This Restorative Justice Life

In Pursuit of Peace - Honoring Shedrick Sanders

November 09, 2023
In Pursuit of Peace - Honoring Shedrick Sanders
This Restorative Justice Life
More Info
This Restorative Justice Life
In Pursuit of Peace - Honoring Shedrick Sanders
Nov 09, 2023

My friend and mentor Shedrick Sanders passed a way last weekend. 

To honor his memory we're revisiting our conversation from Fall 2020 detailing his journey from standing up to bullies as a young boy to becoming an esteemed peacemaker and problem solver. He shared his transformative experiences ranging from teaching math in Ghana to facilitating peace circles in Chicago. Shedrick's incredible knack for conflict resolution and mediation is unearthed through his thrilling anecdotes from his time in the Peace Corps and the Dispute Settlement Center. His unique approach of intertwining play, joy, and relationship building with conflict resolution is something that has had a lasting impact.

If you're part of the Chicago Restorative Justice Community and want to join a circle of remembrance and celebration. Join Circle for Circle Keepers on Monday, November 13th from 4-6pm CST at Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation. 

email: cjyi.peace@gmail.com for more info.


Support the Show.

Send us feedback at media@amplifyrj.com

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

Check out our latest learning opportunities HERE

Rep Amplify RJ Merch

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

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

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

My friend and mentor Shedrick Sanders passed a way last weekend. 

To honor his memory we're revisiting our conversation from Fall 2020 detailing his journey from standing up to bullies as a young boy to becoming an esteemed peacemaker and problem solver. He shared his transformative experiences ranging from teaching math in Ghana to facilitating peace circles in Chicago. Shedrick's incredible knack for conflict resolution and mediation is unearthed through his thrilling anecdotes from his time in the Peace Corps and the Dispute Settlement Center. His unique approach of intertwining play, joy, and relationship building with conflict resolution is something that has had a lasting impact.

If you're part of the Chicago Restorative Justice Community and want to join a circle of remembrance and celebration. Join Circle for Circle Keepers on Monday, November 13th from 4-6pm CST at Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation. 

email: cjyi.peace@gmail.com for more info.


Support the Show.

Send us feedback at media@amplifyrj.com

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

Check out our latest learning opportunities HERE

Rep Amplify RJ Merch

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

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

Speaker 1:

Hello everyone, welcome to this restorative justice life. My name is David Ryan, barcage, castro, Harris all five names for all the ancestors, and it's been a minute since we've posted in this feed. There are reasons for that, which I'll get into, hopefully, in the coming days or weeks, but I wanted to reshare an episode very early on. It's my conversation with Shedrick Sanders. Shedrick passed away this past weekend and he's been on my mind a lot.

Speaker 1:

I'll always remember Shedrick for a couple reasons. One he would often say you know, as I was growing up, I just wanted to be the crazy old guy who would tell stories that no one would believe, and I think through this rollicking conversation, you'll see some of those things. And he always brought so much light and levity to what he was doing, wherever he went. And I guess that's the second thing that I'm always gonna remember about him His light, levity, joy and playfulness that he brought to doing very serious work, whether that was schooling or peacemaking. His mentorship was really through the way that he modeled play and joy in all of our interactions. The third thing they'll always remember about Shedrick is during the summer of 2020, I was facilitating healing circles for black men and he would always show up and he would always stay late and in those conversations after the fact, he would always be checking in on me, making sure that I was taking care of myself. And you know, part of the reason why I haven't been in the speed recently is because I've been doing a lot better job of taking care of myself, balancing out some of the other things I've got to do in my life outside of this public-facing work.

Speaker 1:

And so, shedrick, you'll always be remembered. And for those of you who knew him and you're in Chicago, this Monday, november 13, at 4 pm Central, they're gonna be having circle for circle keepers at Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation, and the circle this month is going to be about remembering and celebrating Shedrick with a circle full of music and laughter. For those of you who know, you probably already know, but if you need more information, email CJYIPeace at gmailcom for more information about that. I hope to be back in this feed in the coming days and weeks because there's been some really exciting work going on, but for now, enjoy this conversation with Shedrick. Rest in power, friend. Welcome, shedrick. Who are you? I'm a father.

Speaker 2:

Who are you? I'm a grandfather.

Speaker 1:

Who are you?

Speaker 2:

I'm an elder.

Speaker 1:

Who are you? I'm crazy. Who are you?

Speaker 2:

I'm a husband.

Speaker 1:

Who are you?

Speaker 2:

I'm a peacemaker.

Speaker 1:

I think this is a seventh one. Who are you?

Speaker 2:

I'm a fun lover.

Speaker 1:

You are all of those things and more. Shedrick, it's been a huge privilege of my life to get to know you over the last couple years. Do you remember exactly when it was that we met?

Speaker 2:

I guess maybe another meeting for the alternatives when you first came on board, I guess.

Speaker 1:

Oh. So my memory precede yours and maybe we didn't like officially meet until then, but I definitely saw you and played with you at circle for circle keepers down at precious blood one of those times, you bringing in one of your toys and ensuring that with the group. So my first memory of you was definitely like who is this guy? Who's this fun loving? I think for anyone who ever meets you, like fun loving might be one of the first things that they that they ever think about, because whenever you walk into the room you're you're carrying that light with you and whether that light is in the form of juggling balls or one of those, those wooden toys that you know you're trying to connect with kids with, it's very present. So, but yes, we did really get to know each other when we were working together at alternatives, doing restorative justice work. But you've been doing this work a lot longer than you even knew the word restorative justice. So, in your own words, how would you describe how you got into this work broadly?

Speaker 2:

Oh, it's fascinating really. It it just started with. It's actually started with my mother and the kids that she used to have in the house. She said take care of kids. And there'd be kids in the house and I'd come home from school or and see them and take them to the playground and do things with them. And I always had this kind of stress when I was around kids, like hey, I gotta watch them, they got to take care of them, so it's gonna happen to them and I haven't said the stress, but I take them to the playground, do things with them. And then one day I was, I was feeling bad. I was feeling bad.

Speaker 2:

One day this little boy, joy, came in and said can we go out and play? Go out and play. I said, joy, I feel terrible, I feel terrible, he's. And he put his hand on my head. He says, oh, okay, I'll go back, I'll come back later. I said okay, good, and I fell asleep and he came back and I opened my eyes. He was standing up there it, you know it's, it's a bed looking at me, and he said are you all right? I said yeah. He said you just rest. Now you rest, I'm thinking wait, a minute wait a minute.

Speaker 2:

This kid's taking care of me. I say I gotta worry about these kids.

Speaker 1:

They take care of me how old are you at this time?

Speaker 2:

I must been about.

Speaker 2:

I was about 18 oh, okay 19, something like that and so I just started just relaxing around kids. It just happened a good time and I was also learning how to play the recorder, so I was playing with them doing that and just found that I just enjoyed being around the kids a lot. So at school they also let me be a like a toot-a-bra. My scores got real high and they finally let me talk to people and become a toot-a-bra. So I used to fight a lot when I was in elementary school but I felt so bad and my grandmother told me to come from ten backwards whenever I got upset and I started doing that and things I changed right after fighting no more. So from there I just started working with kids a lot. I just started to work with kids and I wanted to be a teacher, but I did not like the way kids were treated in school. So I consider myself a street teacher. On the street I see kids be doing all kind of things with them and I read this book called teacher effectiveness training and it talked about circles, ad statements, active listening, a process for resolving problems and conflict, and it said it's not your class, it's our class and that really agreed with me, that I didn't have to be the tyrant, I didn't have to be the boss, I could be part of the class and I got away from saying a teacher is more of a facilitator of learning. So I started doing that and I started substitute teaching and I bring origami into the classroom, I bring juggling and all kind of crazy stuff and I would I say this is a party, my classrooms a party. And I bring albums and I ask them where's the record player? And I put the record player on and I put on music, like like a sliced stone and different stuff, and I put this music on and I said look, you can do your work. Here's the work that your teacher left for you to do, this whole list of stuff here, and you could do anything that you want to do on this list and when you want to take a break of stuff, go dance. And they come back and do the work. But come, come through me every now and then just to check and see how it worked and it was phenomenal. I had this one class one time. It was like 12 kids before lunch. This is the time we had 9 to 12 and it went for lunch for an hour and they came back with these kids. It was 12 in the morning, in the afternoon was 30. So what happened here? So we heard. We heard that was having a good time up in here. So we sat to come to school. I say, oh, okay, good, and I asked people who had snuck out of other classes to come in there and we were jamming, having a good time. I said this is our school supposed to be? People supposed to want to come and have fun and learn some at the same time.

Speaker 2:

So then I went off to Brazil and I had gotten a degree in engineering with an elementary school minor and I had taken things like children's literature. I've taken music for education majors, I took art for education majors and all the teachers really liked me and said I should be in teaching because I acted like a kid, you know, they put a lot of clay in front of me and I smacked it. I said I suppose to look at it smacking. So I had a good time with that, but I still hadn't taken the teacher path. So I went to Ghana I'm not went to Brazil on the way to Brazil. It took seven months to get there and I met all kinds of people and that all the kids were attracted to me and I had a, had a recorder like that that I had been taught how to use in my music education class and I'd be playing little things like you know, michael Roe, your board of show, of puffed-the-magic dragon primitivo, all kind of song, and people would come around and listen to it and kids would come, they take me home and the parents would feed me and everything. It's like, dang, that's how I should be a teacher.

Speaker 2:

So I went back to Chicago, I went to my music teacher's class and told her about my experience with the recorder which is a whole other story to stay with the recorder and she let me talk to a class about it and she said she had you should join teacher school. I said okay. She said office is down the hall, okay. So I went to the office. It was closed, but I knocked on the door and somebody was in there. They let me in. I saw an application for teacher core. They said yeah, but uh, the program's closed. I said give me an application anyway. He found a top application. I took it, I filtered out, sent it in and they sent me a letter two weeks later saying come to Tampa, florida for a teacher core Peace Corps program. Earn a masters in science education and a teacher certificate and go to Ghana as a Peace Corps volunteer. And it made. I had written those three things down as my goals before that happened what they think go to Ghana, get certified to teach and get a masters. I'd read those three things down and when they invitation came I said I'm gone. So in Ghana I really got to put into practice a lot of the stuff that I've been working with the circle up we'd be to meet. I take.

Speaker 2:

The first two weeks was all dealing with the conflict resolution. I statements, active listening, how we're gonna treat each other, team activities, get to know each other really well, name games I got to know, I got them, but at one point I might have got to know about 90 kids names in one day. I'm playing name games which you kept repeating all the time and they come back in the next day. I saw Kwame how you doing, oh, you remember my name. Oh, yeah, remember your name, and so that really got me into a more of a facilitator mode and the Ghanaians fought me to for nail the kids.

Speaker 2:

They fought me and they thought that I was trying to impose American style teaching on them and they wanted me to lecture and write notes on the board and I wanted to do the problems. And this is, this is math, this is a participatory thing, we do math. And they would leave the room, go through the assistant head master's office and complain, and I'd go down and say can I come in and say no, no, no, we don't want you to come in yet. And so they talked to me and they need to come and talk to me and they were basically doing a restorative conversation with both of us and allow me to vent, and then they bring us together to work out a solution. I said, oh man, these folks got it. They got it down pat. And this happened to me several times and I really stopped paying attention to learning what they were doing. And so I say these people know this stuff.

Speaker 2:

So when I came back, I went to Ghana, then I went to Western Samoa and Western Samoa and I've been doing yoga all the time. I always taught my kids yoga and meditation, but in Samoa I learned transdental meditation and I had my class taught transdental meditation and that freaked them out. They got the highest scores in the country and it wasn't because I taught them any math, I just taught them how to relax so that the math would come out of them. So I got really good at it by then. So by the time I got back to the States I was a Peace Corps recruiter so I didn't teach. But then I went to Pakistan and I was doing the same kind of things in Pakistan. It was working real well.

Speaker 2:

And then when I got back to North Carolina, when my wife wanted to go to school North Carolina, I got in North Carolina and I was teaching and substituting stuff and I passed by this place called the Dispute Settlement Center and I said what did they do in there? So I walked in there and asked them and what it was? A senator was set up. They trained volunteer mediators from the community and they also went to the courts with, with with a volunteer mediators and anytime a case can be mediated, the judge was sent it to them and at the center people can refer people in any situation. They didn't have a problem with their neighbor. They can come down and the center would contact the neighbor, let them know what was going on and tell them about mediation. They come down and two volunteer mediators would mediate for.

Speaker 2:

So I say, oh, this is fantastic, I want to do that. And they say, and we also train kids in nonviolent conflict resolution techniques. And, by the way, you program coordinated is leaving and we're looking for somebody to take a place. I say that's my job, I can do the conflict resolution without worrying about the math, because it is math anyway. So I did, I said, give me that job, that's my job. And they gave it to me and they train, they train, they train me as a mediator, a facilitator of meetings facilitator, a victim offender, mediator and a. And they got to pull what they started, using me on the difficult cases I still no kid and in cases things they were teaching you in there oh well, what?

Speaker 2:

basically? Active listening, how to take what somebody's saying basically and turn it into an ass statement for them. So you listen for what the feelings were and you start off with this what happened? This is a real story of conversation. What happened? How did it make you feel? What did you feel about it? What concerns you the most about it? What do you need?

Speaker 2:

And they would go down at that pattern and then we determine whether they really needed a mediation. We bring them together and mediate. We try to get the demographics. You know, if it's a black and white guy, we try to get a black and white mediators. If it was a male female, try to get a male female or that kind of thing. And I saw some. I saw some fantastic stuff, especially with the, with the marriage situations where people were they would come in and they may have divorced already, but they want to get the custody thing right. And we had people they got up from the table, said, damn, if we had done this, we wouldn't have got divorced. We're mediated, we would. They got divorced because they they found out what they were really needing but wasn't able to communicate to each other. But in mediation they talked to the mediators first and the media kind of translates for them. And it can't get pretty complicated because some people talk in terms of how they feel and other people may talk in terms of what they see. You have to kind of pick up on that and change it. She saw anger, she saw that, oh, and so he do all that and it was just phenomenal. So I thought so I would.

Speaker 2:

My goal was to expose every child in Orange County to nonviolent conflict resolution techniques when they say to train them, but to let them see it, let them know it exists. And I was. I was free to go everywhere and this lady, miss Thompson, who's on the board, she paid my salary, she paid the position salary, pension, vacation, everything. She even made a bag for me to carry my, my posters in, and so I didn't have to worry about anything and I just had a ball. And and it was situations where it's one situation this was phenomenal to me.

Speaker 2:

It was a school in Hillsborough, north Carolina. There was a group of kids from the projects who was driving the school crazy and my mother line for the same family, it was about 12 on my thing and they called me and said what can you do with these kids? I say, look it, give me, give, give them to me for five days in a row, all day. What it's all day. Five days are all day. I said, hey, and don't tell them what it's, for there's somebody coming in with me. And they came in.

Speaker 2:

I say, first, three days we did a little bit of play Group juggles, disc, that, all kind of tag, all kind of stuff. And then we went into the conflict resolution piece and they got into it and then we did that can we talk baseball? And I was screaming and yelling and that and that and stuff, and they was eating it up, eating it up, and it was this little bitty girl. She must have been about second grade or something. I'm towing over and I'm screaming at and stuff. And she says can we talk baseball, can we talk about this? And they had video, they had videoed this thing and they used that for fundraising for years. That little girl saying, can we talk about this?

Speaker 2:

And when I left, the feedback came back to me that these kids had become playground mediators without even the title or the training for it. They had learned this conflict resolution techniques and they started seeing people having conflicts on the playground and because they had the skills, they would go in and help and in the next year they weren't a problem anymore. They were an absolute asset to the school. And so there were some schools that would have me come and train mediators in the school and train the teachers, and it was this one particular person who swore by it and he moved to Chapel Hill. He brought his secretary with him because his secretary was a trained mediator and by the time when people came to his office upset, she was able to calm down. And then in his office he had a refrigerator with drinks and stuff. He had stuffed animals all on the floor Because he said, when an angry parent comes, they usually have an angry child in tow, so let them. So that's where I got my official start in.

Speaker 1:

North Carolina, that mediation right and I think, even with the training that they gave you with eye statements and reflecting back those feelings to people, when you went in with those kids for those first five days, the first thing that you did was play with them. Why is that important?

Speaker 2:

Because relationship is everything. Building the team, building a relationship, that's the thing. So it's like in Ghana they talk about it. They had a different phrase for it, but it's like a term I heard recently. It's like if a child doesn't feel a part of the community, they will burn it down. Say that again If a child doesn't feel a part of the community, they will burn it down. So the thing is to bring all the kids in, make them feel as a part of the community. In Ghana they had a different phrase for it, but it's similar, like that. And every child is yours. You got to take care of them, you got to look after them. So in Ghana I saw it. I saw this at work and that's been my vision. That's one of the things that made me realize this could work. Now I'm frustrated. I may get. I saw little kids in Ghana mediating. I saw them mediate with older kids. I saw them mediate with adults. I've seen young kids Say can you go over here? Can you go over here? Come over here, come over here. So I go talk to him, talk to him. And I said what? And I had a situation. This was interesting.

Speaker 2:

I was in Ghana. They sell boiled eggs and the women had these big old trays of boiled eggs stacked up in a pyramid on top of their head balancing it, and people stand in a long line to get these eggs. She'd take an egg off, she'd peel it, slice it open, put some pepper sauce in it, tomato sauce and give it to you and you pay up. So I was standing behind one of my seniors and he said some bad things to the girl and wouldn't pay her and I said that's really out of character, because Ghanaians don't usually act like this. I don't know what's going on. So I asked him what's happening? Nobody's talking to me, don't talk to me. I said whoa, whoa, whoa, wait a minute. I said let's go inside and talk about this. I ain't going nowhere with you.

Speaker 2:

And he started acting all crazy and he brought out this crazy Chicago enemy and I grabbed him and kind of a sleeper hold, but I didn't put any pressure, but I had control of him. The whole school stopped, not about 500 people stopped, and they hit somebody holding that boy. The farmers came out of the field, the teachers, the students came out, everybody came out. And I looked at myself oh hell. And they say Quacy, because they call me Quacy, quacy, let him go. Oh OK, I'm not hurting him, he all right, I just take him to the office. No, no, here, here, here we were taking him, let him go. So they let him go and they took me to one room, took me, took him to another, and I was here.

Speaker 2:

I said why do you do this? Why do you separate us like this? And he said, out of anger, you may say something and he hears it and hates you for the rest of his life. We're going to take what you say and translate it into something palatable to his ears and vice versa. So they go back and forth translating. So I vet, he understands where my situation was, where I was coming from. He vet, I understand where he was and his situation was.

Speaker 2:

He and that girl had had a big fight in their village that weekend. They never got resolved and he was still upset about that and it was really uncharacteristic of Gnane and so let anything go and resolve like that. And he was really upset about that and I just you know, I was really upset seeing you treat this girl this way. So we said, and he put us together, we apologized to each other. I apologized for grabbing him. He apologized for being disrespectful to me and that would never happen again. And then we had to apologize to the whole school at Morning Assembly. How did that feel? It actually felt good. Actually it felt empowering that I was being held accountable for my actions and to make things right by the whole school I disrupted the whole school, what caused all kind of commotion and to be able to apologize to him and let them know that I have learned a lot from you Because you know how to deal with conflict. I'm learning a lot from you and that really motivates me.

Speaker 1:

You talked about like the Chicago came out of you, and one of the things that you say a lot in Congress is when you're introducing yourself to people. When you're introducing yourself to people is you're from a small African village on the south side of Chicago. Talk about that village and you said that you were someone who used to fight all the time. Right.

Speaker 1:

Oh, yeah, one of the things that you talked about. You're a peacemaker. Now, that was one of the first seven things that you identify yourself as Like. What was that shift for you?

Speaker 2:

Well, essentially I'm the youngest of four in the family. It's a big, large, extended family and we was in a neighborhood of people who had immigrated from Mississippi to Chicago and they're all forced to live in the same geographic area. You had all kinds of people. You had rich folks, you had houses, you had kitchenettes, tenements, all kinds of stuff up in there. But all of them had the attitude that we got to protect these kids Because they had just come from Mississippi where people was getting lynched and they wanted to take care of these kids. They wanted the kids to get a good education and we had a lot of good teachers who could have been something else if they had been allowed to. And they said, well, since I can't be this engineer or I can't be this stockbroker, I'm going to help my kids be in a position to, when that comes about, they'd be able to get it. They took after us.

Speaker 2:

Now, one of the sports in our neighborhood was boxing. We liked to box and we watched Sugar Ray Robinson on television and all kinds of boxing, floyd Patterson and stuff, and we watched these boxing and groups of kids from different communities would actually meet in the yard and we would fight and we'd pay up by size and we would fight. And we were actually too young to hurt each other and we was fighting by Marcus the Queenberry rule. If I say I quit, it's over. So it wasn't a personal fight, it was a sport fight. So it was fighting.

Speaker 2:

And so I was a little bitty guy and at school you had these bullies who thought they could push a little bitty guy around and my two older brothers said hey, if anybody mess with you, hit them first, because that was a no, no kind of thing. Don't hit first. I suppose hit first. They say no, you hit first and don't stop until we pull you off of. And that's what I would do. And I got to a point where if I saw somebody bullying somebody else, I was fierce in stopping it. So I'd be the one boy real bad, and I felt so bad I said I'm not going to do that anymore. That's crazy. I'm not going to do that.

Speaker 1:

What was different about that time than all the others?

Speaker 2:

I had a ring on my finger and I hit him and that ring cut his face and blood. And the thing is I got off for two reasons One, my mother is who she is. Everybody knew my mother and anyone my mother coming up to school upset about nothing, and they know she would whip out a butt right there to school if she was really upset about something. And the other was this kid. Everybody saw him started, everybody saw him attack me. So it was my self-defense, so they let me off on that. So actually about I'd say maybe a year passed, but I hadn't had a fight in a year.

Speaker 2:

This guy was doing real good and it was this beautiful girl named Janet Beck in the class. She was overdeveloped and everything. She was beautiful. And we were in the home-ec classroom and we were making something out of wood and we were standing in a line. I had my piece of wood and she came up and pushed me out the line, called me a little shrimp. I said that's all right and I deal with.

Speaker 2:

My grandmother told me I started counting, walked away. She followed behind me. I'm going to get you after school, you just a shrimp. I said oh Lord, have mercy, what am I going to do. So I said OK, I'm going to sneak out the back. So after school I said, I got the back door and she and a friend a couple of them out there waiting for me. I said, oh hell, what am I going to do? So she started messing with me and talking to me. She was beating me up. So I turned and walked away. I started stepping and she came up behind me and scratched me across the front of my face and ground by my eye and knocked my glasses and everything off and I turned around and hit her and I hit her a couple of times.

Speaker 2:

And then I walked away and I passed by a window and saw the reflection on my face and the blood streaming all down and stuff and I went berserk and went back and hit her again. So I came home my mother saw the scratches and stuff on my face. She said what happened. I told her. She said well, you've got to deal with that. You've got to go back to school tomorrow and deal with that. I said, oh shoot, so I go back to school.

Speaker 2:

Janet and her father were there. She had a huge black eye and the father was livid and he wanted to kill me. I said, oh dang, and he took us to the office and, to her credit, she told the truth. She said I did everything I could to try to get him to fight me and he did everything he could not to fight me until I scratched his face. And they saw the scratches on my face and they said go to class. They said go to class. Now I later found out that she did that because her father had whipped her and told her somebody, better than nobody else, touched you, better than anybody else hit you, and so she went out to get somebody to hit her and that was me.

Speaker 2:

So I use that story a lot when I talk about Angle Mountain, because she scratched me. I went up that mountain real fast and I exploded like a volcano and then when I was coming down and this happens sometimes when you're coming down, if something happens to remind you of what took you up to the first place, you might go back up there. And I saw that blood and stuff on my face. I went back up there. You talk about feeling bad. I really felt bad about that and I never got in the fight again. I got beat up again, but I never got in the fight.

Speaker 1:

What took you from you know, stepping away from fighting to actively being a peacemaker.

Speaker 2:

I think even though I was a fighter, I was pretty much a peacemaker in the system.

Speaker 2:

You know I'd try to break up stuff, but the bullies was the ones that would take me off. And then once I started, I really got a real big leadership role in school. I was a patrol boy, so then you see the kids fighting, you know breaking up and do things with them. Then it was like I was an outdoor messenger. I was a projector boy. I mean I didn't go to class in eighth grade. I was always doing something painting something, doing something but my scores were so high I did like an 11-7 reading score and a 12-9 math score, so it was like we ain't got to worry about him and I was teaching other kids all the time. So when I got to high school, the interesting thing about high school was that it was about 50% black and 50% white and it was a really good school and the teachers were really good. They kind of believed the community. All the divisions stayed together for four years and, depending on the teacher, they may actually have a club or consider themselves a little organization with officers and stuff in the class and the class actually ran things the way and we really were able to get into really good conversations with kids from all over the city, because that's what a school, came to kids from all over the city and Martin Luther King came through then and that's my Polish friend.

Speaker 2:

I said hey, man, did you throw rocks at Martin Luther King when he came through your neighborhood? Oh, no, man, I wouldn't do that. I said some of your friends did, didn't they? Yeah, yeah, I said if I come in your neighborhood to visit you and your friends attack me, would you help me, would you save me? No, I said no, why not? I got to live there. They get me. I said what would you do? I said I just tell them you got brown ass. He said what I said you got brown ass. I said all of us got somebody in the family that's light as you with brown ass and I can pass you off as a brother. He said no, kid, you know. He started coming by my house regularly.

Speaker 2:

I wound up going to the graduation dance in our neighborhood he the only white guy there, and we drinking wine. The white folks used to drink at beer, so he discovered wine, so he was happy as a lot. But we got to learn a lot and here other people's story and the situations that they're in. And then my mother also told me when I was ready to strap on the gun and start the revolution, she said look, you can go shoot all the white folks you want to, but I'm going to tell you, most of them are right, most of them are good people, but they're afraid of the same terrorists that terrorize us. And she told me about the relationships she had in Mississippi and how our uncle killed a white chef and it was white people that saved him from the lynch mob at their own peril, and he wound up going to jail, staying in jail for 20-some-odd years, and he got out and came to Chicago.

Speaker 2:

So those kinds of experiences made me realize that there's a different point of view to be sought out and everything is what it looks like. Like another example, there was a Polish guy named Chalupa and Chalupa had this real bad stutter. I was helping with his math and stuff. He introduced me to somebody. This is chef, this is my boy, this is my boy. And I looked at him like huh and I was ready to snap on him. I said, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait a minute, let me see what he means, let me watch him, let me observe him. And I heard him introduce a white boy asses, boy, this is my boy too. I said oh, okay. And so I asked him what does my boy mean to you? You're my boy, you're my friend, you're my Okay, okay, good, let me tell you this, though Some people think a boy has been a derogatory term. You see, you used it to a black person. I was just going to tell you that and he said no kidding. I said yeah, I said so, be careful. Now Everybody could be like me and listen to you. And so I learned those different points of views and stuff. It got me really interested.

Speaker 2:

And when I got into college, going to children's literature classes and stuff and trying to figure out ways to get kids to read, the fact that I didn't have a lot of conflict resolution skills or formality and stuff stopped me from wanting to go into a classroom and teach.

Speaker 2:

But once I learned those skills, like a kid come and cuss you out. You say, huh, there's a book called how to Talk to Kids so they Listen and Listen so they Speak. That was a really good book, still is a good book. And a kid come and cuss me out and I say, ooh, tag, tell me more about what that is. It's got to be tough for you to come and cuss me out because you know I love you and they go huh and they tell me what happened. They calmed down and I said, okay, and that's when I realized how important listening to kids is, getting down on the floor at Ad Level with them and talking to them. So a lot of the stuff came from books, teacher Effectiveness, training, how to Talk to Kids so they Listen, listen so they Speak, mom, we know it's a parent and child, parent and teen, and then I would apply that with the kids on the street and substitute teaching and then perfected it more and more.

Speaker 1:

I know you read it from books and I think a lot of times when people think about doing this work they're like, okay, well, I read this book and then they're afraid to try it, because sometimes the first time you try something like that, it doesn't go well. Has there ever been an experience like that, where there was something that you had learned, you tried and it blew up in your face?

Speaker 2:

Oh yeah, a lot of times. A lot of times it blew up in my face, but it's like I'm a, I pride myself on being kind of a scientist and being involved in science all the time. It's like you're going to make a lot of mistakes before you get it right.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 2:

You know, make your first million mistakes as fast as you can. And I grew up around a lot of really nice black men who would tell you first you know, succeed, try, try again these things, take practice. And then playing football. My first year playing football, I was terrible.

Speaker 2:

My second year, I was a star and, like my brother knew they would track that progression. So, yeah, your coach told you to start watching pro football and college football and television, but only your position, and that's a whole different thing. The ball is going one way and I'm looking at what the fullback is doing, who don't have a ball, what the land back is doing, and it's like that helped me realize that it takes practice and other things is learning to play the piano when I learned to play the piano.

Speaker 2:

you start off with a piece of music. You don't know nothing about it. You start practicing it, trying to play it. It's terrible. You keep practicing, keep practicing and then one day you get in front of a whole bunch of people and do a recital and blank completely out and stand up at the end of it and take a bow and talk about how wonderful that was because you had internalized it in a football coach. Over and over, practicing what?

Speaker 1:

was one of those situations. You said there were many. Is there anyone in particular that stands out?

Speaker 2:

I tend to forget most of the bad ones.

Speaker 1:

I appreciate that short memory and try again. But then how do you take the learning from that and implement it the next time?

Speaker 2:

It was interesting. I used to do an imagery. I used to imagine myself doing it over again. If I mess up something, I imagine myself doing it a different way. A lot of that came from my shyness with girls. I would like a girl and I'd be afraid to approach her or say something to her, but another girl that I didn't like, I would talk to her easily. I'd go up and say something and tag. I should have said this another way, and a lot of times I might be very angry. At first I sit down and think about it. Why am I so angry about this? It's not about what she did. It's about what I didn't do and what should I have done. I start playing the tape a different way and get it like that, but I'm trying to think what? Oh, oh, oh, I tell you what the gap would feel. Good, it's a simple camp.

Speaker 1:

We was up in the summer camp that you've been going to for years, every summer, right?

Speaker 2:

Right, right Over 25 years going every summer, we had these kids, big group of kids, over 120 of them, and he was this boy. What's his name? Oscar, I think his name was and this boy was seasoned. He was a young, I want to say. He always had to protect himself. He was a little guy and he had to protect himself a lot. He knew how and he rubbed people the wrong way. So I'm working with him. I was talking to him, listening to him and we were out hiking. He said something to one of the boys and the boys was going to jump on him and beat him up and I broke him up and said come on, come on, come on. I said come with me. And he started screaming in the hall of the can on. I said come on.

Speaker 2:

I said come with me. And I grabbed him and said come on, boy, come on. And Oscar had these big old brogans that he wore. He knew exactly what to do. As soon as I grabbed him, he raised his foot up and smashed it down on my shin. With these brogans, he's metal and I wanted to kill him. I just grabbed him in a better way and drugged him away, cried and hoped don't kill him, don't kill him. I wanted to kill Oscar.

Speaker 1:

We had to send Oscar home.

Speaker 2:

He was so bad we had to send him home. My leg hurt that whole summer.

Speaker 1:

Looking back on it, what would you have done differently?

Speaker 2:

I wanted to grab him. I wanted to grab him in the first place. I wanted to grab him and I might have worked to have a better relationship with him before that particular time for that thing happened.

Speaker 1:

One of the things that you said a little bit earlier about when you have a kid cuss you out and it's like man. I know that must be tough for you because you know how much I love you. You've already built that relationship with that child. And now when you're talking about Oscar, maybe Oscar doesn't know that you love him. I think there's something in there for adults who are working with children. You can't expect them to respect you without the relationship. You can't expect them to know that you care about them without showing it to them over and over A lot of times. I think people are just like you know I'm an adult in the space. Respect me, right, or I'm a teacher. Automatically you should know that I care about you. People don't know that until you show them. And it's not just children, right? That's people in the world.

Speaker 2:

And listening to people is so powerful. Just listen to them and most of us don't take the time to really listen to people. So Oscar taught me a lesson. He taught me a lesson and it's like okay, I'm not going to let that happen again. So one of the things from that point on in camp, my job was to get to know them kids really well and I started going into cabins and doing activities and different things in the different cabins so they know who I was. And then we actually started doing conflict resolution classes at camp. I started doing that, but they would come to me and I would teach them active listening and we'd do role plays and different stuff about what would happen.

Speaker 1:

And I'd tell them about.

Speaker 2:

Oscar, tell them about Oscar, my tail. So yeah, so I've been a conflict resolution man at camp ever since and we had a situation I think it was a couple of years ago now where these two boys had a fight in the cabin and he knocked the boy down on the ground and he did one of those you know like kill punches on him, like you see in the video games, and we'd take him out to the cabin and we'd just kind of separate him from that group and just put him in the kitchen and let him clean up dishes a little bit and we just kind of waited until he kind of relaxed and I started talking to him and just got talking about all kind of stuff and I said, but what happened in the cabin? And he told me what happened in the cabin and it was a definitely two-way street and we had a talk and I said well, do you want to talk to this boy about what happened? I said I'm going to talk to him and if he wants to talk to you, would you want to talk to him? He said yeah. So I went and talked to the other boy and they agreed that they wanted to talk, but they wanted to immediate it. They wanted somebody to be there with them. So me and the barber, who was another elder at the camp, who was ahead of the camp, we sat down with him and all kind of stuff came out. So they cried and apologized to each other and promised not to do this and how to make things right.

Speaker 2:

So the next question was well, who else was affected by this? It was all the boys in the cabin in the tribe. So do you think you should talk with them if they want to talk with you? So I went to the tribe and they said, yeah, they brought them in and we had a circle and I didn't have to say much. I asked a couple of questions and the next thing they did was they were doing it. They passed that talking piece around talking and all the stuff came out. The apologies came out, the assumptions that they made came out, and then they invited the boy back into the tribe and so he came back.

Speaker 2:

Now this was done in front of a lot of people, actually a lot of adults, and they saw it and they were amazed that these boys could sit down and work out this problem like they did. They were amazed. So I really like the idea of taking kids out of their comfort zone, take them someplace else and then take them out as a click-stay in and form a new team and really get to know each other, go on ropes courses and stuff, go swimming, do all kind of stuff, and we do this thing called the man in the Box by Paul Keval and he's got a lot of good stuff in there about the power grid, the power structure and stuff, how power works, and we used that. We've been using that for the whole time. I had gotten trained in New Mexico and Baba had gotten trained in it someplace else, both from Park Q. Can you explain what it is?

Speaker 1:

a little bit.

Speaker 2:

It's called. What's it called? Men's Work, I think it's named the book and it's a role play of a man and his son and the son's getting bad grades at school and the father comes in really upset Ask the boy to talk to the television. The boy didn't hear him and he started screaming and yelling and telling the boy to you know what kind of dummy are you? You're getting all these bad grades and the whole scene. And it ends with him. The boy starts to cry and it ends with him talking I told him be a man and he hits him with the paper be a man.

Speaker 2:

So we debriefed that by asking the group what did this man show his son? What a man is. And we put it in a box, draw a box. You gotta be strong, you gotta be the provider, you can't show no emotions, all this kind of stuff. And so then we start talking about well, what, how do people act outside of the box? And he's talking about that. And you say in your middle school and stuff, when you see people that act like this outside of the box, what do you think of them? What do you call them? And they might call them a sissy or something.

Speaker 2:

So we go into this whole discussion about how we socialize to be men and because we will attribute female sex parts and look at them as being feminine. What do we think of the females in our life then? If you call somebody a pussy, you come out of a pussy. Why would you disrespect a pussy? So we talk about that. And then we have the women in the flower where we do a role play of a man doing a similar thing to his daughter, calling her a whore and stuff, and she got out of the door and got to, and how does that socialize us? And then we get to talking about how this messes up our relationship between the women in our life and the boys start seeing how they treat their mother, how they treat their sister and the women in the flower we have women actually talk about how this affected them being treated this way by men and they do a stand up.

Speaker 2:

They do stand up and different things and they do this thing where they I forget the dangling, but I know you know it where people tell you what they need from you as an ally and you have to repeat back what you heard them say, the whole thing, and we do that with them and by then we just soften them up real good. We didn't have to know each other, trust each other, talk about all this kind of stuff. And then we do what's called a pain fire. We take them deeper into the woods, dark, make a big bonfire. We all get around the bonfire. We get them a piece of wood or something and whoever wants to come and throw their pain in the fire can do that. They testify about it and we say that's when Simba comes, that's when the lion comes in, because all kind of stuff come out All kind of crying and stuff.

Speaker 2:

And one of the things that really broke me down is this boy got up and he talked about how his father, through his mother, out the window. The police came and got him, the ambulance came and got the mother and he was standing there by himself and some of the neighbors came and got him but the pain and stuff that he had experienced was just overwhelming and there was a lot of kids that had that kind of trauma and for them to be able to talk about that and be in a situation where they trusted people with that information. And then, after the pain fire, we changed the whole village into an African village. We put all kind of African stuff up. They learned in Guzussaba the seven principles of the Kwanzaa stuff and how that relates and how we can use that in our everyday life and what kind of things we do.

Speaker 2:

And that's how camp went. Every year we do that. I really miss that this year too, because we do that every year and now we've got people who were children when we started, who are adults now, and the guy who runs the camp right now he actually he would be your boss probably where you work at and he donates money and stuff to us and he donates his time. He's a fantastic person.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, so you've done this work in schools, right when you've, in community contexts, in this camp. I think one of the things about this podcast is restorative justice life, it's in all those parts of your life. So the first things that you identified and who are you as father, grandfather, husband, right? How has this work been a part of your family?

Speaker 2:

And we have round table in our kitchen. My kids have round table. Now, my mother was a good listener. So was my father. Actually, he's a good listener and the only thing that they would my father really might hit you about is lying. So honesty was really valued being honest and other than that, he would listen to what you have to say and say okay, you understand what happened. My mother's biggest thing was her worry about you and she thought that whooping you would change your behavior. And this is my last statement in a deduction. All the time, my mother told us to come home. When the street lights came on, I must have been about six or seven years old. She tells me to come home.

Speaker 2:

I go to my friend Percy's house after school and we play a monopoly. It's the winter time and it got dark and I was winning. I had boardwalk and I just landed on park place. I'm good, I look out the window. It's dark. I'm going to get a whooping anyway. I'm going to finish this game, so I get to finish in the game. So on the way home I said I better put everything up, did you win?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I won. I won Okay. So I put everything in my back pocket that I could. I know I'm going to get a whooping. I come in the house. Mama got the rubber hose in her hand. I go oh yeah, this is going to be it. She says I'm going to whip your butt. I say yeah, she said before I whip your butt, I'm going to tell you something. I'd be so worried when you out there because all kinds of things are happening to young kids out there and I want you to come home before the street lights come on and I'm going to whip your butt. Make sure you come home.

Speaker 2:

Well, she whipped my butt but that didn't change my behavior. What changed my behavior was the fact that she told me she worried. It wasn't in my imagination that adults worried about kids. I knew I worried about her. If she went to a church function or something and came home late, I'm at the window praying please bring my mama home. God, I'll be good next week if you bring my mama home. And because I could empathize with her. And I said I would not let that happen anymore. And she was 92 when she died, you know it was the year 2000. And she never had to worry about me needlessly.

Speaker 2:

If I was going to be out all night. I'm going to call her and let her know I'm going to be out all night and I ain't going to be out all night with no bunch of dudes. I'm with a woman, mama, I'm with a woman. She said, okay, good so, but that's. And we had a lot of people in the neighborhood. I had to live in newspapers and part of the good business was the customer's always right, you listen.

Speaker 2:

And you had old people give you advice. We had one guy from the West Indies. He said y'all, walk past me. Y'all didn't say top of the morning to you. You ought to say top of the morning to the adult, you see. And so we started saying good morning to all the adults and they thought that was the most wonderful thing in the world.

Speaker 2:

Oh, these are some polite kids. Oh, give them a tip, give them some. This kid's got sense. And they said oh, you better listen to some of these old folks. And so, and they're always trying to teach you something, even the wide heads would pull you to the side and say look at me. You see, I am Alcohol. Did this to me. Leave it alone, don't mess with it. And like the drug addict that robbed me, who showed me the tracks in his arms and told me you'll never be free until you can say no to your friends, because my friends stuck these needles in my arms, not my enemies, so they will always teach you some kind of lesson out there in the street. So I picked up a lot like that.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, what about, like as an adult in your family, with your wife, with your kids, with your grandkids? How has this work been a part of that?

Speaker 2:

Oh, this is business fantastic. My wife was like my wife was going through some kind of change and she didn't want to have sex no more. And I said wait a minute. I said something ain't right. So I made an appointment to talk to her. I said I want to make an appointment because I'm going to talk. I put the flip chart up.

Speaker 1:

Sorry, you have to walk me through, like how did you decide to like go about making this appointment?

Speaker 2:

Because that's good conflict resolution. I was having a problem. I had a problem. I was feeling lonely, I wouldn't be in touch, that had no sex what's happening here? So I got the flip chart up and made notes and everything. So it was baby.

Speaker 1:

We're having a problem. Can we set aside time a little bit later to have this conversation?

Speaker 2:

Mm-hmm, make an appointment, give me an hour. We're going to do this. And we talked about it and it's interesting because she oftentimes wouldn't tell me what was happening, but it would usually come out later. And it was one thing that happened to her but her father had died and we were at the table and the death certificate was in the mail. And she opened the mail and saw the death certificate and started crying. I've only seen her cry once in 20 years and I'm wondering what happened. And I turned my daughter and said what happened? What's happened? What happened? What's wrong? Again, my daughter died.

Speaker 2:

Happened. So she said she was mad at me for a year because of that. Her perception was. I said what's wrong with her? That was her perception. I said what I said you was mad at me for a year. You treated me like this for a year. And uh, didn't say that to me. You know you can smack me across the head and say fool what you doing, don't talk to me like that. You know you can do that Because she was having some medical issues as well and some other stuff was going on and her father dying. It was a really tough on her.

Speaker 1:

So have you done that work? How have you done what we're calling restorative justice broadly in your relationship with your children?

Speaker 2:

Oh yeah, oh yeah. Put that book out of talk to kids so you listen to them and use that with them. And it is a book called Siblings Without Ravery by the same people. I use that.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, what are some of the highlights from there?

Speaker 2:

Oh, Siblings Without Ravery say when the kids start fighting, go to the bathroom, shut up, let them solve their own problem, and that's how. I do it. I said look, I know y'all love each other.

Speaker 2:

I'm out of here, Y'all can work it out and have the faith that they will work it out. And then my wife and I agreed that we was going to have a round table in our kitchen. So no power. The kids had just as much power as we had and every major decision we had to make, the kids could have vetoed it. Like what? Just moving to New Mexico Behind a new car, we bought a new car. My wife had wrecked the car and we had to get a new car. Every time we went to a car dealership, all four of us went and we checked out the car, the girls were getting the backseat and said no, not this one.

Speaker 2:

He said, oh no, this backseat ain't right, this ain't no good, we wouldn't buy it. We got to the Honda place. They got in the backseat of the Honda and said this, is it? Get this one. We got it.

Speaker 1:

How do you differentiate your role as an adult who knows better, eric which are the people who are only listening to this between being an adult who knows a lot of things that young people don't know and still sharing power?

Speaker 2:

One is asking the right questions Because they're a lot smarter than we think they are. You're telling them how you feel Because their sense is that it's okay, they may know it before you do, but tell them how you feel. And then it's amazing because I tell this story a lot. I'm watching a Super Bowl game. My daughter she must have been about, she wasn't a good year yet she comes in the room and she starts blablabla and my first thought was I'm watching a Super Bowl game. I thought, oh, wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute. This is my daughter. I turned off the television, laid down on the floor and got right, right, little faces, she told me blablabla, blablabla, blablabla, blablabla.

Speaker 2:

They said hugs me and run off. I don't know a damn thing, she said. I don't know what she said, but I sure tried to listen to what she said. Now I got so bad. Now I try to listen to what a baby's crying means to them. I try to listen. That's a pain sound, that's an uncomfortable sound, that's a hungry sound. I try to hear that. But the thing is, when I'm really listening, they come up with solutions that's sometimes just as good or better than the ones that I was told. And when they say it, they say, oh, thank you, dad, you're a genius. Oh, thank you. And then the other part is what I call an OG call. I don't, look, I'm making this call. This comes from age and experience. You're going to do this for me. An OG call.

Speaker 1:

Don't do that often. How do you decide when it's an OG call?

Speaker 2:

It's really important. It might be life or death or really something, but it was like walking to school. It was one would walk three miles, the other would walk two miles to school. I said, yeah, he's walking. I said you can walk, you're a good leg, you're healthy, you're walking to school. That's the end of the problem. So they walked to school, there was no problem. And then jumping double Dutch, that was one.

Speaker 2:

We were living in Durham, north Carolina. We was living in Chapel Hill, north Carolina, and in Durham, north Carolina, they had a program called the Jumping Bulldogs and they performed and stuff and do games and all kinds of stuff. It was really fantastic. And I saw them and they were giving lessons to their workshops a week long workshop and I said this is an OG call. So what did I say? Two black girls supposed to know how to jump double Dutch. That's it. You're going to learn how to jump double Dutch and jump rope. And I took them to Durham for a week. I learned as much rope jumping as they did, but they loved it. They were so glad that I do that, so I didn't make too many of those.

Speaker 1:

When did you first learn the word restorative justice?

Speaker 2:

You know, I think it was when I got here to Chicago. It was that time when I restored the justice, because there was always conflict resolution. Before, in New Mexico I was doing all kinds of workshops. It was called conflict resolution. I got here. What was?

Speaker 1:

it that you came back to Chicago?

Speaker 2:

2000. And I was. They had a thing up in Chicago state Pam and Aura and Cheryl, I think Chicago state, and you know I'm nosy. So I had to go see what they see. That's what they're talking about. And I wound up in a circle with Pam and I saw this.

Speaker 2:

I'm thinking this ain't nothing new, this circle thing ain't nothing new. This ain't no big deal. I've been doing this for years. I would bound boys scouts, we do this. And with indigenous people. I did mediation with indigenous people. We actually did a circle.

Speaker 2:

So I said that ain't no big deal. We did start a restorative justice and then how to use the circles. So I thought, oh, I need to get trained in this. And I talked to Aura and I said, but I ain't got no money. She said, well, come on anyway. And she took me into a class and took that class.

Speaker 2:

I said, oh, and I was kind of resistant in a way. You know all this ritual and stuff. Now the main thing I like is the mindfulness and the meditation. So I always did that with kids. I think they really need that. So I really liked that part. But the centerpiece and all that stuff, I said, oh, that ain't necessary. And even getting in a circle. You ain't got to get in a circle and I thought no, there's some real benefit to doing this this way. You know indigenous people did I would bound. We did a round campfire all the time Boys got to do it, I said okay and I started more and more and then met Kate Prentice and the blue book. When I started going through the blue book it was like they got me.

Speaker 1:

You're talking circle forward right, Circle forward.

Speaker 2:

I was looking through that I said there's some deep stuff. I like this and there are different circles and stuff. And after we got trained it was a situation where a kid got killed at the playground and they asked us to all come over and do a circle with the kids. And that was so powerful and we were there.

Speaker 1:

You're talking about that finger?

Speaker 2:

Uh-uh, uh-uh, this was. It was elementary school.

Speaker 1:

Oh, okay.

Speaker 2:

And they sent word out to everybody anybody that could come and do this and I circled around about eight kids and some of the kids they were real close to the person who got shot and so it was powerful. And it's like you know, we really do need to take a whole lot more time to help these kids deal with this stuff. You know, instead of trying to rush new math and trying to get them to do calculus by the time they're in ninth grade. It's like I took a whole lot of calculus and I ain't using it on a job yet.

Speaker 1:

I stopped at a pre-cal. That wasn't enough for me.

Speaker 2:

Uh-uh.

Speaker 1:

And no, haven't used a bit of it.

Speaker 2:

Uh-uh. They need finance. They need to know how to rule a 72 and all that kind of stuff, how money works and how they can you know that borrow so much money and get trapped Like they're trapping kids now. They're trapping kids like crazy now.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, so in 2000,. That's when you started to learn about circles and the word restorative justice through the framework of you know what Cape Harness has taught from indigenous folks in Northern Canada. Um, what are you doing now? You're still in Chicago. Uh, you're still doing this work. How is that? How is that happening for you?

Speaker 2:

That's fascinating. I'm so sorry you left.

Speaker 1:

Oh man.

Speaker 2:

It's a it's an interesting situation right now because it's so much in flux.

Speaker 1:

So so for context, um for people who are listening, who don't know, you still work at this organization called Alternatives.

Speaker 2:

I'm still an alternative.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and I'm kind of a rogue at alternatives. Yes, you are.

Speaker 2:

They don't know what to do with me at alternatives, so they have. They have what they. These are called Shedrick schools.

Speaker 1:

What's a Shedrick school?

Speaker 2:

That's a school. They have a whole lot of trouble and they want me to come in there and help them, to help the staff, help the kids, whatever, and I go and ask them what you need. I try to give them what they need and it's it's. It's awesome, because a lot of times just having a black male in the building is helpful and to blow the stereotype that they might have. They're going to see me, see me juggling, like I'd be juggling, doing that kind of thing. They don't have to say too many black men do that kind of stuff and they sit down and talk to me and you know I'm listening to them and talking about all kind of stuff and it makes a big difference. A lot of times the teachers need support and I would say a lot of the times all the time really.

Speaker 2:

I would get the principal to let me do great level meetings and I do the blue book Circle Forward. I think if you were a chapter, it's chapter two, something, two one or something. They got an introducing circles to the staff or restorative justice to the staff and I would do that with them. They get hooked on the meditation For somebody to just say close your eyes and relax for a second, just like yeah, we need that. And then they ready to listen and they say oh, there's nothing like I thought it was going to be. I got to know other teachers and why they came in the teaching and their experience, you know, because they don't have time to talk to each other like that and so and the biggest problem is for the principal to allow me to keep doing that Plus, they got to know this pacing in this town can strength all the time.

Speaker 1:

I think I'm thinking back to you know, the kids that you were working with you know in North Carolina or in Ghana or in Pakistan. You know you have to build the relationship first before you can really teach them. Right, when we're doing restorative justice work with adults, we have to help them build the relationships, to help them feel the work, before we can teach them. Oh, this is what a restorative conversation XYZ is Like. That stuff is like pretty easy to get once you're in good relationship with people.

Speaker 2:

But often they're not giving the time to get this good relationship. It's like I used to take two weeks. In every class I taught I'd take two weeks. When I got to Chicago I did it at Inglewood High School. I took two weeks. We would get a big circle every Wednesday and have a class meeting. One of the kids told me sister, please be careful with that. Tell them I can't do that. I said what's your problem? You can't do that. It didn't matter that. I was an old teacher experience and know what I'm doing. You can't do that. So I did it anyway, but they didn't like it. And then I did something really crazy.

Speaker 2:

I had a poet, a rapper, that we used to camp all the time. He doesn't even walk in there To come to my class and teach them rap the way he did at camp. And this guy was awesome. He's awesome and I'm teaching a math class and we doing rapping. I said, well, everything's mathematics. The English teacher brought her honest class into that class to be involved in this. She was the best thing that she said. She's been around a long time. Oh, they hated that.

Speaker 2:

Then I got in with the football team and was tuned in the football team after school and stuff, and I would go through the games and I'd play my drum. It seemed like I'd play my drum and they'd score a touchdown, and it was happy. And I was there one day with my daughter and I was playing the drum and the principal was there, and the principal looked up to me and my daughter said you're done. I came to work and they told me I was through. I said what do you mean? I had too many math teachers and my pay was too high. I was uncontrollable. I was just crazy.

Speaker 2:

Luckily for me, though, it was a girl who used to come and curse me out regularly in one of my classes, and I would really listen to them, and the principal's didn't like to say you're not teaching, you're actually listening to a student. I'm teaching them something really important how to deal with people who have a difficult time and so they would watch me deal with this girl, and this girl would come in and she'd curse me out some terrible. I'd give her that. Let me have it, I can take it. She'd tell me, and then she'd cry, and then she'd hug me and say can I go see Miss Brown? I said yes, of course you can go see Miss Brown. Miss Brown was a dean of girls so she'd go out and see Miss Brown. I had to teach her that. A few times Miss Brown came up and thanked me Because this girl had been sexually abused by fathers and uncles and stuff. And it was days. She came in where she hated me. If her to be able to come and invent at me was really good for her, I didn't try to punish her or try to attack back anything. I would just listen to her and for her to be listened to was really therapeutic for her and Miss Brown would appreciate it.

Speaker 2:

So when they let me go, miss Brown was at the office waiting for me to take me to another school that she had gotten a job as a assistant principal to put me to work at that school. And they let me do my thing. And they wrote the curriculum for the class for the now. And they said let me do my thing. And then I was going to quit teaching Because I really didn't like the way kids were treated in the schools and everything. And they came and got me to come to Robeson to teach it Because there's a new program. They said you like this new program? It's got the same attitude, thinking that you have it. So I went there. But they reneged on it. They didn't do what they said it was going to do. So I left for an elementary school, a Harvard elementary school, which is down the street, and my sister taught there and I taught a third grade class.

Speaker 2:

It was brutal when kids would come to class bloody in the morning, fighting in the line and stuff, so they would throw things. If I turned my head, they threw nuts and bolts and all kind of stuff. They hit somebody, the person would get hit and run back and stop beating them, whoever they thought could do it. So I said, oh, this is going to be interesting, this is going to be fantastic here. So I put them in a circle or a semi circle and we'd get in the circle. It was really easy and I could walk around and see who had the nuts and bolts and the desks and take it out. They would see each other and I started doing routine building and stuff and things were getting better.

Speaker 2:

I brought a humidifier and put it in the room Because it was so dry and stuff in the room and I brought water all the time and so my kids drank a lot of water. So we had to pee a lot, which they supposed to, but they were not supposed to go to the bathroom. Once in the morning and once in the afternoon my kids was going two or three times you got to go to the bathroom. Oh, that made the principal mad. She was mad at me. She came in one day and told me that I could not have my kids seated that way.

Speaker 2:

The district what's the name? Said you got to put them in groups. You got to do this, and that I said groups. Both of me got into groups. That's all I got to do. Oh no, she gave me a holy hail. I said dang. I said look, I'm not going to let them. If you go, if you go, I'm not going to be a part of hurting the kids. So at the end of the semester I said I'm not coming back. But I went to the parent conference thing and I went there because this head guy from the district was going to be there and so I talked to him. He said I wouldn't do that, I wouldn't micromanage a teacher like that. He said I've heard that from other teachers too, and that principal got fired. She was gone.

Speaker 2:

So this is the outside of my own business in Potapot, peacemaker, and I would go around and get business most of these charter schools and I was working with the Black Star Project and this is phenomenal because they had what's called a prayer university and I would go and teach conflict resolution with the prayer university and how to help your kids with math and science and the conflict resolution was the most popular. But they cut the time down. They say like two hours. They cut it down to like an hour. So that made it a little more difficult and they had a summer program and they had a tutoring program and they asked me to train the tutors for this program.

Speaker 2:

So I did what I usually do. It's a game called For the Kind. When I put them in groups of four, they get to know each other, they name themselves and anytime I want them to reflect, they have to go to their groups and reflect and talk about it and report it out. And when we played, can we Talk Baseball? That was the group that said, well, we played, can we Talk Baseball? And Kirsten, you know Kirsten.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, oh yes, yes, yes.

Speaker 2:

Well, kirsten was the program director at Black Star so I was like working under her and she would be at these trainings and stuff and she was really impressed by it and she was can I improve that drawing for you? And like my boxes and stuff she would improve and all that stuff. She called me one time and said they got a position up here at our tutors. She had left and went to our tutors and she said they got a position up here at our tutors. I think it'd be perfect for you. I said, oh, so I applied for it, but they gave it to Marcia. With Marcia and Ali they gave it to me.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I'm wearing his shirt right now, actually.

Speaker 2:

Yeah crying pigs. Yeah, so they gave it to him. So I was all right with that. And they asked me about coaching. Now that type of coaching was really loose. You know, we didn't have the initial visa. The initial visa was me going in and talking to the person, talking to the principal and working things out with the dean and doing all kinds of stuff, and I was walking Basically it was a self-supervised kind of thing, and at the end of each month you had to get the person to sign this thing that said you had been there and I was at Du Sable and I had a good time there and I went to several other schools I went to at least 20 different schools that I've been to but they got tighter and tighter and tighter and more and more supervision to a poor one.

Speaker 2:

It's like dang, and it's like you know the feelings. You supposed to have a meeting with somebody and they'll show up. It's like dang, I don't know what I'd do. I ain't got to wait for this person for an hour or so, whatever. Now I would go do something. I go grab a kid at the hallway. What you doing out here at the hallway? You in trouble? Tell me about the trouble you in and they say, no, they throw paper airplanes down the hall. I just got a book on paper airplanes today. Two couple of things about it. You really helped me a lot. No joke, because when I saw it at the Circle Keepers it was like, oh hell, this stuff works, this could work. It might work better in some instances because it's like I don't have to go nowhere, I could sit there, I don't have to put pants on either, and so it may be easier to get to people.

Speaker 2:

I'm not going to ask you if you're wearing pants now. I got pants on. They're short pants, but you get these. You can get eight or ten people around real easily and do a 19 minute circle and it's less time for me to go someplace that I will do the circle and come back and you don't get paid for the transportation, so just do it. And so I did a circle today.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, what have you found that's been able to translate? And then, what are you still missing?

Speaker 2:

Being in a room with people. I think really has been official, but I think one of the things you can, you can still see the people's faces and hearing voices and stuff like that and the meditation part I think is pretty easy. But actually before and after before the circle. We're talking doing stuff eating. You know the circles. The circles keep. You know the precious blood. We're talking having a good time here.

Speaker 2:

They had to ring the bell several times to get us to come in, come on, come on stuff. Then you go into the circle. After the circle you're talking and you're walking with people and going back and making connections and making plans and stuff, all kind of stuff. So I miss stuff like that, like even now, like what's that old lady named purple all the time?

Speaker 1:

Oh, Mama June.

Speaker 2:

Mama June. I miss Mama June. Mama June being her presence is fantastic. I don't know if that would translate so well over Zumba or she might have had a handle on the Zoom thing. That's the one piece, I think, because that before and after is effective. It really helps and people can make personal connections with people and things like that. But I think the circle forward I think works well with the Zoom.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I think like when you know how to do a circle and how to do it well, you're able to translate it to whatever medium. Because when we do a circle at circle for circle keepers, at precious blood, that's different from what we do at schools. It's different from what you do with students versus staff. You have to make it work in whatever context you're in, but there are just certain principles that you know how to show up and you know how to create the space. What are the most important pieces of that for you? What's the most important thing to do when you're creating that space for people? What's the most important thing?

Speaker 2:

for you, to me, the meditation, the meditation and the opening, opening and closing. That's real important to set things up and get people ready.

Speaker 2:

The check-in, that's a real check-in. How you're feeling is that anything you want to share people need to know and not worry so much about. Am I going to make it through this whole circle thing If I got an hour? If it takes me 45 minutes for people to get comfortable knowing each other and feel good about that, okay. The other 15 minutes we can ask a couple of questions. It's going to work out alright.

Speaker 1:

The relationship building piece making people feel safe in the space is the work right. It's not the pre-work, that is the essential part.

Speaker 2:

That's the work, that's half the circle on that thing. That's half of it At least. Getting acquainted, building relationships, because that fills open until the after and into the before People leave. They feel they're connected with somebody. They might ask a digital question after they leave, or they walk into the bus stop or getting in the car. Can I get a ride with you? Oh yeah, in the ride you're talking about all kinds of stuff that might have come up into the circle, so that relationship building is powerful.

Speaker 1:

But I do have a couple quick questions that I want you to respond to. The first thing that comes to your mind as we start to close out you ready, Ready? What is restorative justice?

Speaker 2:

To me restoring a relationship that has been broken, and it's in pata po. That's what in pata po means the peacemaker. It's a Ghanaian phrase and it's a Dinkal symbol, and the symbol represents the knot of a relationship that has been broken and then tied back together again.

Speaker 1:

What is one place where you wish people knew this work?

Speaker 2:

Place where people knew this work.

Speaker 1:

Knew this work or were doing this work, yeah.

Speaker 2:

The juvenile justice system, the police and the family Families.

Speaker 1:

I mean everywhere, right but?

Speaker 2:

if we thought in terms of restorative justice as far as our justice system is concerned, we wouldn't have so many jails, we wouldn't be spending so much money on keeping people locked up, Because the first time they make a mistake they have a chance to make things right, and I think there's a lot of self satisfaction in making things right. If you make a mistake, when you fix it up it's like oh man, it makes you feel good.

Speaker 1:

If you could sit in circle with four people, who are they and what would you talk about?

Speaker 2:

Wow, four people, maybe my family my two daughters and my wife.

Speaker 1:

What people are you talking about?

Speaker 2:

Just talking about finding the grandkids. As a matter of fact, we do that every Sunday. You can go to Messenger. I had to stop myself from facilitating that. My wife does a good job facilitating. We talk about it. Get the kids on there and get the message you like. Message because you do the effects. I can become a unicorn.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, definitely, circles with filters. That's what they're missing. What is one thing you want everyone listening to this to know?

Speaker 2:

I want people to learn to take care of themselves, how to breathe, how to relax, so that when things come at you, you can take that breath and say, okay, I can listen to this and not get defensive. I think we're so stressed out on how to do the basic things we're grieving, like the 478 breath, things like that Just counting your breaths, counting the 10, what that'll do for you. I really think that if we teach our kids this and learn this ourselves, we won't need marijuana. We won't need all these different drugs to make ourselves feel good. I can make myself feel good anytime I want to. I feel good most of the time. Somebody offered me a joint. It's like that's going to sink my boat.

Speaker 1:

I'm doing good, I'm all right, I don't need that.

Speaker 2:

I don't need that.

Speaker 1:

I think. Finally, where can people support the work that you're doing? If you were to point people in a direction to support your work, how would you ask them to do that?

Speaker 2:

They can give some money to the alternatives. Give some money, some time, to alternatives. Don't put any shackles on the money. Do what you need to do.

Speaker 1:

Alternatives and the Simba Camp right oh yes, yes, yes.

Speaker 2:

Give us a million dollars so we can build a camp. We can bring maybe a thousand kids a year up in there. That would be fair. I'm so glad you did. I don't know why.

Speaker 1:

I thought for sure, that's what you were going to say.

Speaker 2:

Simba, simba, simba, and Simba is referred to as rescue, release and restore.

Speaker 1:

We'll put links to that in the description of wherever that you're listening to this. I want to thank you, Shedrick, so much for spending your evening, sharing your story, sharing wisdom with us. You and I we have conversations often, but maybe we'll record another one of these for everybody else to benefit from as well. Thanks for listening. Everyone, Take care and we'll talk to you next week. Like what you heard, Please subscribe, rate, review and share this podcast on whatever platform you're using right now. It really helps us further amplify this work. You can also support us by following us on our social platforms sending up for our email list, rocking our new merch, joining our Patreon or signing up for a workshop. So many options, Links to everything in the show notes and on our website, amplifyrjcom. Thanks so much for listening. We'll talk to you next week.

Shedrick's Impact on Restorative Justice
Conflict Resolution and Mediation Experience
Conflict Resolution and Peacemaking Training
From Fighting to Peacemaking
Building Relationships With Children
Camp Conflict Resolution and Restorative Justice
Lessons Learned and Relationship Challenges
Restorative Justice and Listening to Kids
Teaching, Listening, and Learning With Students
Restorative Justice and Circle Keeping