How can restorative justice initiatives support the LGBTQ+ community? In this powerful conversation, I had the honor of speaking with Rami El-Hirib, a restorative justice practitioner and founder of the Restorative Rainbow Alliance. Rami, a Lebanese gay man who experienced a society that criminalizes homosexuality, shares his inspiring journey to the United States and how he developed a restorative mindset to address the harms within his community.
Rami's passion for conflict resolution led him to create the Restorative Rainbow Alliance, which focuses on providing safe spaces for LGBTQ+ individuals and representation for their needs. Together, we explored the importance of having an LGBTQ+ lens when approaching restorative justice work and how the Alliance is developing a facilitators code of conduct, a best practices document, and a training curriculum tailored for the LGBTQ+ community.
Finally, we delved into the significance of self-reflection and accountability in fostering a more equitable world for all. Rami offered insights on the need for restorative justice approaches in Lebanon and the importance of pre-conferencing. Join us as we uncover how the Restorative Rainbow Alliance is making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ individuals and how you can support their work in creating a more inclusive society.
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David: Welcome to this Restorative Justice Life. I'm your host, david Ryan, barcega, castro, harris all five names for all the ancestors and on this podcast I speak with RJ practitioners, circlekeepers and others doing restorative work about how they embody this way of being in their personal and professional lives. This month, as we're celebrating pride, we're highlighting conversations from the archives featuring RJ practitioners who are proudly part of the LGBTQIA plus community. We do this work to build a more just and equitable world for everyone, including our queer and trans community members, who are experiencing intense interpersonal, institutional and structural violence. Amplify RJ and the RJ movement as a whole wouldn't be where it is without you, so please know that we celebrate you as you are. we stand with you and appreciate all your contributions to our work.
David: While queerness is an important part of Rami's intersectional identity, this conversation covers multiple facets of doing restorative justice work. As always, you can find all the ways to get plugged into the Amplify RJ community, take advantage of learning opportunities or bring RJ to your school, organization or community at the links in the show notes below. Without further ado, let's get into it. Rami, welcome to this Restorative Justice Life.
David: Who are you?
Rami: Thank you. I am Rami El-Hirib, a restorative justice practitioner and the founder of the Restorative Rainbow Alliance, who are you? I am the son of Fadi and May El-Hirib and the brother of Hind El-Hirib, and I'm a big family person.
David: Who are you?
Rami: I am a Lebanese gay man who lived in Lebanon, and Lebanon is a country that criminalizes homosexuality.
David: Who are you?
Rami: I am an immigrant who is trying to make it in the United States professionally and personally.
David: Who are you?
Rami: I am someone who reflects a lot on his decisions when it comes to professional decisions and decisions in my personal life, and I'm somewhat of a perfectionist. So I really look over everything I do and I strive for perfection.
David: Who are you?
Rami: I am a resilient person who always tries to create a light at the end of a tunnel, even when sometimes it's difficult to see one or have one.
David: And finally, who are you?
Rami: I am a person that grew up in a society that deals with conflict in a very punitive way and approach, and I'm someone who has adopted a restorative mindset and used that in my day-to-day life.
David: Thank you, and you know that's why you're here today, rami. we're gonna get into all those intersections and more in a moment. It's always good to start with a check-in. for those of you who are listening, rami is the first person who's a guest on this podcast, who is requested to be a guest. I got a slid into the DMs on Instagram, told me a little bit about his story and I was like, yeah, let's do it. and so you know, you shared with me a little bit, but in this moment here on this podcast and today, in this time that we're living in to the fullest extent, that you want to answer and share with the people here, how are you?
Rami: I'm doing well. I just moved to Atlanta, georgia, and this is my fifth move in three years. I've moved across four states in two countries, so I'm a bit overwhelmed and I'm a bit worried about the situation back in Lebanon, because we're going through an economic and financial crisis. So there's a lot going in my mind, but I'm doing well in general.
David: I'm always interested by that response of a well or fine that people give, just because, like it's the thing that we say and then continue to share, like the things that are going on underneath the surface. And you know, i think that speaks to like the masks that we tend to put up in society to continue to navigate the world. This isn't one of those spaces. So feel free to share the well or not well, however you want to. You know you've been doing restorative justice work, as you shared, for the last couple years, probably even before you knew the words restorative justice. So, from your frame, how did this work get started for you?
Rami: I would say my first encounter with anything restorative or restorative approach would be 11 years ago, when I was 15.
Rami: I went to this LGBTQ plus underground nonprofit in Lebanon and joined their safe space and after joining and going there consistently, i sort of became a unofficial representative of the space, and whenever new members of the LGBTQ community in Lebanon would come into that space, i would talk to them and we'd discuss the harms that we face and and how to repair those harms within our community. I then became a data collector in 2017 and was collecting data for this project from gay and bisexual men between the ages of 18 and 28, and during my data collection, we would collect data on suicidality, depression, discrimination. At times, i would stop the data collection and just have a conversation with a lot of the individuals and participants that were participating in this survey that I was doing, and we talk about what struggles they were facing and I'd provide resources if they asked for some, and that is really how I. That is part of my informal entrance to restorative justice and the work that I do, and so I moved to grad school in 2018.
David: Hold on before we get to grad school. You know, when people think about restorative justice, often they're thinking about like, oh, something happened, there was harm and harm was repaired. Or sometimes people talk about like, oh, i sat in a circle. You're talking about a moment where you got involved in a community that was serving a need right, and so many times we here on this podcast we've reframed restorative justice simply as meeting the needs of community, even though you didn't necessarily have the word for that. I'm curious you know what drove you to wanting to participate more beyond just coming to that space to, you know, be in community with folks.
Rami: I would say it's part of my own identity. I felt that when I first started to come out as a gay man in Lebanon, i was embraced by a lot of people from the LGBTQ plus community in Lebanon and I felt responsible to reciprocate some of that work and do some work that would be considered restorative, and talk to my community and see what their needs are and how we can all come together and strive for equality.
David: Yeah, you spoke to. How you know, lebanon wasn't, at the time when you were growing up, a very welcoming space, and I'm not saying that America and North America, where most of our listeners are tuning in from, are. I'm not saying that our spaces are totally queer friendly and queer accepting, but much more so than the space you grew up in. Can you share some of the specifics that people don't have context for?
Rami: Yes, sure, in Lebanon there is article 534 I believe it's called that criminalizes homosexuality and a lot of. I remember back in 2010 there were raids that would happen on LGBTQ plus gatherings. A lot of gay men were getting arrested. There were gay men were being picked on in what was known as a cruising area and they were arrested and tortured and there were terrible processes that were done to try to convert people from the LGBTQ community that terrible conversion therapy and it's legal and you see a lot of homophobia on TV, a lot of. I met a lot of people who were robbed but couldn't report it because if they wouldn't report it then they might get in trouble because police officers would pick on them for being part of the LGBTQ plus community. So it's a lot of it's a very hostile environment. If you try to speak in support of LGBTQ plus individuals, you get shut down and shamed for it in Lebanon. So it's very different than the United States and North America.
David: Yeah and again, like those spaces still exist here in North America, for sure, but it's not federally or state government sanctioned. Again, that doesn't mean that we stopped trying to continue to change people's views and shape policies in ways that are continuing to be more inclusive, but you were dealing with a space that was a lot less friendly. I imagine that's part of the reason you decided to come to the US for grad school, but what else was fueling that for you?
Rami: That was definitely a part of moving to the United States, where I wanted to live as an openly gay man and live in a society that was more accepting. Other than that, i was interested in industrial and organizational psychology, with a emphasis on conflict resolution, and there were no programs in Lebanon that taught industrial psychology. So I found a great university, the University of New Haven in Connecticut, and I moved there in August of 2018 to pursue my master's in industrial psychology.
David: And how did you go from industrial psych to the restorative work that you are now focused on? Not that those things are mutually exclusive, but the connection might be difficult for some people to make.
Rami: Yeah, definitely. A lot of people do ask me that. So my interest was really in conflict resolution, especially in the workplace. And I spoke to my academic advisor at the time and I told him you know, i really want to do an internship or I want to get a job that I can really dive into more of the field of conflict resolution. And he said to me, have you heard of restorative justice? And I said no, and he connected me with the Tau Youth Justice Institute And they immediately gave me materials that I could read. I started connecting it at first by trying to implement a restorative culture into an organization. So that is part of industrial organizational psychology how to change the culture of an organization. And I thought having a restorative culture and restorative mindset is great in an organization. So that's how it started. It then moved into facilitation And currently my work with the restorative brain ball lines and LGBTQ initiatives. So it's evolved.
David: So, in the middle of a pandemic, you finished your graduate degree and you know you talked about how you've moved around a lot. Very recently You ended up in Colorado And that's where a lot of the work that you reached out, that you wanted to share about, took place. So what happened? How did you end up in Colorado and what happened there?
Rami: I got a job with Youth Zone as a restorative justice coordinator and moved to Glenwood Springs, colorado, and started my work with Youth Zone. It's part of my work as a restorative justice coordinator was obviously facilitating conferences and cases. A lot of my other work was to reach out to community members, to police chiefs, to judges, and try to encourage them to refer more people into restorative justice and not have youth go through the criminal system, the traditional criminal system, and so that's that's how it started in Colorado, specifically with Youth Zone, and from certain things that happened, there are things that I heard that built on my exploration of LGBTQ plus and restorative justice work.
David: Yeah, there was a specific story that you shared with me. Did you want to share that here?
Rami: Yes, of course. So what happened was I was interviewing, was just talking to a volunteer This was when I first started, just to know what they were doing at Youth Zone And the volunteer told me a story where an LGBTQ plus teenager was being bullied from another teenager And that LGBTQ plus teen had had enough and retaliated physically by punching the other teen. Both of them were referred to restorative justice and the LGBTQ plus teenager was boxed into the offender category and had to repair the harm to the other teenager. And that really was shocking to me that the person who worked on the case didn't have a LGBTQ plus lens on this. Lgbtq plus youth go through so much bullying in school for their sexuality that it's understandable. At times when we need to understand that these teenagers go through a lot and have a lot of built up anger and have no safe space. In the Roaring Fork Valley, where I worked, and when someone tries to pick on, the more, that will manifest itself in different ways. And so to place this kid in the offender category and force them to repair the harm to the other teenager, we're just silencing LGBTQ plus voices. We're telling these teenagers you can't stand up for yourself, we're discouraging them from speaking up and we're telling them if you do stand up to homophobia or transphobia or other forms of oppression, you will have to repair the harm to others. So it was very shocking to me and I was very disappointed by it And I started looking up more restorative justice and LGBTQ plus initiatives and I couldn't find many.
Rami: And so there was a restorative justice Colorado. The state of Colorado's restorative justice council had this convening and they had this open space where you could type in what topic you wanted to talk about and you go into different zoom rooms and no one was bringing up anything to do with LGBTQ plus needs. So I created the zoom room and I was joined by 15 people and we started talking and a lot of people had similar concerns where they saw a lot of LGBTQ plus youth go through a lot of harm because facilitators or circle keepers didn't have a queer lens. So we decided to start an alliance, which is now developed into the restorative rainbow alliance.
David: And those are some of the things that we're going to dive deeper into. I wanted to circle back to that story, right, and when I think about the foundations of restorative justice, one also acknowledging that it is not just about repairing harm and it's about the way that we are interconnected, but when we are faced with situations of harm, the fundamental questions we're asking about what happened should also include what was going on before this happened? right, what was the relationship like between people? If we think about the iceberg model, right, we have a behavior that happens. Right, one kid punched another kid. Right, What's underneath the iceberg of that situation? right, the kid who got punched was, i imagine, using homophobic slurs, homophobic language, bullying, right, and that's what caused that incident.
David: What we also got to think about is the iceberg exists in water and, as compared to Lebanon, how the US and Colorado is probably a little bit more queer friendly, there still exists a lot of homophobia, queerphobia, transphobia across the society that we live in. So if we're not addressing those things, if we're not meeting those needs of a person who was also harmed while they're causing harm, it's not really a restorative process. And I think when we bring quote unquote, restorative justice processes into the context of a criminal legal system or diversion to deal with one incident. There is a lot of space for those processes to come up short.
Rami: Mm-hmm. Yes, totally agree. I think when systems get involved, there's less space to have more authentic conversations and take more time with it and really be able to dig deeper into the core of the problem that we're facing.
David: Are you able to share what the resolution of that situation was?
Rami: I am not able to share exactly what the agreement items were, but the LGBTQ plus senior had to do a couple of things like form of apology letters and that kind of stuff, And there was nothing and you know, without specifics, right, there was nothing on the other side. No, there was nothing on the other side.
David: Yeah, that's Like I'm super pissed off by that right Like was the org able to like offer additional support after the fact?
Rami: I, the organization wasn't, because by that time when I did come in, it had been, i think, a year and a half since that happened And, with confidentiality and all of that, i didn't want to re-trigger anyone or revisit that, just for the privacy and confidentiality of participants. Yeah, yeah absolutely.
David: Confidentiality is super important, being considerate of all those things is super important, but it's also super important that this kind of thing doesn't happen again, and I think that's where you know you took initiative to. You know, continue to push these conversations forward. The reason that I asked, before we get back into, like, the initiatives that you now have going with you know, the restorative rainbow, yeah, restorative rainbow alliance. You know, when we have situations where systems fail to meet needs, right, like there is community support that we can offer, right, we don't have to rely on these systems, these institutions, to get needs met.
David: Oftentimes, when I'm talking about restorative justice in the context of workshops, we're thinking about you know what are the needs that each of the people in the situation have? right, and the person who got punched needed something right As far as, like, healing and repair for getting punched in the face. But they also needed education about why what you said like probably left you in a place where you deserve that right And how to not cause that harm again and what like all of that education impact and it's not on the person who punched them right.
David: To give them that education like what is the additional community support that we can give The person who you know punched, the person who is using, who is bullying, right Had, needs to apologize, right To make repair for punching someone in the face. But they also need a sense of belonging, a sense of safety for being who they are in the world. Right. It's not necessarily the case that the one person who has been bullying them stopping that is going to provide that for them. But what are the things that the community can do to create those spaces? And I think continuing to do the work that you have is one of those ways that we can continue to have that happen. I also think you know the person who was facilitating that conversation or that process needed some of the work that you're doing now. So what is the restorative rainbow alliance doing?
Rami: The restorative rainbow alliance has a couple of different projects going on. The first one is we are writing a facilitators code of conduct with an LGBTQ plus lens and perspective. So the state of Colorado's restorative justice council already has a facilitator code of conduct. We have decided to write another one that would provide facilitators with more support and give them more of a lens that would help them in working with LGBTQ individuals, and the state of Colorado's restorative justice council has expressed interest in adopting that. So that is our first project And I think that would be an amazing first step so that when facilitators want to look over a code of conduct or anything in working with LGBTQ individuals, they can look to that document.
Rami: We're also working on a best practices document as well, which would be able to help facilitators maybe frame some questions differently. Just more of best practices when it comes to LGBTQ plus needs. We are also developing trainings currently. So we haven't done any trainings yet because we're working on a training curriculum so that individuals can be trained on and LGBTQ plus restorative justice lens when it comes to facilitation and doing processes, and we're also providing queer virtual safe spaces. So that is. Those are some of our things that we have going on. And, of course, representation. We want to represent the LGBTQ plus communities needs in restorative justice, because there wasn't much talk about it.
Rami: So it's important to represent that.
David: For sure. I want to try to take those one by one. What are some of the things within the guide and the curriculum that you want to make sure that people who are listening know? when it comes to facilitating processes involving folks who are on the LGBTQ, who are part of the LGBTQIA P plus all of those things Yeah.
Rami: Yeah, sure. So we tackle accountability how to assess if someone is taking accountability if they have harmed someone from the LGBTQ plus community. So how do you notice if they're properly able to express that they have learned that homophobic language is detrimental to the other person? How to notice if a person is truly remorseful and is willing to repair the harm to an LGBTQ plus individual? We are. Also. We have a section that advises facilitators on how to. I guess it's called who's the victim.
Rami: So to explore in a deeper dive, who is the victim in cases of homophobia, even though a person from the LGBTQ plus community would physically retaliate to a form of harm, they're not the offender. It is because they have been discriminated due to their sexuality. So we dive deep into those conversations. We make sure that facilitators use proper pronouns before going into any conference or circles. If a person was misgendered, they could look to their. We advise facilitators to make sure that they tell the person that give us a sign if you'd like us to correct someone who was misgendered you and how to deal with that. So we tackle a lot of different areas in that sense.
David: Yeah, for sure I think about when you talked about who's the victim. I think words like victim and offender aren't generally. Sometimes they're helpful, but most of the times they're not right, because it paints people as just one thing when situations are almost always more complex. Right, i think in some cases. A question for me that's a little bit more helpful is, like who was harmed and how? right, because, like, someone did get punched in the face.
David: I don't want to deny that right. Someone might have physically retaliated or retaliated in another way, but there was harm that happened first. Right, and neither of these people fall solely into victim or offender categories. Right, even person who caused harm or person who was harmed. It happened, it was happening at similar times, and making sure that all of that is acknowledged. But the person who instigated it? right, Whether they meant to or not, they have to be responsible for that too. I'm curious, like in your guide, how you ask people to measure remorse because, like when you said that, like I'm not sure what you meant by that. I'm like huh interesting. What are the things that you look for when it comes to remorse?
Rami: Yeah for remorse, i guess just being able to speak to how actions and words can affect LGBTQ plus individuals. If a person is able to say I did this, no buts or ifs or any of those words and continue going to phrases that show less accountability. If a person is able to really empathize and put themselves in the position of the LGBTQ person that was harmed and say I'm sure this person was harmed extra because of societal factors, because of discrimination that happens, and is really able to express that, so that to me I guess explains the word remorse. That might not be the proper term but it's one that came to mind Because a lot of the time facilitators tend to want to just look at oh okay, this person was able to say sorry and wants to repair harm, but are you truly able to understand why your words and actions have been harmful? and probably would scar a person from the queer community. So that is our goal in trying to create this document.
David: Gotcha, No, thank you for that clarification And I think, like situation to situation, like the measurements of remorse, like are different, but like those are some helpful things, especially around like being able to own your reaction, sorry, own your actions and words without excuse, making right Like, no, no gaslighting, no denial of responsibility in any of those spaces.
David: You know you also talked about how not just the facilitation guide, but like the more representation within like RJ spaces. In the last few years there has been a major push, much needed, to center racial justice within the context of restorative justice, much like many efforts around justice and equity. There have been a bunch of people who are white, who have been seen as leaders in the space and no, I'll say no fault of their own right, They don't necessarily think about the needs that people who are of the global majority but who are marginalized and oppressed here in the United States because of their race or ethnicity experience right And those things haven't been centered. Similarly, many of those people who have been leading this work are straight gender. You know representation isn't everything, but why is representation important to center here in this restorative justice community?
Rami: Representation here is important because it's important to at first empower your community by showing your community that there are this is a queer led project and there are individuals from the LGBTQ plus community who have faced similar harms that can relate and speak more to the harms that are experienced. It's also good to be able to give more of a platform for LGBTQ plus voices. So I always encourage queer led initiatives like our restorative rainbow alliance has LGBTQ plus board members and leaders and we try to focus on emphasizing the importance of that. And allies are definitely great and helpful and I'm so appreciative of the allies, but it's important to recognize, as you said, the privilege that people have and allow them to take a step back and allow the marginalized community to have a voice and speak authentically to the harms that they face and the needs that they face. So I hope that answers the question.
David: I had somebody who came to a training, a white person, asking me like why do I, as a white person, like have to do so much work to show? she was asking me specifically about show black people that like I'm quote unquote like one of the good ones. It's okay to be safe with me and I know there are different things. Like you can't tell somebody is queer just by looking at them. Like you can tell somebody is black or white just by looking at them, and that's not always the case anyway to the light-skinned folks out there. But you know why is it important that straight folks, cis folks, people who aren't a part of the queer community, are really explicit about you, know who they are and their I don't want to say allyship, but openness and openness might be the right word but sensitivity and ability to see and really work well with folks of the queer community.
Rami: Yeah, that's a great question. I think it's important to again, as we said, just recognize that privilege that straight and cisgender individuals come from, and it's I have heard from a lot of allies remarks that are well-intentioned but can be insensitive to LGBTQ plus individuals. So things like well, my example, my brother is gay, so I know what it's like to be gay, things like that. So it's important to make a distinction and say you don't have to live the experience that others have. It's important to not equate your maybe knowing someone who's part of the LGBTQ community with having their lived experience. It's not the same.
Rami: Systems always, in my opinion, encourage more white folks and straight, you know, heterosexual, cisgender individuals, specifically males, and it's important to be able to change those systems and that change comes from people who can speak to their experiences authentically. I mean, the systems that we live in and sometimes our communities that we live in, don't really like us as LGBTQ plus individuals and we've been able to change that with time, whether it's through proving ourselves, educating others, having some form of influence. So we have been able to change those systems, but they were only able to come from us and we also. It's important to not have that savior complex, i guess, where it's this heterosexual, cisgender person coming to save the weak LGBTQ person and take them to the next level? so it's important that we are empowered and that we are able to create that platform ourselves.
David: Exactly, and you know, the idea like restorative principles, about, like people who have been most impacted, like have the answers, rings true not just in incidents of, like interpersonal violence. Right, when we think about the structural violence, the systemic violence that happens within, like the, you know, cis, straight, white supremacist, heteropatriarchy, right, like you know all of those ableist, right like all of those intersections are important to acknowledge and making sure that people who have been most impacted are leading the way in addressing each of those systems of oppression and the harm that comes from all of those. You know we're talking about work that you've been doing within the last calendar year. What is coming next for the Restorative Rainbow Alliance?
Rami: That is a great question. I think a lot of our work is now going to focus on virtual LGBTQ plus safe spaces and rape spaces, so we really want to focus on that and trainings. So we're taking it one step at a time. We've considered maybe transforming our alliance into a non-profit, but I think keeping it as an alliance might have more of an impact nationally and internationally and would give us more freedom to do more work.
Rami: It's important to build more on these LGBTQ plus affirming circles, especially now with COVID and with the rise of the Delta virus again the spread of that because last year when I had moved to Colorado, there were no LGBTQ plus safe spaces in the Roaring Fork Valley and I established one and it made a huge difference for LGBTQ plus youth in the valley to be able to relate and have a sense of community again, not being able to go to school or not being able to see their friends, to just be able to talk to each other and talk to people from different towns that they can relate to.
Rami: We opened that virtual space up to other LGBTQ plus youth in Colorado and it was a success. A lot of LGBTQ plus youth in different regions were able to join, and so it's important that now we we grow that and build on it and have it be wide-ranging for individuals of all ages. I'd love to work on having a trans affirming circle where trans individuals are able to have a space to talk about individual, to talk about struggles that they face, and have it have a circle keeper that is transgender being able to hold that space.
David: Yeah, and is this exclusive just to people in Colorado, or is this open to folks across the country? or? really open to people who have an internet connection.
Rami: Exactly. It's open to anyone that has an internet connection, so everyone's welcome. We'd encourage we'd encourage people to be from the LGBTQ community, though, and because these are spaces for LGBTQ plus individuals.
David: Beautiful. So folks of the LGBTQ community with an internet connection I generally ask this question later but where can people tap into that? Where can people find those resources, those gatherings and all that information?
Rami: Yeah, so we have a website. It's restorativerainbowallianceorg, and on our website we have a tab that says queer affirming circles and we are going to start posting zoom links on it newly and people can be able to check those out and check those out and check out dates and request. I guess the link. We're still trying to figure out how to make it the safest way possible so that we don't have people coming in and yelling homophobic or transphobic stuff.
David: Absolutely Yeah. Safety and security is always important and if I'm happy to offer any support with you know, strategizing about ways to set those things up safely. As we've heard so much about doing this work is the practice, but it's always great to have some fundamentals. So if you want to tap into the intro to RJ racial and restorative justice course, the link to engage in that learning is in the show notes. If you want to go deeper in your practice or explore other aspects of doing work that is restorative and building a better world for future generations, we have learning opportunities for you to, both in courses and live workshops. If you're in a community, school or organization that would benefit from this learning, we're more than happy to get on a call with you to talk about how we can support this work in your context.
David: In addition to rating, reviewing and subscribing to this podcast, amplification of this work also means sharing these learning opportunities with others. So if there are individuals in your life who want to really know this work in a deep and meaningful way and you've found the things that you've heard here on this podcast really relevant, please send them our way. It's how we literally amplify the work. Now back to the questions that everybody answers when they come on these airwaves. I want to transition into the questions that I ask everyone and you know we've kind of talked a little bit around it. I'm curious from your perspective, how do you define restorative justice?
Rami: I guess I would take the formal definition of Howard's there of, i guess, a facilitated dialogue or process that involves all stakeholders involved to explore harms and repair relationships and repair the harm that's done. So to me that is restorative justice.
David: Yeah, absolutely. What are your hopes for this work in your home country?
Rami: I would love if Lebanon started incorporating more restorative justice approaches and more sort of practices approaches. There was an initiative in, i believe, 1999. So Lebanon just a background went through a civil war 15 years. Communities were torn apart based on religious beliefs And so these communities had to live together again after the civil war. So there was an initiative in, i think in the 1990s to bring those communities together and it worked. I would hope that we would do more to be kinder to each other and build more of a sense of community.
Rami: There are deep divides in Lebanon that I think restorative practices can really heal. We in Lebanon we don't see each other as Lebanese. There's a lot of sectarian tension, so it would be really good to bring everyone together and just strengthen that national identity. I also want to. I also hope that with restorative practices this patriarchal approach and this macho attitude that a lot of people in Lebanon have is deconstructed so that we're able to be kinder to each other, we're able to understand each other more. There's a saying in Lebanon that if you want to get stuff done, you have to be aggressive and you have to be confrontational and you won't get what you want if you're not confrontational and aggressive And my hope is that that shifts and we're able to be more productive in our dialogues.
David: Yeah, Yeah, What has been like oh shit moment, as you've been going out and doing this work in learning over the last couple of years.
Rami: I would say the first thing that comes to mind is when I was, i had just started facilitating and I did not pre-conference a person before having them go into a restorative conference. And that person came into that restorative conference and was was very punitive. There were things that weren't explored that I didn't know of because I hadn't pre-conferenced them well enough And it wasn't. I had to stop the conference for it. So that was the moment where I was like, oh damn, i should have. I should really focus on pre-conferencing. That is so essential And that pre-preparation work is so essential to before going into an actual process.
David: Yeah, you know there's a saying people have in this work about you know, trust the process, and they're talking about, like, you know, trust the process of you know going through circle, going through a restorative conference. Part of that process is the preparation, right, this work is too urgent to rush, so so, so don't skip that. But like, i think it's also like really important to acknowledge that, like, if things are happening like, stop the process right.
David: Like don't continue to have people cause more harm to each other. Like there's ownership for you as a facilitator to take is like Hey, i didn't prepare us for this. Like we need to, you know, pump the brakes, take a step back and and resume this at another time. There's something that need to happen and explicitly telling people that I found can be really helpful Because, like, as great as processes are, like we're all humans facilitating and participating in these processes, and so making sure that we give grace and space for our, our failures, our mistakes is super important.
David: Yeah, you get to sit in circle with four people, living or dead. who are they And what is the question? you ask the circle.
Rami: Oh, wow that four people living or dead, I would say it would probably be. Maybe people I look up to, i'd say my dad, i would say someone that I do look up to in the field is, i'd say, include Howard there, someone in the field, and maybe an artist that I like listening to Madonna.
David: No, that was three. Your dad, madonna, howard, sir one more.
Rami: And I would include my partner.
David: And what is the question you asked? the circle.
Rami: The question I would ask the circle is how are you able to take initiatives and and resolve harm and communities in your own personal life And what steps would you take? I guess that would be a question I just thought of.
David: Yeah, i don't know if you've been listening to the podcast recently, but I often turn that question back on the guest. You've talked about it, you know, within the context of work, but how do you do this work within your personal life?
Rami: I start by. Really sometimes it is difficult to maintain a restorative mindset at times, especially when faced with a lot of harm. I see that happening to myself, but I constantly have to to take it in and remind myself that having a restorative approach is so important. I do that by reflecting a lot on what I communicate to people, how I come across. I hold myself accountable a lot to what I do. So if anyone does approach me about anything that I have done, I'm very open, i listen and I immediately reflect on how I could have done something better. Maybe I also would say that it's so important to be able to be welcoming to other opinions so that when people are comfortable approaching you and expressing needs that people need from you. So I try to always maintain a welcoming atmosphere so that anyone can approach me about anything and I can always reflect back and reflect on myself what I could have done better.
David: Yeah, the first relationship that we have is the relationship with ourselves, and part of that is I often say that in the context of quote unquote self-care. Right, part of self-care is continuing to learn, grow, be open to those moments of growth when we have caused harm. So thank you for sharing that. Okay. So what is one place situation? It could be historical, it could be fictional, it could be from your personal life or something you've witnessed recently that you wish people really knew.
Rami: This work like specific I think the first thing that comes to mind. I recently watched a show on HBO Max called The Jinks And it is about this person that goes on to murder different people in his life because of trauma that has happened in his own life And I think maybe having a restorative process with that person, maybe something that would have prevented all of those harms, would have been great. I think something bigger would have been maybe during the Lebanese Civil War. If people had come together at the beginning of it or before it and built that strong sense of community, we wouldn't have had the 15 year long civil war.
David: Yeah, yeah, like I.
Rami: Very different examples.
David: Yeah, like, and I always have a hard time with this question Because, like, i am hoping to get answers more along the lines of The Jinks than like war. because, like, yeah of course, but like I want to see. I want to help people see, like those spaces where, like hey, this can be a part of our everyday lives. But we'll rock with it. What is one thing that you want to make sure that everybody listening to this podcast knows? It could be a mantra, it could be an affirmation, it could be something else completely.
Rami: I would hope that listeners of this podcast would really embrace an LGBTQ plus perspective in any form of work they do. Allow LGBTQ plus folks to have a voice and allow them and provide affirmation, because that makes a lot of difference.
David: Two more questions. The first one you have to help me out. Who's one person that I should have on this podcast? And yeah, make, gotta make the connect So you can say Obama, but like, unless you've got the direct connect, like yeah, No, i do not have a direct connect, unfortunately.
Rami: I would say my mentor, deb Witzel. she is incredible. She has done a lot of amazing work in restorative justice, has really I think she was the founder of the Colorado Coalition for Restorative Justice Practices is really a leader in this field in Colorado So and she's someone I really look up to and admire. So I think she should be next on this podcast.
David: There you go. And finally, we already mentioned the website again, but let's plug it again. Where can people support you? You're working all the ways that you want to be supported.
Rami: Thank you for that. The people can go to restorativerainbowallianceorg and check the website out, or we just started an Instagram called restorative rainbow alliance, so please feel free to follow our Instagram for more updates on our website. There's going to be more updates on our website, or reach out to me on my email if I can provide that on this platform.
David: If you want to. I don't generally recommend it because then it's out there on the internet forever. But you know, restorativerainbowalliancecom is also where folks can get in touch, Yeah.
Rami: Yes, definitely So. That also goes to me. So restorativerainbowalliancecom would be a great place to send your emails, perfect.
David: All right. Well, thank you so much, rami, for your time, your stories, your wisdom to everyone else listening. We'll be back with another conversation next week. Until then, take care Like would you hurt. Please subscribe, rate, review and share this podcast on whatever platform you're using right now Or, if you're old school, tell a friend. It really helps us further amplify this work. You can also support us by following us on our social platforms signing up for our email list, signing up for a community gathering, workshop or course. So many options, links to everything in the show notes or on our website. Amplify our Jcom. Thanks so much for listening. We'll talk to you next week.