This Restorative Justice Life

65. Youth Perspectives on Restorative Justice w/ Chimdindu Okafor

February 03, 2022 David Ryan Castro-Harris
This Restorative Justice Life
65. Youth Perspectives on Restorative Justice w/ Chimdindu Okafor
Show Notes Transcript

Chimdindu Okafor is a 17-year-old high school senior at North Star Academy in Newark, NJ as well as a local youth activist. A lot of her activism centers around educational equality, black liberation, prison abolition, and eradicating medical racism and implicit biases.

You will meet Chimdindu (2:15), and hear about the article she wrote about restorative justice in her school (3:47) and expanding her view of restorative justice (15:34). She also shares a reflection on Monique Morrison’s writing on the criminalization of students. Also, she shares her plans for the future (28:57) and answers the closing questions (33:03).

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Read Chimdindu’s articles:
https://newark.chalkbeat.org/2022/1/7/22869270/restorative-justice-pilot-no-excuses
https://newark.chalkbeat.org/2022/2/1/22910915/hbcu-historically-black-college-experience 

Get yourself a copy of Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools by Monique Morris:
https://pushoutfilm.com/book 

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Demoint (they/them):

Hey y'all it's Demointe Wesley here the facilitator of community education with amplify RJ, I'm so excited to announce that over the course of Black History Month, I'm going to be facilitating a workshop on the history of black abolitionist politics, and action. We're going to get together every Saturday over the course of February to learn about political history of black abolitionists, so that we can deepen and refine our own understanding of systems of anti black violence, and so that we can truly build together a more liberated future for black people and all people. So come join me, I'm so excited to have you. Bye!

David (he/him):

This restorative justice life is a production of amplify RJ. Follow us on all social media platforms at amplify RJ. Sign up for our email list and check out our website at amplifyrj.com to stay up to date on everything we have going on. Make sure you subscribe to this feed on whatever platform you're listening on right now, so you don't miss an episode. Finally, we'd love it if you left us a rating and review. It really helps us literally amplify this work. Thanks for listening. Enjoy the episode. Welcome to this restorative justice life, the podcast that explores how the philosophy practices and values of restorative justice apply to our everyday lives. I'm your host, David Ryan Garcia, Castro Harris, all five names for the ancestors, and I'm the founder of amplify RJ. On this podcast, I talk with RJ practitioners, circle keepers, and others doing this work about how this way of being has impacted their lives.

Elyse (she/her):

Hi, folks. I'm Elyse, your producer and today we are welcoming Chimdindu to the podcast. Chimdindu is a 17 year old high school senior at North Star Academy in Newark, New Jersey, as well as a local youth activist. A lot of her activism centers around educational equality, black liberation, prison abolition and eradicating medical racism and implicit bias. Chimdindu offers a really unique perspective as a student who's actually been through restorative justice practices in her school. Without further ado, let's get into this episode.

David (he/him):

Chimdindu, welcome to this restorative justice life. Who are you?

Chimdindu Okafor (she/her):

I'm Chimdindu, I'm 17 from Newark, and I'm a young person exploring restorative justice.

David (he/him):

Who are you?

Chimdindu Okafor (she/her):

I'm a Nigerian immigrant. I live in an urban city and I'm always learning and exploring.

David (he/him):

Who are you?

Chimdindu Okafor (she/her):

I'm a person who loves community loves sharing laughs and stories with other people.

David (he/him):

Who are you?

Chimdindu Okafor (she/her):

I'm the only girl in my family. And I spend a lot of time around men and hearing other people's point of views and their shared experiences. And yeah,

David (he/him):

Who are you?

Chimdindu Okafor (she/her):

I am someone who loves to read and loves to write about my experiences, in ways that make me feel comfortable and are authentic, authentic to my voice.

David (he/him):

Who are you?

Chimdindu Okafor (she/her):

I'm currently a high school senior just trying to figure out college applications in life after you graduate.

David (he/him):

And finally, who are you?

Chimdindu Okafor (she/her):

I'm someone who just loves life then loves waking up every morning with the possibility of learning something new and not really having like a set to stone schedule every day.

David (he/him):

Oh, beautiful. Thank you so much for being here. I was really excited to explore some of those things that you shared. For our listeners. You might be like, Whoa, we've got a young person on the podcast. It's the first young person since episode two Griffin. Oh, I take that back. Elyse is still a young person but she's in college. Now. I digress. Chimdindu is here because a little while ago, I came across an article she wrote speaking of your reading, sorry, speaking of your writing an article that you wrote in this publication called Chalkbeat from newark, right your city, and it's titled, here's what happened when my "no excuses" school piloted a restorative justice program. So when I saw that and saw a young person was the author, I was like, Oh, we we've got to see. We got to hear from the youth. We got to hear from the young people. I guess we'll start there. What inspired you to write this article?

Chimdindu Okafor (she/her):

Um, so first off, thank you so much for having me. What really initiated my article was one the experience I had within school that day, as you read in as other people, I hope get to read It was definitely a shift in the environment that I had been so comfortable in before. As well, as you mentioned, my school's no tolerance policies that really set a whole idea in my head that I had to write this down. And even before the publication, I did write it down, but I didn't, you know, flex it out as much as I did in my essay. But yeah, like I made note of that day, every day after because it changed how I saw how much restorative justice was needed in our spaces. And also with the Chalkbeat. Just the opportunity that was given right after it happened, I knew that that was something that I wanted to let the world hear. And so that's how my essay, or my publication came to me.

David (he/him):

Yeah, absolutely. And we will link it in the show notes for folks who want to read, but folks are maybe listening in their cars, washing dishes, doing laundry, working out while listen to this. So can you describe the situation that you were talking about in the environment that your school had been before that?

Chimdindu Okafor (she/her):

Yes, so I had been in a class, it was an African American history is class, which was a very, very new class, to our curriculum into my school itself. So in that class, it was I was very comfortable, the teacher just very comfortable with the idea of learning about African American Studies, and just what is the African American identity. And it was one day, we were working on a project. And it was about resistance of enslaved folks during colonial slavery. And I had to upload something from my phone to the computer, in which there was kind of like a lack of communication between me and my teacher, as my teacher thought that I was, like, you know, on my phone for reasons that were not related to work, but I responded in a tone of, you know, just like correction of like, no, yeah, I wasn't on my phone just for doing that I was doing my projects. And that kind of created a, it was like a pause. In the class environment, it was more of like, whoa, like, what just happened. And then from there, I was, like, you know, given an email where I was asked, like, you know, I was given different methods that my school were given to me to, like, choose from in terms of restorative justice, or just like a, I forget what they call it, because like a, I don't remember what it's called. But they basically, were piloting the restorative justice program in terms of the disciplinary system. And they wanted to use my incident, even though it wasn't as big as other incidents could be. They wanted to use it to, you know, kind of kickstart it. And I had a meeting my teacher with other peer advocates, and they, you know, creating harmony again, and just talking about it. And it actually opened my eyes to just so much of the possibilities, and being actually in a restorative justice space, which is so different from just reading and theorizing about it.

David (he/him):

So yeah, I want to break that down a little bit. Just looking at the article, right? You got quote, unquote, caught with your phone, like the teacher thought you were like, messing around off task, in classes, like, hey, put your phone away, and you're like, but this is for work, like with a with a tone, right back, right, a defensive tone, and that, you know, set off this this chain of events, as you were, you know, you describe the tension in the class, and you know, things kind of moved on, when you got that email. And were offered this restorative conversation, I'm gonna say, quote, unquote, of what were your thoughts going into that? Because to what you shared, like, this has been something that your school had been participating in for very long.

Chimdindu Okafor (she/her):

Yes. So it was initially when I got the email, I was definitely I would say I was very, I was totally defensive attitude, like, it was kind of like, I did not see where I had went wrong. And I felt initially that it was like they were trying well, they as in like, school authorities, or the disciplinary team at my school, were trying to make the situation bigger than I thought it was. So at first, I was taken aback, because I just I didn't think it was something that was so pressing that needed a whole email to be sent to me. But yeah, and like you said, to my school's policies, also, I was like, this is very like my school, like, at the time or before, this time, they like to blow things out of proportion. So it was just like, I was like, this is very normal, but not normal in a way like, I just I didn't know what to make of it, and I didn't know you know what my Next steps were because I didn't know I was going to go back to that class with the same feelings of just like comfortability within that space. And yeah, yeah.

David (he/him):

And so you went into that situation like pretty apprehensive. While you were in there, how did your attitude shift?

Chimdindu Okafor (she/her):

It shifted to the point where it was, like I was feeling supported. And like my voice actually mattered. And I think that's where I was very appreciative of why I was sent the email in the first place, and why the whole situation occurred in the first place. Because our meeting was with peer advocates. So I had an advocate, a friend of mine was in class and all the other people, although the peer advocates there, too, were people that were in the class. But, um, yeah, they advocated, and we just shared excerpts of what actually happened and how we all saw the experience. So with that, I felt like, like I said, my voice was heard and that I was valued. Because usually, with discipline at my school, it was more of a teacher corrects you, if you respond, you're at fault. There's not like a conversation that happens between the teacher and the students more of like, a, obviously, you're the student, and you're younger. So obviously, you're the, I would say, aggressive, or you're the, you're at fault here. And I just when I was in, like that space, I was not at fault, it felt like everyone was holding accountability for like, what transpired. And it made me feel really good, which was something that I was very shocked and surprised that I was gonna come out the meeting feeling so

David (he/him):

yeah, and you know, just hearing your experience. And knowing that, like, in that environment, where adults are always seen as the people that are right, no matter what, like that, that's a departure. And I think, for a lot of us, who came up through school or came up in homes where like, that was, that was often the case, and to be in a space where older people right are taking responsibility for their role in this situation, right, your teacher apologized, you acknowledge your part in it, as well. And you're able to move forward in in a good way you say in the article, like everything in class the next day, you know, was was okay, how has the relationship with that teacher progressed since then?

Chimdindu Okafor (she/her):

Even before the incident, I had a really good relationship with the teacher. And after the incident, I think our relationship kind of strengthened in a bit. Because it kind of separated us from like the teacher, like student type, like dynamic and was more like, we were seeing each other as actual people who had feelings and who, who make mistakes and stuff. So it definitely strengthened our relationship, which I'm very, very thankful for. Which is odd to say,

David (he/him):

yeah, absolutely. And thinking about how, you know, you talked about, there was a relationship to start with, what were the things that she had done to build that relationship to the point where you were one willing to go into that conversation with her, but to like, afraid of like, having irreparably harmed that relationship.

Chimdindu Okafor (she/her):

Um, so she was just authentically her, I think that's and she is authentically her, which is something that a lot of teachers or a lot of students feel that a lot of teachers aren't, especially with, in like, school systems like mine, where it's like very, teachers are very, like, they have to follow like a strict guideline of like, this is what you're doing inter class is how you monitor students and stuff like that, but also bring to her classes that African American histories class, she was just hurt. I don't know, it was just her aroma, and just how she was as a person, as someone who was accepting and who was like, she was black, which is also something very important to say, which a lot of us don't have that, you know, figure within like teacher figures in our school, like, we don't have like a, we don't have a lot of black teachers who can relate to us in that level. And so I think it was just like her just being authentic, was something that really drew me to wanting to, you know, seek like a relationship with my teacher outside of like our, you know, the academics and stuff and just her also being easy to talk to. Like, I'll always come to her with like new ideas of like, new stuff I was reading or new ideas for class and stuff like that. And it was just, I think that and just her openness also, were stuff that made me feel comfortable with her, and comfortable to share things and just comfortable being spaces with her.

David (he/him):

Yeah. And I think that's so important, right? When we talk about restorative justice, at least from my perspective, right? It is about that repair of harm process. But when there isn't a relationship to repair in the first place that makes the process a little bit more difficult, right? And so that proactive thing, the productive things that both she and you've done to build a relationship to start, makes that process so much easier, right. And a lot of times in schools, when folks come to ideas of restorative justice, it's just like, oh, that's what we do when kids are bad, right? That's what we do to avoid suspension and detention, or get the suspension rate down, or like break the school to prison pipeline. And I think that's true 100%, we want to do that. But if we're just being responsive, and not proactive, right, both in the relationship building both in, you know, hiring staff that is representative of people who are in the school, you know, we're not doing the best we can, as far as building community rooted in equity, and trust. I'm curious how you've seen restorative justice play out across the rest of your school with other teachers and with other students.

Chimdindu Okafor (she/her):

Their introduction to restorative justice, it came with the students advocating for just more equity, which is I love the word equity, but it's more equity within our school. And also just more representation and more student voices to be heard, as we're a charter school. And within a charter school, there's a lot of zero tolerance policies, and there's a lot of punitive discipline systems. And that really takes started their restorative justice approach, because after the students advocate, and after students were calling them out, and they were seeing students were like, you know, disagreeing with policies, and we're actively, you know, going against these policies, they knew that the right thing to do, and even just like the, the moral thing to do was to find solutions that were involving students. And it came in the appearance of like, just more restorative spaces, I know that there's some other students after me that has like been in spaces, like I was in. And so I think that's also one of like, the key things that my school is doing now and trying to expand on doing. And also, like, with our discipline system itself, usually we would, if you got, we do send outs, which is like, every teacher says, like, they were mind you to do something once and like, you're not like, you know, cooperating, or you're not like

David (he/him):

air quotes.

Chimdindu Okafor (she/her):

Yeah, air quotes, cooperating, or you're not like doing what you're supposed to air quotes, again, they send you out to the dean. And as you know, like Dean's are more of the discipline like authority figures within the schools. So after these Dean's send out, you get like these reflections, where you fill out what you what you did wrong, which is so crazy, but you thought what you did wrong, and what you could do better in order to make your day better, or whatever, whatever. And so I've heard from students that there's less of this going on in my school, like there's not as much Dean send out, because also teachers are trying to maximize learning time because within send out, you're losing time from education, which is another big thing of punitive discipline systems, it's like, with the more students that you're sending out, and the more students that you're recommending, and more students that you're, you know, giving disciplinary actions to, you're wasting precious school time, like this education time they've come to school for so. Yeah, that's one of the things that they stopped doing or like, did less of because they saw how harmful it was also to have a student come into the dean and automatically be seen as the perpetrator or be seen as the person who was guilty and not understanding the full context of like situation. So I think there's also just been a lot of learning. Also know from the leadership side, there's also been a lot of just spaces that the teachers and leadership has to learn more about restorative justice and to learn more about solutions that are not rooted in punitive like disciplining students, which is something that I think is very, very important, which creates like a harmony within a school because it's not, we're not always getting, what's the word? We're not always being seen as the criminals, which is such a crazy word to say in school, but just not being seen as people who, you know, are guilty of doing something, which I think is it's so important. It is I can't keep saying that, but it's so important.

David (he/him):

Yeah. Instead of being seen as criminals, what are you seeing as

Chimdindu Okafor (she/her):

I'm, we're seen as students. Yeah, we're seeing the students were seen as people who are eager to learn people who are also humans because students are humans and we're seen as people who, like I said before, make mistakes and people who are ready to be ready to be held accountable, but also are ready to have the other people who are also in these events with them being held accountable to you, by me. So it's like we're seen as just students, which, yeah,

David (he/him):

I know, it's wild that you're saying those things, right? Like, of course we are. But most it's mostly adults, older people listening to this podcast, right? And I think like to hear these things from the mouth of a young person who is felt these things whose peers feel these things like, what are we doing with our school systems? What are we doing to? What is it that we're doing that make students feel like it's us against them? Right, when we have so many things that we're all up against together? And I think, you know, there are a lot of things I often talk about in the workshops that I facilitate, where teachers and people who work in schools are also working in systems that don't treat them like humans either. Right?

Chimdindu Okafor (she/her):

Yeah.

David (he/him):

Both on a labor a lot. Like a lot of it is seen as a labor issue, right? teachers are underpaid, expected to do too much. And definitely want to acknowledge that. And people who are harmed often replicate the harm that is happening to them. And so how do we make sure that we're creating those spaces to see each other as humans, right? And so when there is harm, there's something to restore back to? I'm curious what your favorite, like, if there's specific, I'm not asking you to air out like your friends and like, spill the tea on like, whatever is going on with them specifically, but as a whole, your friends, your peers, how have they been reacting to this restorative way of being taking place or starting to grow in your school,

Chimdindu Okafor (she/her):

So for some of the students who are more versed in the ideas of restorative justice, and discipline systems, and how it affects like, black children, specifically, I think they are more they see it as the school trying to save face. And like trying to bat necessarily, right, their wrong. But more of trying to make themselves look good. Which is something that, like, it's, it's a very, it's a very real like opinion in the very real like, thing that people think. But I don't think it's like everyone that thinks this, of course, but there's also some people who are very appreciative because when you're someone who has not really been the not really been at the forefront of the of these disciplines, systems, and I have been in the Dean offices for like days on end and not have to, like go to ISS or just in school suspension, or have to do out of school suspension. For them, like for that person who hasn't gone through that like to you and may feel like the school was trying to just like, they're not really doing things to help. But for the students that actually go through that which I've had conversations with it, it's a major difference for them, because not having to feel like you are a target, because I've heard from students themselves that they felt like they had a target on their back within my school. And now that they things are a little bit different, like it's, they don't feel as targeted as they, they were before. I think that for them, it's a game changer. And it actually helps them to, you know, really feel comfortable in these educational spaces, which I think is the most important thing when you're in school is just to be able to feel comfortable within the school that you're in. So I think it's just really just a difference of experiences, that causes people to have difference of opinions. But for the most part, people are very, like they see it, they do see the restorative justice approaches. And even coming back from school, well coming back from because we had Virtual Learning last year and coming back in person. People were like, yeah, the school is different, like, the teachers were nicer, and people are more understanding. And I don't know if it was just because of COVID. And just like how virtual learning went. But I also knew that, you know, it had to do a lot with the shift in the environment of like, how the school was structured. And yes, so it's a mixture of opinions, but I think the overall consensus is definitely there's a change and there's, there's whether it's a change for the school to like, you know, to save themselves or whether there's a change actually to care for students. I know it's a change in the right direction because at the end of the day, it's only serving students because the students are not being penalized, and they're not being criminalized in schools, which is also crazy to say again, because you're in school.

David (he/him):

But yeah, I mean, I know you learned a lot of that language around criminalization of students from Monique Morris's book, push out what was what stood out to you from that learning.

Chimdindu Okafor (she/her):

Within Monique Morris's book, she talks a lot about just the criminalization of black girls in schools and how they're most likely to be penalized for things like uniform infractions or just behavioral infractions, which causes them to have a setback and or educational gaps as what the term that they use, and seeing it at like the forefront and seeing it with your own eyes and from people within your school. That really made the difference for me within the book and made certain experiences that Morris highlights within her book stand out, as she like uses a lot of anecdotes from students and from black girls in school districts that are underserved. She talks about how like she I know she used one expensive a girl being sent to like alternative schooling and how she felt like, there was just not there was a lack of teacher understanding and a lack of people listening to her voice. And in seeing that in my school, or obviously my school is not an alternative school, but it's still a school in an underserved community and seeing how even friends of mine had been in situations where their voice has been severely neglected. And they've been penalized for like crazy, crazy small infractions or things that are not as big as the school makes it. So I think that just really made a difference for me. But then reading the book was just like seeing how real it is. And I really think Morris for just capturing the reality of school for a lot of black girls who don't get the spotlight to share their experiences and aren't as like, regarded in these conversations of like, you know, how do we move forward with no education, educational system and educational racism? And how does that show up in, you know, the real life and where we are today.

David (he/him):

So, like you were saying, it's one thing to read it, it's one thing, it's another thing to live it. And as you know, you're about to leave high school, what is your hope for future students at your school. And, you know, across, we'll say the country. As you know, we continue to navigate world in times where folks are still disagreeing that these experiences happen.

Chimdindu Okafor (she/her):

So I would hope that students continue to advocate for their needs, and their voices to be heard, in whatever way that is, whichever way is most authentic to them. Also, that schools like mine implement more sessions or learning spaces, but I think those do help. But they, I don't know, I just I want them to learn and actually understand why it's necessary on a scale, larger than just being in school. Because that was something else that I had to learn about restorative justice was that it's not just schools, it's a bigger thing than just being in school. And so I feel like once everyone starts to make those connections, that's how the change starts to happen. So I really just hope those connections are made in spaces that include both teachers and students. And also just like around the country, and just like, you know, schools continue to implement less punitive, like, you know, discipline, and they just like, they're not criminalizing students for things that are not as big and they're continue to listen to students and to adapting to the growing needs and concerns of students all over.

David (he/him):

So you're just about to exit high school going into the world with all these ideas about restorative justice. Where do you hope to see this work grow? Where do you hope to grow this work as you move into adulthood?

Chimdindu Okafor (she/her):

I hoped to use it to change as many systems as I can, with one being the medical system, as I hope to, like encourage spaces to be had within patients and doctors and executives within these hospitals, who can actually learn from each other and learn about the needs of patients one also the needs of the workers because I I've seen a lot and I've heard from even family members who work in the medical system of how there's just such a there's there's a dynamic between like all different parts of the medical system, and like how there's like it's not as equal and as there's a bunch of inequities within it. And just like being able to give people opportunity to you know, come together and community to work to have the medical system as equitable as possible for everyone. Also, within educational spaces, where just like the continuation of just having students like, at the forefront of their own change and having their priorities met, when it comes to just like, access, just like, you know, just having comfortability and feeling valued in their education spaces, and also just like, branching into the criminal justice field, as well. As like, you know, what's your main priority, not main priority, but a main part of restorative justice has been just like, you know, working with people who have been in the prison system and people who are currently in a prison system and having them and the families of people who've, you know, I don't want to say, like, committed violence on but people who like just been like, you know, these exchanges with each other within the criminal justice system, and having them just like, being spaces where their, their emotions, and their feelings are heard and coming to like, a place of just understanding with each other. Yeah, like, I think it's also it's something that's ever changing for me, because like, I like I said, I'm always learning. So I'm always just like, trying to figure out like, how do I make the world a better place today? So it's like, I think there's so many things that we could tackle on restorative justice, but like, those three have been something that I've just been thinking about helping with just like, you know, having spaces that make people feel like they're valued and heard, and

David (he/him):

yeah, yeah, the possibilities for this work really are limitless, infinite. And that's why for me, like wanting to amplify restorative justice into all spaces is, you know, what I've dedicated my life to, I love what you said, though, about, you know, at the end of that answer, where, you know, you want your life to be about helping folks, um, you know, that not everybody in the world thinks that way. Where did where was that instilled in you?

Chimdindu Okafor (she/her):

I think it's just always been instilled in me from a young age. Yeah, just like Austin, my background. My parents, my mother, she works. She's a nurse and a dad, he works with other people, servicing, to help to create infrastructure that's, like, accessible for everybody. So is like, just from them, and just their attitudes, and just everything that they've taught me since I was young has just always been to like care for other people and to, to want to help people and however small it is, and however, like. You know, however, however, it may be, they've always just taught me that helping people should be one of like, my main priorities.

David (he/him):

So before we get to the questions that we ask everybody on this podcast, I want to give you the opportunity to ask somebody who's a little bit older, and who's a little bit more experienced in this work. Any questions that you have about restorative justice? Or this work in general? Lay it on me?

Chimdindu Okafor (she/her):

Um, so I was just wondering, is there like anything else, like social justice wise that you would want to do? Or like, try to dive into? It could include restorative justice, it could be a mixture of that and something else? But is there anything else then, you know, just amplify RJ, which is beautiful.

David (he/him):

Yeah. Thanks for that. I think, on one hand, like, amplify RJ is enough right now, because I think restorative justice fits into so many spaces, right? A lot of the work that we do is within schools, and with people who are working in education, but I imagine this work in so many other places, by this being a podcast, like, I want there to be a lot more media that represents restorative justice and restorative justice practices. And I know it doesn't always make for like, good drama. But like it's real and like, being able to tell stories with these kinds of themes infused into them would be really cool. I don't necessarily need to like star right produce in any of any of those things in media, but more representation of these ways of being that are more about reconciliation than being punitive, then getting vengeance would be huge. I know a couple episodes back we talked about a project that we supported the short film sippin coming out soon, it was talking about the experiences of restorative justice, practitioners of color with white fragility and so like it doesn't necessarily have to be as heavy handed As that were explicitly saying we're sort of justice, but just seeing more restorative themes in media would be would be wonderful.

Chimdindu Okafor (she/her):

Yeah, that's, that's really beautiful. Yeah.

David (he/him):

Thanks for that question. Um, now to the questions that everybody who comes on here answers, in your own words, define restorative justice.

Chimdindu Okafor (she/her):

I think restorative justice is just the state of wanting to restore harmony, but also harmony, that is acknowledging the differences and the ways systems like play into how like, inequality show up within our society. But when wanting to like, you know, change the systems and restore that harmony, like I said before, and just explosive learning and understanding and growth, which I think is are all three big parts of restorative justice.

David (he/him):

Let's imagine you get to sit in circle with four people, dead or alive. Who are they? And what's the question that you ask the circle? One, it'd be Bell Hooks. Two? It would be fun, like, oh, I chance to rapper. This is such a weird. curveball. Three, it would be James Baldwin. Oh, Monique Morris, Yeah. All right. So it's a bell hooks Chance the Rapper James Baldwin, and Monique Morris, what is the one question you asked about circle?

Chimdindu Okafor (she/her):

Just why are they geniuses? Like, what's the? What's the secret behind it? I don't know. Just also. Yeah, just how they come up creatively with all of their work, which is something that I indulge in frequently. And I I love so yes,

David (he/him):

sometimes, and you didn't know this, because I didn't prep you for this. Sometimes I turn this question back onto the guests. So yeah, why are you a genius?

Chimdindu Okafor (she/her):

Whoa, ever had someone asked me that. I think my capability to always be willing to learn more, and was learning I mean, like, listening, and reflecting, which I think that's what a lot of people don't tend to do when they learn and don't tend to open themselves up to be I don't I don't know if genius is like, super for me. But I, I think it's just something that I just love learning. And I just love seeing things that I learned about come to like, actual reality. So

David (he/him):

I don't know if I can quite say this about chance. But when I think about the writing of Bell Hooks, and James Baldwin and Monique Morris, right, they're learning, reflecting, and creating and sharing, and I think you're well on your way.

Chimdindu Okafor (she/her):

Thank you so much. That means a lot.

David (he/him):

Um, what is one thing and affirmation, a mantra, or something that you want everyone listening right now to know.

Chimdindu Okafor (she/her):

So affirmations that I think that are very important, are one for yourself. I repeat myself all the time that I am loved, and that I'm capable of harboring love, and always learning how to love others and love myself more. And to is to listen to the youth voices that are coming into restorative justice and that are doing the work in their schools and in their local communities to, you know, make restorative justice and restorative justice spaces more accessible to everyone

David (he/him):

who's one person that we should have on this podcast? And you have to help us get them on?

Chimdindu Okafor (she/her):

Yes, I think that you should definitely have. So like I said before, I am currently in the program, senior national initiative project, which like they do a lot of social justice work and sort of justice work. And I think that the director Tenay Howard, amazing, amazing love her. I think she's someone that you should definitely have on here because her knowledge obviously surpasses mine, but just her experiences and her love for everyone. She comes in contact within the work that she actually does with the youth in our community and wanting to see the youth voices heard and, and curating spaces that harbor and amplify youth voices. I think that's something that like I think the world needs to pair and I would definitely try to get something on she's very booked, but I know she always make time out to, you know, talk to you. And I think that's also something I learned about today. She's always like down to earth. Yeah.

David (he/him):

And before we go, how can people support you, Chimindu in the work that you're doing and the ways that you want to be supported.

Chimdindu Okafor (she/her):

So I think it would just be to support my next essay coming up with Chalkbeat, about HBCUs. So I think that's something that I would greatly appreciate if people read and just, you know, reflected on as well. So yeah,

David (he/him):

we'll definitely have the Chalkbeat in your previous work, linked in the show notes below. Thank you so much for sharing your light, your energy, your stories, it's really been a privilege to get to honor the young voices of the next wave of this restorative justice movement. And so thank you so much for being here.

Chimdindu Okafor (she/her):

Thank you so much for having me.

Elyse (she/her):

Thank you so much Chimindu. It is great to be able to feature youth voices, because oftentimes, these voices are overlooked. And as you heard today, they have so much to offer. Thank you again, Chimdindu, for all the things that you offered us today. Some things that stood out to me included when Chimdindu was talking about the relationship that she had with her teacher before and after she went through restorative processes. I think the key aspect is that she had a relationship with the teacher beforehand, so that she was able to restore the relationship. I think this can be a great message for all educators to remember to connect their students, it will help both of you in the process to be able to form a relationship based on care, mutual respect, so that you will be able to restore the relationship if anything happens. And so that you can have a lasting relationship that goes even beyond the short time, you may have them in your classroom. Also, don't forget to check in their students, we always start off this podcast by checking in with our guests. And you can do the same with your students because showing them and giving them an opportunity to express their emotions is a great way to connect deeper with them, and also to teach them the skills of sharing emotions and sharing who they are because students have so much to offer just like we heard today. Now it's our job to stop, listen and amplify what we're hearing. As always, thank you so much for tuning in this week, and I'll see you next week.

David (he/him):

Like what you heard, please subscribe, rate, review and share this podcast on whatever platform you're using right now. It really helps us further amplify this work. You can also support us by following us on our social platforms, sending it for email list, rocking our new merch joining our Patreon or signing up for a workshop. So many options! Links to everything in the show notes and on our website amplifyrj.com Thanks so much for listening. We'll talk to you next week.