This Restorative Justice Life

115. Is Restorative Work Possible Within Institutions? w/ DW McCraven

March 23, 2023 David Ryan Castro-Harris
115. Is Restorative Work Possible Within Institutions? w/ DW McCraven
This Restorative Justice Life
More Info
This Restorative Justice Life
115. Is Restorative Work Possible Within Institutions? w/ DW McCraven
Mar 23, 2023
David Ryan Castro-Harris

DW is an Interdisciplinary Artist & Creative Leadership Consultant. Growing up they often dissociated themselves from their Blackness, Queerness, and gender non-conforming spirit, believing their self erasure would create better opportunities for career growth.

DW's Instagram
DW's TikTok

Email DW:

Support the Show.

Send us feedback at

Join our Amplify RJ Community platform to connect with others doing this work!

Check out our latest learning opportunities HERE

Rep Amplify RJ Merch

Connect with us on:
Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Threads, YouTube, and TikTok!

SUPPORT by sharing this podcast, leaving a rating or review, or make a tax-deductible DONATION to help us sustain and grow this movement

Show Notes Transcript

DW is an Interdisciplinary Artist & Creative Leadership Consultant. Growing up they often dissociated themselves from their Blackness, Queerness, and gender non-conforming spirit, believing their self erasure would create better opportunities for career growth.

DW's Instagram
DW's TikTok

Email DW:

Support the Show.

Send us feedback at

Join our Amplify RJ Community platform to connect with others doing this work!

Check out our latest learning opportunities HERE

Rep Amplify RJ Merch

Connect with us on:
Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Threads, YouTube, and TikTok!

SUPPORT by sharing this podcast, leaving a rating or review, or make a tax-deductible DONATION to help us sustain and grow this movement

David: Dw, welcome to this restorative justice life. Who are you? 

DW: What's go homie . Who am I? I'm DW McCraven, the restorative homie. 

David: Who are you? 

DW: I am Dionne, Monique Walker McCraven the descendant of the Colemans and the walkers from the Americas and from The Bahamas in the Western Indies. Mm-hmm. , 

David: who are you?

DW: I am a community member. 

David: Who are you? 

DW: I am a caregiver. 

David: Who are you?

DW:  I am a growing. and evolving human. 

David: Who are you? 

DW: I am,

I think I'm a beautiful person. . 

David: And finally, for now, who are you? 

DW: I am someone who is learning to accept evolution without trying to control it. 

David: Hmm.

I just wanted to let that rest for a moment. We're gonna get into the intersections of all of who you are within this conversation, but thank you so much for being here. In addition to introducing yourself that way, it's always good to check in. So to the extent that you want to answer the question right now, how are you?

DW: I think that I am, overall, I am, well, there are a lot of ebb and flows in my life that occur, and I'm learning to just kind of be in that and sit in that, as we would say. Can I curse here? Is that Yeah. . Okay. . I have a body mouth. But I'm learning to, as we say in circle, how do you sit with your shit?

And so I'm learning to sit with my shit and that like, it's every day. It's every day. And it's brutal, man. It's brutal when you have to be the person who is the harmer, you know, the person doing the harm and being able to sit with yourself and take a look and be like, okay, this is where we grow. How do you do this work?

And so I think I'm, I'm learning right now. I'm just being very tender with myself and understanding like, you got some shit, homie. Yeah, you got some shit. Dig it up, work through it. And you're gonna be all right. You're gonna be all right. Yeah. Because you ask people to do this every day. 

David: You know, we might get into some of like the specifics of those processes for yourself, but like, on a zoomed out level, like what does the day-to-day practice of self-reflection look like?

What are the activities that you're engaging in to navigate those ebbs and flows? 

DW: When I am doing my best and my brightest , I I make sure I am I'm making sure that I'm meditating. Mm-hmm. , it's really, really essential for me because my mind goes all over the place. Physical, I have to get physically things out.

So the meditation is like the spirit. The body is like if I'm stretching or if I'm working out, making that choice to make sure my body is, is sound. Emotion. Sometimes I'm writing, I'm journaling to, to facilitate. Facilitate my heart, you know, and in my spirit, you gonna maybe say the meditation. Sometimes being with nature, finding those moments that I can be with myself and those moments I can love up on myself that I get the medicine.

Well, did I get it? Emotion, spirit. 

David: Body. 

DW: Oh, mental. Mental. Okay. Well, it was in there. It was, 

David: yeah. Yeah. They're, they're, they're intersecting for sure. You mentioned that, you know, this is the work that you're asking people to do every day, and, you know, we broadly defined this work at restorative as restorative justice, but I know that you've been doing this work even before you had the language, specifically restorative justice. So in your own words, how did this journey get started for you?

DW: Oh my goodness. I think, I think, let me think. I started at hiphop theater. Well, I was a, you know, I, I've been, I was a college athlete and I also did hiphop theater, so my baseline is art. mm-hmm. . And what was happening is, so I would get these opportunities to like mentor or coach in basketball. And I started to see like, if I approach people in this way, this might shift here.

And then I had this impactful moment in art. So this was the high school, the development of, I have pieces of me, and there was a really big shift for me in high school. Mm-hmm. . And in that moment I was, had the opportunity to be in a specific hiphop theater program that helped facilitate like sociopolitical action and like those and understandings of what it means to be in hiphop.

Understanding how hip hop culturally impacts and influences the world and how we, how we can facilitate. Spaces using those skills, right? So cultivating art within hip hop and being able to use those skills to facilitate spaces for others that create openings, that's how I would kind of describe it, right?

So not only was I was being trained as a performer in this, this new genre at the time that I was also being taught what it means to be in community, what it means to be mm-hmm. activated in community how to address the political climate and how to put that in art. And during that time I was also this like hot shot basketball player in my, in my neighborhood, right?

Of course. And those two kind of found each other, they blended with each other and, and it created space where I'm like, I really wanna mentor, I really wanna facilitate. I really wanna do these things. And I had some really dope people who were just like, yo, we see you. , we see you and we see where you could go and we see your potential and we wanna nurture that.

And there were so many people that were nurturing that, like, shout out to Rockefeller because Rockefeller at the time, well Rockfeller is a legend, a legend, a big girl legend who was just like, yo, I see you. And, and like, he has been my mentor since I was 17. You know what I mean? So it's like 20 going on, 20 years.

It's amazing. Amazing to have people to stick by like that. So I think that journey started right there. My trajectory started to shift because I started to understand I really love people, I really love relationships. And after formulating that and like getting, you know, my degrees and getting a degree in art and like kind of being a teaching artist in Chicago and then having to work in these different communities.

Understanding how much it's needed, how much tenderness is needed, how much artistry and tenderness is needed. Right? And that's, that's what it is to me. It feels like artistry and, and tenderness and being able to meet people in a way where it's like, yeah, I could tell you to sit down, right? But what if I start asking you these questions?

What if I start beginning to create connection with you? So we have an understanding of each other's humanity, and I begin to do those things in that, you know, myself and my teaching partner, we begin to win awards for the work that we were doing. So I was like, there's something here. There's something that we're doing, and this is before like knowing the name of anything, but just saying there's something that we're doing that people are recognizing and they're asking us to do this in all these different communities because of the way that we approach teaching from this artistic and tender.

And so I think that, I don't know if that answers the question, but that was like some part of the trajectory until I got into this is indigenous circle and this is restorative. 

David: Yeah. Before we get to like that place where that intersected, I'm curious about two things. One, you know, you talked about basketball and hip hop theater being a place where you started to be seen for who you were.

What was missing before that or what were the things that you were looking to to like fill that void before that? 

DW: So thinking about mm-hmm.

the way that colonization has worked its way into my, my family unit and my lineage and the limitations that that created, like as I reflect now as an adult, the limitations and how that limited me in my thinking. You know how when I think about my queerness, how that was a limitation of being like, I'm not going to dabble in, I'm dabble, right?

I'm not going to be black, I'm not going to be queer. I'm not going to acknowledge that. I'm, I exist in this way. What is it? I'm not, I'm not black. I'm OJ as people would say. . Oh my gosh. Right. You know what I mean? Like, I'm not, I'm, I'm oj like I can exist and I'm exceptional. Right. And then feeling like this exceptional negro that is not paying attention to double consciousness or any of thi any of the things that come with that, like the veil or how people see me, but thinking that I'm this exceptional person and only seeing myself from that way and then being entered into these different worlds and being able to see landscapes from different perspectives.

It was a first time that perspectives had been opened up to me in a way that was kind and that was loving. Right. And it's not to say that my lineage, we didn't know how to do that, but like, what are the effects? Like post-traumatic slavery disorder, like what are the effects of that, of those things? And if you are not aware of those things, then you can't shift them.

So that's the trajectory when basketball and, and. in theater, I started to understand different ways to engage with community outside of my family unit. I think that answers the question. 

David: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. And you know, for those of you that missed the episode that ran on Tuesday, you know dws Deep Love for Basketball was the foundation for our conversation around what's happened with the JA Morant and.

His recent suspension for gun possession and things going on that were detrimental, quote unquote detrimental to the league and his team. So if you didn't listen to that conversation and are curious, make sure you go back in this feed the episode right before, and tap into all of our restorative justice reflections there.

But, you know, as you found these communities to help build that sense of self in you and then growing in your ability to do that for others, you did encounter the words restorative justice, right? You did encounter the words indigenous circle keeping. What was that moment and what was the thing that clicked like, oh yeah, I can layer this on top of this, and like, actually maybe this was like the root of all of this at all the time.

If you're not watching us on YouTube, you, you're not seeing my hand motions. But go for it.

DW: I moved from Chicago after doing, when I finished my masters, I moved from Chicago back to back to Massachusetts. There is when I, it was very strange. You know, I met I was just looking for work. I was like, man, I'm just gonna practice my art. I'm gonna do my art and everything, and I'll be good. I was looking for work and then all of a sudden, you know, this person from the school department was like, I think you'd be perfect for this job.

Mm-hmm. , this is what it is. We don't really know what it is yet, because I did culture and climate work. Right. And I think that these things are, you know, related in a lot of different ways. And I say, you know, I do culture and climate work, so I'm, you know, that, that's my thing. And they were like, well, you know, restorative justice is big.

And just reference this by pante in Holyoke, Massachusetts. Shout out to the homies because. , they had influenced this area so much that restorative justice became a a word, it became something that people were seeking. Mm-hmm. . And so by the time I got there, they were looking for someone to fill this massive role that I didn't truly know what it was, but there were many meetings.

And then the community had to come in and it was a unanimous thing. And they were like, yo, we think you're the person. And then my journey began. Yeah. And in that journey, it was very interesting because I started going to these trainings, right? These restorative trainings. Yeah. At these institutions. And I had more questions that I had answers.

So I would walk away and I say, well, what does that mean? And nobody would be able to tell me. And I'd be like, well, how are you telling me about this process? But you can't tell me what it means. You can't tell me what a centerpiece is. Like, what is that piece right there? Why is that in that circle? And I started to have these questions or, or like, why do we.

why do we hold conferencing like this? Why is it called conferencing and why is it called peacekeeping? And like, what, what are the differences? And so I started to have a lot of questions about these things. And then I had an invitation from a community member over to PO as well. And between those invitations, I, I fell into an indigenous circle process.

Yeah. So I had gone to all these different trainings and then I went to one day of process and that shit changed my life. Yeah. That shit changed my life.

David: So a couple of things that I want to clarify within that story.

One, what was the role that you were asked to step into? And then who is who or what is Palante for those, including myself who are uneducated, , 

DW: the role that I was asked to step into was something that was not designed. I had to design it myself. Okay. And it wind up being, what do I remember? A student support specialist.

So I, we created the name student support specialist. Gotcha. So that someone could step in and they didn't have to be tied to restorative justice mm-hmm. , but they had an understanding of what it meant to be a specialist in this. What a conflict resolution or community building, someone could fit those parameters.

David: Yeah. Okay. And just so for people who are thinking about restorative justice in schools, like, you know, whether the role is quote unquote restorative justice coordinator or it's Dean of Discipline, or it's, you know, Dean of Culture and climate or, you know, any role like these are all ways into doing this work, at least professionally.

And you mentioned that like Pante is the organization group of folks who had been doing this work, popularizing spreading the message. Can you give us a little bit of background about them? 

DW: Yeah. So my understanding, you know, cause I got to the community after the work had started to like really move.

Yeah. And when I got there, pante, so restorative justice into transformative justice. Mm-hmm. , like really looking at and Y P A R Youth participatory Action Action research. So the pairing of the two, they paired Ypar R. Jerich, I believe is a person's name. Shout out to Jerich, whom I've never met, but I heard was phenomenal.

Paired ypar with restorative justice. So they would do these projects and it started to create this buzz among, amongst the community because accountability started to take place. Mm-hmm. , and 

David: hold on from there. How you have to define accountability. . . 

DW: Okay. So if, if I would define accountabilities, like people being able to enter into spaces and be able to receive understanding of harms that have been, have occurred.

Right. Okay. So harms that have occurred maybe through themselves or through other folks, but being able to receive and sit with that information and be able to process together. So that's what I would describe as 

David: accountability in this. Making sure we're not like inflicting accountability on other people.

I just always want to clear that up. Whenever that word gets brought up here in this space, because of our culture, people are like, we gotta hold them accountable. What do you mean by that? Right. 

DW: I think that's a great question though. It's like, what do you mean? What do you mean? Because that could be, and I talk about this, like the blame when we talk about the, you know, Ja morant the blame if I take this person out, like, you're, you're the problem.

Let's take this out, this, okay. Anyway, but so we get, sorry, I interrupted. No, we, we get to this, this program and then one of the people that they brought in was cida pin. And Cida helped build an understanding of what it meant to be an indigenous circle process. Let's community governance process in relationship with the work they were doing.

Right. So they start, they started a school and ultimately they moved into a community because, you know, my and my own reasons, I believe that like indigenous process is, is a community space. That's where it belongs. Mm-hmm. . And sometimes the stressors of being in institutions, it can get convoluted, right?

Sure. Because we, we think about we can get into transactional places mm-hmm. and we thinking only about time and resolution rather than process. So there's constraints around that. But that's where that started. And I was introduced to them through a community member and I just kind of followed the breadcrumbs.

Like, this feels real to me. This feels like something that nobody's talking about, but everybody's talking about, like in the institution, people were real quiet about it. But in the community, people were just popping off about it. And that's what I was like, yo, what are the homies saying? Oh, the homies are saying you need to be here.

That's where I'm gonna be. And that's how I began to build relationship with poe and how I got introduced to community governance process. And I'm so thankful. 

David: Yeah. What was it about that approach process over outcome because of this thing that we did in the circle that one time what was it about that, that clicked for you or made you gravitate towards that 

DW: more?

What was beautiful about it is because I had been through like these trainings that were restorative justice and it c you know, it's so interesting because being in space with CIDA, you start to learn all of the impact that her work has had out of all these organizations and the moments that they've plucked these infor this information.

you know, and in like violent ways. And so I, we probably may not get into that, but I just wanna acknowledge that there's other things that are at play always in any work. No, 

David: I think it's worth acknowledging. Go ahead. , . 

DW: You know, and that, that's my, like, that's my, I don't wanna say beef, but really like, we can, and as restorative justice people, I think that when we talk about anybody doing work, how are we dealing with our own trauma and how we're inputting that into situations and circumstances, right?

How are we dealing with the fact that we have these colonized parts of us, so much so that we can take in, extract information from communities, put them in books, and tell those communities, you can't use that word anymore and not pay those communities. Not, not, but the, the taking constant extraction of indigenous communities and the, and the, the spaces that the places that they constantly given us, the restorative exists because of indigeneity.

and the ways community governance, like from my point of view, right? Mm-hmm. , the ways that they work in the ways that community gover governance came about. And in my lineage, the court systems had this because indigenous people were being stolen. They were being taken and they weren't coming back. And so my elders were like, let me show you this process because we want our people back.

And so a lot of my heart is just really broken over the fact that when I walk into places, people tell me, you can't do this or you can't do that. You can't say this in a circle. You can't say that in a circle. That's not the way it goes. You have to make sure people feel this and feel that. And I'm just like, you're asking me to police myself?

Hmm. And is that what circle really is? Is that what this work really is? And so within that process, just like understanding having this constant conflict of like, I don't think I can exist in these two spaces for me. I can't exist in an institutional space and do this work because I feel like it.

pillages me. It takes from my spirit. Yeah. And spirit is such a big part of the work that when you bring spirit into a room, people don't rec recognize it. Yeah. 

David: I think a lot about people who are looking to do restorative justice work within the context of institutions in your case schools. And what I often say to folks is, I don't think that restorative justice can be practiced institutionally.

Right? Like we're trying to fit circle practices into very rigid boxes. And that doesn't mean that we shouldn't, as individuals within those spaces embody restorative ways of being to the extent possible. There are just limitations that we're going to run up against whenever we are working within those systems that aren't built for relationships and humans to thrive.

Right? Schools and most institutions are built for. Capitalistic outcomes, right? Products whether they're test scores or widgets or, you know, whatever service we're providing those are what those institutions are built for. People talk about you know, as a school we want to do restorative justice work.

We want to embody these values. And like those are great aspirational things to say, but the foundations of why your organization exists are not those things. And so just be aware of that as you're going about trying to embody this work, because there are very real limitations that you're gonna run up against.

And if you don't explicitly acknowledge that to the people who you are working with, and while you're communicating what restorative justice is, they're gonna see the hypocrisy and they're gonna be like, one, well, this isn't gonna work here because of X, Y, z. Reason, or two. Like, that seems like it's an opposition to why this school exists.

So what are we doing? And if you're. , if you're articulating a harm reduction approach, I think it goes over a lot better . But you know, that's just my perspective from like the things that I've experienced. We, we jumped, we jumped forward a little bit into like where you've exited doing this work explicitly within the context of schools.

And we lost the part where like you did get in touch with the roots of this work in that invitation. And so I'm curious what parts of that experience you wanted to, wanted to share? , 

DW: right? You can go there, right. What was special about the experience was that in one day you learn, people gave you the gift of their stories.

And that's the most sacred thing that I think that people can give you. And it's something I had never seen before. I had never experienced before. And lineage. Who are your peoples? To have to answer that question, where are you from? And then to be brought to a space where people say, this is okay, it's okay for us to do this.

Where all you see are dark peoples in the room, you know, you see, and, and they're doing this. And had never been exposed to that before. Not in sports not in art, not in the way that it was here. And a holding of the history and understanding how the medicine will is in relationship. The ontological mapping, how that is in relationship to us and how special, how special we are as relatives, like all of us are relatives.

And me understanding like, man, we we're all people, we all belong with each other and we just are figuring out how to be with each other. And I, I used to explain to like some of the students, I think conflict is a way for us to be wanting to be in love with each other, but we don't know how. So we fight because we don't know how to be close to each other.

and that's the only way we know how to be close to each other. Yeah. So it taught me how to be close, how to be close to people without being 

David: in conflict. How did you channel that energy or try to take that energy into the work that you were doing as, what was it? Student success Coordinator. 

DW: I mean, I was, it was such a blip in this, in this moment, but being able to, what it was is that I sat in that circle mm-hmm.

and then I realized if my homies can't understand what I'm doing, then what am I doing? Mm-hmm. . Like if a parent comes to me and they're like, what are you even saying to me right now? And I'm not speaking that language? Because I realized that in institutions there were different ways that I had to be, that people were asking me to be, oh, come with these words, come with this presence.

And if you don't do this or you don't do that, then, then we, we are not gonna accept you. And I kept seeing the community get left behind. Yeah. And that to me is unacceptable. It's unacceptable. Like nobody gets left behind. Right? So because of these language barriers. So now we take a process that we, we've taken from other people, you don't acknowledge it.

We brought it into schools and then we attached language to it that is not of the people. So now we're speaking a whole different language and then we're asking people to to show up in the way that the institution is telling us, you gotta show up this way. And if you're not, you're not legit. I refuse to show up that way. I refused. I refused to, to do what it is. I refused to comply. That's what it was. And that created complication. And you know, like you, ultimately, you gotta figure out your way to, you gotta figure out an amicable way to exit if you can. . Yeah.

And, and that's when I was thinking to myself, what is my relationship to education and restoration? I don't know if that necessarily exists, but there is a re relationship through sports and arts and community building. Yeah. And that feels really rich to me, because those are the places that I've learned all these other different ways to love.

And what would that mean if these two things or all these things came together? And I started talking to people about lineage and understanding community and understanding building and sovereignty, like the re indigenizing process, understanding how our indigeneity plays a role into what we're doing today.

David: Yeah. And you know, that's so much of the work that you are pushing all of your energy into. Now, I, I want to go back though, when you're talking about that moment, those moments of conflict where like you're refusing to be a certain way, right. And what it looked like to. hold those values in the context of the institution specifically, I guess, like how would you articulate, you know, the work that you were doing to the homies, right, to parents, to young people who you were accompanying supporting, assisting in these processes, right?

Because like, you do have like an institutional job description, but like, what are the words that you're saying to the people who you are supporting? 

DW: I mean, the work that I was doing with the community and with other folks was it felt like it was expansive in a way. Like I was, first of all, I was one person.

Mm-hmm. and I, there there was like a thousand people that needed support. So it was, it was already, are you talking about 

David: from the context of the school or like community at large? Okay. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So it was 

DW: like, it was already just like, oh my gosh. You know? Right, right. It's impossible. It's an impossible thing.

. But what I would see, the reflection that I would get from parents and from young people would be like, no one's ever talked to me the way you talk to me. Mm-hmm. , you know, to say a student, some of 'em say like, this is, you shouldn't be doing this. And I'd be like, I'd go up to a student and say, Hey, anybody tell you they love you today?

And almost always, they would always say no. And I'd say, well, let me, I only tell you I love you. And people could say that, that doesn't fit in a school. Oh man, you're crossing minds. You're not gonna tell me. And I can't, I can't tell my people I don't love them. That's, that's my value. I love you, period.

And it was those moments like that, you know, when a student said to me, dw, no, I appreciate you, you speak to my heart. It's moments like that where you know that you're doing something that's bigger. It's bigger than this space. and how do you sink into your purpose and how do you align with that and figure that out.

It took many, many years. Well, 

David: what I hear there is things that had been passed down to you from mentors, right? Like actually seeing people, right? Instead of like trying to execute on programs mm-hmm. , right? Execute like get to outcomes and objectives, right? Like responding to the needs of people as you saw them.

Whether it was just a, Hey, I see you, I love you, you are loved, you're valuable part of this community. Or like, Hey, let's work through this conflict and figure out what you need. And like, what support can be given to make things right or quote unquote, as right as possible. Right. And, you know, beautiful efforts.

You know, one person out of a thousand and like you weren't the only person who was like, you might've been like the only person like tasked with like that specific task. And I know there were other people who were like tangentially supportive of what you were doing, but like, when that's. put all on one person.

right? As you know, your job description, right? That can be a place where it is, like when you talk about extractive, right? Like of your energy you know, you're set up to fail and, you know, there was a, you know, as graceful as possible exit. But you know, what I'm curious about is the, the ways that the lessons that you've learned have influenced what you're doing now.

And you've started to articulate some of it, but if you wanted to expand it, whatever 

DW: ways feel appropriate. I mean, I think that knowing your values, knowing you are who you are as a person, I had to really think about that, you know, during, not even during just this time, but all this time of doing the work.

You know? Cause I'm doing it in some sh the work, I've been doing it in some way, shape, or form my entire life of being in community with other people. , the reflection of where's my hard line? Mm-hmm. , where's my, my care, my personal care line? Where's my, like, is this exploitative? You know, what are these?

Where are my lines? And when I started to have like my own, like command of myself, I say sovereignty, you know, my own sovereign logic, I started to be able to discern my values don't align here. Mm-hmm. , I don't feel cared for and I wanna be, and I want other people to feel cared for. And I can't do that the way that I want to because these time constraints and these transactions don't allow that.

When you have five different fights that are coming up and you're one person and you have to be in circle with all those things, and then there's time restrictions on that circle, and you know that people need more mm-hmm. . And then you have to sit with people to understand, are you even ready to be in circle?

and people don't understand that that part, they don't even understand that you have to have the first, have the conversation to ha it's a consent basis, an invitation. So now you have to have a conversation with all the people that were impacted to figure out, are y'all ready to be here together? Mm-hmm.

And that's a process. And then you actually have the circle, and then you have the post. Right. The, the, the work of this work. And that's one person doing that. Yeah. You know, and so it's, it's, it's overwhelming, you know? And I think that also thinking about specifically being in my body is that my presence is terrifies some people, my blackness terrifies some people.

The fact that I'm, the complexion that I am, I would walk in spaces and they'd be terrified because I'm black. Black, you know, I'm not darker than o other people, but like, I'm black, black to a lot of people. And like even if you address, if you go into institutions, most of the people that are in there that I see they're doing that work are aren't as dark-skinned as me.

They don't look like me. and I don't even think that we address that too. The colorism. Mm-hmm. and how that applies. It doesn't mean that people who institutions are like contributing to that, but it means that we have to look at that. We have to look at all of these different pieces. So now we have the colorism that plays a role, my queerness that plays a role and then my defiance.

That plays a role in saying no. Yeah. And me being me, it being finite. Me not being afraid, not homie, I'm not doing that. And walking away, it doesn't matter who it was, superintendent could be in my face. I don't care what you gotta say. That's not what's going down. And and that's where the values, my values and once they became so much so where they were becoming stretch.

Mm-hmm. there ha it was inevitable. 

David: Yeah. I think a lot about people who might be in the role that you are talking about now and. , I'm trying to help broaden the conversation and tease out, like what was it about, you know, your situation specifically versus like schooling as the institution that like made you walk away.

DW: Well, I think, you know, I want to be, I think schooling as an institution is part of the reason mm-hmm. , it's not people mm-hmm. , right? Like we we're, people were part of this puzzle, but it's, it's the way that the institution works. Mm-hmm. , right? So I know that these, the, like, if I go somewhere, I know a person's not necessarily wanting to hurt me, but they're part of a cycle.

Mm-hmm. . And so understanding that this is a cyclical thing and sometimes you, you just can't live in that world. Right. So I, I think that for me it's more of understanding how the world is shaped and what place we come from, and then being able to see somebody, from their experience of the world. Yeah. So you are taught, like for instance, when I go into predominantly white places, you know, I came from predominantly white town.

Most people will say that I'm angry until I smile. Right? Or if I say something a little bit louder, right? And we know these stories, all of a sudden I'm violent. Right? So just having to constantly withhold, constantly like breathe mm-hmm. through process. So I think it's, it's, instead of just being like, Hey, this is this one thing and this one place, I don't think that that is, that one space was the thing.

Yeah. I think that you did the larger context, and I think that's what you're saying too, 

David: is what I'm hearing For sure. But I'm also asking, you know, I, as much as like, I am also in that place where like I'm not participating in the day-to-day. Of schooling because like that would be like soul sucking for me.

I'm curious if there are things that would've made participating in that institution more tolerable. at the end of the day, that is the work that you were doing in that space and it's important work because there are very real people in there who were actively being harmed.

And like the work that you were doing was making it more tolerable for them. What would've made that work more tolerable for you? . I think that might've gotten you to say like, one more 

DW: year. I think if people were on the same page. Mm-hmm. , it's hard, you know, and I say with culture work, it takes three to five years understanding that it's slow and steady.

And, and I think, you know, when you go back and you think about things, there's always mistakes and there's always harm that happen in all these different directions. But I think if people understood what it was like to be on the same page, and I think in, in education in general, there's a rush. So you can't really sit in a lot of things and.

The, the res, the restorative work requires for you to sit in and stuff, sit in process. You, you can't, being in product I think distracts, but being in process, it, it asks you to do that. And within the institutional spaces it's hard to, it's hard to do that. So I can't be like, it's somebody's fault. No.

Everybody had this constraint. You know, like if there weren't these constraints, these time constraints in these systems that people had to, like, succumb to or be a part of on a regular basis, that that would've definitely shifted the work in a way where I think everybody would've benefited way, way more.

David: Yeah. And I think, you know what, I want people who are listening who are in these positions in schools or who are in quote unquote leadership, quote unquote decision making positions within schools and like institutions to be frank at, in general, right? The commitment is not to. , this training and then this practice, the commitment is to this way of being and this process.

And that is, those are different, right? The things that you're gonna look for as like success metrics are not necessarily like how many circles did we do? It's, you know, how are we feeling in relationship with each other, right? How are we feeling? Loved, accepted? A sense of belonging in who we are.

How are we doing at addressing those moments of discomfort or harm, right? Are we building in time for that? And if the answer is yeah, but we have this circle and all of our teachers do circles. Now,

again, for those of you who aren't watching on YouTube, you can't see like my hand motions and facial expressions, but. there. I, I definitely experienced that and I understand like why you made your graceful as possible exit . I mean, 

DW: I, I, I feel you and I think like what it comes down to is like we all wanna be loved.

Mm-hmm. , we all wanna be loved and everybody deserves to be loved. And I think that if certain people had love the way that I had love, they wouldn't interact with the world the way that they do. Mm-hmm. , I just know how powerful love really is and being in those spaces, like when I see young people come up to me who are, were freshmen when I was there and they're now graduating college and they're like, yo, dw, you changed my life and it was such a short period of time.

I want that for everybody. Mm-hmm. , I think every teacher should be able to engage in that way freely and not feel the pressure of having to like adhere to certain constraints. Everybody within these systems should be able to do that, but systems or 

David: systems, . Yeah. I mean, and I think when you talked about like people being on the same page, some people's pages, I am teaching English, I am teaching math, I am teaching history, not, I am teaching humans.

DW: Yeah. I mean, and I think too, the thought of, you know, one of the pieces is like, what if I say something that, you know, triggers a student and I'm like, homie in the community, like anywhere you go, you're gonna trigger somebody anywhere you go, you know? And like, it's your choice. I'm not gonna make you do any, everything is an invitation.

I'm just showing you that if you open up this space, you give people enough time, they're gonna share what it is that they want to share with you. You don't have to force 'em to do that, but you, you open up the space, you invite them in and you, and you be intentional about that. And it, you know, being able to express that to people who feel, who are afraid of the institution, they, they're not gonna understand.

That there's another way to do things. There's another way to be because they, they have families and they need to keep, take keep their jobs. I don't have a, like, you know, I didn't have a, a job, I had a family, but I didn't have a job because I had these values. Mm-hmm. , you know, values don't pay the bills, you know, but like, being in that situation constantly, like, I have these values and I can't do this thing.

I'm like, I, I'm really praying that one day those values are gonna work out for me. You know what I mean? But I, I, I think that that's, that's the piece is, you know, trying to figure it, it's, it's, it's, it's a tough one. It's, it's a tough one. 

David: Definitely. And I'm curious, you know, You know, you're not getting a salary from a school anymore, you are doing other work.

That does in some ways, you know, feed your family, not just eating your values and eating your ideals and practices. Right. You are providing for your family. What is the work that you're into now? 

DW: Most of the work that I'm doing, it's, it's very interesting cuz I want to be like really clear about this.

Doing workshop work and doing contracts. It's hard because you have to be in the contract and you have your word of mouth is, word of mouth is important. So most of my work is contract work and shopping work and wanting to be in the community as much as possible. And sometimes that's really, really great.

And sometimes it's dry , you know? Mm-hmm. and then you have to pick up these pieces and figure out like, okay, I still have to feed my family. This is what I have to do. But I, I know that being in the work of purpose, eventually it won't be that anymore. Right. But I think. In transparency, like as we move through life, the, one of the biggest, the largest impacts on me was my mother's death.

Mm-hmm. in this experience. My mother died, it'll be a year. And that really just, it changed me. It changed my trajectory. Like, here's this thing that felt so clear, being in these contracts, oh, I'm gonna get this other contract, I'm gonna get this other contract. And doing that and being really solid about it.

And then your world being just like falling apart and then your mental health falling apart and having to address that and taking the time to really address like my mental health and know that if I'm not well, I can't do this work. So having to take a break and be like, what does it look like Post my mother's death?

What does that look like to show up? You know what I mean? Like, and I feel like for me in this moment, it's like, , I need to show up in spaces that want me to be there. Mm-hmm. , I can't, I can't show up in spaces in which like they're asking me to do things that don't align. And since taking that break, it's like being able to reflect and really check on myself, I think is the most important piece.

Cuz you can't ask people to be in circle with you if you can't exist in that space. That's been really helpful for me. You know what I mean? Yeah. So it does look like contracting and it does look like workshops, but mostly like, the reason why I started the restorative homie is because I just wanted people to be like, yo, this homie is, would be on the porch with me.

If I walked up to dw, they'd be like, yo, you good? You're not good. Guess what? Like, like, let's, let's work on this together. DW would stop and say, what's up? That's the feeling that I want people to have because I know like in every walking people's like hives, in their day to day, just to have the comfort of knowing, yo, there's the homes that wants us to thrive.

Mm-hmm. , you know? Mm-hmm. . And I just feel like that that is what's come alive for me. My spirit right now of like, I love this work. How can I do it in spaces that I love doing it? And that's the transition from education into like, I need to be in arts and I need to be in sports. Cause I love this work and how do I find that joy?

So moving from contracts in specifically in institutional spaces to wanting to find my own, my own path and the spaces that I love, knowing that y'all, how do I honor, how do I even honor myself and hon like honor my mom and honor my worth? I don't know if that makes sense, but it makes sense to me.

David: Yeah. Part of what I, part of the answer to that question was about like, , contract work, project, work, workshop, work. And you know, I'm gonna prompt you again to talk about like, you know, I mean, I think you already said like arts and sports or like some of the places I'm gonna prompt you again in a second to talk about like some of the projects and ways that people can get in touch.

But, you know, when I think about restorative justice, it's about, you know, being in right relationship, right? And the first relationship you have is the relationship with yourself. And so, so much of what I've heard you say is like you've been doing that internal work, right? The first part of our conversation as you were checking in, you know, sitting with yourself and doing that to get to a place where like, this is what I can offer.

And being clear like with your boundaries about. The type of work that you want to do, who you want to do it with and how that will like, continue to feed you as a person, like give you energy as a person. And the other part is like, you know, the values aligned in places that give you life. And so, you know, within the arts, within sports, what are some of those what, what have some of those projects look like that have been like, really exciting for you?

DW: I think to be able to sit down with a team and be like, yo, let's just build as a community. Mm-hmm. , let's, let's, let's begin this process because y'all gotta play together. Mm-hmm. , you have to play together. So what are your community agreements? Mm-hmm. how y'all wanna be together. Yeah. And getting people to understand like, once you know how you wanna be together, then when we talk about accountability from like a communal place, you can say as this group, oh, these, these, these are our community agreements.

This is, this is how we're gonna be. And it's so different in mm-hmm. these spaces because, Mostly we're driven for competition. Like when you go, when you lose, it's like the end of the world, you know? Or if you lose, you know, it's, it's such a focus on loss when really I think that there's a beauty in play.

Mm-hmm. , you know, if two bears, we see two bears in a forest and they're playing, they're not like, oh, I lost to you. Yeah. You know, they just stop playing and then they play again. Yeah. They stop playing again or they play again. And what would it be like to kind of acknowledge those pieces of us, the pieces of quote unquote competition that exist in those spaces where there you can have this joy and understanding, like, this person, I'm building a relationship for my life, like for the rest of my life.

And I think, you know, when we reference, I, in one of my videos, I referenced tu mm-hmm. with what is it, the 2008 Celtics? Mm-hmm. , you know, they did something that felt impossible because they understood I am because you are. . Yeah. You know what I mean? Like, and so just embracing those pieces and knowing like there's another way we don't have to be, it doesn't have to be fear-based.

Yeah. You don't have to be driven by get on the line. Right. Yeah. I mean, that, that's, I mean, you gotta do that because you gotta get in shape in some way, but I don't, what, what would it be like if I didn't have to say, Hey, get on the line, but rather someone in one of the non captains is like, yo, we gotta get on the line.

That wasn't it. Mm-hmm. , that wasn't 

David: it. Oh yeah. It, it has me thinking, and I think I'm, I'm gonna try to adeptly do this. It has me thinking about, you know, within the context of sports, right? Of course. The conversations that we had with Carolyn sko. But if this is gonna load, it might not load. For those of, on YouTube, you might have seen it, but I don't think it's gonna load.

So for those of you who are just watching, oh, there it is. It's loaded. So for those of you who are listening I've got a. Article by Marcus Spears talking about what's gone on with the Sacramento Kings, the basketball team. And yes, they're winning at a rate that they haven't won at in the last 16 years.

But so much of that was the explicit conversations that their coach Mike Brown had with them at the beginning of the year defining people's roles. And this idea of accountability, not just coming from him, but like, Hey, we are all in the way that they did this. It might not have been as restorative you had I, or as you or I would've done it, but you know, everybody's signing contracts talking about this is my role on the team and this is this person's role, this, and like by signing this like.

I'm agreeing to be held accountable for this. And so if anybody sees me slacking, like any player, any coach, the sales ticket, people like, stadium staff, right? Like if anyone sees that, like we can call each other on that. And when we have those explicit agreements about how we want to be together, not only are we able to be quote unquote more efficient and like get the wins but the relationship between each other is more clear because like, hey, we know explicitly like this is what's expected and we're all on the same page here in this case, you know, trying to get the Sacramento Kings to end their playoff drought but you know, people have valued the way that they've been able to be in relationship with each other, knowing that the other person's not out to get them. , 

DW: no word. I mean I love that cuz you, you, you see the, you know, and I did was talking about South Carolina Gamecocks as well. Oh yeah. With Don Staley and like that kind of culture.

Mm-hmm. of, I, you know, I imagine that this kind of culture exists. There has to be a culture there in which there's an understanding. of how we wanna be together, what kind of relationship do you wanna be in with me? Mm-hmm. , you know, and, and being able to set, set the stakes, like set that, set that groundwork.

And we know even in, in circle processes how we're gonna be together. It's the first thing we, one of the first things we do. 

David: Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, if you want to hear more of us talking basketball Tuesday's episode, breaking down things that happened with John Morant and the fallout from his actions on the Memphis Grizzlies and the League.

But I want to transition us to answering the questions that everyone answers when they come on the podcast. We've spoken around it a lot. In your own words, define restorative justice. 

DW: Ooh. A critical framework that is a derivative of community governance that allows us to understand. that when harm has occurred, it needs to be addressed. And those that have been harmed have a space in addressing that.

David: You've been doing this work for a minute, what's been an oh shit moment and what did you learn from it? 

DW: An oh shit moment 

David: either like, tell me, oh, I made this mistake and this is what I would do differently. Or like, ah, shit. Yeah, I did that and it was awesome. . 

DW: I mean, I can say this too, is like, aw shit. Like I rock that. Mm-hmm. , you know, it's, it's like a, both of those moments is that being in a space where I admit like, you know how you get like in your ego and Mm. You know, like being a, sometimes being a host you or being a keeper of, of a space, you have to like shift through a lot of different things, right?

Because you're holding the space intentionally. And I think the what for me, the moments that I have of realizing like, oh shit, that was me. Like I did that. Mm-hmm. in the same circle and being able to reflect on that. Hmm. And come to and be like, oh shit, I did that. I did that. Yeah. You know? So having those moments, and I think for me there, I think there's a process that came up in which I really went, me and an elder had had this moment where I was asking them to show up in a way that I felt like was seeing me, but they didn't understand it because of where they came from.

Mm-hmm. , you know, because of, of who they were. And then being, be able over a four day process to be able to unpack that space and say like, yo, man, I need you to acknowledge who I am as a person. You keep, you keep misgendering me and I need it to be like this. And them not even understanding or being able to place that because of where they come from.

And then having four days. of people kind of corralling and being like, we gotta, we gotta figure this out. We gotta figure this out. And then me sitting with myself and being able to be like, you know what? I just wanna be loved and I'm asking you to love me in a way that's specific. Mm-hmm. . And if you can do that, I appreciate that.

And if you can't, I understand that we are not for each other. But being able to them in that moment to sit with my shit and be like, okay, here's the thing that I need. Here's the thing that I'm asking. Here's the thing that you're capable of, and let me let go of this expectation. Because it's not about that.

Really what it's about is finding, understanding where we are, and then understanding where my limitations are. So like me and that other, now were homies. Mm-hmm. . And it's still like, eh, yo, this is what it is. But that moment forever changed us, and that's the beauty of being in a circle, knowing that we both grew in that moment and I was able to sit with it.

Have my moments and be like, yo, why am I not being loved the way that I need be loved? And then being able to speak that and then in, in those, in that circle, us being able to find each other again. Yeah. 

David: There is a strong energy in left progressive culture to be like f that person. Right? They're a homophobia,

Right. . And like, that's not what like this work asks of us. Right. And I'm not telling you that that energy, those anger, that anger, those emotions aren't valid. They're real. Because at the end of the day, as you were expressing right, people wanna be loved for who they are and we, you know, switch out the identity markers to the So, so it applies to you in the way that, like you, the listener are thinking about it, but like to do restorative justice work is to, you know, relationship with self, right?

Like, what is it that, like I'm looking for, what is it that I need in this space? Love, respect. What is the way that I'm gonna get it? Probably not from. F you homophobia. I'm not the person who's gonna educate you. You need to learn how to be better, right? Like that time and space to reflect on self conversations with others, figuring out how to support, being able to have an opportunity to articulate like your need and then have that be met by someone is a beautiful process that I wanna acknowledge isn't always available to us.

And so like that anger is like very justifiable and the need to shame people into being in right relationship with us or like doing the right actions is very present for people. I understand where that's coming from and if we wanna move forward living these values in a good way, there, there is a really clear path forward.

And it's not for everybody. Yes, it's not for everybody. It's, 

DW: it's, it's not. And I just also want to like really pay attention that everybody deserves to be seen as they wanna be seen. period. Yeah. Right. And I think that understanding, when you talk about your shit, cuz some of the pieces that happened were you're not acknowledging what DW needs you to acknowledge.

It's asks you to acknowledge mm-hmm. and this person saying like, I'm coming from a whole different world. Like, and where's the board of, where's the line of excuse verse shift, right? Mm-hmm. and understanding like there has to be a shift when you are wanting to be in love with somebody. There has to be a shift.

And, and being able to accept like, oh, say what, what does it mean if there's not a shift? It doesn't mean you can't be in circle with that person. Everybody belongs in circle. Everyone and everybody has their own shit in circle. But how do you place yourself and understand what you need and create your own shifts within that space and take away your own lessons?

Had I had, I left that circle. , which I'm, which many people didn't show up the next day, and I was the one. Mm-hmm. , I was the one who was being impacted. It was directed at me. There were other people that didn't show up. But had I left that lesson would've never happened. And it really taught me how to hang in.

You gotta hang in in this experience because that is where the learning happens. 

David: Yeah. And what I hear you saying is like, it's not like you're doing it out of martyrdom. Right. Like, I'm gonna stick in here to like save this pers misinformed person. Right. , like, that's not the energy. It's like, I want this relationship, I want to be loved in this way, and leavings not gonna get that, 

DW: and also not gonna get that from me.

Right. And also like, I wanna be loved this way and I'm, I don't have to force that on you. Yeah. Like, I don't need your love. Your love doesn't define me. Yeah. But part of being in that circle, help me understand that. Yeah. Your love doesn't define you. Seeing me the way that I need to be seen doesn't define me.

and I still belong here. Yeah. And that the nuance of understanding of what that process is, is you have to understand that everybody comes from different places. Like my homie, like if you're going, if you're going somewhere and you're dealing with people in this neighborhood, they're gonna speak different than in, in, in this neighborhood.

You know, like, hey, we say your son, you know what I mean? And on, on the east coast. Right. But there's different languages on the West coast because it speak differently. I mean, your son is like, it's old, but you know what I mean? , you voting For sure. For sure. But the, just thinking about that, to be able to sit in those spaces in understanding that whatever it is that you're getting from the circle is what it is that is your work or it's not your work.

Like that's, those are the pieces that that come up. Those things that come up. What's that work you gotta do? 

David: Yeah, yeah, for sure. This question is hard in a different way. You get this encircle of four people that are alive. Who are they? What is the one question you ask? The circle 

DW: four people that are alive, dead or alive.

Dead or alive. maybe my mom, like from like having had that experience of passing on and like mm-hmm. being able to reflect and come back and be like, okay. Maybe my lineage. I think I would cough to my lineage mostly and I'd ask them what it means to be human. Mm-hmm. , 

David: what does it mean to be human? Dw?

DW: I think it means to be everything and nothing at the same time.

Mm-hmm. . Yeah.

David: Starting to shift gears into our transition. Who's one person who should be on this podcast and you have to help me get them on . 

I have to help 

DW: you get them on . Yeah. The people I think that should be on this podcast, I don't know if they wanna be up on, in, in spaces like this.

Not because of you, but because of it's like on air in public. Yeah. I, I, any of my elders, that's Harold and Phil Gatsby, Gwen Jones, Sarah Pinto Vinali, and the homie Matt Colin, any of the elders that have held my hand in certain ways. . Mm-hmm. , 

David: we'll craft a well thought out invitation to see if we can make those things happen.

DW: We will. He said we will craft. Yeah. . . 

David: Hey, that help me? Yeah. Yeah. I like 

DW: that. I like that language. You know we'll see, we'll see. I mean, I think minds will be blown. People have an opportunity to engage with them the way that I have. 

David: Yeah. And then finally, how can people support you and your work in the ways that you wanna be supported?

DW: Word. You can follow me at the restorative homey on IG and TikTok and leave your perspectives. Also you can hit me up at my email because my website's in the works at so I can give you, you know, I can give you some information about what it is that's happening because I'm doing workshops specifically on community building, working within the arts spec, especially on sets because we know what's going down and, and it's been going down in Hollywood.

So really facilitating show running and stuff like that and supporting that process. And then also working in, in sports. So if you feel like that might be something for you, that you want community building, or that you want to figure out another way to be in community on these spaces in a more loving way, then I'll let your homie.

David: There we go. And all of those things will be linked in the show notes. I hope I already know that folks who have stuck through this have benefited so much from your wisdom through your stories and experiences. And I hope people have already listened to our conversation that we had on Tuesday.

If you haven't, go back and listen to that one, which in transparency we're about to record right now, . We'll be back with more on this restorative justice life next week. Thank y'all for rocking with us. Take care until then.