have centered an intersectional understanding of oppression, have centered an understanding of the relationships between oppression and violence, and so for me, that is something that has been germane to thinking about peace and justice. And so I was actually quite surprised to find in peace and conflict studies –as a formal field– that to be so absent. And there are many conversations happening not just as CJP, but these conversations about the dearth of these approaches and also about the, the kind of the Eurocentric, patriarchal center of the field –these conversations are not unique to The Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, they’re happening in many other programs right now.

patience kamau:
And thank God that they are!

Johonna Turner:
Absolutely.

patience kamau:
So you’ve used critical theory a number of times –can you define that?

Johonna Turner:
Critical –I would say, I mean specifically for me, I think about um, particular sites of critical theory. And so for example, critical race theory is a, a body of theory, it is really two different kinds of bodies of theory –there’s a formal critical race theory that’s come out of the work of legal scholars of color who were positioning themselves in part, in relation to the critical legal studies, um, movement, which was looking at how law is not objective, it’s not neutral, right? But it has historically been at the service of, you know, dominant institutions. And then critical race theorists were saying we need to put a racial justice lens on that critique and understand that critique in relation to race, um, critical race theorists have also, um, there’s another, uh, a few key ideas in critical race theory. One anti-essentialism. So anti-essentialism is saying that there’s not an essential, um, for example, black person, there’s not an essential Latino person –there’s nothing innate about what it means to be a particular race. Race is socially constructed. And so in talking about race, we know that it is real, but it has also been created. And so there’s attention to it as a social construction, and then what it means in our lives, and how that interacts with, for example, law and policy…

patience kamau:
…of course, how it actually impacts individual lives as it unfolds.

Johonna Turner:
Yes, how it impacts individuals. And another aspect of that also relates to epistemology, which is, which is about the way in which our lived experiences are important sources of knowledge and, and how we, how we can know through our experience. And so much of a legal scholarship has been very much um, uh, about kind of this neutrality and objectivity and what you can prove through cases, and these critical race scholars were coming in and saying, well, our experiences, our sources of data that speak back to these dominant narratives and, and so that those ideas are not specific to, of course, kind of the legal field, but they’ve come out of other areas. They’ve informed that area, and then they’ve also, the work in critical race theory that’s come out of even the work of legal scholars has informed many other areas such as education, sociology and so on. And then there’s critical race feminism, which takes an even deeper attention to gender and sexuality, um, as a part of that analysis and centering the experiences of women of color, and the many ways in which the, the kinds of experiences that women of color have had at the intersections of racism, of classism, of patriarchy, um, sometimes heterosexism because of their…there is this multiplicity and these experiences of, um, multiple systems of oppression in many lives, in many women of color lives, and of course with differences. Um, then because of that, it’s that if we look at groups that experience multiple layers, then that actually can be so important for yielding insights, of relevance to a wide range of people who might experience, you know, perhaps not as many layers…

patience kamau:
…as many obstacles…

Johonna Turner:
…exactly. So really looking at, um, groups as, as not just as marginalized, um, defining as oppressed, but as rich sources of insight because of the many cultural differences, but also because of, um, what people see when they’re positioned, uh, in particular ways in society…

patience kamau:
…because of their lived experiences…

Johonna Turner:
…because of their lived experiences. And so bringing those experiences to the forefront, bringing those stories and looking at how they talk back to the dominant ways of thinking and dominant ways of believing, dominant narratives, dominant, um, stories. So that that’s a really a big emphasis also in critical race theory and critical race feminism, which are particular areas of critical theory that I, um, I write about that I research in that I, I integrate into my teaching.

patience kamau:
So in general, I don’t know, I might be wrong, but I don’t think that I am. But in general, a lot of these lived experiences when they’re injected into uh, dominant culture are perceived as uh, threatening. Why do you think –off the top of your head– why, why, why do people who are in dominant culture feel threatened when other voices are centered in different ways, or at least invited to the conversation to actually shape how things then look going forward?

Johonna Turner:
I think this is a, is a, is a very relevant question to many um, of the situations, events, our contemporary contexts in which, well, one, if I have always been at the center, then if my experience has always been at the center, then if someone else’s experiences/identity is centered, it can feel disempowering –and actually because it is. Because if I have had, um, if I have been, if, if my worldview reflects experiences that are like mine and then being, you know, um, confronted with others’ experiences, that can also be very shattering in terms of the, the ideas that I have been taught to believe. Right? So it can, it can feel threatening, I think for very valid, valid reasons in terms of sense of disempowerment, a sense of, um, disenfranchisement, but also way that that can be very, um, disruptive to one’s own worldview and what one has been taught to believe. I’ll give you an example, specific example, the dominant narrative of the American dream and the ways in which we are told that, you know, related to the American dream of meritocracy. Uh, if, if we only work hard enough, we will succeed in the United States. This is a very specific right, um, idea that not only exists here, but particularly in relation to also the American dream –it’s this myth of meritocracy. And so then if I’m being confronted with experiences that say, well, I too have worked very hard but I’m not thriving and I’m not succeeding, and if, if then I am, it can feel like you are saying that I didn’t earn or I don’t, I shouldn’t have what has been, you know, if I have a good salary or I own a house, that that has just been something given to me, can feel like it is demeaning, right? Maybe my efforts, um, and it can also feel in some, in many ways unpatriotic, uh, because it is confronting some of the very ideas that have been central to, um, a love of country.

patience kamau:
So how do people disentangle that, and navigate that? I mean, what would your advice be to someone who is genuinely feeling threatened, but they ought not to, and we just can’t tell them, “don’t feel threatened,” because the body reacts like it does.

Johonna Turner:
I think history, history has so many answers for us patience. If we look at the history of cross-racial working class organizing in, in the United States, uh, for example, after the civil war –there are different points in history– after the depression, there are…or at the time of the depression, there are these points in our history, in U.S. history specifically where there have been, um, coalitions of, of, of white folks, of black folks, in particular, um, that’s also happened with, with other racial groups as well, but I’m going to give, give some examples here that focus on kind of the uh, white-black organizing across, um, across race but among working class people. And then there have been deliberate attempts by white elites to disrupt that using racial narratives. So I think that one of the, uh, one of the things we can do better at, in our time is to really not forget about class, and to build bridges with, I think white working class people who are especially, um, experiencing those feelings of disenfranchisement. I think there’s many other things as well. And I think for that we can also stand to learn a lot from what’s happening outside of the U.S. I think that in looking at many of the issues that we face and challenges in the U.S. We have a very, um, really narrow lens of thinking, um, and this has been the case I think very much so in peace and conflict studies that, that we, we have issues here, but the issues in other places, um, are those that that also need attention by U.S. Americans, and so that our approach has been quite interventionist, um, in terms of, um, looking…outward, looking in terms of us taking solutions over, taking our resources. So what I’m suggesting is that rather than having a view of only what we can contribute, actually looking to what other, what’s happening in other countries, what’s happening in other communities and other cultural contexts for answers, to some of the domestic issues that we face today.

patience kamau:
[Chuckles] Yeah, yeah –what a radical idea– bring ideas to the U.S. from other places?

Johonna Turner:
And I think that’s something that, that, that has been happening at, at CJP in part because of, uh, the, the diversity, the national diversity in our program. And I think it’s something that we can continue to do, um, when students, both students who have been immigrants to the U.S. who are here, who are able to, to class because they don’t have to get visas, um, and students who are able to gain entry into the country. Um, we can continue to really, I think, imagine ourselves cultivating or contributing to transnational movement building. And, and that’s really, I think about, you know, my vision for CJP in the future. It’s related to this vision of transnational movement building. So how, how do we not only provide or support the development of analysis and, um, creative thinking about solutions, but how do we also dig deeper into issues that are shared across our national context? For example, climate justice, um, issues related to forced displacement, xenophobia –these are issues that are common…

patience kamau:
…worldwide…

Johonna Turner:
…worldwide, right? They’re, they’re here very much present in the U.S. but we can look to many other places we can look to, to places in Europe, right, where there’s increasing xenophobia, um, places in Africa, South Africa, specifically –all over the world. And so, rather than think about, you know, issues of –they domestic or are they, are they, um, in another national context or globe? How, how can we identify those issues that are very common and then dig deeper into how do we understand them? What are differences, yes, in our contexts, but how do we understand them? And then how do we build transnational movements that allow us to connect, connect our work that is local but also has these international linkages as well.

patience kamau:
Have you dreamt about that? How, how do you think we can build that?

Johonna Turner:
I think this, I mean, this, this transnational activism is already happening –it’s actually something that we talk a lot about in Foundations II. We read case studies of, of it and…

patience kamau:
…what are some of the case studies? Does any come to mind?

Johonna Turner:
There is a chapter in a book by Patricia Hill Collins and Sirma Bilge on intersectionality. It’s a book called Intersectionality, and they actually, they talk about a few case studies and in that book of these transnational linkages that have happened, for example, um, of protest movements really, and how people in, in protest movements that have erupted have these, uh, these ways of communicating to other people that says we, you know, for example, in, in situations of police violence, right, that this is something that’s happened, yes, in the U.S. but it’s also something that people are experiencing in many other places. And so they’ll, they’ll have, for example, signs that connect what’s happening where they, there’ll be protesting where they are, but they’ll have signs that relate back to what’s happened in other places. And, and so I think these are examples, and in another example is a, is a specific example is in relation to the, um, the incredible work that’s happened between black and black Palestinian solidarity. Uh, so for example, the connections between Ferguson and Gaza, you know, so, so what’s happening.

patience kamau:
What are some of those connections between Ferguson and Gaza?

Johonna Turner:
So just thinking about, again, state violence against communities of color, repressive policing and the ways in which that is happening in Palestine, in Gaza and the ways in which communities of color, again, it’s not the same. It’s not a parallel…

patience kamau:
…it’s not, but there’re similarities…

Johonna Turner:
…if people are using, in some ways its metaphors. Um, there has been, there have been some incredible projects that I had the opportunity to learn about when I was involved in youth organizing. And one of the projects was based at a school in the Bronx where they were learning about the situation under which, you know, Palestinians are facing, as a way of um, deepening their understanding of, of yes, what’s happening there, but also deepening their understanding of how to analyze their own situations of forced displacement in the Bronx, in New York and, and also forging solidarity, so they, the students were actually communicating with students in, in Palestine and they were using hip hop also as way to do that, and they, they actually, some of them took trips over, they created some documentary films about this. There’s also a similar solidarity with native people, indigenous people in the U.S., there was a trip where they also took a trip to connect with young people in Palestine. And so these are some of some of these examples where again, they’re different situations, but there are some, some resonances…

patience kamau:
…connecting threads…

Johonna Turner:
…connecting threads, for example, about space. Um, and who’s allowed to be where and whose bodies are always already deemed as violent, whose bodies are always already deemed as criminal, whose bodies are always already deemed as terrorist…

patience kamau:
…mm-hm, and therefore easily discarded..

Johonna Turner:
…and therefore easily discarded. Last spring I had the opportunity to teach nonviolent mobilization for social change because Carl Stauffer was on sabbatical and as a part of that class, we read Patrisse Khan-Cullors’ book “When They Call You a Terrorist,” and it was an opportunity –and she’s one of the founders of Black Lives Matter– but it was an opportunity for us, yes, to talk about the situation in the U.S., but also in our conversations we named and we talked about these connections of what’s happening globally. For example, with the global war on terrorism.

patience kamau:
Yeah, I mean, as we speak right now, we’re recording this in early November –right now, there are all these, uh, protests happening in so many countries in Chile, in Lebanon, in Iraq,…

Johonna Turner:
…Hong Kong…

patience kamau:
…in Hong Kong. That’s right. I mean, they, it’s happening all at the same time, and Ecuador, I mean, they just are very similar. That’s right. They’re not parallel like you said, but they are very, they have very connecting, all these threads connecting them, and so it goes to your point of transnational…

Johonna Turner:
…transnational movement building. And then we also see many examples –I mean with, uh, the recent, um, um, March by young people around climate justice, that happened in hundreds of countries I think all around the world, on the same day, very similar with the Women’s march. And so this is also an example of these, uh, transnational protests where people are saying it’s not enough to just do something in my one city or in my one country, but let’s actually do this all together, connected in different places. And then there’s, there are these very, these various ways through social media, um, through video that people in those places are also connecting and talking with each other, using some of the same symbols, some of the same language, some of the same, you know, visual motifs, um, trading, uh, different kinds of practices of, of protests.

patience kamau:
Yeah, yeah. So given that, that is something that you envision for CJP, so what do you think around –of course this is completely hypothetical and what we hope for– but things come to manifest because we actually dream about them and work toward them. So what is CJP at 50 in a world that supports this sort of world?

Johonna Turner:
I think, I think that that really is a big part of my vision, you know, for CJP at 50 really is a crucible, an incubator of peacebuilders, organizers, artists and activists who are not only able to connect their work, um, to what’s happening in their own local context, but also able to see the linkages between, um, what’s happening in their own places and what’s happening at other places who are able to challenge the systemic, um, roots of oppression that give rise to acts of, of direct cultural and structural violence. And who are able to, um, more deeply work at challenging all, uh, systems of oppression, including heterosexism. So for example, when we talk about, um, homophobic violence, um, we, that’s not something that’s specific to the U.S. we can think for example, um, about what’s happened in Uganda, right? And the, again, this is not just specific to, um, to East Africa or the…it’s all over the world, the ways in which people who are gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual, in some places they are targeted for violence, by strangers, everyday people that they don’t know and in, in some places that is very much state supported, formally. In other places it’s not, maybe not state supported formally, but there, there are many people who, um, I mean, even in, we can talk about the, in the U.S. context, it’s not against the law to be gay, but at the same time we are reading a book, um, some excerpts of a book called “Queer Injustice” in my restorative justice class, and in that book there is a lot of documentation about people who’ve called the police when they were attacked, and they also experienced brutality by the very police that they call for help. And so I, I’ve mentioned that to say that, I think that in our work that we have been historically at CJP, we have, um, had the, I think, um, a focus on tools and resources that, um, and teaching that allowed us to challenge violence, for example, directed at people because of their ethnic identity, and I think that we also need to, um, to, to have as much attention, to, to people experiencing violence because of factors such as sexual identity or gender identity. Um, and, and that is all to say that every life is valuable, and of worth, and of dignity, and I think while we teach that, um, overall it’s very important to dig into the specificity of what that means for different individuals, for different kinds of bodies, for different kinds of communities. And also to be able to draw connections between, for example, violence that people experience in relation to their ethnicity in relation to their national identity in relation to their gender identity, uh, sexual identity –and, and to really have a much more, um, robust understanding of the many, of the, the, vulnerabilities that people face to violence that are very much connected to those systems, which requires us to be much more intentional about teaching on those systems of oppression and understanding what it means for us even as educators to challenge them in our own thinking and beliefs. It’s as simple as who gets to speak, who do we get to hear from? Do we get to hear from the perspectives of people who define themselves as queer in the classroom? Do we get to hear from them about their experiences of violence and injustice, and their efforts working for safety, peace and justice? It can just be that simple. Do we have those conversations in the classroom?

patience kamau:
How do we even open up the spaces for those conversations?

Johonna Turner:
And how do we open up the spaces for that? And so that, that is a, um, in my, in my restorative justice class, we actually very early on read an excerpt from, from Queer Injustice, which it’s about policing and criminalization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, plus, you know, people –people, um, who define themselves as queer in a variety of, of ways. One, one of the specific ways, this also connects to conversations right now about migration and immigration –it’s because our immigration law has actually been attentive to issues of sexuality. So it has been, for example, illegal in the past for people who define themselves as gay to come into the U.S. and they’re also at the same time people who are coming to the U.S. for asylum because of threats to their sexual…

patience kamau:
…because of their sexual identity.

Johonna Turner:
…sexual identity, right? And so then thinking about us policy and the the barriers that people face, and then so there, uh, for example, I met, um, someone who created a, um, it’s a, I think it’s called the Black Queer Migrant Justice Project –something of that sort, um, to really think about the intersections of that. And so all, all that to say is that there are some spaces, some conversations that I, where I think we can grow. Uh, it’s not to say move away from the conversations that we have, we have been having, um, around war, around civil war, um, um, that structure, for example, around ethnic identity, but it’s to say, how do we also think more intersectionally when we even have those conversations?

patience kamau:
Yeah, how do we augment those conversations?

Johonna Turner:
Absolutely. And thinking about even within those conversations, well, how do we dig deeper into how people are impacted differently? How people have, have different kinds of access to resources, different kinds of access to, um, our experiences maybe within refugee camp, um, depending on who, um, who they are, um, their gender identity, um, how do we think about a disability justice as a part of this is another area that I think we, um, we can also bring, uh, into our conversations in a deeper way. So that is all to say that, um, intersectionality is an approach that allows us to think about the, um, the many facets of identity and experience –um, whether someone is, is formerly incarcerated, whether someone is a survivor of, of intimate partner violence, um, whether someone is, um, has, has certain kinds of, um, you know, um, maybe relegated to certain kinds of labor. And, and I think all of these experiences connect to the issues that are, um, that are already a part of our conversations. But how, how do we bring an in depth look at, um, some of the, the components maybe, um, that are a part of the picture that we haven’t been as attentive to in the past.

patience kamau:
Right. Oh, I’m, I’m glad you’re bringing that in into the mix. That’s, that’s a huge blessing!

[Transition music plays]

patience kamau:
Um, what are you working on? Uh, do you have a project that you’re working on currently that you would like to talk about?

Johonna Turner:
Sure. I have been working on, a series of essays about the contributions of women of color, um, to restorative justice theory and praxis. And that, uh, I’m now on the fourth in that series of essays.

patience kamau:
How can people access these?

Johonna Turner:
So the first one is already published it, it was a, it’s part of an article on a much broader topic called The New Generation of Restorative Justice –it’s uh, this, this article it was co-authored with Carl Stauffer and in, in this article we are really imagining what is, what is needed for the new generation of restorative justice was needed in this moment in restorative justice. And so the Zehr Institute for Restorative Justice, conducted a listening project where, you know, we, we went to different places and asked people, what’s needed in restorative justice, what’s happening –and that’s discussed in this article. Carl was the director of that project and in conjunction with Sonya Shah of the Ahimsa Collective, who’s based in Oakland. And so he talks about that, and one of the primary contributions, and for me in that chapter related to this larger project is, I interviewed a few women of color –restorative justice practitioners– and specifically asked them, well what does the field need to deepen and what, what can we learn from your praxis? And, and so that was the first in that piece. The second one is coming out in a forthcoming book called “Colorizing Restorative Justice,” it’s edited by Edward Valandra by living, it’s published by Living Justice Press. So that’s not yet out, but it should be out, uh, either…I would, probably not later this year, but sometime next year, 2020, and I have a chapter in that book called creating safety for ourselves. It’s about the transformative justice movement, which is a movement, contemporary movement, primarily created by women of color, many of whom are queer, not all, and they talk uh, and I talk about what transformative justice analysis, vision and practice can contribute to restorative justice given that particularly, it’s rooted in the lived experiences of women of color, um, and, and their experiences and their analysis of both individual violence as well as institutionalize, and often, state sponsored violence. So those are two ways, two pieces, uh, that are, that are…one has been published and one is in the, in the process of being…of coming out.

patience kamau:
All right, all right.

[Transition music plays]

patience kamau:
What do you do for, for recreation, to just help your soul recover or, yeah…what do you do for fun?

Johonna Turner:
Sure! Well, well, I mean…the…recovery and, and fun, uh, they’re, they can be the same and sometimes they’re not. For recovery, I enjoy silence, and so sitting in silence has, um, silence and solitude, those kind of spiritual formation practices, spiritual disciplines –people call them those– have been important for my journey. I’m not getting as much time as in silence, um, currently as I’d like. So that’s a, a practice, a practice that I am, I am leaning into, I’m trying to lean into more this season on busy season in my life. In general, one of the things I enjoy both for recovery and for fun, is swimming, and I’ve actually been uh, really, I’ve been really, um, enjoying swimming with a couple of my colleagues here actually. So that has been really nice.

patience kamau:
How often do you do it?

Johonna Turner:
A couple of times a week at least –I try to, to go to the fitness center and get in the pool.

patience kamau:
That’s exciting. That’s good. All right. Um, I don’t have anything else, but would you like to add, do you have anything else you’d like to add?

Johonna Turner:
I would say, well, um one of the special things, uh, another thing I want to add in terms of celebrating CJP is the care that, uh, I think we experience together, not just the care that we give to students and that students give to one another, but the care that’s given to colleagues. I remember a very difficult time in my own life and my family’s journey where we experiencing some family health emergencies and I experienced so much care from, from colleagues and also from students who heard about it. Food that was given check-ins, encouragement, um, notes of prayer and that went on for, for months. You know, this, this care. And I think that’s also, that’s something really special, uh, that I wanna name and that I continue to appreciate and it’s definitely worth celebrating.

patience kamau:
Mm-mm-mm. Thank you! :)

Johonna Turner:
Thank you. :)

patience kamau:
Dr. Turner is the author of “Transforming Trauma: Wounded Healing in the Way of Jesus.” It is a chapter in the book “Making Peace with Faith: The Challenges of Religion and Peacebuilding.” She’s also author of “Creating Safety for Ourselves,” a chapter in the book, “Colorizing Restorative Justice: Voicing Our Realities.”

[Outro music begins to play and fades into background]

patience kamau:
All the music you hear on this podcast has been composed by: the one and only Luke Mullet. Our audio mixing engineer extraordinaire is: Stephen Angello. Audio editing support was generously provided by: Michaela Mast. And I am the podcast executive producer, audio recording engineer, editor and host: patience Kamau. As you are able, please remember to subscribe, rate and review this podcast so that other peacebuilders may find it. We’ll be back with a new episode in two weeks! Thank you so much for listening and join us again next time!

[Outro music swells and ends]

4 comments on “6. Colorizing Restorative Justice”

  1. Elena M Huegel says:

    Hello from Mexico, rain, hail and isolation! I enjoyed listening while working on some wood-burning for new signs. I appreciated the expanded and expanding view of restorative justice. I just finished reading the Little Book of Restorative Teaching Practices and have been thinking about how to include these in an upcoming workshop on Resilience, resistance and dignity. This podcast gave me some more things to mull over from the Mexican context… ¡Gracias!

    1. patience says:

      :) elena, thanks for listening!

    2. Crisol Gonzalez says:

      Hello Elena! I’m Crisol from Mexico, Chihuahua exactly I also loved listening to the potcast. Would love to come in contact with you. ! Crisolgonzalezg@gmail.com

  2. Johonna Turner says:

    Thanks so much Elena for your message! I hope you will continue to reach out to share the insights that emerge from your contemplation. I am not sure if you were able to join us for our web launch of that Little Book. If not, you can find the recording on our web site at http://www.zehr-Institute.org

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