This Restorative Justice Life

71. "Don't Allow Anyone to Silence You" w/ Eloise Sepeda

March 17, 2022 Season 2 Episode 15
This Restorative Justice Life
71. "Don't Allow Anyone to Silence You" w/ Eloise Sepeda
Show Notes Transcript

Eloise Sepeda is a child/adult survivor of family/domestic and sexual violence, gangs, drugs, homelessness, poverty, teen pregnancy &  drop out. She learned the power of holistic rescue, healing, with the support of the community and faith leaders. Mrs. Sepeda and her blended family are overcoming statistics,  thriving and healthy advocates for race equity and justice. Dr. Sepeda uses her professional and personal expertise to provide extensive training and  implementation of trauma informed RJ/TJ practices in a variety of communities. 

You will meet Eloise (0:55), hear about how she learned to listen (4:23), hear about her past (11:21), and hear about how she got involved with restorative justice (24:44). She also shares about her current work (32:32) and answers the closing questions (56:59).

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David (he/him)  
All right.

David (he/him)  
Eloise, welcome to this restorative justice life. Who are you?

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
I am Eloise Rayez Sepeda, the daughter and granddaughter of indigenous native Spaniard, and Mexican American ancestors. 

David (he/him)  
Who are you? 

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
I am a wife, a mother and the grandmother to a lineage of warriors. 

David (he/him)  
Who are you? 

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
I am she/her/ella 

David (he/him)  
Who are you? 

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
I am an extrovert. Fierce, yet fragile? 

David (he/him)  
Who are you? 

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
I am someone who loves hard beyond my own understanding sometimes and ability to promote hate, and then forgiveness even when the world thinks I should. 

David (he/him)  
Who are you? 

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
I am someone who believes that equity and culture and music and food and colors, and sound and laughter all have equal value in our world and in our communities and in the spaces that we're in.

David (he/him)  
Finally, who are you? 

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
I am a little bit on the crazy side. Which makes me unpredictable and a risk taker. I love the outdoors. I love the indoors. I love Love. 

David (he/him)  
I love that. Thank you so much for sharing with us. 

David (he/him)  
It is always good to check in so to the fullest extent that you want us answer the question. How are you?

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
How am I? It depends on the day. As some days I am plowing through and determined and on fire for change and equality and equity. And some days I'm tired and concerned and sad at the journey that the people before us have traveled. And we are where we are. And so how am I I am a survivor who is striving to conquer every day that I have been blessed to live in the best way that I can. Knowing that we're living through a pandemic, and trying times and just hoping to leave the best legacy that I can for those that are around me.

David (he/him)  
 What does that look like for you today? 

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
How am I feeling today? I am. I am excited. I am excited about this opportunity. And being a guest on your podcast and listening to all of your work and seeing you make an impact. And I'm excited to talk about one of my favorite topics, which is restorative justice and restorative practices.

David (he/him)  
Yeah, well, let's get into that then. Because you know, you've been doing this work for a minute now, probably before you knew the words restorative justice. So in your own words, how did this journey get started for you?

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
I agree with because it's a cultural practice of, of indigenous people and having indigenous ancestors and my my grandmother, who is 100% Kickapoo from Pietras Negras and my grandfather being from Bichiclan in Mexico, deep in the heart of the culture. And then her sitting us down as as kids and just telling us stories and then my grandparents my other grandparents living to be 100 and 102 also just full of stories and experiences, I learned bits and pieces of history that are not in textbooks. And I also learn what it's like to listen. And I thought I was really good at it until I started getting my training, and realized that I was not as good of a listener as I thought I was. and began to dive in to learning how to be a better listener. 

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
So in about 2010, I started walking alongside another practitioner, and others in my community, and really engaging on empowering community and community work. And we came across some material and some practices in relationships with others, and began to enhance in training. And I realized, during that time that I was either waiting for my turn to talk, by the time I was in child to an adult, that listening skill had shifted. And I was already thinking about something else, or because of also the shift in my mental health, I was my mind was wondering, or I was thinking about what else I had to do. In my life, I've been diagnosed with PTSD and ADHD, and all the Ds. 

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
And it was a very critical time in my life that this took place, my daughter had had some really difficult experiences and challenges with mental health and suicidal ideations. And, and I was scared, and having haven't been a professional, and a trainer, and all of these other things, I really honed in, in into the principles of the process and how to evaluate myself about where I had drifted what I was doing, whether I was true, or whether I was just, or whether my, my responses were performative, or, I was on autopilot. And so I really had to hone down on was I listening to her Was I being present with her what's missing from this space. And I took her out of school, and I dragged her into this community training that we were doing, and she had refused how she had refused. She had, she had stopped communicating with me and with others, and in this space, and in the training and community and hearing other communities talk about their challenges. She went from passing in every round, to slowly starting to answer and slowly starting to respond. And that's when I saw the power of the process, come to life in our own family. And I say it not only saved me, but it saved my daughter. And she began to open up and she began to, to feel safe enough in the space that we had collectively created to share what her trials were, what her her challenges were. And as a community, people began to come around her and encourage her and, and strategize with her about what she needed, what supports she needed, and what those outcomes were. And that took me back to the time in my life, where I transitioned from the very rocky road that I was on, and into my professional route. And it took me back, it took me back to the roots of why I wanted to work with people and communities and, and provide help and resources.

David (he/him)  
Yeah, one of the things that I read on the internet about you, but I want to, you know, clarify here, you know, you're saying that like I was at risk kid or I was a kid with at risk behaviors that I advocate for today. Right? I was traumatized at a young age and nobody asked those questions. No one was listening to you. Just a minute ago, you talked about how you had gone from this place of you were in this practice of listening to stories from elders and others. And you had transitioned to a place where you just wanted your voice to be heard. And I imagine that's because there were spaces in your life that also transitioned where your voice wasn't being listened to. Right? I'm curious if there were some of those spaces that you wanted to share and some of the journey that you went on between that childhood of listening and being listened to, to some of that rocky road.

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
Yeah. So as a child, we grew up in a home. My, my dad was a former Marine, and very strict, very, very rough around the edges, and, and became an alcoholic. And so we grew our home transition from the safe home to an unsafe home, I grew up in a home of family violence, I literally remember seeing the violence, hearing the violence, running from the violence, pretending like I was asleep, crying and begging my mom to leave my dad, like I just remember just crying and begging.

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
 And then while this was going in, on in our home, we lived in a community that was that was drastically changing this well, the crime rates were through the roof. Um, it was, it was very much a mar- became a very, very much a marginalized community black and brown families, gangs, drugs, we would hear helicopters and sirens and see the the search lights and all of that became normalized for us. All of that became life as we know it, our neighbors would have SWAT or you know, the other neighbors would be fighting. We learned how to fight to get to school, we learned how to fight to get home from school. So our life shifted from this very safe feeling, to to survival. And throughout that process, I took on a lot of responsibility to help my younger brother and my younger sister, because my dad did eventually leave. And my mom took on multiple jobs, and did the very best with what she knew how she taught us, she held on to those family values as much as possible, as time went on, because we were both vulnerable and at risk, because my dad when he left, he left the left like he was out of the picture. 

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
And so we we were fending for ourselves. And that was hard to talk about, because that was a time where you didn't really talk about those things. And you were told what goes on in this house stays in this house, the the threat or the fear of Child Welfare was real or mental health, they're going to if if you do this, they're going to lock you up in and put you in a padded room or they're going to take you away from us. And so we were conditioned to also not share and so by, by conditioning, but as being conditioned and when we conditioned our children to not share, we are silencing our children and we're silencing ourselves. And so I, as time went on, and and I got older, I mean, I got expelled from schools. When my trauma was unleashed, I was brutally sexually assaulted by strangers and left on the side of the road for dead. And a neighbor found me a neighbor who lived on our street was was driving home and saw me laying in the grass on the side of the road. And so you'll often hear me say that community has always had community because throughout that time, neighbors would bring over food, or part of our safety plan was go to go to our neighbor's house or to go to our grandma's house or

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
we we would feed each other I remember shared Thanksgiving meals and and dinners and I remember eating picnic style in the living room because our utilities were out and I remember storing our food in the neighbor's refrigerator and so as a community while we saw itself, burning itself down we saw still the power of community holding it together the best we could with what we had And so I moved around I married I became a teen mom at 16 and married my gangbanger boyfriend who made me feel protected and safe. Yet who became my biggest life threatening relationship as time went on, and I moved around. And when I came to the time in the place to two beautiful babies later, and living in Oak Cliff, Dallas, because we were constantly dragged into interrogation and kicked out of apartments and just experiencing all of the outcomes of this lifestyle. A woman came to me and, and told me that God had a promise for me. And I didn't believe in God, I, I doubted the idea and the concept and the theory and everything about God, because all I could think about was, I haven't seen God, where has he been in my life. And so this woman comes to me and tells me about God. And I cussed her out and shut the door.

David (he/him)  
Somebody just like, came to the door, randomly,

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
came to the door randomly. And at the time, he's, he's my ex husband now was was in and out of prison. she knocks on the door, and she says, I've noticed you and your children out here. And so immediately, you know what my brain does what it does, right? It's protect, it's built, it's developed to guard and protect us and I started thinking, nope, you're undercover. You're CPS. There's something in it. Nobody does anything nice for anybody without strings attached. And she says, No, no strings attached. I just want to tell you that I have a plan for you. And she didn't know. And nobody knew I didn't. I didn't call home. I didn't reach my family out to my family to my friends to say, Hey, I'm stuck. He's locked up again. I have almost no food. I was down to about 90 pounds and five, seven. And I was filtering away. I was I was desperate. I was. I was doing the hustle. Now. I was taking on that responsibility. I had been I had dropped out of school. I just had my DD I didn't have anything to stand on other than the street life that I knew. And so I said, Okay, finally, I said, after a couple of weeks of her coming, regardless of how many times I slammed the door in her face, I said, Does your God buy food, and she says, I'll be right back. And she brings food. And eventually, she invites me into her space. And she never, ever told me who she was. She was a pastor's wife. She had a whole congregation and resources and, and all of that she never told me. I was going to how or I had to choose God or I had to do anything. She just I tell people to this day, she literally slept the hell right out of me. I was not easy. Not at all. And

David (he/him)  
sorry, I just got that. Hell omg

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
I hold that method of taking what she had, how ever little or much she could give and however little or much I would receive taking that to the street outside of the four walls. And I began to think and I'll never forget she told me on the on a sidewalk one day I can remember it like yesterday. She says Do you want this life? I had at the time I only had my son and my daughter and she says Do you want this life for your daughter? Do you want her to get the the hell beat out of her every single day? Or end up in prison? Or in debt? Or dead? And do you want your son to beat the hell out of someone every day? hold a gun to their head all of those things were were like normal to me then Okay, I've seen guns my whole life a knife to my throat okay. You might kill me You might not and so all of these things were so normalized now was so nominal, but when she told me if that's what I wanted for my children, 

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
I said no, but I didn't know how to get out and I didn't know how I didn't know what change looked like I had never seen change in my life, I had never seen change in my parents I hadn't seen change in my family hadn't seen change in my community. So to talk about what I wanted to do when they had never crossed my mind, because I just needed to know I was gonna get through that day. And she took me under her wing, and she mentored me. And she began to, really help me to understand that I had more potential than than what I, I believed I did. And when I came back to Austin, I was ready to leave, I needed to leave or I was going to end up dead or in prison. And when I did leave, I, I, again, met the right people at the right time. So throughout my journey, there's like these little drops from having of people that helped me and I filed for my own divorce. I paid for my own fees. And while I was in court, an attorney stepped up, because I didn't have anyone representing me and my ex was in prison. And an attorney says, I'll help you. And the judge says, you know, recess, go help her get her paperwork, right. I walked out of there with the lifetime protective order, I walked out of there with full custody of my children, I walked out of there with child support in place, even though I knew I was not going to get any money, because he was always doing big time.

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
 And, and so throughout my life, I've seen the right people at the right time. And it has shaped my process when I work with people or with community too. even consider if I'm in your life, for this one day, if I can do for you in one day, or point you in the right direction in one day, the way that the right people at the right time, were there for me, then it's worth it. Because I have a list of people that I look back and wish that I could find them and say If you only knew what you're seed or the drop of water on the seeds that were planted in me produced, it would give so many so much more people hope that people people shouldn't be thrown away. 

David (he/him)  
Yeah. Yeah. Thank you so much for for sharing. All that. I know, you've shared it multiple times before. And I imagine it gets easier every time. But it's still not easy to three lives. So thank you so much for, for sharing. Out of all of that, what what stands out to me the most is the emphasis on community and relationships are with, you know, saved you right, and literally saved your life, in some ways, the lives of your children and thinking about how that is the center of the work that we do, right around restorative justice being in relationship, you were in conditions where you were isolated, right? Feeling isolated, you could have reached out to some different people. You didn't feel that you're in the space to for a number of reasons, ranging from shame, the frayed strange relationships that you had with those, but it took somebody consistently showing up, right, and meeting material needs, like feed my children, right, to be able to help help make that shift for you. I'm curious how you know that transition led to you doing this work.

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
That transition led to me doing this work. Because when I came back, I had to go into a safe haven, which was underground housing, and to hide from my ex who at that point wanted to kill me. And that's where I was honored to meet some of the people I would have never crossed paths with. I also believed that all white people hated us, people of color, or, and I had a prejudice against white people as well. And yet it was it was a White congregation who was putting their neck out there for me to hide me and my children. And by doing that, I was able to, again share meals and time and space with doctors and lawyers and business owners. And more, I just began to really see this sense of love, and, and hope. And, and, and I think they had more hope for me than I did. And what I saw was with the right people in our lives, we have access to more resources. 

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
And so there was this one person who had offered us help. And, um, she invited me to a meeting, and it was with the Christian counselors of Texas. And I was just like, I know, this is a trick, everything. Everything that was ever proposed to me was my guard was up, I thought there were strings attached. And I said, okay, but I'll go. And when I went, in my mind, I went with the idea of, I've got to figure out why I'm crazy. I have to figure out why I'm crazy. And this was before I was diagnosed with PTSD. This was when, before I understood the complex, the different multi levels of complex trauma. And I wanted to learn about why I was crazy, I why I would fly off the handle why I wanted to fight all the time, if somebody bumped me with the grocery basket, or you know why my responses were just seemed so now I know irregulated. 

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
And, and so I went with the idea that I wanted to find out why I was crazy. And so I started listening. And I started going to more meetings, and I started learning about the brain. And I became interested with trauma. And I became interested in what trauma does to people and then became interested in how and what causes trauma. 

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
And I and as, as you can imagine, they're all steps that is just unraveling, kind of like that box, you know, if you've ever if your family is like mine, we play this joke, like every couple of years where we wrap the big box, and then there's a smaller box in it that's wrapped, and then a smaller box and then a smaller box. And that's what it was like unraveling this from trauma to what causes it to systems to end and then I understood why I didn't call. And then I understood why I never reached out why I never called law enforcement why I never called the 800 number. And there was the gap, there was the cultural gap in those services, there was a gap of understanding in those services. And so how that fast forward into my work, and into doing this work, is really to bridge the gaps is to help people to understand how to navigate those systems. And also how to help professionals in those systems to evaluate and to assess themselves individually as a provider, as a person as the face of that organization, or, or system, and then how to then in turn, evaluate that agency or systems practices and policies. Is that resource accessible? You say it's available, but is it accessible to the people in a way that they will they we will feel safe to accept and to engage in resources. 

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
So I'll give you an example. There everyone talked about mental health over the last year COVID. Right, understanding the gaps of why people of color reef, refrain from quickly engaging in counseling is is just the beginning of building those bridges with community. It's like saying come in and talk to me, you can trust me, but I might report you while you're sharing. And so again, we're asking them to distrust systems right that have not been developed to support communities of color. So my my hope is that by training professionals and training community and And people that we would learn how to co-design, what those system approaches look like, and how we measure success is something else that I have challenged over the years. When you share your success rates, is that based on the outcome of a white family, and that has access to resources and generational wealth, or a family of color? who is who measured success on a completely different scale?

David (he/him)  
Yeah. How like, what are some of the measures that you recommend? Like I also want to like, share, like we haven't explicitly said, what is it that you're doing? Like and where are you doing this? So do you want to share that? Talk about the ways that you help people think about measuring success?

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
Yes, yes, yes. Sorry about that. I am. So I have co authored curriculum for the University of Texas in partnership with ti a Texas Education Association, which oversees all of the schools in Texas. We implemented training and, and policy evaluation to to implement restorative justice in schools or practices, training teachers how to keep kiddos in school to address disproportionality of Black and Brown students being disciplined at a higher rate. We've also I've also co authored curriculum with Texas State who holds the contract for tCO, which is training for law enforcement, and restorative justice practices, how to how to engage with the communities that you serve. across those two disciplines. We discovered, which was nothing that we're surprised of that the people that are working in the communities don't necessarily live or grow up in those communities.

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
And so it was, it's really important to teach those professionals how to engage and to learn, and to build those relationships with those communities. The top three reporters of Child Welfare as law enforcement educators and public health, and in many marginalized communities, there are not health clinics or professionals. So we, I have also partnered with health care agencies to, to provide training and also tools for community engagement and community building, and then evaluating their internal policies, all the way to hiring all the way to Who are you hiring to do this work to avoid tokenism and, you know, the, the standard working people of color on the front line less paid. So we're looking at wage gaps, we're looking at all of the things I have also trained community that is that community is, is near and dear to my heart, because as you said, community rescued me and community saved my life. And so I it's something that I have always provided at no cost to families to faith based communities, to neighborhood centers, you know, people that are, are are living the life with the communities that they serve.

David (he/him)  
Yeah, yeah. And as you're doing this work, it's giving people like skills and tools, what is the impact that you're hoping to have? Because like, I know, it's not just like, decreased suspension rates, decrease rates of incarceration, like we're measuring, hoping for things more deeper than that. That was a terrible way of saying that, but you get what I'm saying.

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
I do I do and you're exactly right. Um, decreasing mass incarceration is great. But is it really a restorative and transformative solution or is decreasing mass incarceration that result in increased mental health? substance abuse, engagement, sobriety family counseling, education opportunities, housing improvement, work opportunities. To me that's the measurement is not just the decrease of the impacts of the system, but the increase of the success of the community.

David (he/him)  
Yeah, you were talking about what a measure for a white family with generational wealth, like, We're not trying to get necessarily to that, like, What are you trying to get people to? What are the measures that you're looking for?

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
The measures for individual families, looking at parents, and then looking at their children, parents not having to work 60 hours plus, in frontline work putting their health at risk, considering today's pandemic, but having equal pay, which would, which would be available to families if we shifted internal policy, right. And because with shifting internal policies in, in business, you're looking at opportunities for for promotion, but you're also looking at job requirements. If every job requires a master's degree, then we know that chances are our cousin around the corner, or I feel down the street is not going to have a master's degree. And one will never be eligible for that promotion. And so, so I, I believe it starts with the workforce. I can't really say that because it starts with education. Um, 

David (he/him)  
well, it's multiple, 

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
it's multiple 

David (he/him)  
this work is needed everywhere. Sure.

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
Yeah. And so for the parents just having equal opportunities, bridging those wage gaps, opportunity to return back to school or have access to trade, education and trainings. And then benefits, benefits health benefits, PTO, where they're not penalized if they have to take off of work to take care of their families, and then measuring success with, with youth and, and children by, again, having access to education, and I'm not just talking about this, the standard public education, I am referring to college prep, I'm referring to teaching our children in ways that they'll learn being creative, thinking outside of the box, and listening and, and, and learning from the students as well. I think one of the standard teaching barriers that I've seen, because I've worked really closely with schools as well is, is This is the way I teach take notes. And if you don't get it go to tutoring. And, and I think that puts a stigma on someone's learning. And then they're classified as 504. Or they're classified as having a learning disability, when in all reality, they just need creative learning. And then also access to mental health, again, with the pandemic I've seen. So many youth impacted by isolation and the gap in in engaging, you know, in social activities, and sports and, and whatnot. So I have seen an increase within youth in the communities for suicidal ideations or substance abuse or depression. So I really, really think as we think about youth creativity has to be at the forefront of, of how we're connecting with them.

David (he/him)  
Yeah, I think a lot about how it's not about like the absence of violence, but like the presence of life, so many people talk about, I think it's ruthless and more. Like we're not just talking about like, abolishing the prison, industrial complex and policing. What are the things that we're building that give life and you know, some of the things that you're talking about what are the services that we're providing, but also making accessible right to allow people to thrive are so key. You've done this across so many organizations over the years whether it is being frontline On the ground with people. 

David (he/him)  
But now like, as just as I was scrolling through your LinkedIn, and I didn't know this, when I, like asked you to be on this podcast, you are now a senior consultant at Mission capital. How do you bring restorative practices into that role? 

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
Well, the trick is that it's in everything I do. I facilitating conversations is, is one of the key fundamentals of restorative practices is learning how to create how to co create safe spaces. And in in my role at Mission capital, I have the opportunity to, to work with child welfare providers and judges, attorneys, provide domestic dbsa domestic violence, sexual assault providers, foster providers, community educators, I mean, there are so many multi disciplinary levels of engagement. And the one of the first things that I'll do is create community guidelines and conversations. And that's something that is very new, even in equity spaces, I am on the central health equity Policy Council. And the whole goal is to achieve equity yet, how it's being achieved in an equitable manner is always the challenge.

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
And so I create community guidelines and I, I implement both both components, the relational agreement and the structural agreements, and I do it in that order. Because prior to, if we look at the systems that exist without RJ, attach of RJ, as system is created, and then we're all told, get along while doing it, or there's policy right about conduct, or misconduct, and so it's so systemically it's done the other way around, through RJ relationship is centered first, then structure. So we evaluate how everyone comes into that space, what, what systemic racism you have encountered, and how it has impacted you. Because that space is so diverse, with with every race and ethnicity, gender sexual orientation that you that that exist. And so we all bring stuff with us. And when we're able to unpack that, and say, This is what makes me These are, this is what my values are, this is what makes me feel strong. This is what I when I how I respond when I feel that my values have been violated. Now, we're also uncovering trauma, right, and we're uncovering triggers and responses at the same time. So it's a parallel process. And then we can go into structure. Okay. So now that we take now that we consider all that we come into this space with, what how do we co design a structure that feel safe to everyone? And so we build the process together. So it's all about inclusion. It's, it is all about equity. And it is all about acknowledging the diversity in the space.

David (he/him)  
Yeah, I mean, in celebrating really, like, not just like, oh, you're a brown face, you're a black face, you're a queer, but your queer body, your disabled body was like, No, we want your perspective to help shape what we're doing. And I think, you know, a lot of times people are just saying, like, what are the policies that we need that will fix everything right, like, and if you were like, top down, hierarchical goal, sorry, if you top down hierarchically, implement those policies, like you're still alienating those people, you're not taking advantage of their experiences, because they're the people who are, you know, going to be most impacted by this. That's such a great connection to make where, you know, you make similar this one, I think there's this acknowledgement that schools are also workplaces where this is also really key.

David (he/him)  
But you know, we have a lot of people who are educators in working in classrooms who listen to this and the same thing in your classroom, right, you can set down rules that you think will best serve the space but like, that might not be what all the little humans in your space need in one. So like, that codesign of that is so helpful. And when you've co designed things, right, it's so much easier to restore back to what you've agreed on. Rather than saying, like, You broke my rule, it's like, hey, you're not upholding the agreement that you helped co construct. So what is the thing that we need to do in order to get back in right relationship? Not like, fix what you did? Like, because there's no going back? But like, how do we get back in right relationship? How do we support community, and I think so much of that is continual community building, like you were talking about? happened in, you know, your life, and, and in so many other spaces that you've helped construct?

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
I agree. And when, when I worked with teachers and educators, that was one of the errors of the way that I saw happen often is, is this, this process would be implemented, and the the movement, and the teachers would get so fired up, and they love doing this, and then I would see this shift where there's, you know, we all kind of retract back to our bad habits, right? Like, oh, I was exercising every day, and then I missed a day, and then it turned into three and then five, and before, you know, you haven't worked out in months, right? And well, at least that's my story. And I feel well, I would see teachers start saying, okay, we're gonna do circle, we're gonna circle up today, you know, I want to talk about respect, because I've noticed in the halls X, Y, and Z, or I've noticed, you know, in the cafeteria, or there's been a lot of, you know, talking without turn in the classroom. And so it's, I would say, well, we'll, we'll do that don't do that. We don't get to implement the topic of the conversation. If, if we're going to co design the process, then we need to, then we need to co lead the process as well. which then means if that's what you're noticing today, that's what you as an individual bring into that circle. But as as far as the topic goes, we have to maintain maintain true to what we agreed on, and the fidelity of the work to say, Okay, what does the whole class want to talk about this week in circle, and there, there may be a fight stirring up that the students know about, but yet you're worried about running in the halls, like we have to be able to still create space where everybody's bringing what's important, and not shift back to that shift that power, power back to ourselves. 

David (he/him)  
Right? 

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
Take it away from the others,

David (he/him)  
and not just talking about it, not just using circles when like, something is wrong when someone does something bad, right? Like, how are we like, proactively using circles and other practices to to build relationships? So it's not just this thing, like, Oh, you know, something's wrong, so and so was in trouble. And now we need to fix it right? There. Yeah, there's so many things. One of the other things that just came to mind is thinking about how, when you are bringing this work into schools and asking teachers to do that, like, it's a shift in power. You talked about that, you know, from the very beginning of our conversation, and it might have been in the part that we weren't recording, but like, how this is about, you know, getting, leveling the playing field leveling the power, we're not, I don't know that I've actually said this on these airwaves yet, but like, We're not trying to create, like more compassionate overlords. We're trying both in businesses, in workplaces, and also in classrooms. Also, in the criminal legal system, that's a whole nother thing that I'm not going to try to touch right now. We're not trying to create a more compassionate system of oppression. We're trying to create something new that allows equal participation, right? It's not that you're asking people to give up their power and become powerless. It's asking people to give up power, right, giving up domination and holding power alongside all the other people in the space.

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
Absolutely. And and the more that I have seen shared power, the more success and and long term success right now. I don't think any anybody wants a life's work to result in a short term. You know, measure of success, I think, because that is that that dud, right that one firework that just went like peel and then die like Ray just like, fizzled out versus like the whole grand finale and And I think that when people share power, you're acknowledging the value of the other person that you're sharing power with. You're acknowledging who they are, you're acknowledging what makes them tick, what they believe what makes them sad, what makes them happy, what, what makes them successful. with educators, you know, we saw an increase in attendance, we saw rise in grades, we saw an increase in in participation in sports, we saw parent parental increase. Now you had parents responding, because they didn't feel like you were out to get them. with law enforcement. 

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
We, I facilitated conversations after the George Floyd murder, with community and law enforcement. And through that, there were law enforcement officers that felt supported enough to use their voice within their system to say, this is how I feel we can make this more equitable or, or I apologize for how someone else in the system responded, but this is how I want to respond. And community also said, You know, I hated you, but I didn't know you were, you know, a cool dude or whatever. And, and then when we've implemented with criminal, there were one example is there were two young men who had been drinking and driving and ran a red light and severely injured someone else in the family of that other person, they were on life support and everything. And they, these two young men that were they were young, and they were looking at a lifetime in prison and, and through using the restorative process with them. This other family says, I don't want you to lose your life, I want you to do something with it. And if you do these things, we can work together and they went back to school. And they were provided free service for them and their family for mental health and for substance abuse. There, they both have their own little families today. 

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
We have helped people with dw eyes get into rehab, and who are productive members of the community. We've used it in child welfare and family violence and domestic violence cases, which is one of the top reasons why families who encounter violence and abuse end up with a child welfare case, I often say all roads lead to child welfare. Because of mandatory reporting, and set we were able to achieve 70% family preservation that's 70% of those families who got to stay together and and get help rather than to be separated and become a part of a another system or multiple systems. Because we also know the outcome of children who are separated from their families end up with juvenile cases of their own and then potentially adult cases. And so it's just that ripple effect. And so if if we use restorative practices, like the as the framework that it is meant to be, which is to, to empower ourselves and our community around us to equalize and to share power values and to govern our own communities, then we'll see the outcomes that that are true to us without colonizing what those outcomes are perceived to be by the world that we live in today.

David (he/him)  
Beautiful. I want to share with folks that you've shared in other spaces about you know, that work specifically with survivors of domestic abuse. I want to plug the partnered with a survivor podcast you were featured on episode 20. So if people want to explore more of your work with that, specifically invite them to check that out. We'll link that in the show notes. You also just gave a beautiful framework for what restorative justice is, and that's often the question that I transition into, like the question that I ask everyone, so we're gonna continue to do that. And I'm gonna ask what's been like an oh shit moment in this work and what did you learn from it?

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
Oh, gosh, um, I think my, my first oh shit moment was was when I realized that I had strayed from This being living in my heart, and it is shifted into my head. And that's I think, where we where we can easily become performative. And that's when I was just like, like you said, like, Oh shit, like, how did I get here? Like, I'm in the middle of the ocean? Like, where's my paddle? I need to get back? And I think the other the other Oh, shit moment after the the Ferguson murder?

David (he/him)  
I Mike Brown

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
there were Yes, there were there were protests around the world and there was a stir of anger and protesting. That was good that was happening here in Austin, the police department had been shot up that there were bullet holes in the police department. Things were unraveling quickly. And then someone threw in restorative justice and and that that word started buzzing around and and I'm very protective of the work. Because there can be a malpractice of RJ right. And And when that happens, and it's it's used in an unproductive way, then it hurts the whole community and it in it. And then I see professionals who are engaging Pull, pull back, and and question whether or not restorative justice is real and impactful.

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
 And so I said a whole like, Oh my god, okay, we were called out and and they said, you know, we want restorative justice and became a part of the chat. And I will I'll never forget we went out there we were in front of the police station, we're on the steps and there's 1000s of people out there and the and we're talking to people and we're talking to the organizers, and we're trying to like, like help to bring some understanding about what restorative justice is, and how we can use restorative justice in this in this in this tragic situation to bring awareness and change in our in our own city. And while we're there, all the cameras turned and the mic is put in my hand. I had to tell all these 1000s of people that what they've been told about restorative justice is not this. 

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
So I just remember, you know, just just all I all I could share was the truth about what RJ is and what it's done for me and how it can be used as a tool and as a way of life for all key stakeholders, which are from the courthouses to the streets, to build safer and healthier communities. And I wasn't prepared to do that. So it was it was a big, it was a big moment. But that's when, when I knew that I was back to the root of the process and that it was living in my heart and not in my head. And it wasn't something I had to plan and write notes and do all of that. But we saw we saw a positive outcome of that. And we still have seen positive outcomes. Our district attorney is creating a restorative justice committee to help shape and to restructure and co design on what public safety. We've had a campaign here for reimagining public safety and and that's one of the responses to it. We're reimagining Child Welfare we're, we're reimagining co designing in every corner that you turn to but the Oh the oshit moments where we're putting Probably when I thought I knew what I was, like gonna do and then was just caught off guard or, you know by surprise. But that's what oh shit is about right?

David (he/him)  
I mean, there's something about like, the two distinct moments, right? We're like ones like, you know, let me get back on track but like, always be ready, always. You never know when, when this work is going to be needed or when you're going to need to share about this work. You've you get to sit in circle with four people living or dead. Who are they? And what question do you ask the circle?

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
Wow, for people sitting in circle living or dead, hands down. Martin Luther King, selfishly, I would say my mom, because she's no longer with us. Third, I'd say Rosa Parks. And four would be a great, great, great grandparent or ancestor, from my indigenous lineage from the indigenous lineage that I come from.

David (he/him)  
 What's the question you asked the circle. 

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
I would ask, What kept you going? When you got tired and wanted to quit?

David (he/him)  
What keeps you going? When you get tired?

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
 The work isn't finished yet?

David (he/him)  
 If I was to answer that question, you know, my future children's right and the world that they're gonna live in?

David (he/him)  
I've asked this question in a couple of different ways. What is one specific place or situation that you've witnessed recently that you wish people knew this work?

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
a situation like that, um, you'd probably think I'm crazy for saying this would be the insurrection. There were law enforcement officers that felt scared and harmed. There were lives lost. There were cabinet members that hid and cried. There were people that were angry and desperate to show their actions louder than words. And I would I wish that there would be an opportunity to implement RJ work, lots of prep work, lots of mini circles, resulting in the opportunity for those that have been harmed to share how that day impacted them and their families. And my greatest hope is always that A is that the person that caused harm would come to a realization of their actions and make an attempt to make things right.

David (he/him)  
Yeah, it's funny. I was recording this podcast on January 6, with Kay Pranis when it happened. 

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
Oh my Gosh, 

David (he/him)  
yeah. And, and it's so interesting to think about, like, you know, one of the logistical barriers to doing that, with the criminal legal system being what it is like, where people are, like, really incentivized not to admit the harm that they've caused, right. And the polarization that exists within our country and like, quote, unquote, canceled culture, which I do think is real. It's like, these people are trashed, they can't be redeemed, right. We have to throw them away, lock them up indefinitely. You know, we can't move through the world like that. But when the logical conclusion of that is like, I don't know if it's like genocide, but it's like, political party side. And that just continues like cycles of harm.

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
Yeah. And I don't and, and I never, I cannot honestly say I I don't Do this work and hope that someone will, you don't ever have to confess to me or in the space. But if you're in this space, my hope is that you'll at least hear the impact of what you've done. And that you'll process that internally in a way that you don't escape yourself, right, we may escape systems, or we may escape people with with certain privileges may escape penalties and, and things like that right, like, but you'll never be able to escape yourself. You wake up with yourself, you go to bed with yourself, and to process that internally and change that internally is enough, I don't have to see it. And it probably comes stems from my life, right? Like is that people, there are people that will never see or know, what I do or who I am today, they'll only remember me for who I was back then. And and if it were up to a lot of people, I would have been thrown away. And and I guess for me, I'm I'm thankful that I wasn't and I've had the opportunity to make a lot of wrongs. Right. 

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
And, and as far as the criminal system, I think that would like that would be a win, right, is that they would participate in it? And I don't know, I just I don't know, David, I'm a crazy believer that if we had the right conversation with the right people, that it could happen, I believe in the impossible, probably because I've survived the impossible. And, and I've lived through a lot of the impossible and it just doesn't make sense. But I could, I would hope that if that circle or that process would happen, that it would be modeled to the world that anything is possible, and that we can make wrongs right? No matter how far in we are, how gone, how lost a person is, that everyone deserves the opportunity to make a wrong, right.

David (he/him)  
Yeah, thank you for sharing that. This wasn't planned, it occurred to me now You don't have to answer this question when you think about your ex. Right? And the immense amount of harm that he caused you, your kids, what is your hope for his restoration?

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
Um, I feel like I've gotten it. Um, one of the things that I have worked really hard to shift in that field is to ask survivors, what does justice look like to you, which was the part of the topic of the the other podcast. I had hoped and he spent majority of his life in prison is out now. And I had hoped for that inward work and processing, to help him to understand the impact that he had on myself on his children and on others. I have had the opportunity to share my voice and to be able to say the things that I needed to say and encourage him to seek help for his mental health and sobriety, which he's done. And he has been out of prison now for about two years. And he is in the last maybe six months. My kids, adult kids now finally allowed him into their life, and he is an active part of their life now. And he's, he's a safe, active part of their life. And so I feel like I have seen the restorative process, in full force in my life from every age and every stage of my long, difficult, complex, wonderful, amazing, unpredictable life. 

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
And I have had the opportunity to remarry. And I have, I have a husband who listens and, and adores me and my children and our grandchildren. And so I feel, I feel restored. And I feel that my children have also had the opportunity to achieve restoration in their life, physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally, by, by support of community, resources, you name it, they're thriving, and, and doing great things. And they're amazing parents that are breaking the cycle of generational violence and abuse.

David (he/him)  
I kind of want to end it there. But I still have like, a couple more questions. And they're pretty quick of that. Really, thank you for sharing that. Um, what is one mantra or affirmation that you want to leave everyone here, listening with?

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
My mantra is someone did it for me. And my prayer is that you will do it for someone else. affirmation or word of encouragement for everyone listening, is don't allow anyone to throw you away. Don't allow anyone to silence you, or disqualify you or make you feel less than the amazing and resilient person that you are, whether you are the person that experienced harm, or the person that caused harm, I do not believe that it is within our right to throw people away. And so don't give up. And don't throw yourself away. I think through the process, my biggest challenge was forgiving myself, for all of the things that I was a part of, or I felt I allowed to happen. And, and so I challenge you to do the internal work, to process your harm, to reach out for help to let others help you process internalized oppression and and really assess your strengths. And the things that you do well, and to start there.

David (he/him)  
Yeah, thank you so much for sharing that. I've been processing that just as you've been speaking.

David (he/him)  
Last few questions. Who's someone that I should have on this podcast? And you have to help me get them on?

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
Oh, somebody should have on this podcast? Oh, one of my Yeah, one of my my sisters out there. We are, we're pretty close. And we've shared a lot of opportunities with each other. Her name is Denise Holiday. And she goes by Circle Mama. And she works for National Education of restorative discipline. And her and I have worked side by side with education, law enforcement, community implementation and, and other opportunities. And yes, I will gladly connect you with her

David (he/him)  
aye, love it. And finally, how can people support your work in the ways that you want to be supported?

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
How can people support my work? Well, I will be, I am a co author of a book, restorative discipline practices. And so purchasing or reading this book, sharing it with community or professionals. I'm in the process of writing a another book that will help people to understand that this is a multi disciplinary framework. And not just as you said in the beginning for educators or law or criminal systems. Follow our page that our website is under construction and we're revamping we'll be putting some some videos out there and tools To help people to, to develop guidelines and framework training opportunities,

David (he/him)  
sorry, which which page

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
 Be the change that tools

David (he/him)  
 Be the change that tools perfect. And just looking I saw the book cover, but I didn't realize shout out Dr. Geylang, who has also been a guest on this podcast. And I was a guest on hers. And we aired that, I think a couple weeks ago. So shout out full circle, all the all all the fields. Well, thank you so much for being here. It really was an honor to to be a part of, you know, sharing your story with the world with the hundreds, hopefully future 1000s and millions of people who listen to this podcast, anything else you want to leave the people with?

Eloise Sepeda (she/her/ella)  
I just encourage you to follow David, follow amplify RJ I had the opportunity to listen in on some of the podcasts that you're that you've been able to do and I'm impressed with the research on the guests that you bring. And and I just it this is a very humble feeling and platform so follow David might learn a thing or two who knows you may become a great practitioner one day as a guest on this show.

David (he/him)  
Well, I definitely appreciate that. Thank you so much for everyone who's listened this week. We'll be back next week with another episode until then take care

Transcribed by https://otter.ai