This Restorative Justice Life

120. Reframing Our Relationship With Trauma w/ Angel McKissic

May 11, 2023 David Ryan Castro-Harris
This Restorative Justice Life
120. Reframing Our Relationship With Trauma w/ Angel McKissic
Show Notes Transcript

Angel McKissic is a daughter, mother, partner, student, organizer, and advocate for the non-human, living world.  She is encouraged, challenged, and nourished by her children, community, and members of the MDRJN. Angel is a psychotherapist by training and is currently completing a PhD in gender and sexuality at the University of Birmingham (UK). She believes in decentralized, intergenerational, community-based power as foundational to global liberation.

 Metro Detroit Restorative Justice Network

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

Angel: I, I am always becoming, I feel like I'm always becoming, I'm always unfolding. 

David: Who are you?

Angel: You know, that feels like a trick question sometimes because I think I acknowledge that. I, I don't think I do acknowledge that there are parts to me that

will always be opaque to myself and to others. And so who am I is in part an indefinite mystery and I've been increasingly okay with that. 

David: Who are you 

Angel: Sliding over to like identity that's socially legible? I am a parent to wonderfully wild, rigorous creative like, unceasingly astonishing people.

and I'm always becoming a parent and always trying to grow into the demands of that role. 

David: Who are you? 

Angel: maybe to take it back to the more abstract, I think I am

someone who has managed in a really crafty way to make sure that all of my activities, professional, academic, and otherwise allow me to pursue my insatiable curiosity about everything, primarily about the mysteries that I spoke about earlier, the opacity in myself and others. I, I think I am also someone that is really deeply committed to like the rigorous pursuit of what's possible in myself and between people and for us, you know, as a planetary collective.


David: Mm-hmm. Who are you?

Angel: I am, a person who really does try to, embody like a critical analysis to everything, you know, to the things I take for granted. In terms of knowing and how to know and what I know. I, I almost also sort of very critical as well of what's taken for granted in terms of like how we are with each other, what we understand about life and people.

And so a way to tie that up is to say, yes, I'm also a person that really is seduced by sort of critical approaches to status quo or things that are taken for granted in a really sort of like broad, pervasive way. Mm-hmm. Who are you?

I am a little erratic and I think that's one of the charming things about me. I think I am. I have a really great skill for engaging my, maybe my kids might contest that, but I think

there's a part of me that always wants to make contact with parts of other people that are maybe neglected. And so I think having that sort of disposition makes it such, I think the way that I go about my work and the way that I talk to people and I'm in relationship, I think is

I, I think is engaging. I, I feel really proud of that as like a teacher, you know, in the classroom and as someone who's an organizer and increasingly more comfortable with, with saying maybe that I'm charismatic, you know, so I'm embracing that more. And yeah, something that I wanna give like in articulation too, for sure.

David: And then finally, for now, geez, who are you, 

Angel: you know, you wanna say something super profound to like wrap it all up? But I, I mean, I'll say that I think I wanna return to what I, I said earlier because I'm al I always am very tentative about how I answer this question cause I've resisted Any concrete fixed ideas, it, you know, my father-in-law used to say, keep living.

You know, every time I would say, why you do that? Why you do that? He's 87. And so he would say to me, anytime I speak with real certainty, he says, keep living. And now I've adopted that and life has taught me that all the things that I felt about who I was and the story that I told myself by virtue of like time passing, but also some really transformative events in my life have unseated a lot of what I thought about myself, which has taught me a great lesson, is to sort of never speak super definitively about who I am.

So I think I feel impulse to go back to my first answer, which is to say that I think I'm always going to be becoming like I'll die, you know, becoming who I'm supposed to be or how life is shaping me up. And I'm just really energized by that possibility of sort of always becoming, yeah. Yeah. 

David: Well, thank you for bringing all of that to our conversation today, talking about living this restorative justice life where these restorative ways of beings and all of those aspects.

You know, we're gonna talk about some of the work that you've done professionally some of the academic work that you've done, but, you know, we're also gonna talk about the things that are happening on the day-to-day, but it's always good to trauma in. You know, we did a little bit off air, but for the listeners, to the extent that you want to answer the question right now, how are you?

Angel: Geez. Huh. How much time we got? Seriously? I think it's, I have oscillated between being early in, like awakening to the ways that I've been harmed and traumatized and not having enough support to navigate that and just spilling everything out to anybody who would listen. Mm-hmm. To swinging the pendulum to Brene Brown.

People need to earn the right to your story sort of idea, which I was really attracted to at one time and, and now I'm at a place where

it's less about other people and more about what I need in the moment and what feels. Good for me. And also my sharing is more of a political practice than how I used to understand it as sort of purely the psychosocial emotional exercise in terms of storytelling. So I'll say what feels important to share for people who are beyond the, the space between you and I, is that I am feeling the global anxiety that lots of folks are feeling have felt, and I think is really ramping up around economic precarity, but also legitimate threats of violence that seem to just loom all over.

And for other folks in other parts of the world is a daily reality. And that weighs on me quite a bit. I also have children who I send to school and that has become more of a, a weighty decision to send them to school every day. You know, so I live with that as a companion. That anxiety, sort of that globalized, generalized anxiety of, you know Precarity around safety and economics and politics.

I also say on the more sort of interpersonal level I'm equally impacted by the demands of my work, which is work that I choose. It's, you know, stress that I choose, but stress nevertheless. And it is what people call a passion, but it doesn't mean that it's still not work for me. And so we are doing our first training and just making sure that folks are feeling good in that space and that we're giving and receiving folks well has landed on my shoulders in a really intense way and that is also present with me right now as I'm moving into week four of that five week training.

And yeah, I've also uncoupled from an 18 year marriage in the last eight months, and that's excruciating and painful and also has created so many openings. For me, it's a separation that I initiated cause it was time and all things are well between me and my partner, but still there's so much grief that I find myself really allowing myself to sort of be.

Overwhelmed by and allowing it to find an expression and which is all I feel like I can do at this time. And so as we say, as therapist, you know, like it's the only way is through and we love to say that, but in practice it's sucks and it's also necessary. And they also don't need to be soothed. You know, a lot of folks wanna give a lot of like apology or sympathy, but it's very enlivening to be in grief, as counterintuitive as that sounds.

But yeah, I think that is a good place to stop to, to answer this question. That is a lot that is living inside me and surrounding me. That's sort of the air that I'm breathing right now. And yet at the same time, I'm finding so many openings in myself in this new phase, parts of me that are able to be born, that weren't able to be born prior.

So as is life, it is complicated and messy and contradictory and I feel really energized that I'm living that out. So I'm tired and I feel really fueled by all the possibilities that. Have come to me and that I feel are sort of like brewing and on the horizon for me as well. So yeah.

David: What helps you put one foot in front of the other as you navigate through all of that?

Angel: I think knowing that even though I have made decisions that have brought pain that they're the right decisions that like I made them for me and that feels so good. And I'm trying to avoid saying empowering is what my dissertation is on and my previous research, you know, and it is very present for me as I'm in the thick of that.

But I feel great sense of power and autonomy over my life. And I think feeling that in the midst of right, all this uncertainty, a lot of things that I cannot control, knowing that I can choose and that feels really good. And so I get a lot, I get a lot from that, from knowing that and from acting that.

And so I, I, I think it's, I don't struggle with Movement. I, you know, I, I think that that's, a lot of folks get paralyzed by trauma and grief, and, and that can be a necessary part of it. It's not what I do with my trauma or grief it's just not historically what I've done with it. So movement and progression hasn't ever been an issue.

I think my process of making meaning and my decision making process is what's most impacted by some of the adversity. But these aren't one-dimensional experiences, right? So, you know, separation or illness, which is also something I'm navigating, they, they're multi-dimensional and, and some of them carry the potential to stifle you or, or engender some inertia.

But I have found that

all of these things converging have created some real intensity in me. And at the same time, like the way that I make meaning out of that intensity is to also say, how fortunate am I to be so alive to myself and to pain and grief and all of those things that I can feel them. And yes, I can cry an hour and a half ago in my bed.

But that also means that I have the capacity to be alive to the other sort of full spectrum of. You know, what's in me? So, you know, I think to answer the question is I feel like I have a really rigorous meaning making process that helps me to say what is available to me in all of this. Like, what does it mean that I get to feel out this pain and grief so intensely and sort of, isn't this what you've always wanted?

I mean, you've always just wanted to be more alive. It's a quote, one of my favorite psychoanalyst, the more and more of being alive. And, and so I'm like, this is what it means for that. Mm-hmm. You know, this is what it means. It's, you know, you feel deeply, you feel deeply, you know which is sort of the inverse of depressive state, right?

Which is where you can't feel anything really, or there's a void there. And so the fact that I have the capacities to feel out all of the things and allow them to have an expression, whether it's crying or melancholy or whatever it is, I feel very fortunate about that. And I, I take that as a signal that I am approaching a stage in my life where I might be more alive than ever.

And that energizes me and makes me curious about what else I might be able to experience with that sort of renewed aliveness. 

David: Yeah. We've yet to touch on like capital R, capital J, restorative justice. But when I think about being in the right relationship with. Others and self. Mm-hmm. Right. So much of what you're saying as resonant, right?

Hmm. When I'm reflective of how I navigate through the struggles of life, like it's, I am, I'm resonating with some of the things and that, that you're saying, and I'm like, oh, that's different. Where did that come from? And so I'm curious when you're thinking about, and it doesn't necessarily have to tie back to Capital R, capital J, we'll get to that when we get to that.

But when you think about the ways the methods, the praxis, the, the tools that you are engaging in, the practices that you're engaging in to help yourself navigate this, to find the spaciousness, to like do that self-reflection, where did that come from for you? Hmm. 

Angel: Mm-hmm. It's kind of like, how far back do you go to be in, you know?

David: Yeah, yeah. As far back as you want to go. 

Angel: Yeah. I mean that I, I can't an, you know, I, I could not answer that question without starting from the beginning, but I'll say that a lot of it has to do with my early childhood. I think being immigrating here with my mother from Ghana, really early, I was very young.

My mother was young as well. And having a front row seat really to seeing her. Tried to navigate at the time, in the beginning, what was a very white, Midwestern, middle class community in the eighties and early nineties. And no doubt she had her private pain and some not so private. She just had such tenacity and like audacity that I don't know.

I mean, I'd love to ask her this question of sort of like, how does that grow in you, you know? But vicariously, I really got to see her persist from some well within her, which is just remarkable. And the closest thing to magic I've ever seen. And I think I just, it's the way I was socialized. I think my mom also was someone who gave such beautiful expression to her own grief of leaving behind all of her family in a pretty dire circumstance.

and I saw her. Traverse, racial discrimination, gender discrimination, you know discrimination based on her nationality and the fact that she had an accent and English being her second language, and her being not formally educated, I mean, just piling on. And yet she just had like this ability to figure it out which baffles me sometimes.

And to see her struggle with homelessness and then sort of being incarcerated briefly and then to sort of owning a business and now, you know, liquidating that and getting ready to move back to Ghana so she can live a good life. It's just, I, I cannot overstate how formative that is in now where I find myself in really acute adversity being able to do something with it.

Absolutely. And I would also say, you know, I, I have to shout out my, my father as well who also had, you know, had a more muted approach, but also had his own practices of perseverance and, like ingenuity that I really. Admire. And I think I was part of my inheritance from them. So I, I have to say there, there's so many other things along the way that have fortified that, but the, that's the origin story of the sort of current capacity that I have, I think to, to make something of something that could be really debilitating, you know?

David: Yeah. And that very, that very clearly paints the picture to me of like, where the, you know, you, you bristle that using the word resilience. I'm bristling at using the word. Sorry, you bristle that using the word empowerment. I'm bristling at using the word resilience. Right. Like those, those bud words, like, it's clear to me like where things along those lines come up.

One of the things that struck me as you were responding to, you know, the one foot in front of the other is the, the self-reflection. Where is, where was that modeled for you? Where did you pick that up? How did you pick that up? Is that rooted in any specific practice? Because the way that you were articulating it was different than some things that I've heard or experienced in the past.

Angel: Yeah, it was not modeled for me. I will say that it was one of those

unexpected gifts of trauma, and I think because.

When you are young, and this is for everyone, you have experiences that you cannot make sense of. Mm-hmm. And this specifically comes from the school of Psychoanalysis that I find most affinity with in terms of the theory of how the unconscious is developed. And early on, right, babies are born into this social world in which they do not understand the language or practices.

And there are experiences, they have normative experiences and traumatizing experiences that they have. And then they have to use the social myths, codes, you know, that are available to them to make meaning of those experiences. And there are always experiences that don't get meaning made of them. And that's kind of what we say is the stuff of the unconscious.

It just, there, there's no meaning that is ever accessible. That sort of becomes the opacity, you know, in us, the stuff that was never translated into Mii. And I call on that because I think. People have often said, remarked on like a reflective capacity that I have that I think is really well developed but is still in development.

And I think it's because not only was I looking at a mother of who I was trying to understand why are you crying in this circumstance or why are you having, you know, not understanding and then also experiencing trauma firsthand and trying to say what, sense is there to be made of this? You know, what does this mean?

And so I think sort of repeated experiences of that sort of vicariously trying to understand those around me. And then, you know, trying to understand like what things had happened to me and also why I'm doing what I'm doing or how I'm responding. So the confusion of trauma engendered, like an intense curiosity about motivation because you're also like, why would this person do this thing?

Mm-hmm. You know, those are the things really bred a really intense, rigorous, self-reflective practice where I felt like I wanted to understand everything I could about how minds work, how emotions work. Cuz maybe that would unlock something for me. To help me understand my parents or to help me understand folks who did harm to me and then understand myself.

That was always a value. Very, very early on, I tried to make a study of myself and make a study of those around me because I wanted to understand. That felt like the way that I transmuted that sort of traumatic, excessive energy into something constructive. And I've, it's informed every part of my life.

It informed my career choices and it continues to be a very central practice. And it's a muscle that I continue to strengthen. 

David: Yeah. When I think about,

when I think about Capital R, capital J and thinking about like facilitating a restorative process, asking questions like what happened and like what were the root causes to what happened? I can see how like the way that you have developed those self-reflective muscles have been helpful for you to like, navigate those processes and then like maybe in turn help others and well one, identify it in others or help others identify it in themselves.

Because, you know, oftentimes when things happen we're reacting without knowing. Mm-hmm. What was going on for other people in those circumstances. Mm-hmm. And sometimes people have a really hard time articulating what was going on underneath. Mm-hmm. The surface them. And without that reflective practice, whether there are young people who just haven't developed that capacity or older people Right.

Who haven't necessarily gone there for themselves yeah, it's a really helpful thing. And so like I'm already seeing how, you know, a superpower of yours in that way can be really helpful to doing this kind of work that we label Capital R, capital J, restorative justice. I'm curious though, what was your introduction to restorative ways of being, if not capital R, capital J?

Angel: Yeah, that is a two-pronged question for me because when I was introduced, introduced to RJ as a model, like a programmatic model is different than, or separate from the question of when I was introduced to RJ as a way of being. So answer that one first. Yeah. So I'll say that it's this weird temporal sort of exchange where I encounter the language and the concepts and then I say, oh girl, I already been doing that.

Like, you know, I, I'm like, okay. I mean, y'all are trying to wrap language around something in ways of being that people are already doing. So that part of it, I was like, Right. Sure. I mean, particularly because I was someone, I was harmed and then I was someone who did harm you know, in relationships that were dear to me.

And, and because they were dear, I was compelled to pursue routes that weren't punitive. Mm-hmm. But also this sort of being compelled to avoid a punitive response was something I was deeply invested in because being in the position of someone who did harm, I, you know, I kind of, the golden role that they used to say over my speaker in elementary school, literally every day, treat others how you wanna be treated in and out, you know, I was like, yeah haunted the school.

And so I felt like, yes. When I was formally introduced to restorative Justice Capital R Capital Day, it was very intuitive to me. Some of the, I found problematic in terms of how, what I was introduced to at a particular time. But yes, so that way of sort of being is part of my indigenous inheritance as African, but also even something I was just inclined to because of my personal experiences and wanting Just not wanting more harm, you know, like harm B gets harm and I just have always not wanted that.


David: I'm curious, like if there are, if you're willing to give any more context to some of those ways that you experienced harm in like, not wanting to respond punitively because of the closeness of those relationships. Mm, 

Angel: mm-hmm. I think, you know, one I, like I said, I immigrated with my mother who is West African and folks know West Africans and a lot of non-West Africans like spank their children.

That's a very common practice. And of course at the time, I mean I have a very different relationship to that type of discipline now, in which I just have a lot more compassion and grace. And I think I always have to be honest. I mean, I guess at the time, my curiosity about this definitely feeds into why I was not drawn to or invested in punishing people was because I was more motivated by trying to understand them.

Like, you know, and so that compels you towards a different response. Hmm. So I'm trying to understand like, why is this the logical choice? Because I didn't do the dishes. Like this doesn't make sense, you know, I'm like getting, this is why, this is why I got disciplined cuz I wanted to argue down my parents who were just like, do the thing, angel.

So rather than turning it into rage, I think this is not a conscious choice, by the way. This is just, you know, retroactively reflecting on maybe what was going on with me as a child. I was just curious about what was going on with my parents. So like why are they moved to this type of action? My father who was, didn't use corporal punishment, but used other types of punishment and discipline that I felt were more insidious, you know, and I would also, of course, enraged in the moment, but I never wanted to like, do him harm or, or I didn't want violence to come to him, but I was deeply frustrated that he couldn't do the work of trying to understand himself.

That really made me upset. And I think it's because I was a parentified child. I'm the oldest of five children, and my parents leaned on me a lot, materially cook dinner, you know, take care of children. But they also were shared, you know, with me emotionally that was like inappropriate. Like I, I can't be holding your emotional baggage at 12 years old, but they did the best with what they had and they were both in pretty contracted crises, economic and otherwise.

And so I got a lot of insight into my parents in a way that a lot of kids didn't. And that, that really fueled my curiosity and made me understand these aren't flat one-dimensional people where. You know, like I appreciated the complexity and the nuance there. So when they did things that I felt like were harmful or oppressive to me I just wanted to understand and mostly what I wanted was for them to like engage with me in my back and forth on like, why this doesn't work, why this is not a good decision.

And and I think I've, I've just carried that through. I mean that has a more considered approach to harm for me has always been, I'm just very curious about what drives folks to harm and violence. And that starts from early on in my childhood trying to understand my parents and cuz I love them and they're my parents and you are psychically invested in maintaining your parents as good.

That is just a psychological phenomenon developmentally. Which is why sometimes people split. They like a phenomenon called splitting that kids can do if their parents do them harm. Because here's the person that brought you life and the person who's supposed to protect you and care for you and then they're also doing harm to you.

And the kids don't have advanced capacities to, and like hold that complexity and they have to split the parents off. And split themselves off. And I think that because my parents let me into their psychic world, I had more of a, a developed capacity to say, you're not good or bad, that you're a really complicated, hurt, wounded person.

And just listen to me because I'm super rational. I wasn't, but I thought I was and knew. So I, I think hopefully that illustrates for folks like how the nature of that type of familial harm and my very particular relationship with my parents really compels me to a response that's rooted in understanding versus punishment.

David: Yeah. It's really interesting that you were able to identify that as harm then. Right. And I think I'm like most specifically thinking about like corporal punishment cause that's something that I experienced and like looking back it's like, yeah, there are probably better ways to go about doing that.

That's not something that I do with my kid. Right. But at, you know, ages three through, I don't know, when was the last time it was made? Like maybe like nine, 10? Mm-hmm. Like that's not something that was on the horn. Like it was so much like, I'm bad or I did something wrong and not like that my parents were doing anything that was like tar me because I had a relationship with my parents where, you know, outside of that, for the most part, right.

Like. Wonderful, beneficial. I, I felt love in so many ways. I imagine for other people who experience harm in different ways or maybe like for you in, in that case, like able to identify like, no, this is harmful for our relationship. Why are you hurting me right now to try to get me to wash the dishes?

Stay quiet. Mm-hmm. Not cheat at Monopoly. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Right. Like why is that the logical consequence? Like that's something that like we're often having conversations with adults about, right? When we're talking to them about how to parent, how to be in a classroom but not necessarily something that kids were able to identify.

I wasn't able to identify at least. 

Angel: Yes. Yeah. It's funny too what you said there about, you know, the, what, what you described. This is exactly what I was talking about, which is the splitting. So you splitting off the parent to maintain them as good and then you absorb the bad. So that's exactly what kids do when they try to make sense of like, why is my caregiver causing me pain is they say, I must be bad.

Like, you wouldn't do this unless there is something wrong with me because I'm your child. And that is the secondary harm of physical violence, which is what spanking is. And so, I think I was sort of aware of that as well, of like the threat to my identity and my concept was like, I cannot let this determine my identity.

Or like, I, it's remarkable to me, and I actually don't have all the answers, but I was always able to keep like this distance where I was like, that's yours and this is mine. And like, I, so as a therapist, 

David: I wanna How early, how early?

Angel: I wanna say pretty early, like relatively speaking. Cause I think maybe kids might get to that like 17 where they're reading their philosophy now and they're like, right, right, no, whatever. But probably seven around that time. I have a lot of trauma that's outside of that. So time is weird for me.

Mm-hmm. I, I'm not good chronologically, so that can be a complete miss, but it feels, in terms of my stock of memories, that it feels very old. And yeah, it was always just like, that's, that's messed up. I don't know why they like that. I don't know why you can't control yourself. You know, I, it, it was just, I never absorbed that like, it, there was something in me that refused, that refused to accept that I'm bad or I'm, there's some deficit and.

And I didn't even, I wasn't even exposed to that really until I started staying with clients who struggled with like self-worth and like feeling worthless. And I, it was so foreign to me, like, what do you mean you don't feel worthy? Or, like, it was bizarre. And, and it took me a while of listening to really try to identify with that because I just always rejected that and I don't know how or why, but I'm so grateful because that was a hurdle I didn't have to deal with.

I was always like, oh, I am deserving of respect, like I am a human being and I'm not going to tolerate abuse or, or yeah. I always had this core sense of like, I'm a worthy person. And I don't, I don't know. I mean, part of it is a mystery, but I am grateful. I am so grateful for that. That has been really supportive throughout my life, you know?

David: Yeah. No, that's, I think you've experienced as you've navigated the world, like maybe unique to, mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Yeah. Or, or, or rare, right. Yeah. Because I definitely find myself in that camp of people who struggle with like self-worth identity and like to varying degrees in different situations, right?

But love that for you as you continue to grow, experience the world, experience harm. Perpetrate harm in different ways. Some at some time. At some point you were introduced formally to the word restorative justice. You said earlier that, you know, there were some things you were like, oh yeah, yeah, yeah.

And some things that were like I don't know about that. What were the things that resonated? What were the things that like, were like flags up for you? Hmm. 

Angel: So by the time that I encountered RJ formally, I was already working as a psychotherapist. My degrees are in psychology, clinical psychology.

And I really latched onto group process. Mm-hmm. So I took group as part of my grad school, you know, curriculum and group was an experiential class. So the first half was didactic lecture, and the second half of the class was, we actually did group. So we sat in circle and the specific type of group we did was process group.

So of course we're all in their training to be psychotherapists. And the professor's thinking at the time who designed the course was that you need to participate in it to sort of understand what a potent force it can be for change and insight. And sure enough, I mean, it's that class every single time is different and the same, if that makes sense.

So it. I had a really transformative experience in that, in that I practiced a lot of trying to cultivate accountability with others. And then the group asked me for accountability as well, and that was hard. I don't know if we can cus but yeah. Cus words in order for that as part of that group at some point in our stages they were like, yeah, we feel like, you know, you're better than us.

Like, we just feel like the things you say and the way you act. And I was floored to hear that. I mean, I had a group of all of my cohort mates, you know, echoing this sentiment. And, and God, it was excruciating to sit there and take it because your defenses flare up. And what I knew at the time because of my training is that your ego as a real structure in the mind is deeply invested in maintaining its integrity to the death.

And so in that ego is everything. It is your, all of the identities, it is your narrative, the story that you tell about yourself. All of your psychic and emotional investments are held in the ego. And it is sole job is to maintain its structural integrity. And so when anything. In that container is threatened, the ego will flare up and no one is as powerful as to overcome their own ego.

E without deep prolonged what is a lifelong practice. And at that time I had like no practice cause I was like, I knew what I thought, I knew what I was doing and blah blah blah. And so there was something about being in that container that predisposed me to being more open because I knew this was a process group.

I knew that this would happen. I was studying it clinically cuz if it was on the street, that's a whole other story. But we were already in this conducive Petri dish, if you will, the social microcosm. And so I had, I had no choice. And I was also very rash. What I thought a rational person. And I'm like, oh right.

Well there, here's evidence and there's a consensus. So there's something here. And I was really forced to confront that this is how I was impacting people. And I had to confront on some level it was true. And that was the hardest part because what sometimes what we get is, okay, okay, I hear y'all. I'm sorry.

Like, I'm sorry that I made people feel that way. I'm sorry that, you know, I created distance, but that not going far enough. Cuz the real work is to say maybe I do think that. And that maybe that's fucked up and maybe I need to like do some with that. And that's what I did. And, and so allowing myself to go that extra layer beyond the superficial accountability was just blew me open.

It was one of those experiences that one of my favorite psychoanalyst AK talks about overwhelm experiences that are at the limit of our consent that allow our ego to be overwhelmed to the point where it cracks. And this type of group, although we consented to participating, you can never guarantee consent.

Like you cannot. You can't. Mm-hmm. It's false. And that space you thought you were consenting to one thing and you get something else. And so it allowed for you to experience overwhelm in a way that you might not otherwise. Right? Because we tightly control consent to like be so predictable and, and only it only serves to keep us comfortable when we just use affirmative consent.

Like, are you okay with this? Are you okay with this? Okay, with this, and you're only gonna choose things. You're okay with that. Maintain the integrity of your ego, right? So this was an experience that. I didn't consent to and I wouldn't have, if someone said, Hey, there's, there's a group of people that have a problem with you.

Are you cool with coming to this accountability circle? My inclination would be, no, but because I didn't know that was gonna happen, and then I was confronted with it, some might say, oh, you know, okay, I didn't consent to this. Whoop, whoop, whoop. And that's, you know, that becomes a problematic, but in fact, those are the places we need to go in order to get so overwhelmed.

Like my whole identity, who I thought of myself, who I thought I was presenting at, was completely challenged in that moment. Right? And so I bring this up to say, this is the moment when I realized how powerful groups could be, like the structure of group and what it could offer. So that's when I like, was infected by the like, profound space that a group could offer.

Because of my experience in that group, I was picked to be the TA for the following semesters to teach, to teach that group class. And then I, I would teach it for a few years after and have wonderful experiences and facilitate really transformative experiences for my student. I had one email me last week who's now in her PhD to tell me, I still remember that experience with you in group and how you supported me, so, I was doing that and I was working at a clinic that was court ordered substance use for women, and it was residential.

And I ran groups there and I got really skilled at that. And because it was a really shitty low budget clinic, no one, there was no oversight. So I could kind of do what I want, which in my case was great and people were terrible practitioners, not good. But I could experiment with all types of group. And it was such a beautiful formative experience for me.

And I left that and encountered Djc a year before Amanda opened it. Amanda was talking about this concept at a public lecture. And so when I saw the job come up a year later, I jumped on it. And Amanda I was the first person hired and the first person to work at D J C, it was Amanda and I. Detroit Justice Center.

Detroit Justice Center. I'm sorry. Yes. Amanda and I opened the doors on April 2nd, 2018, and then we welcomed, you know, subsequent folks and a few years into my work. I don't know how, I can't remember where I heard restorative justice and I just don't, but it entered my awareness somehow and I latched onto it because I thought, oh, this is a group process.

Okay. That's like my speed, you know, I've developed a specialty, but it's like not therapies. I was really curious. Yeah, 

David: yeah. In your experience, how were, well, there's so much in what you shared, just like on that last piece and like tying it to the initial question in your experience, right? Yeah. You the words restorative justice didn't come to you at the beginning of that group, right?

Because like, there's a difference between sitting in a circle and then like circle, right? Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. That wasn't shared with you within the context of that, that group process class. Right? Okay. No. Yeah. Just wanted clarification there. And so, and, and even when your group members were calling you out on your perceived like moral superiority or like intellectual superiority, like that wasn't necessarily framed as restorative justice.

No. Right. But like the process of like being in good relationship with each other was there. Mm-hmm. 

Angel: Yeah. Right. All language we did not use, by the way, you know? Yeah, yeah, yeah. That, which is actually something that I've been writing about recently that I do wanna touch on, that I wanna return to this idea of like, what's legible as rj, but.

Yes. I, that is not part of clinical curriculum. Mm-hmm. Restorative justice. This is not we are taught therapeutic groups. And so I, I, I, I remember finding out about RJ asking people, and they're like, no, this is not therapy. And I thought, well, that's curious because what you all are dealing with and what you say you're trying to do, I, I, I'm confused, is how you're making all these claims of like, oh, this is not therapy and this is not therapeutic.

And yet people are sitting here like bearing open, really, in some cases extraordinary wounds. Mm-hmm. And in some cases having profound experiences with the people or persons or whatever who caused wounds and like allowing that to enter each other and allowing that to like maybe help us retranslate some of those experiences and make new meanings.

And I'm just like, how is that not therapeutic? I was really confused by the dogma around RJ and how people understood it. And I was like, I don't know where y'all have been, but I'm just telling you from, like, those things aren't distinct to me. Maybe like for liability, I don't, maybe there's a practical reason why you don't say that.

Yeah. But that blows my mind that categorically you exclude RJ as like a therapeutic. I'm like, I. I 

David: think like it's largely logistical and like, I think there's a difference between therapy and therapeutic. These are like, I would say that it can be therapeutic, but like as a licensed practitioner, I am not a licensed practitioner by the state of whatever.

I have not gotten the quote unquote education from x, y, z institution that stamps me as a licensed clinical social worker, marriage, family, counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist, who can like mm-hmm. Be sued for holding. Right. Right. Like, that's the difference for me. I am curious like what other people would say.

But yeah. Yeah, like there's no doubt that things that are therapeutic, things that are healing, things that we're, we're wrestling with past harm, we're bringing things into the space that like, you know, nobody was necessarily prepared to bring into the space. Like it takes an immense amount of care.

Yeah. But yeah, like they're, they're word words are important sometimes. Yes. Like word words are often important. Words aren't the end all be all. Like, they can't like fully describe everything that goes on. Like even going back to what you were talking about with consent earlier, right? Like, we're so heavy on wanting consent, and I think the way that you delineated like affirmative consent versus like, I think like the way that I talk about it is like, you know, passive versus like informed consent.

Like where did we like collaboratively come to say like, yeah, this is the way that we want to be. This is what's important to me and this is the way that I wanna be, versus like, them's the rules. You good? Mm-hmm. Right? Mm-hmm. Is, is important. And like even within the bounds of that, there are things that are gonna come up that we didn't necessarily say like, yes, right.

Are gonna, are gonna happen here in this space. Like, you know, people debate, like safe space, brave space, vulnerable space, like all of those things. Like safety's not guaranteed bravery is not guaranteed the ability to be vulnerable. Sure. But that's a moment to moment decision for people. Not a, a thing that, like I said it, so this is the way that it's gonna be forever.

And I think, you know, what restorative justice or restorative ways of being allow us to do is constantly negotiate the ways that we are in relationship with each other. Like, are our actions in any given moment building, strengthening, or repairing these relationships? And if we're not willing to do that work, like what are the limits to which we're going to be pushed by people in our community or what are the ways that like, we're gonna be able to step back from that and to like, that's for you.

Mm-hmm. That's not for me. Man, there was so much in there. I have a follow up question, but I would love to hear any responses. 

Angel: Yeah, I would say that I think maybe where this tension lies outside of the pragmatic concerns of not wanting to package something as therapy, if you're not a therapist, is fine.

Mm-hmm. And I think it's fine to just say that I also think that to be very adamant that it's not, therapy is just wrong on a matter of actual process. Mm-hmm. And I think the people who say that are maybe using a different definition of therapy or therapeutic, I, I, I'm like what? Those are folks who tend to think very along binaries around these things so that, you know, therapy is done in a particular context with particular people who have particular credentials on a very, you know, particular cadence with its own transactions and explicit goals, which have so much overlap with RJ and then RJs done by practitioners, blah, blah in this context.

And expectations are different. And, and what I'm saying is as a matter of practice and process for people, they are not discreet processes. Mm-hmm. And I also say that therapists are not the only people that do therapeutic work and that therapeutic experiences, Are vast and exceed the therapeutic space.

So myself and other therapists who I know and I'm friends with, we always say that the real therapy happens in between the sessions. Mm-hmm. So that means that people are out living, doing things differently or not doing things differently and thinking about why they didn't do it different. Or having transcendental li or limit experiences or yeah, extreme experiences that have a therapeutic impact.

And so I think I'm just more inclined to bring RJ into the fold of like, what is therapeutic, because I have a more, I think, broad and holistic idea of like, what can be therapeutic. To think about therapy happening only between a licensed practitioner, between two people in a room one hour a week is extremely limiting.

And is, is harm is a harmful conception because what it does is it foreclose on all of the ways that people, communities, relationships, outside time, all of these things can be therapeutic. So I, I wanted to be clear about that because I think people are really invested in making sure that RJ is under not understood as therapy.

And I am not invested in that. I, I don't call it therapy, but I also talk about it differently. I mean, I don't talk about it in binaries of therapy or rj, whatever. I talk about the process mm-hmm. And what the process might offer possibly, at least as a starting point. So, 

David: yeah. Yeah. This being like a mental health awareness month for those who happen to listen to this in the time and space that it's released.

Like I've, I've been observing dialogue around the ways that western models of therapy are not serving people of the global majority. hmm. And I think you're offering a more nuanced approach of therapy and the use of like, therapeutics like as a term and where I hear a lot of the resistance that you're articulating, like RJ is not therapy is for people who have not been served well by therapy that we experience in America, right?

As a person of the global majority who like very presently right now, like, and this is just like my gripes with like the healthcare system, right? Kaiser, right. I had an initial appointment with a therapist six weeks ago at this point, right? And they scheduled our next follow up to be like three three weeks from then.

But they couldn't, there, something came up for them. It's like, okay, so I got to know this person six weeks ago now, six weeks later I'm supposed to follow up. And like, how is that therapeutic? How is that helpful? Like I don't even wanna like associate restorative justice with like that kind of experience.

Yeah. Is something that like I hear energy around, and that's not even to mention like the ways that like within the context of quote unquote therapeutic relationships or like patient client relationships, there is lots of harm that is perpetrated that people are like, don't want to associate with. But yeah, there's words are important and the conversation around the way that we use words is super important too.

Just because like, I bring this example up all the time, like I want you to show me respect. Great. What does respect mean? Mm-hmm. Right? I want to be respected here in the space. What's respect to you is not necessarily respect to me. And that can be across cultural differences of course, but just people's lived experience of like, Hey, say hi to me when you pass me in the hallway.

Mm-hmm. Versus like, Hey, we're all just going about our business. Yeah. I'm just navigating in my life. I didn't mean any disrespect by just passing you by. Hmm hmm. Did you want to No, no, go ahead. Oh, yeah. Going back to, you know, that introduction of like capital R, capital J, restorative justice, and like making the connections and like seeing differences.

You mentioned the way that like it was initially framed to you in a programmatic way, in a formal way, like maybe kind of rubbed you the wrong way. What were some of the problems that you experienced with that introduction to restorative justice? 

Angel: Right. I think that's twofold as well. That the, the programmatically

I had issues as well as The broader movement with which RJ is seated under. So I think that I had sort of issues with both. And on the RJ practice front, it felt to me not robust. It felt not holistically considered. I also felt like there was initially a more impoverished apprehension of the nature of harm and the multiple natures of Harmon, how people come to choosing harm.

It's a way to solve their problems, but then also not as nuanced and understanding of what happens to people in people when they are harmed and what the trajectory of that is. So more specifically, 

David: yeah. Before you go more specifically. Yeah. I'm not asking you to like name trauma people or programs or institutions who taught you frameworks.

Yeah. And if you want to, that's fine. That's not what I'm asking for. What I am asking for is like, Sharing like the way that it was introduced to you, like the application under which, like it was introduced to you. Because a lot of people who are listening to this, like, oh, like RJs the thing that I learned in school, RJs the diversion program, that's like within the context of the court system, RJ is like X, Y, Z.

So if you could share, that might be what you were about to go into, but I wanted to make sure that like, we're narrowing that as much as possible for 

Angel: folks. Yeah. So unfortunately I can't say, like, I don't have the exact moment, the person, the program. I just have like the feeling. Oh, okay. And like my sentiments, I, and people have asked me this, of course, I get asked all the time, how'd you go into rj?

I don't remember. I just don't. There was also a lot going on with me at the time as well. So I, I'm gonna, I wasn't able to always be fully present, which means I could not encode things in my memory very well. So I, I don't know, I don't know most the more specifics of that initial introduction.

Mm-hmm. But I can just remember how I reacted to it. And I, this is a very, what I understand now is this is some faction of practitioners, you know? Mm-hmm. This is not representative. so yeah. I, I can't cite Any particulars that would make any sense to anybody? I can say that I, I just remember the encounter and I remember my initial thoughts about it. Cause I remember having conversations with people who were doing it and, and saying like, what is, what's up with this? What's up with the people who are talking about this?

Cause someone is, Hmm. I thought the start and stop point was shortsighted. Mm-hmm. Just because, you know, the, what I was introduced at the time was that the process itself is, and how it's like handled is going to start with the event of the harm and sort of stop with the end of the circle.

And I thought, okay, that's strange to me. It also talked about promoting healing and I was really seduced by that rhetoric as well. At the time. A lot of us who are. Try to choose therapy as an occupation of course. Or hold that dear. And I think I was like, okay, cool. But then if they were saying they were talking about healing, but they're only doing rj, I thought that was odd as well.

Sort of prescribing RJ as a remedy for trauma and harm, I thought, well, that ain't it. Like all of it. And so that's what, what I mean is that I felt that it was like really limited and like, if you're gonna take this up, if you're gonna take this work up, your work cannot start and stop with a circle. I mean, just, I I probably cuz of my disciplinary background of my training mm-hmm.

I, I just didn't, I thought that was a real odd approach to say, oh, we want to help people with their harm and trauma, but not as therapist and not at therapeutically, but like this other way that we think is helpful and we play this very specific role. And I think there's something to that, but you just can't make grandiose claims.

I mean, you can only make claims about what really might be possible in the circle. And I guess that's where I want to get to is that I thought that it was overstated. Hmm. What, what a circle can do. Certainly it can do whatever the people in the space wanted to do. And, and that is what I felt like was missing, was that it was being put forth as Yeah.

As a medicinal thing, right. As a, you know, we're gonna prescribe this for these types of situations. Mm-hmm. And that it, it felt overly ambitious to me, particularly as it didn't include any other elements outside of the circle itself. So that's where that, that was where I had my biggest critique. And of course later I was found my way to folks who were practicing a little differently.

David: Yeah. Cuz I, my question is like, how do you go from that to being someone who has founded the Metro Detroit Restorative Justice Network? Right. And so like, who were the people? What were the experiences that brought you to a place where like, I can be in alignment with this? 

Angel: Yeah. Well I thought, you know, I'm just going to make it, I mean maybe that was sort of my, an anarchist, you know, sort of disposition that I've always had.

Always. Which is partly why I was punished a lot as a kid. Cuz I'm like, what are these arbitrary rules about what I have to do? You know? I was more militant and stubborn with it. I'm much more. Considered now in, in being subversive, but I just thought we made all this shit up. You know, I've always thought that way, especially when I was a kid and I felt childhood was so oppressive and I still maintain that.

And I just thought, what are these rules about what I can and can't do? You know? And, and that I encountered that as well with rj and then broadly abolition. This is another podcast. And, and I thought, well, we can make this wherever we want. You know, ideas are not proprietary. No country, no culture, no era owns an idea.

They travel. That's the nature of ideas. And if we say we are doing this liberatory transformative work, we hope our ideas travel. And so I felt like we, we could make this what we want. I mean, we don't have to practice in this way, you know, y'all know that, right? Like we could do whatever we want. And I also thought I had something to offer cuz I didn't know any therapist who were doing RJ at the time.

And I didn't know any RJ practitioners who were therapists. Like they, they just weren't crossing paths. Yeah. In a way that I was like, this seems naturally to like have so much affinity with our work as therapists. Why is it that like we haven't found our way there? And it's just a lot of like the way disciplinarily we're structured in universities and where RJ is often seated in like a.

Criminal justice spaces, right. Or law schools or whatever. And not in clinical training programs, a bit more in social work, but in psychology, proper. In psychiatry, it's just not a thing. So I thought, okay, well maybe I'll have my own spin on this local, like hyper locally. Mm-hmm. And I can include some more elements and a, a different ethos and philosophy that's just more expansive than, and has a different analysis than just like, this is an alternative to the criminal justice system.

You know? And speaking more broadly of like, these are practices that

implicate a lot of prerequisite work and implicate a lot of like prerequisite foundational, like baseline understanding of human beings. And so that I thought, okay, maybe we can experiment with like, what that was gonna look like in practice through creating like a formal container for that. And I started by scanning like the ecosystem of work.

This is pre covid. So I was driving all over the state to try to meet people on Google snowballing referrals. Like, okay, anybody who's doing anything that sounds like RJ wanted to talk to them. Mm-hmm. Cause I wanna understand what are y'all doing? Who are you doing it with? Why? What are your aspirations and hopes for the work?

And I put all of that together and. Said, okay, what can I do in my capacity at Djc? I can't be everything to everybody, but I can hear what is emerging out of this and try to structure something around it. And many things emerged, but the things that I latched on to that were workable for me was that folks wanted a space to come together and network with other practitioners, cuz they were very much siloed in the state and there are many limitations in the bureaucracies that they work in.

And so they had politics that exceeded what they could do at work and really wanted to organize with others collectively to realize work as an, as like a group together. So a place for them to exercise their politics. And that's what that's, that's how the, the network was born to try to attend to those emergent needs that came out of my conversations.

David: Yeah. one of the things that stood out most to me in your response is like, the space for people whose ideals and values and the work that they wanna see in the world, like exists outside of the purview of what their job can allow. Right. Can you speak to some of the specifics of who those partners were and like what this network is offering an an organizing capacity?

Angel: Yes. I, I, I'll, I'll say sectors versus. Specific. Sure, sure. I don't know if folks want me to No, no, no. Yeah. So we had folks working in schools, right? Mm-hmm. A lot of people working in schools and doing RJ let me use the RJ in schools. And feeling a lot of limitations in the bureaucracy that our schools, and I'm talking all schools, higher education, secondary education, primary education, and also seeing, yeah, the limits of philosophically what they could do, what the finances would allow, what a structure of a school day and the demands of operating this school would allow.

We had folks who were working in juvenile justice, so-called probation, and looking at that and saying, even if I do my best to, you know, try to understand these young people and give them grace and give them opportunity and avoid characterizing them as rotten or defective, I'm still a probation officer.

Like there are limits to what I can practice In that role, we also had folks who were working in nonprofit who also felt like, We're overwhelmed. This is not programmatically a part of our scope of work. I don't know if everyone here is bought into this type of work. But I believe in it. I just, there's not a lot of room for it at my job because we're working on legislation or organizing around some goal oriented stuff.

And so, yeah, I mean, there's really no job to be honest, that allows for people to really exercise a radical politic outside of my own job. So it's just, which is highly, highly unique. So yeah, I, I offer those specific examples, but you could also just say like, think of any job that's available. It's just not possible.

It's in the sort of radical, subversive way that we want to do it in, in most of these jobs. Yeah, so that's, that's where people were at and that's what I was hearing from everyone. 

David: And so the network then is offering a space to do what? 

Angel: Man,

there isn't much categorically that is outside of our grasp. Our limitation is that with the exception of myself, who is a paid staff person at Detroit Justice Center, it is volunteer. Driven, volunteer, run network. And so that has limitations on what we can do in terms of like realizing work, but the philosophy and ethos that our work is guided by is unbounded, right?

We can do it however we want. And even within the limitations of many people working nine to five jobs and having to meet on weekends or evenings, even in that we can experiment with different ways of working. So it's twofold. I think the network offers all of us two layers. One, an opportunity to experiment with like programmatically, experiment with, yeah.

What can we make, what can we make for ourselves and our communities that is more in alignment with our politics and in our values and for what we just want for ourselves and our kids and the generations thereafter. It also is a space for what I think is, I hope, and it's still aspirational, sort of a radical

shift around how we do that work. And so it gives us an opportunity to experiment with doing work that is different. Than mm-hmm. How we are doing work at our nine to five jobs and an opportunity to experiment with what work we do. So that's really the emphasis for us is how and what, because to go call back to what I was saying earlier, maybe this was in our pre-recording trauma-in about trying to prefigure our values.

That's really important to me as it should be for anyone who's doing so-called RJ because Right, we vocalize accountability. And so that should naturally lead us to a place where if we are on the panels, on the podcast, doing the webinars, and we are professing accountability as a virtue, as in some cases a north star for some of our work, it means that we are considering it all the time.

And the ways that I'm considering is how can I gather this group of people in this network and say, we're going to do this work. We're gonna coalesce around abolition and liberatory action and practice and like, not do that, enact that in the, our working relationships because I, I, I'm not trying to be called out for, you know, being super problematic leader who is like doubling down on white supremacist leadership values in abolitionist work.

Like that's crazy to me. It's also a way for us to feel it out. Like, what are we saying we're asking people to do? This is a practice that I got in my clinical training in psychoanalysis in order to, which is different than psychotherapy. To become an analyst, you have to be in analysis for years. And in therapy it's just recommended that you be in your own therapy.

And some of the classes, right, are structured as experiential classes because you're gonna be in therapy and telling your client, do this and do that. I mean, not really. You shouldn't be saying that, but you will be thinking about this person should do this. Maybe they quit that job or get out of that relationship or stop that habit, or whatever it is, but can you appreciate what you're asking people to do?

And so I felt that's the same with rj. I mean, we're telling people yeah, accountability and telling the truth and all of that. And I felt, well, we need to be practicing that and doing that so that we can appreciate the task that is before people when we are asking people to engage in this process. And it's just a part of an ethical practice that we also be enacting this and, and failing and, and failing better the next time we hope.

So at least differently. Yes. I mean, I would, I, I qualify it differently because differently can be just as bad, you know? It's like I, is there a way that we failed better this time? You know, meaning that we didn't recreate the failures of before, but we've happened upon new failures that open up new possibilities for learning.

That's what I'm referring to when I, when I talk about failing better. and we've done that and it's been wonderful. It's been wonderful. It really has been such a opening for me to be part of leading that. You know, 

David: you articulated on the call before we started recording, you know, some of the ways that like you come into spaces.

Yes. I'm curious if you want to highlight that or maybe some of the other ways you try to break up the ways that y'all do work in some specific manifestations of that. 

Angel: Yes, absolutely. So I'm actually, I have the document up into my background because I'm, I'm writing this for it's gonna be teaching at the feminist autonomous research, feminist autonomous center for research.

It's based in Athens. They have a summer school every year. Athens, Greece. Yes, Greece, Georgia. My, everyone says that no, Athens, Greece, which is also where my bi, my biological father is. Greece is Greek and lives in Greece. So it's also a beautiful opportunity to go there. But any, anyway I'm writing about the theme this year is abolitionist care and how we are foregrounding that and prefiguring it in our work.

And so this is top of my mind right now to, and also to be very specific about it is I'm having to nail it down for the purposes of teaching. I will say some of the, this process is always unfolding and we are always uncovering ways in which we have recapitulated problematic ways of being in work. And we are just always, always growing into that.

Even when we think we've arrived and like, look at us, we're radical, blah, blah, blah. And then we see that, oh shoot, why were we doing that? You know what, and I'll give an example of that which may seem trivial, but was really transformative for us. But we're just constantly uncovering the ways that, you know, white supremacists and capitalist principles and values are in fact, in fact everything.

And that's how we're socialized. I mean, you know, and we don't punish ourselves for, you know, carrying out that work of white supremacy and capitalism because that's what's to be expected of us without really rigorous work. An analysis. So that's what we're trying to do, right? So we, we, we say, yeah, okay, we wanna be righteous, but we also acknowledge that we will continue to, to do this stuff.

And we just create a community of accountability that when we're doing it, someone can say, Hey, we're doing the thing and we can receive that, and we can do something about it. So I think a few things. One, we just set the conditions for accountability that are always already there. Like the ground is so fertile for that.

And how do you do that? For me, it has been a significant emphasis on building relationships with folks and then offering sort of really clear vision and leadership. And so specifically what does that look like in our practice? We came together in April, 2020. That was supposed to be our launch.

Obviously we did not launch in April, 2020 at Wayne State University where we were supposed to convene. It took us another several months to regather as everyone dealt with their personal crises, global crises. We have been meeting since then and we are just now in 2023 putting out like our first training.

Okay. We've also done a few other low impact in terms of labor things, but I bring that up to say it has taken that long for us. On purpose to get to like work products outcomes because it was important for us that we settled on the right group of people to be in the space, that we knew who we were, that we trusted each other and that meant most of our meetings and we meet once a month.

Were just asking how people were doing and how they came into the space and spending like most of the time on that. And then maybe getting to the agenda items. And we also set goals for ourself that are not overly ambitious. So we are not setting ourselves up in the beginning to work in a way that's pressured and doesn't have time for relationships.

That's also a practice that MI is get, gets missed when we profess like relationship, relationship, relationship. And yet we said we're gonna do 40 trainings and we're gonna put out this report and we're gonna do this, which leaves no room. Like we, we, we set ourselves up to completely edge out capacious that's required for relationships and the cultivation of relationships.

So every year we have really low impact goals and I tell Djc not to expect a lot from my department, if you will, because. W folks are volunteers. We meet once a month. We meet in the evenings after work. People are tired and spent. They're dealing with loss, sickness, financial precarity, and all the rest of the shit that the global society is dealing with.

So that's the one practice that sets up everything else is that what we set out to do for the year is sustainable and manageable. And then when we actually try to start doing that work, as much as as much time is spent on relationship, as is on the work and sometimes more. And then added to that is it's not just how are you doing, how are you coming into the space?

You know, all of those prompts. But it's also when someone says I'm working at this corporate job and I wanna die cuz I hate it there. It is terrible. These people are awful means when I see it because I know this person, right? I've been sitting in meetings with them in community for six months. When they say that to me and I see jobs come across my news, all the newsletters I subscribe to, I send it to them right When I have someone on in my network who is.

A part of like a two person nonprofit that's trying to do mutual aid for sex work and they are struggling for funding and it's in the middle of Covid and they're trying to pay people so they don't have to do sex work and risk covid when funding opportunities come across my email, because I'm at a nonprofit, I send it to them.

So there are practices of relationship building that exceed meetings that exceed like the formal work time, that are a part of care in how we practice care. When someone needs a ride somewhere, you know, or like doesn't have a car or someone has experienced a death or a loss and we just pull up and drop off food or a plant, which seem like really trivial things, but actually they're like absent in a lot of spaces like that, that is just absent.

And it goes such a long way into building a really solid foundation for the, like, so-called work to happen. So we've spent years doing that and I think that was the right move. And we have a core group of people despite what's going on in their lives, show up every time. And it's because I, I had a meeting last month of the leadership group.

We call ourselves the Cultivating Committee. There's five of us who co-lead the Restorative Justice network and Tamika is one of them. She's been with me from the beginning, like the other three. And those meetings are three hour Zoom meetings every single time. And like two hours of it is just us catching up with each other.

And then we get to a point where like, okay, y'all, we should probably get to work. We should probably start doing this agenda. But it's because there's that much that needs to be given an expression in this space and it brings us closer every time. And it lets us know where there are opportunities to care for each other.

And we just don't know where those opportunities are if we don't create the space for people to say it. And so it's a part, it's embedded in all of my practices, in terms of my meetings, all my communications with members. It is always like a relationship first approach. And if work has to suffer because we didn't get to the thing on the meet meeting agenda, it's fine.

It goes on to the next meeting agenda. But I know that our work is the long game and I can't do this by myself. I need support. I need everyone to be there. And that means I have to take care of the relationships so that this is not a space where people are getting drained or people are getting taken from, and that they feel like they're getting from this space too.

And I've just heard that articulated and. Affirmed by members that that is exactly what's happening for them. And I'll give two brief examples of that so that people sort of know what that looks like. Mm-hmm. The last cultivating committee, two of our members, one lost a family member very suddenly and is now caring for the children and that estate and probate court and the nightmare of all of that.

And another person who already lost a child to gun violence years ago has one child remaining who was in a nearly lethal car accident who almost died and whose recovery will be months and months and who she will have to care for. And at our last meeting, both of them showed up and one of them from the hospital with her child.

And you know, I say to them, no, that this is not expectation that you come. Right. That is something that I always say for folks in crisis. I won't email you, I won't text you, you won't be notified. You will take care of yourself and you'll reenter when it's right for you. And yet they're in the meeting.

And so we said, you know, I'm surprised that you all are here. And someone, the one from the hospital said, I look forward to this. I knew that. I was just like, I just get so much from this space, you know, from us being together that I wanted to be here. That was my goal. And I think as folks who say they do restorative justice and really talk about relationships rhetorically, that's what that looks like.

I mean, that's what that means for people in practice is that people want to keep coming back and what brings them back as the relationship. Yeah, 

David: yeah. As you're saying, those, like,

I imagine listeners and I myself am thinking about like, oh, but that would never work in my context. Right. And because so many people might be thinking about like work and capitalism mm-hmm. And these goals, and like you said, from jump, right? This is a volunteer space. We've have the spaciousness to set our expectations of ourselves, of each other and, and do that work.

And when you're thinking about like, what does it take to build a community of care? Mm-hmm. Right? Where people are able to articulate their needs, get their needs met, and still accomplish the things that you wanna do, we have to be really clear about what it is we're trying to accomplish under what timeframe.

And like having realistic goals for making sure those things happen. And oftentimes when I think about. Quote unquote, implementing restorative justice ways of being into X, y, z workplace, right? Mm-hmm. Like what are your goals and what are these goals? What are these goal? What of these goals are you willing to deprioritize in order to live these values?

And if you're not, then be really clear that there are some ways that this work is just not gonna manifest. There are many ways that this work just isn't gonna manifest, and that's okay. Hmm. But like, it's just, it's science. Like you put in, this was the input, this is gonna be the output. Mm-hmm. Or if this was not the input, you're not gonna get this output.

Mm-hmm. Right. And you know, we, do you articulate it again, like the slowness of this relative, slowness of this is, is real. And if people are okay with that, beautiful. And if we're not okay with the slowness at which this work is gonna take place, like, well, what is the other time that we're gonna allot to make this happen faster?

And if we're not willing to make that all lot the time to make that happen faster, then what are we doing? And all of this is to say it right when we're thinking about. Individual practice of restorative ways of being to the extent possible within the context of our relationships, our workplaces, our communities, et cetera.

Like that's one thing. And to do this work with other people, to build the relationships, to build your internal capacity, to be this way with each other, to have the common language. Like it's something that takes time and the way that it's gonna manifest is gonna be different for every single context that you do it in.

Right? Just because there's a x, y, Z blueprint for a school district one, just because there's a document that says like, this is the way that a school district is gonna do things, doesn't mean that it would be applicable to your school district. And you know, I'm making the caveat that I'm not even sure that that document is the way that the work is manifesting in X, y, z Right.

School district. Right. Yes. Right. This is not a cut and paste program, which like, I think you were like bristling against this is not like something that's cut and pastable or replicable, like it is a framework, a way of being a set of values informed by, you know, indigenous values of interconnection and you know, circle practice.

The ability to hold space for each other. But at the end of the day, it's like building, strengthening, repairing relationships rooted in equity and trust. And if we're not gonna make the time and space to do that, we're not gonna necessarily get to those goals. And I think, you know, the. Work that you've done, you know, the, the slow work, the deep relational work that you've done over the past, you know, kind of five years, but Right.

You know, three years from when you said like you were gonna start like is solid. Like you're doing the things that you set out to do mm-hmm. Just at the rate that like they could possibly happen. Well, 

Angel: yes, yes, that's right. That's exactly right. Yeah. It's very rewarding. It, I mean, it re it reaps a lot of rewards because I'm living like a possibility.

Mm-hmm. That sometimes it's just talked about rhetorically and I mean, it's complicated. You know, there are extraneous factors that we have to navigate. But I think it goes back to me saying earlier of questioning being super critical of what we take for granted as this is just how things are.

This is just what we do. We fall into that even as so-called like radical abolitionist, whatever. I really came into it with we can make this whatever we want. And anybody in the network, excuse me, knows that is my mantra. I, I I, I say that explicitly often. We can make this whatever we want, which is true.

I can see how it might be interpreted or heard as maybe, yeah, maybe not practical or falling into the trap of like being a romantic or I'm just saying it's happening in real life, you know, and, and it is not a romantic space in practice. It is. Mm-hmm. Har, you know, hard for us to navigate like our personal lives, but the space we create together, that's within our power.

You know, I can't help if someone is dying or someone lost their job, but we can exercise a radical politic in our relationship within our work. And even if you have to meet a deadline, how you meet, it does not have to be trash. You know, like there's, there's this idea that like these, what people talk about all the time in this really non complimentary way, that is baffling to me because I will say, I would talk about this, and they're like, right, but what about like when you have to get work done or like when you have a deadline, as if they're not compatible practices.

So I think even if in terms of like actual time, there's not enough of it. You have to think of. Are we studying? Like who made it so that there's not enough time? Because like the analysis can't stop there. Cause that's where folks go a lot is, well, we don't have the time, or we have this grant. And I'm like, right.

So what's the work you can do to set yourself up? Like that's the prerequisite foundational work you can do to make this other work possible. So we can't think about this work like in a vacuum, like this relational, slow work in and of itself. But there are other conditions that made that possible. Those conditions.

Being in my role at Djc, I didn't, I don't have managers or supervisors breathing down my neck for work. So there's also that piece. I'm given agency autonomy and trust to do my work. So if I come back and say, this is what we're doing this year, they trust that that's what can be done this year. And then the funding, which I'm just starting to receive now, which often is what people are saying without saying when they say there's no time, is because a lot of our work is contingent on grant timelines.

So there is some work that needs to be done within philanthropy and in our relationship to philanthropy. And that's in how we frame our work to people who want to fund it. Because we just wanna talk about outcomes. Like we're gonna do this, this, and this and this and like that, and we need the money to do that.

But the conversations that I've been allowed to be in with funders off rip, I tell them for this thing in particular, right? If we're gonna do this training, I'm saying 18 months. But I am telling you that if history as any teacher, things will come up, people will get sick, people will lose something or someone.

And we may not be able to do this in 18 months. So I'm telling you like ahead of time, I am setting you your, your expectation at the very beginning. But then I also frame my work so they understand how crucial the relationship building is. And if you say you want this work to happen, I'm telling you that our work cannot happen without the proper investment in relationships.

So if you are financially investing in this work, it always necessarily means you are investing in the relational part of the work, which does take time. So I frame it such that funders can't piecemeal these things out to say that this is a package deal and that I don't pitch anything that I know we cannot do in, you know, a particular, particular timeframe.

So I either don't, I. Select certain work for us, or I just make sure the timelines give us enough breathing room to account for the inevitable crises and for us to like reset and go back to the, our relationship building if we need to. That helps. Like that is some necessary conditions that need to be present in order for us to work this way is that we have to let folks know that that is work too.

That's not a distraction, it's not extraneous, it's not taking us away. That relationships and us talking about how our days and week went, that is part of the work that is not separate. That that is part of what I'm telling you about what we do. And so so far I've been really successful in that that the funds, the funding we've received creates opportunities for all of that.

You know, the room, the adequate funding for everybody to get paid and for us to do it right and on a timeline that's sustainable for us. So there are a lot of moving parts to it. It it, it is surely about our interpersonal practice, but it's also about studying the conditions, the material conditions as well.

Yeah, yeah, for 

David: sure. I think like it's, it's really important to be like explicit with your expectations and like, you know, for those listening who are thinking about. The way that they wanna see these ways of being manifest in their lives or in their workplaces, or whatever context you're thinking about. Right? Having a vision yourself of like what it means to you is really important.

Like, what is the work that you actually wanna see? And being clear about that with potential partners in that, whether those are colleagues, community members co-organizers, et cetera, family members. Right. And then working from there is the way that we get this done. I just wanna time trauma, because this was supposed to go until Yeah.

Eight minutes ago. How are you doing with time? I'm good. Mm-hmm. Okay. As I think about doing restorative justice work you know, everyone has their differing definitions. I'm curious how you articulate what restorative justice means. 

Angel: Yeah. I, I, as you've probably gathered when I'm asked to encapsulate RJ definitionally, the place that I go is a bit broader than the practices.

Sure. And it's gonna echo what I said earlier as well about my, my own personal disposition. But I think of. I think an appropriate way to talk about RJ is sort of a, a, again, like the rigorous pursuit of like what's possible within and between us in conflict as well as just in community. Specifically like a rigorous pursuit of ways of being in community that subvert, you know, white supremacist cultures, the demands and lies and myths of capitalism.

A rigorous pursuit of how we inhabit our bodies and our psyches. And the pursuit of like what might be possible in our relationships to like non-human living space as well. We just can't neglect neglect that in our, in our thinking, our theorizing in our practices. So it is a very holistic yeah, practice.

Also an orientation is maybe a better way for me to, to talk about it. It is a paradigm. Yeah. And it, like the paradigm is not rj, RJ is like a part of the constellation of what I understand the paradigm to be. I understand the, the paradigm that I espouse, is it really, I think, more comprehensive than what age RJ attends to?

I How would you define that? Yeah. That, I mean, that's still unfolding for me. I, I don't have a package for you. I'll say that it's, I think it's best encapsulated what I talked about, just like rigorously pursuing all of these possibilities. Possibilities that either, either been foreclosed because of capitalism are because of sort of what, how white supremacy operates and what it closes up for us.


I think I try to go about my life and my work, my research, looking for opportunities to subvert, looking for the places that are ripe for transmutation. What are the entry points for rethinking everything that we've been told and taught. So it's, you know, it's not, there's not like a sexy word for it, I guess, or a really short sound bite, but it's something that I'm still living through and it's coming together. And just as soon as I think I have a formula, you know, something else comes into play for me.

To round it back to restorative justice as a practice, I think of rj, and this is what I think about trauma more broadly as a creative endeavor. So this is really attached to my, what I have consumed and metabolized from the psychoanalytic literature and some other disciplinary literature about what happens in us with pain and trauma and what we do with it.

So, because that's what restorative justice wants to sort of take up as its object for the most part, harm, trauma, pain. It's subject to how those things move and operate. You can't abstract them from their nature. When folks experience harm and when folks do harm, you're en even if you've been harmed many times before, it's not this time.

And so each time you are traversing into new territory and who you are is. Irreversibly impacted. Yeah. And so the task before us is, who can I become now in light of what's happened to me? And that requires so much creativity to make and remake yourself in the aftermath of harm. So I, it's helpful for me to think about RJ facilitating the necessary creative practice that's involved with trying to grow after harm.

Because it's like a so much uncertainty. You are not who you were before. You're not, you just, you cannot be on a metabolic level, on a psychic level. You have more information in terms of experience now. Yeah. And the process is how to metabolize that and then psychically and emotionally and in your body.

And then what does that mean for like, who I am as a person in my identity? And that is where the creativity comes in. And, and I think that's how I think about restorative justice as this facilitating folks process, creative process of remaking themselves in through and after harm. I also think that it'd be good for practitioners to avoid what some psycho sometimes call.

Trauma phobia, which a lot of therapists and mental health professionals also have with this real deep fear of trauma. That trauma is something that needs to be sealed off in the past, right? We're gonna work through it and heal it and leave our trauma behind, and I think our relationship to it has been really myopic, like our, has been seen as purely a, a, a negative space, you know, something to be extinguished and avoid, and I just don't have that relationship to trauma.

I think what we see in practices, no one gets over the trauma. I don't know anybody as a practitioner therapist as well as in discussions with my colleagues who are therapists. I don't know one person who has gotten over their trauma. I think people do things with their trauma. And that seems the important focal point for me.

And I think RJ can intervene in that trajectory. It's not the end all be all. It may play a role in that for some people, but that's what I understand, sort of RJ as maybe having some facilitative role in what folks do with their trauma. But there's so many other things that support a doing with the trauma besides rj.

and so if we're gonna take, if our charge is to deal with trauma at a particular point in time for a person, I think it's important to appreciate how it lives in us as a companion rather than you know, something that can be put away or set in the past. You know, trauma is not bound to time like that.

for me it's been really helpful to understand it that way because then I have better expectations for what RJ can do and can't do, what therapy can and can't do if I better understand that trauma is not something to get over. But the energetic, like the libidinal or sort of energetic charge of trauma, which tends to animate us, can be transmuted into something and the way that people do with their trauma sometimes.

Will not make sense to people. But serves some idiosyncratic purpose for them. And I think our jobs as therapists, our practitioners, is to honor whatever it is that folks need to do with the trauma. And that that doing is an end in and of itself and not a means to an end. And the way that they do what their trauma is to make meaning out of it sometimes, sometimes they physically do and enact.

And to also know that that's temporarily bound. There is no final destination in terms of the meaning we make of our trauma. It's, we hope that RJ and maybe therapy and maybe profound experiences in nature and maybe peer group, maybe encounters with a romantic other, with children. Maybe something happens in that brew that allows people to encounter themselves in a way and their experiences in a way that they can engage in this process of retranslation, which is a term that I'm borrowing from Laplanche, who was a French psychoanalyst, that we can retranslate these experiences, but it's not final.

So it's not like you go to therapy, you go, you do the RJ circle, you have the profound experience, and you're like, ah, okay, I, I, I've made new meaning of this experience. Now I have a different relationship to this trauma. That is not the final destination. It's just that you make meaning that is relevant and useful for you at this particular time in your life.

And then later you might retranslate that information again where it's useful for you at that particular time in your life. So I'm saying all this to say that I think RJ can, if approached a certain way, can help us appreciate the reality of what actually happens with trauma in us and the role of time and that our meaning making and our relationship to trauma is so temporally bound.

It will always be in flux and it never lands anywhere permanently, even with all these interventions and that the goal of the interventions should be that we're able to make new meanings that serve us better. And just trying to sort of recuperate our relationship to trauma such that we aren't always trying to extinguish or repel it.

That pain and harm instruction also carry so much possibility. And I can't help but to conjure a example from nature. You can't see the other parts of my apartment, but it is a jungle in here. I just get so much inspiration from the work that they do to make and remake themselves and perpetuate themselves themselves, meaning plants.

And I think about like the deliberate burning of forest, which like managed pro projects do, but also is, isn't it like global indigenous practice as well? And I think of that as like the same event, right? This forest fire, it's a forest fire. As a forest fire. As a forest fire. You know, the same event can have so many meanings for folks.

And so it, some folks see it, particularly the ones that are happening because of climate change and all of that are, you know, destruction of course. And bringing a lot of trauma and pain to folks. But also the deliberate burning of forest is actually sort of the first phase of renewal, right? So it's under, you may not appreciate that in the beginning, but that is actually a process that allows, sets the conditions for necessary growth to happen.

So I think if we can latch onto examples of how what seems seemingly is a destructive force is actually something that create, creates so much possibility for renewal. And I, and I think about trauma that way and I think about how I'm attaching RJ to that is RJ can be that facilitative force that helps us reorient ourselves to trauma.

To say that this is, doesn't only carry this negative charge and this attendant destruction, but that if we have the right support, if the conditions are right, that we can remake something you know, in that negative space of destruction. And in fact, I think that's the only thing that's to be done with that.

So that is the really long way around to talk about how I define rj, how I understand it. Yeah. 

David: as you've thought about the way that you've been engaged in work that you would call restorative justice, what has been. Oh shit moment. Either a moment where like you messed up and you wish you did something differently or like, ah, shit. Yeah, I did that and it was awesome. 

Angel: Yeah man, I'm gonna have to go through the Rolodex of mistakes in my mind and missteps cuz there are so many, there have always been so many.

I'm just able to acknowledge them and be accountable for them now. So it's like now I'm taking tabs on them. I'll give an example that I think might seem really trivial to other people, but was really instructive for me. The RJ network, that is my shorthand because the name is so long for the network.

We are organized by four group, four committees, if you will. Three of them that are working committees, so that have goals and projects, and one which is functions as a steward or more conventionally known as the leadership group. So that's the group that I, I work alongside Tashmica go with. And when I originally made this structure, I called that group the executive committee, and that was our name for the first two years.

And I don't know what happened, I don't know what encounter I had, what I read, what I heard. But something just sparked in me where I was like, why the fuck are we calling ourselves executive? Like, this isn't Amazon. Like we're not, you know, is executive committee like, you know, representing our function within this group because that's not how we want to function as executives with this group.

And I brought that to the group and I said, you know what y'all, I don't, I don't think this is right. I don't think this naming is right. And language is something that's very important to me. Language is a signal and has consequence. And so I thought, you know, I'm not gonna shame and blame myself, whatever.

I'm just gonna, what it tells me is this is how insidious, you know, capitalism and white supremacists even in something that claims to be an RJ network at an abolitionist 5 0 1 is using language like that to describe ourselves in our work. And it, it, again, I, I don't think it's a big deal to a lot of people because language is taken for granted in even the most radical spaces, but it just doesn't.

Reflect what we're doing in the network and the function we serve for our ourselves and the members. And so we sat down with the thesaurus and we were like, all right, what do we actually do? We were on Zoom, someone had pulled up the thesaurus and we were like, what do we actually do for this group? Okay, so we do this, we do this.

Like, what are synonyms? Okay, what, you know, what's gonna be a good name? And so we landed on cultivating committee instead of the executive committee, and we thought that better represents and reflects what we are. We're sort of stewarding the network. We're trying to cultivate relationships and cultivate what we think is good worthy work.

That was a moment for me, even though incidentally it wasn't huge, but the impact on me was like, yo, even when I think I'm doing the most radical stuff, there it is right there, staring me in the face. And so it was just a really profound reminder that that work is always continuous. That like I will spend the rest of my life evacuating all of the really harmful but really sneaky infections of, you know, white supremacy and capitalism.

So it was kind of, yeah, just a moment of like, wow, even as I say, I'm doing this work and we're being radical and we're being abolitionist and anti-capitalist. Our language isn't, and what does that and what does it mean? It took me two years to recognize that. This is really just a, a broader lesson about let's not always be so sure about ourself.

Let's not always be so self-righteous because it will continue to sneak in and slip in, and our job is to just recognize it, not blame and shame and try to be creative around doing something different. Yeah. Yeah. 

David: I, I really like the name that y'all came to with that. Thank you. And, and thinking about the ways that, you know, that is replicated, perpetrated in so many different spaces, like, and I'm even thinking about coalitions that I've been a part of. Yeah. 

Angel: Mm-hmm. Yep. 

David: You get to sit circle with four people mm-hmm.

That are alive. Who are they and what is the one question you ask? The circle? 

Angel: Yes. So, when I was listening to Tamika's episode, I heard all these questions and I, I'm like, I have to think about, I cannot answer that on the spot. I'm glad I listened to this episode, so I know that's what's coming. And so, yeah, I thought about this and I actually, it didn't take as long as I thought.

I, I, I knew pretty quickly who I'd want to have in that space. The first person that I ha had listed in my mind was my biological father, who I do not know. I will spare you the scandal. That is how I came to find out about that. But what I do know about him is I, I do know that he is still living in Greece and that his lineage is Greek all the way back.

And you know, j I don't know who that is. I mean, that is 50% of my dna. You know, and in terms of nationality, ethnicity on the Ancestry 23 and Me is literally 50% of my dna. N and I am just very curious about where I come from and particularly who that person is. And is there some weird stuff going on where, you know, twins are separated at birth and yet they have the same mannerisms and they talk the same way and the, the real profound impacts of inheritance.

I'm deeply curious about that. I also don't look like my mother, so curious about if, if I, I look like that person. So that of course, that huge question mark in my life. If I grab someone by some miracle of you know, private investigation, I would absolutely try to Bring, bring him into that space with me to find out who I am.

More the other two are my mother and then the father that raised me from birth and who assumed I was his biological child.

They're younger versions of themselves, the preki maybe young adult versions of them. My parents are still remain in enigma to me. I probably spent 20 minutes talking about that earlier and my pursuit to try to understand them better, so them two. And then the last person is my grandmother, who is on my father's side.

The one that raised me. I had a really fraught relationship with her. She was very prejudiced. She's white, you know, from the Midwest, but she's also really troubled, really troubled person who experienced such harm. In her relationships. She lost a teenage son to a. Serial murderer in her area, actually in the eighties.

And she was not a kind person and a hard person to be around and who died a few years ago. And I would love to have her in that space as well. And, and I think the question that I had for them, I, I wanted to know what their dreams were. And so it's why I want the younger version of everybody before the pain of losing a child and for my mom, the trauma of being displaced.

And and for my biological father who's a mystery, I just wanted to know what they wanted from their lives, you know, what were their dreams? I'm sure they had some big dreams and I just don't know. That's just such a question mark. I don't know that, and I don't know the answer to that for any of those people.

And I think I'd like to, yeah, I, I'd like to know what they dreamed about, probably for me to sort of uncover if by some weird alchemy have I realized some of that for them. Hmm. 

David: I don't remember quite if I did this with Tamika, but now I turn the question to you. And you can answer this as your present self or as your younger self, but what are your dreams?


Angel: you know what? I've been pretty consistent younger self. Today's self. I'll say I have a, again, everything, I think everything is split. I, I have two ways to think about the question. I mean, I have dreams for myself and some I'm living and some are yet to be lived. And then dreams for like my, the, like, the, the, the planet I'm occupying.

I think for myself, I've always wanted to know, I I, I'm sure that's come across in these two hours that I'm really intensely insatiably curious about everything there is to know. My podcast collection and my book collection spans all disciplines. I just, I'm just fascinated by everything. And I think what that knowing does for me is help me sort of realize the bigger dream is that I wanted to be so present and so alive.

Like what does it mean to fully inhabit aliveness? That has just always been the dream for myself that I can experience as fully as possible, as viscerally as possible, like all of the contours of what it means to be alive and anything that was obstructing that or arresting my capacity for aliveness or things that I've been trying to shed.

And evacuate out of my life. So I think for me and, and for my children is they, they have their own dreams, obviously, but I have dreams for them and they mirror my own, is that I, I just wanna fully participate in my humanity with everything, the painful stuff as well as the, the awe, right? I mean the whole spectrum.

I, I, that has been my dream and I'm living that I've, I've built capacities in order to be receptive to that and to live that. And, and then there will be so much that I have yet to be alive to just because I hadn't gotten there in that particular time in my life. But I'm looking forward to that. And that's a dream that is not just within my grasp, but something that I'm viscerally experiencing.

And it's a very exciting, energizing and exhausting time in my life. And that's my dream for everyone who is living as well, is that they can have, they can inhabit their aliveness and that all the obstructions to that are remedied. You know, it sort of implicates everything. It implicates, you know, everything.

Yeah. I'll stop there. Yeah.

David: There are two more questions. One you are already very familiar with because that's how you got on here. As you've thought about this podcast and your experience here, who's someone who should definitely have this kind of conversation on this airwaves.

And the caveat is you have to help me get them on. 

Angel: Oh yeah, of course. Gladly. You know, is it, listen, it's definitely keeping it in the family. Cause the, the folks, the two folks that I thought of are the other two folks that help Tashmica and I lead the work because I just, we're each other's teachers. We trust each other implicitly.

We hold each other accountable. I love the way that they live their work and live their lives and they have so much to offer. They've offered me so much. I would love to listen to their podcast episode with this. So one of them is Belinda Dolan. She's the executive director of the Dispute Resolution Center.

Oh, I don't know if you've 

David: she's already 

Angel: been on, actually, has she? And I know that she's grown as well in her own experience. She's, she's had so much happen recently, and then I don't Barbara Jones. And I have to say Barbara L. Jones, and she tells me, because there are two Barbara Jones at Wayne State University that she does not like getting confused with.

But Barbara works in the faculty on the faculty at the Wayne State University Center for Peace and Conflict Studies. She is also a survivor of homicide. And she's been practicing and living this way for decades. And I have so much respect for her and she has so much to offer. She's a very generous spirit.

I think she would be a delightful person to speak to. I'll gladly connect you all. 

David: All right, Barbara. Looking forward to it. And then finally, how and where can people support you and your work in the ways that you want to be supported? 

Angel: yeah, yeah. I mean, you know, we're, we don't do the, like we're going through the social media thing really. Most of our work is here in the community with folks a lot who don't use social, social media. But my work, I work at the Detroit Justice Center, so we, Detroit Justice Center is on social medias, all the platforms.

And Detroit Justice Center holds so much more work beyond my work. I'm just like a small part of Djc. We have legal services and other advocacy work, but the Metro Detroit Restorative Justice Network, which is the coalition, the network, the collective that I co. Cultivate has a website that's called Metro Detroit

It's not robust y'all. Cause I, I'm the one that puts stuff on there. So, you know, it is, it is basic, but it has all of our bios and our pictures and kind of our philosophy. A lot of what I've already said here, but there's a way to communicate with us there as well as link back to Detroit Justice Center's website, which that website is detroit

Our work, in order to be slow, in order to work sustainably we, it requires a salary. Like that's how I pay my bills so I can do that job. So keeping it all the way real, the best way to support that work is financially right. Donating. And you'd have to donate to the Detroit Justice Center because the RJ network is not a 5 0 1 It's an informal volunteer group.

But, you know, we have a lot of what we need to do our work internally. The best way is to straight up make sure that financially we can continue to do that work. Mm-hmm. The other thing I'll expand on is a lot of us tend to be in the same spaces together. Right. We're all going to the same conferences, we're all going to, you know, the same gatherings every year.

So, I would love for people to just like, stop me real awkwardly at a conference or something and be like, Hey, I heard you on the podcast. Let's talk particularly folks who are like doing similar work or maybe like latched on to any of the things I said and wanna talk about it. As it's probably evidenced here.

I, I am verbose and I really enjoy talking through things out loud, so it's an invitation to any folks I might encounter in person. It's, I would love to meet you and learn about what you're doing and chop it up. I get so much energy through that. So that's another way to su support me is the meet me and let me meet you as well.

David: Beautiful. Well, from your lips to the listener's ears, angel, thank you so much for your stories, your wisdom, your experiences all the ways to get in touch with Angel's work through the network and through the just center are gonna be linked below, but again, thousands and millions of words of gratitude for everything that you've shared.

For those listening, we'll be back next week with another episode with someone living this restorative justice life. But until then, take care.