This Restorative Justice Life

119. The Restorative Approach to Violence in Chicago w/ Julia Ramirez

April 20, 2023 David Ryan Castro-Harris
119. The Restorative Approach to Violence in Chicago w/ Julia Ramirez
This Restorative Justice Life
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This Restorative Justice Life
119. The Restorative Approach to Violence in Chicago w/ Julia Ramirez
Apr 20, 2023
David Ryan Castro-Harris

Julia Ramirez is a restorative justice practitioner, social worker and community organizer from Chicago's Brighton Park neighborhood. She is the alderperson-elect for Chicago City Council's 12th ward, and will take office on May 15, 2023. Listen in to hear how she's bringing Restorative approaches to anti-violence, community, and political work!

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Show Notes Transcript

Julia Ramirez is a restorative justice practitioner, social worker and community organizer from Chicago's Brighton Park neighborhood. She is the alderperson-elect for Chicago City Council's 12th ward, and will take office on May 15, 2023. Listen in to hear how she's bringing Restorative approaches to anti-violence, community, and political work!

Connect w/ Julia

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

Julia: I am a Brighton Park resident of Southwest Sider. 

David: Who are you? 

Julia: I am the daughter of Dalia and Nicola Ramirez. Who are you? I am the sister of Nicholas Ramirez Jr. 

David: Who are you? 

Julia: I am the granddaughter of Mendoza and Ramirez Ramirez, family of Mexico.

David: Mm-hmm. Who are you? 

Julia: I am a social worker and restorative justice practitioner. 

David: who are you? 

Julia: I am the granddaughter of the Ramirez, and mendoza, family of Mexico. 

Who are you? 

I am an organizer and the newly elected older woman of the 12th Ward in chicago. 

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

Julia: I am a person who loves and cares for my community and wants to do everything possible to see our city thrive. 

David: Beautiful. Thank you so much for being here. So excited to have you. This has been a long time coming. Yes. On episode maybe 30 something of this podcast we had Orlando Mayorga Chile, as most people in community know.

And he was like, you need to get Julio on. And so I think I sent the message out a few weeks later and, you know, it's taken us this long and, you know, I'm glad it has so glad, because now we're talking to again, like the newly elected Alder person of the 12th award Chicago. And, you know, you have the honor of being the first presently elected official on, on the podcast.

So amazing welcome. Very excited to have you. We, it's always good to check in. So to the extent that you want to answer the question, with all that's going on in your life, how are you? 

Julia: I feel so blessed. I just celebrated my birthday on Friday. We just won like a big race for the mayoral just a last week on the fourth.

So there's just a lot to celebrate and, you know, thankfully during this transition, I'm not alone. Like so many people are there for me. Whether it be community residents, organizers, like people are feeling really hopeful. So that brings me a lot of peace. 

David: That's amazing that, you know, you have that kind of support, right?

Because this transition and you know, you're just getting into it, is going to be full of, full of ups and downs, right? And having that kind of community is to back you, is gonna be so important for you being able to accomplish the things exactly that you wanna accomplish. But also, right, this, this restorative justice life.

You being a whole ass person outside of all of that and trying to stay sane and maintain, how have you tried to do that? Or how have you done that over the past couple months, years as you've been In a few months? Yeah, 

Julia: yeah. Just in general, like You mean taking care of myself or, mm-hmm. Oh my goodness, man.

You know, it's so tough because like, especially in the line of like social work, you know, we always talk about self-care in general and. It, it's almost just like you're such a giving person that you always put yourself less. So it's really hard. It's really like something that I, I haven't like, been really good at.

But it's amazing because it's like I wouldn't be able to be there for people if I didn't have like such a strong support system in my life. And that's like with my partner, with my family. And like another beautiful thing is just like organizing and like, especially organizing, like where I grew up.

Like there's so many other people that are kind of like dealing with the same thing. And so like I lean on people. I left my job in October to go full-time campaigning and I had to sacrifice a lot and I did lose myself, like I lost like a lot of myself, like things that made me happy or things just to take care of my overall wellbeing and.

You know, thankfully, like I did win and like, you know, all of that sacrifice ended up working out. But it, it just kind of reminds me and it like, makes me reflect that. Like that's not something I can like withhold like and especially jumping into like this new career of like serving people in this new way, like I do really wanna kind of uplift like what it means to be a social worker, how we take care of each other and in, in this line of work and why that's so important.

David: So, yeah. You know, we talk about restorative justice in a lot of ways and often I'm talking about how, you know, we are in right relationship. With people. Right. Building, strengthening, maintaining relationship with others. And the relationship that is often most important is the relationship with yourself.

Because without that relationship being in a good way, you can't be that way. Yes. Where you are serving others well. You know, throughout your campaign and through the time that I've known you, you know, you have been about community and I'm thinking about all the ways that like, it's not just.

Okay, we elected julia now she's gonna go solve all of our problems. Right. It's, you know, how do you keep the relationship between y'all going right. Both as constituents who are like holding you to account because like, that's the job that they elect you to. And so like, yes, you've gotta be responsive to their needs and their requests, but also like Julio's the whole ass person who like has has like personal boundaries that like Yeah.

Need to be respected in order for for her to be able to do that work. You know, not to mention the way that Chicago politics historically and, you know, continue to be like, aren't necessarily conducive to restorative ways of being. And even though that's, you know, that's right. We have, I say we as if I still live there.

You know, I like so much of my heart is still in Chicago. Right. We have, eight, like very progressive, like, oh yeah, alderman, like in this space, like there's still like 41 other words of people who are like generally like liberal because it is Chicago, but like more conservative than you or I are.

Many people would like to, you know, definitely move our communities in forward in a way that like, is really responsive to people's needs as whole people. Not just law and order, which we'll talk about in a moment. And like safety in that kind of way. How like, and, and I know it's not just like, The, all their men from the 12th Ward's job to set the tone for that and be that way with your colleagues.

But how have you thought about building those relationships as you start to like move into this position and try to make moves that will benefit all communities in 

Julia: Chicago? Yeah, I think that that's such a good point. Like it isn't all just on the alderman's office. Like I don't believe in just, you know, one person gets elected and then all of a sudden everything changes.

Like, I do believe in people power. I believe in like the power of education, like not being able to take that away from somebody. So like for me, you know, on the Southwest side, it's a big priority for me to work in coalition building more so than anything. The Southwest side, out of all the 50 other Al out of all the other 50 wards we're the last five.

Like literally the five words. We're all together on the southwest side and we're at the bottom of voter turn turnout consistently. And I think that that's always done on purpose. I think it's meant to disenfranchise people, like to keep people from knowing what it means to to vote, why you're voting.

And so one of my goals is like building coalition people, power, educating folks about how to connect like the aldermanic office with the community. Another big part to what I like. What I wanted to say initially was when I ran, I ran because like the community and organizations and just organizers were looking for somebody to stand up for the things that they'd been fighting for, for decades.

And like in our situation that former alderman would not listen and would not be transparent, would not give a chance for people to talk to him and just sort of like negotiate the things through city council. Right? And so I had conversations with so many different organizers and residents before I ran and I.

That's what I wanted to build because it wasn't really about me and my career or what it is that I can fix, like I can only fix based off of like the coalition building. And so now, you know, I'm speaking with organizations in the neighborhood and they're just excited to be able to even have a conversation with an older person, which is wild to me.

Like that's some, like something that like people should be, like given and have the opportunity to do. And so I'm really hopeful because like there's like an environmental justice group and there's a v a group that helps public schools and, you know, food insecurity, bike lanes. And so I'm having conversations with all these groups that are already doing the work.

And so it's like how am I working with them to uplift that? And not start from scratch and say like, I have all the answers and this is solely coming from me. Right. And I just think like a lot of things exist already and they're not working to the, like, the best capacity. And I, I, I just think that we need to like work what, what, like I'm a strength-based perspective, like through my social work.

And so it's like how do we work and utilize like people and the things we have now and then build off of that together. So, 

David: yeah. I heard you say in a recent interview, right? Like when people are asking like, oh, where's your office gonna be? Like, you haven't like, quite figured that part out yet, but like, yeah. You know, why would I stop the canvasing? Why would I stop being out with the people? Why would I stop being out the streets?

Like being in, engaging with all the people. I think like logistically setting up an office might just be important. Yes. Like for logistical reasons, right? But like this ethic of continuing to engage, be with the people, listen to the people who, you know, put you in the position that you're in.

And like, to be frank, like some people who like voted not for you, right? They're still your constituents and like, how are you going to serve them as like the representative of that community is a restorative way of being, right? Serving at the will of the people who you're in community with, not just like, oh, I have this power now and I'm gonna do what I think is best, right?

Mm-hmm. That's paternalistic and that's a trap that a lot of people who fall into this office get into. you know, there have been other people who have been in progressive spaces who've been, you know, grassroots, community elected folks, and who have struggled to maintain good relationships with the people who they were most tightly organized with.

And, you know, we are all for, you know, the policies and like those ideals that people stand for and how do we maintain those relationships, be restorative in the nature that we are with constituents when there. Disagreement with choices that you are gonna have to make that might be against some of the values or the ideas that people put on you.

Julia: Yeah, no, that's huge. Like, geez, if we can figure that out, like imagine the things that we can get done because it happens on so many different levels, like organizer to organizer organization against organization cuz it's tough for the nonprofits, you know, in a place like City of Chicago, especially with elders even, you know, we can be, you know, neighboring elders and we have very different politics.

For me, I think what's important for me, we do have a 12 ward i p o and it's been amazing because they feel really inspired and very hopeful to organize, especially through my campaign. But I think it's important for me to always, like, how do I say, allow them to organize and be facilitators. On their own.

And then create like sort of a process in which all the other organizations in the I P O are like all on the same level and playing field, like not one of over the other. And like, this is ideal for me, right? And so we're not prioritizing one person's voice over over the other. I think that that's really important process.

But I think ultimately, like what I'm envisioning is like letting the I P O function on its own for what they believe outside of like Ramirez for 12 or what it is that I'm working. I think that it, and like for me, like I believe in accountability and, and having those conversations and seeing those things through.

You know, it's also gonna be really interesting, like this healing and restorative justice part because even with like the mayoral candidates that were playing out before February 28th, like people did have circles and like people don't know that that's happening, but they are happening, right? And so how do we make that, I guess sort of like a process when we don't see eye to eye, you know?

But I do, I do realize that it's super important. So 

David: yeah. When you're talking about those circles, can you give a little bit more context? Of course. Like, not what was going on specifically in those circles, but like more context around like circles happening around yeah, around, yeah. Differing political opinions or backing different 

Julia: for sure.

I, yeah, I mean, I mean, people will say it a lot like, we need healing, and it's like mm-hmm. Where else can you do that outside of like, you know, what a circle space is and what it offers and, and what it really can do to amend relationships and. You know, politics, like, sometimes they say like, don't bring it up at the dinner table.

And it, it's a tough thing to do, especially during campaign season. And so yeah, for me, I just, I, I don't know how like, specific you'd want, but I mean, I, I've seen, I've seen it done with like, different organizers through this process, through like heda division that had happened and things like that.

And, and things were amended and it's amazing. I've seen people like come together and you know, them working again together. So it works, you know, we just gotta give it the time and the love that it deserves. So, 

David: yeah. and for people who aren't infused in Chicago politics and you know, like I'm only seeing these things from, you know, across the country and following what's happening on Twitter and, and on the news, right.

Chicago politics is, beast into it itself. And so, like as I was hearing you say this, like I know, I imagine I know what you're talking about, like among quote unquote progressive people and we can debate. What progressive means means that's not the conversation we're having here. Right. Chuey Garcia a longtime activist politician out of Little Village, the southwest side that's right of Chicago is now a congressperson was running for mayor made a bid at taking the run for mayor.

And, you know, in many progressive circles, he's a chairman in many Latina circles. Yes, he's, we're, we're gonna ride or die with Chewy and Brandon Johnson who is the mayor elect of Chicago. Also progressive. He he beat Chewy. And so like some of the same progressive organizers who were trying to get their candidate elected that's had beef right.

And like. That's the context of like what those circles could have been. And like again, like without specifics, what was the healing that came out of circle spaces like that? 

Julia: Yeah. I think you know, when in a place like Chicago where it's so segregated mm-hmm. Identity politics does influence a voter like they wanna see themselves, like, you know, if you're Mexican on the Southwest side, you would want somebody like Chewy, you know, to win because you see yourself in him and his story and the things that he's lived through.

And not even just like him, like assuming that he would do good work, like he's done good work. Mm-hmm. But you know, when we think about, I guess, progressive values and like this new generation that doesn't necessarily vote because they don't see themselves. So there's like this other end of like identity politics of like based off of race.

And one of those things that were quite different between like Brandy, Brandon, and Chewy, was public safety and how we're going to approach public safety.

You know, a alongside different communities being disenfranchised and not coming out to vote. Like we have a very low voter like, Younger turnout and you know, that's happening all over all over the country, but you know, it's happening in Chicago because they don't see themselves in the, you know, in the policies and in the ways they want things changed.

And so that was happening and it's so unfortunate that that was necessar, that was the case in FE February 28th. Luckily Brandon made it to the runoff and there was some healing there. And, you know, people came together because they knew, like the coalition, whether it be like Latina and, and black in the city of Chicago or just pushing forward our progressive values was a lot more important than staying divided.

And so I'm sure you've seen, like even Brandon, you know, chewy came out for Brandon and I was fortunate enough to be there and we were in the North Lawndale community and it was just like emotional for me to witness something like that. Especially through campaign season, that can be like so hard and divisive.

You know, for them and then especially for the organizers on the ground feeling so split, you know, about who to back Right. And with so much on the line, you know, so, right. 

David: Like, and I think, you know, it really speaks to values and like building coalition around the things that you want to see happen.

Like, we don't have to agree about everything. Right. But when our other option is, you know, exactly. A law and order candidate, right? Yes. Like, how can we move forward in a good way together? Right. I think healing can be a part of that. And sometimes healing does come from that, but like on a base level, like circles can offer us a way to say like, Hey, this is, this is my experiences is the way that I've been harmed, but like, this is the way that I want to move forward.

Mm-hmm. Maybe not necessarily being best friends, but like, hey, these are the values that we agree on and these are the things that we're, we're going to do together. Yeah. You know? We haven't, like, we've gone a long time like dissecting like Chicago politics, which I think is important and I want to like start to infuse like restorative justice into this conversation.

Right. You know, chewy took a stand on public safety that doesn't necessarily align with restorative values. Chicago is a place that is centered in national news coverage about, you know, being so violent. And there's no doubt that there is violence that happens in Chicago, The approaches to solving violence don't necessarily look like more police, right. You've, you're someone who's made a career of doing anti-violence work that is not rooted in law and order in over policing, you know? Can you tell us a little bit about the work that you've done and what you hope to see as Chicago, as the city moves forward with this new leadership?

Julia: Yeah, and so I started really my career in like intervention work. I was 18. It's kind of crazy, like I was a young person myself, and I was working with like at risk youth, as they call it programming. Mm-hmm. 16 to 24. I started like Little Village then I moved over to the Pilsen area. I've done some work on the west side and further down south at different capacities, whether it be just giving them more opportunity, learn skills a place to talk about like traumatic events that has happened in their life.

I've always wanted to sort of like be on the ground, connect with people and I believe that those are the things that truly work. I don't think that the punitive way, the punitive route necessarily gives an a person an opportunity to talk about it. Reflect, Learn and then move forward in a different way.

I think when it is punitive, like you feel bad and you don't really have a space to kind of figure out why you're feeling bad, why it may have been bad, your actions and what you can do next, because there's really no facilitation for that. And so I've seen what works. I've seen it on the ground outside of like working through nonprofits and you know, intervention programming.

What I started noticing was also a trend of a lot of the youth that I was working with, they would get kicked out of school, leave school, they were failing and that there was like no true advocate within the school system. Mm-hmm. And so I ended up I started working with Chicago Public Schools as a re-engagement specialist and it's just sort of like another form of like social work.

And so we do like a social emotional learning with them for two weeks. And what that really means is that we. We're like, you're failing, or something's going on and there's always a why they're homeless. They can't feed themselves, they lost somebody. I mean, the list can go on and on. And then when we get to like that root cause of what's happening, then we can better support them so they can get back into school and they can accomplish something like graduating high school and like at least giving the opportunity for them to like, you know, not just fend for themselves, but like to thrive, right?

And like given the tools. And so I started doing that through c P s. I went back to get my license as a social worker because I truly believed in that. And so I guess like what I'm asking for in terms of like public safety now through like as a city council member is like, why are we not investing in these.

Because truthfully, like the punitive route has not really reconciled any of the trauma. I think it just is a cycle of hurt and it actually impacts more people. And we begin othering our own neighbors, you know, and it's almost just like, how do we build community when we're constantly othering and pointing fingers when really I feel like it's a systemic issue and we have more than enough resources and money, but it's like, how are we allocating it and creating different pathways for safety other than just like incarceration, a slap on the wrist and things like that, that I don't think really amends, sort of the hurt in the first place.


David: So like on your campaign website, you talked about some other public safety initiatives that don't necessarily have to do with like, more police. What do you hope to see and what do you hope to start up or build on within your district?

Julia: Yeah. Some of the things that we, we really wanna see through in terms of like public safety after like a traumatic event, whether somebody experiences it firsthand or somebody hears gunshots, right? Like, all of these things lend to how people interact day to day and how they live their life.

And so how do we create sort of like a hotline for somebody to call in and report an incident, but most importantly, helping them work through like how it's affected them, what they need, the type of care that they need. That's something that I really want to promote and push forward. Through the Aldermanic office as well.

There's a treatment, not trauma ordinance. Mm-hmm. And so what that would mean is that we are investing and implementing a call in which you can get like a social worker if it was related to like maybe a domestic violence issue or a, a mental health issue. And so I'm a big advocate for that.

I believe that we need to uplift the work of like, social workers and you know, I, we don't believe that the police are necessarily the best answers for every scenario. And so how are we getting and bringing in different experts for those things that are needed, whether it be mental health or, you know, things of that nature.


David: Yeah, absolutely. as somebody who thinks about, you know, resources in city budgets, knowing that so much of that is, so much of that like, quote unquote public safety money is allocated towards policing, right?

Mm-hmm. How are we, how do you imagine budgeting for a more, mm-hmm. Not just like an abolitionist police feature, like that may or may not be the thing that folks imagine, but like a future that works, a public safety function of the city that works, right? It's not just about like responding to that's right.

Of violence when it happens. 

Julia: That's right. Yeah. Oh my God. I mean, there's a plethora of ways that we can be using our money. I mean, Like, there's so many different examples. Like I meet residents who have like a skill. Like for instance, I meet people who artistic in so many different ways and they say there's no programming here, there's no youth center.

I would love to be able to like offer like guitar lessons or yoga or something. And there's literally no place to do it. So they do it up north because that's where they can actually get paid to do it or there's space to do it. And so I just think like, how are we giving opportunity for us to grow in that capacity of like just offering different things, like whether it be educational or paid opportunities.

It's not happening here. And so for me it's invested in, in, in programming. I think the intervention part is, is really important, but it's also like if somebody is already in a gang or was already incarcerated, like how are we. How are we creating reentry programs and what that looks like and facilitating, whether it be one summer, Chicago, like, you know, are they allowed, are they given space, you know, to be able to amend and heal and be given opportunities.

So one summer, Chicago, one of the things that I ran on was like creating that for all year round instead of just for the summer. And then can you give context 

David: to one Summer Chicago, for those who aren't Chicago? 

Julia: Yeah, so one Summer Chicago is a paid opportunity for young people. And what's so great about it is that it's a localized effort.

And so they work with nonprofits throughout the city and then that way you can work at your local restaurant and or you can work at like the hardware store and the community. And like the things that I believe in, in like restorative justice is like building community and people knowing one another. I think, and like we talk about this too, like, about like what it means to share a story and how that can eliminate like so much hurt against like one person to another.

But we just don't have the space to create that. And that can happen through a job, you know, so much can happen, whether it be skill building building out a career. And I think ultimately just knowing one another and like, you know, being able to walk and, and know your neighbors and things like that.

So we wanna create that opportunity for all year round so our youth have a job, they have something to do after school, and again, like promote things that are more localized. Yeah. 

David: I worked with a nonprofit that did one summer Chicago programming. Oh, nice. And you know, the, the students that came through there, or young people who came through there.

Right. Like oftentimes it's like we're just looking for something to do the way that the one summer Chicago program functions maybe not optimally and like it could be better. Right. It's like they're not necessarily assigned to places where they're very interested, but like, Hey, there's a program slot, you're gonna go here.

And young people do it because like, it's better than the alternative. Whether that is being like at home. Yes. We actually, like, we actually had someone come to the program who like, there was not a paid spot, but like her friends were coming and so like, Hey, can I just come? And it's like, Hey, look like.

You're not gonna be like paid, but like, I guess you can be here because like, we would rather you be here in an environment that's safe, definitely. Right. Where you're building a skill than to be out in, in mm-hmm. In the street, like getting into trouble or like being in places where trouble could happen.

Right. Not necessarily that like you're somebody who would cause trouble. Definitely. And so like more opportunities for that the better. I also had students, and I'm curious if this has changed since I was working in the program. Students who were undocumented weren't able to participate in North Summer Chicago.

Is that still the case? 

Julia: Yes. That is still the case. Yeah. Yeah. So 

David: another thing to add to your long list of things, 

Julia: there's a barrier. Yeah, yeah. Another, another really true barrier for folks and like, you know, even like paying for school. Mm-hmm. Like they can't apply for fafsa. I mean, there's just so many barriers for.

Yeah, so they have to get like, you know, a job that doesn't pay well and, you know, they have to start working early, you know, because they can't join other programs or have other opportunities. So and we see that in a lot of different ho households, especially in my ward, where, you know, in knocking doors, like, you know, I can't vote or they can't vote, only one person in the house can vote.

And, you know, all of those different dynamics. And I think that that may also play into like, maybe people not voting because they're not seeing like their loved ones being able to participate. And that may be something that like deters them from wanting to and that, and on the other end, it may even inspire somebody to like really wanna be able to vote because their loved ones can't, you know?

But we see that in a lot of households over here. 

David: since Chicago, it's really segregated. Sometimes it's really easy to disaggregate the issues that like different communities face because of people were living in communities that were more pluralistic, right? You might not see so much of these issues come up, but right with the intersections of being redlined or like redlined out of living in certain places.

On top of not having documented status here in the us right? Like you can see like why people are disenfranchised or disincentivized from putting their efforts into that's great civic engagement, right on top of people just struggling for everyday survival under, you know, late stage global capitalism.

Yeah, I generally ask this very near the top, but we haven't like quite gotten to it. You've been doing work in community for, you know, most of your career. Yeah. But the words restorative justice weren't a part of that for all of that time. How did your journey in restorative justice specifically get started?

Julia: Yeah, that's such a good question. You know, when I was doing like a lot of the work on the ground, like that wasn't a common term. Mm-hmm. That wasn't something that like people talked about a whole lot at least through the work that I did. And it wasn't until like my brother passed away in 2014 and I was looking for a space for myself.

At the time I had, I was working with Build on the west side of Chicago. And again, doing intervention work. And I'm trying to think if they had introduced me maybe to restorative practices. But no, I don't think that that was the case. It wasn't until like 2017 I started working in back of the yards.

Mm-hmm. And there was like, I, I think I seen it on Facebook. There was this guy, Beto, he was organizing increased the peace. I don't know if you're familiar, but he had like a fir his first camp out. There was a 17 year old girl who was killed on 46th and Wood. And we ended up having a camp out from 5:00 PM to 5:00 AM on that corner where she was shot.

And I just thought it was like the most beautiful thing. I just thought like, like what does that mean? Like, as something so tragic to happen and like to bring people together in that same spot. And so that was the first time I was introduced sort of to like, Healing in that space and like a hotspot. And then I was in back of the yards and, you know, I was working through the grant through Precious Blood Ministry.

Mm-hmm. And yeah, so I I, I did like a camp out. I started working with Precious Blood and then at Precious Blood through like the training being a staff, they were like, join a Peace Circle training where I met you. Yeah. And I mean, I wanna say that was like really my first time being introduced to a space like that, like having conversations in that way.

In, I think in Peace Circle training. And I didn't, it's like, you know, you know, in your heart, like you don't want things to be this way. And like, you don't wanna lean on like the justice system as like what it exists as, and you just don't even know what else to lean on. And, you know, luck would have it that through my work and then through Precious Blood.

I got introduced to restorative justice. So yeah. 

David: Not everyone has the experience with the criminal legal system that you've had. Right. And so when you say like, I don't want it to be this way that holds different gravity than it might to some other people, as much as you're comfortable, do you want to describe like why you think about like, it doesn't have to be this way within the context of the criminal legal system?

Julia: I think it is really important that I do mention you know, my brother was killed in 2014. He was 19 years old. He, it's interesting because he wasn't even, you know, on the south side, it was actually further up north where, you know, another young man who was also like Latino, who was 17 years old, saw my brother and.

You know, shot my brother and killed my brother and they ended up finding the person this young person, you know, I am, I feel for him, I feel for his family what he must have gone through, you know, especially at that young of age to have wanted to like hurt my brother in that way, especially not knowing my brother.

I think that already says a lot about like what he must have gone through. And so I think about them and I also think about my family and like how I wanna also respect the ways in which like, it, I mean like my mother and father in specific, you know, like that was like their only son. And for me, I feel, I felt like I wanted the person to be incarcerated because.

I felt like it would give my parents peace and like, but I knew that that's not true peace. And that's just like for me personally. Mm-hmm. You know, like I would never wanna decide for people. I'm just trying to my best like to live it through, to like be an example of what potentially can be, you know? And so when I say like, I wish that wasn't the case.

Like, I wish that there was an opportunity for, you know, his mother and my mother to talk or like to be able to do those things. But there isn't, and you know, I think about like, people who feel really hurt. That's why they hurt other people, right? Mm-hmm. So like, if that person wasn't incarcerated, like, it, it makes me think like, what, what would that mean, you know, for somebody on our end and like how that can perpetrate more, hate, more, more hurt.

David: Yeah. First of all, thank you for sharing that. Right. Like I know, like revisiting it is, is tough. Yeah. And when people talk about restorative justice people in schools think about like, oh, let's like reduce suspensions and like, oh, we can use restorative justice for minor things, right?

Mm-hmm. Like that's not what restorative justice is for. It is for that. Right. But like we can use these frameworks to bring deep healing for situations like this, right? Yeah. Where, you know, your brother's not gonna come back, right? Yeah. But what are the ways that the needs of all people involved can be met or met to the extent possible?

Right. The Illinois Department of Corrections isn't necessarily. Equipped with the best ways to, to help this young person, right. Who is in their mid twenties now and is gonna come out of I D O C in, you know, a couple decades. Right? Yeah. What are the ways that he is served by that, right? What is the way, what are the ways that your family your parents are served by this person being away for so long, right?

What are the other ways that healing can happen? When you talk about true peace, what would that mean for you? What can you imagine being kinda 

Julia: like, yeah, I mean, I get like really pumped up about this. Like, because it's like, you know, especially like two young Latino men that has been through so much, right?

Mm-hmm. And like how the system has failed them and they take it out on each other. And not only did I lose somebody, You know, his family's missing him, and I don't know their dynamics. It could be maybe he was, you know, working for instance. And these are examples that happened with all families. Like maybe he was working and supporting his mother or like the dynamics completely changed for his family as well.

And it's like back to like what I was saying earlier about like othering people when like we're all the same people. We have to be like with each other. And I think that that's like. The system that's like perpetrating, like so much of this like hurt within our, within our communities. Like what would it mean if like, you know, this young person is given like the tools to come out into the community and like build something beautiful and whatever capacity that he thinks fit.

Because like, I think the system wants me to be upset at him and wants me like to have him suffer. But like the true power is like if he came out and like, and you know that I know this because like through the work like that I've been doing, I've met people have who have done it, who have served long crimes and like have actually gone through really amazing programming with an I D O C and like come out and like are part of the community in such a big way.

That is true healing. Like that is what I wanna see. Like I wanna see that for his mother. For my mother, I feel like I'm. Forever connected with this young person. And ultimately, whenever the opportunity arises, like I hope that I can be of support for, for them if they're open to that in supporting, you know, their re-entry into society.

Because I want that, and I think that that's what's best for our community in the long run. 

David: Yeah. I, I appreciate you saying like, you know, this is the way that I feel, right? Because I know that not everyone who experiences violence like this ex feels. Definitely. And I don't want to take that away from anyone.

Exactly. And as somebody who hasn't experienced like, loss like that within my family, with my, within my immediate family. Yeah. Like, I can't, and I wouldn't imagine putting myself in somebody's shoes like that at the same time as somebody who has been impacted by that in community. Right. The things that you're saying about like, what does healing look like in this situation?

I know that this person. Was contributing to their community in some way, shape, or form, right? Yes. And that community has also now lost someone, right? That's right. What is the support that we can offer that per that community? Right? I D O C doesn't do that. Like the criminal legal system doesn't do that.

Right. And only through initiatives. I don't even want to call them initiatives. Only through this way of being that is so rooted in relationship, right. Getting to know each other, building and strengthening relationships. So we know how to respond to the needs of people in, in efforts to repair. Right?

That's how we move forward in a way that like actually promotes healing. Not just like, here's your 30 year timeout. Hope you come out better on the other side. 

Julia: That's right. That's right. And like, yeah, I've been in spaces as well with other mostly moms mm-hmm. Who have lost, you know, their son, their daughter.

And who am I to sort of like tell them like the right path. I just think that there's only, there only seems to be one path to lean on, and so let's create others and at least give people the opportunity to try it. And I, that, that's all I'm advocating for in, in hopes that's that people can know that like, this hurt may be long lasting, but maybe like we can turn that hor hurt into like hope by providing it like with another family or with another young person and maybe even the person that caused us harm, you know?

And I just think that that's like so powerful and I think that that will stop, like the cycles of trauma that are happening within our communities. And I, I think that's why people like, always like, oh, it's, it's so bad. And it's like, it's been bad for a very, very long time. And like it passes on, passes on generation to generation.

Like that fear, like that hopelessness, like that, like I idea that young people feel like they're not gonna like live past 1821. Like, it's almost like you're raised up to be that way. And so it's like, how do we cut that off? You know? And so I'm, I'm wanting to be an advocate and like, it's, it's, it's so hard because it's like, I'm not just saying it like, as like a theoretical thing that I read.

Like I, I'm living it and I'm, I'm trying my best like, you know, to like live it in my life and. Also not like, make it seem like I'm a representative of every person that's lost somebody, because I, I, I know how hard it is to actually like, want to work on these things. It takes time. Yeah. It takes a lot of effort and time and I think that incarcerating people seems to be like so fast and like, so throw throwaway, you know?

And so r rj is really hard work. So 

David: yeah. you have experienced loss in like the criminal legal system in violence in ways that many people have not. Right? And you're still somebody who continues to do this work publicly. I'm wondering what restorative justice means to you within the context of your personal life and how it shows up. 

Julia: Yeah, it's.

It shows up in a very real way and the way that like I engage my own family, how I'm sensitive in terms of their timeline of healing. It is different for every which person. And I mean, it could be, whether it be my cousins, my aunts you know, my brother's girlfriend at the time, like other community members that loved him dearly.

Like I was door knocking and people were like, you're Nick's sister. And that was like, sort of like the best thing to be known as is like, you know, my brother's sister. And so like, yeah, this work is really tough. Like I try to like walk in my power of like healing, but it isn't easy, you know? And like I just try to be respectful with everyone and have conversations and I know it takes a lot of time.

And so I just try to like, Give myself as much as I can about where I am and where I wish that this work would go in hopes that like, I'm kind of tripping away at like the layers that people may be carrying, like to help guide them maybe to a better way. So, 

David: yeah. Yeah. Right. When we live in a community that has been socialized to punishment being the only way to deal with conflict and harm, right.

And like that being passed down from colonizers. From Enslavers Yeah. In black and brown communities and for white communities, right. The, the communities that your ancestors were fleeing in Europe. Right. Definitely those things are ingrained in, you know, our society and to see a different way. Yes.

A way that has been preserved by indigenous people across time Memorial in the face of all of this is so important. And so, you know, this is a helpful way to ask. You know, in your own words as we start to bring our conversation down, define restorative justice. 

Julia: Oh my goodness. Define restorative justice.

Yeah, so restorative justice for me means that I am a reflective person. I am a person that when dealt with tension, I know that it is only temporary, that I create space for constant healing and growth. And ultimately just being conscious of all the things around me, whether it just be space, community members and, and everything else that interacts with one another and how that affects people.

David: Absolutely. As you've been doing this work, however you want to define this work, what's been an oh shit moment? Either a moment where like, you messed up and you wish you did something differently, or it could be like, ah, shit, that was awesome. Yeah, I did that. 

Julia: Oh my goodness. I'm constantly growing. Like, I will say like something that is interesting, like with restorative justice is like, you know, I'm so open to like sharing.

Mm-hmm. When I was like campaigning and canvassing and like when things would come up with public safety, you know, it's like, it's so tough. You like, Wanna put your heart out and you don't know where people are and some type, sometimes people dismiss you. Mm-hmm. And then some, sometimes people are like, I've never met somebody like you.

Like I can't even believe that you're saying this. And so what's really big for me is like, just having the opportunity, I guess at this point in time, being an older woman is like sharing my story in like a way that I never thought imaginable. And I think like caring, restorative justice with me. I, I don't think that anybody in city council has experienced what I've experienced.

And so I, I think like the OSHA moments are constantly, I'm almost like so proud of myself that I'm like being able to say this like out loud and like unapologetically. So 

David: Absolutely. This question's hard in a different way. You get to sit in circle with four people living or dead. Who are they and what is the one question you ask that circle.

Oh man. 

Julia: Okay. I know this is gonna sound, so like my parents, but their younger selves, like, like before they had me mm-hmm. I actually like, would like, love to talk to them then like, you know, my parents were young parents, so like, okay, that's two. I deeply adore Fred Hampton, so definitely Fred Hampton.

Okay. My fourth is going to be the person I'm named after my great-grandfather. Mm-hmm. So, 

David: and what is the, the one question you asked that circle. Your young parents, your great-grandfather, and Fred Hampton.

Julia: Geez. Like, I, I think like the purpose, especially like with the people, like in my family that're represented in the circle, would just be sort of like, it's, it's interesting. Like, I almost wanna check in on them and like, just see how they are. So like, just talk about like, like what, what, what they would change what they're feeling.

Mm-hmm. And like learn like the wisdom that they're feeling, I guess in that point in time. So, mm-hmm. Yeah, I think there's like a bunch of things, but I think it's like mostly just like, like almost like making sure that they have space to like, talk through what they were, they must have been feeling during that time.

And maybe that's like Fred before he passed away, you know? Yeah. 

David: So often in this moment of the podcast, I turn the question back on the guest and I'm gonna ask you two questions that you just posed to that circle. What is the wisdom that you're feeling at this time? Oh 

Julia: my gosh, that's so good. Oh my gosh.

Geez. I like, for me, like, I would've like never imagined. I almost feel like someone like me, like, how can I be like an elected official? I, my wisdom is just like, like love who you are, like, love your community. Like, you know, just do things like with the best intent and like, like it'll like lead you in the right direction, you know?

So. Yeah. 

David: And then the other part of that, and it's kind of like circling back to the beginning of this conversation. How are you finding the space to process all this that's happening? 

Julia: Oh man. I will say like, you know, I. I was like, constantly going, go, go. And like, I, I could you not, like, I wouldn't even know what day it was the date.

Like my, I felt like almost like a robot. It was like a crazy, surreal experience. So like, I'll have moments like where I'll sit in my car and I'll just be like, what just happened? And it just sort of like a fleshing moment and I'll either cry or laugh about it. But yeah, I think that I, I have to constantly check in with myself and start writing more and document some of this stuff because it's, it's truly surreal and a lot to process, so.

David: Yes. Absolutely. Mm-hmm. So two more questions to get you outta of here.

Who's one person that should have on the podcast with the caveat that you have to help me get them on? 

Julia: Ooh. Somebody you would want on the podcast. Ooh, this is good. Let's see. Well, do you know that we have the E C P S candidates? Do you, have you heard of them? No, no. They are the new newly elected candidates.

There's three representatives per police district. Hmm. I have to send you more information. I am actually meeting with one after this and I would love to get him on. It's really sort of like the connection with the police in the community in a very different way. And he's like Inglewood based.

Yeah. So that's somebody that I'm thinking about. Somebody with an ecp s. 

David: Beautiful. So I'll be looking forward to that connection. Great. And then finally, how can people support you in your work in the ways that you want to be supported? Oh, awesome. 

Julia: Yes. You can stay connected with me through Ramirez for 12.

That's currently my campaign handle on all social media Ramirez for as well. And then soon after May 15th, I will have as a government official have like my my other handles that will like, share support through my office. But yeah, if you guys can, you know share with me via social media and connect with me there that would be great.

Hearing people's I guess response to some of the things that I'm saying and how to build like relationships further through this work. 

David: Beautiful. Well, Julia, thank you so much for everything, your stories your experiences and your wisdom. I'm so glad that we finally made this happen. Best of luck Yes.

To you in the new journey that you're going on. And to everyone else, thank you so much for being here. We'll be back with another episode with someone living this restorative justice life next week. And until then, take care.