This Restorative Justice Life

64. Healed People Heal People w/ William Evans

January 27, 2022 David Ryan Castro-Harris Season 2 Episode 9
This Restorative Justice Life
64. Healed People Heal People w/ William Evans
Show Notes Transcript

William Evans is the co-director for this Institute for Transformative Mentoring. As a restorative justice practitioner William focuses on healing, developing, and leading systems that impact individuals on a journey to rebuild community, decrease violence and incarceration. William is the founder of Neighborhood Benches, an organization increasing the presence of local neighborhood leadership to focus on youth violence and incarceration. 

You will meet William (0:55), and hear about his past (2:30). He shares how he first got into restorative justice and neighborhood benches (13:36). He then shouts out some of his collaborators and mentors for ITM and the Restorative Roots Collaborative (33:30). Finally, he answers the closing questions (49:20).

Make sure to subscribe, rate, review, and share!

Contact, Learn More, Support William:
Institute for Transformative Mentoring (ITM): http://www.centernyc.org/itm-home
Social: https://www.instagram.com/neighborhoodbenches/?hl=en
Restorative Roots Collaborative: https://nyrrc.commons.gc.cuny.edu/
Neighborhood Benches: www.neighborhoodbenches.org 

Watch clips of the podcast: http://youtube.com/c/amplifyrj
Follow us on TikTok: https://vm.tiktok.com/ZMRAQd2VM/

See all our workshops and courses at http://amplifyrj.com/learn
Future Ancestor Collective (Community Gatherings): http://tiny.cc/ARJcommunity
Rep Amplify RJ Gear at http://amplifyrj.threadless.com 

You can connect with Amplify RJ:
Email list: http://tiny.cc/ARJemail
Instagram: http://instagram.com/amplify.rj
LinkedIn: http://linkedin.com/in/restorative-justice
Facebook: http://facebook.com/amplifyrj
Twitter: http://twitter.com/amplifyrj
Website: http://amplifyrj.com
Reading list: http://amplifyrj.com/reading-list

Support the show

David (he/him)  
William, welcome to this restorative justice life. 

David (he/him)  
Who are you? 

William Evans  
William. 

David (he/him)  
Who are you?

William Evans  
Malik

David (he/him)  
 Who are you? 

William Evans  
Black man

David (he/him)  
Who are you? 

William Evans  
A person?

David (he/him)  
 Who are you? 

William Evans  
An advocate? 

David (he/him)  
Who are you? 

William Evans  
A mentor? 

David (he/him)  
Finally, who are you?

William Evans  
An individual who grew up in Andrew Jackson houses located in the South Bronx that wanted to see something better for myself and those around me.

David (he/him)  
We're gonna get into that story really quickly. But before we do, always good to check in at the beginning of these conversations to the fullest extent that you want to answer the question right now. How are you?

William Evans  
I'm okay. Um, I guess I'm okay. I'm surviving. And I'm exploring the things that I felt I needed to explore. For some time now, some of these things that I thought about exploring, I finally have the opportunity to explore them. And right now, I'm feeling okay. Right, I'm surviving, I'm feeling okay. And I'm feeling a little bit of what freedom feels like. Because I'm on my way there.

David (he/him)  
What I heard in there is that freedom gives you the ability to explore, what does that journey been like, over the last, however long you wanted to find it?

William Evans  
Um, you know, I'm growing up the way I grew up, or being exposed to the things that I've been exposed to, is somewhat limited my thoughts, and then stiffed my reach, like, and what I mean, when I say that is that it was so many, so many layers, in which I had to surround myself with or wrap myself with, to the point where I've become this individual that can no longer move mentally. Right. And for me, I thought that I was who I was then not assuming I am who I am now.

David (he/him)  
Yeah, there's, there's a growth that all of us go through, right, we connected through someone of a mutual friend, Rochelle. And, you know, she talked about you as somebody who has been doing this work that we're defining as restorative justice, well, in a really transformative way, in your community, really impacting the community where you grew up. But that's work that you've been doing even before you need the word restorative justice. So how did this work get started for you, in your own words.

William Evans  
Um, for me, as I started, I started well, I hate to say started, right, because I've been hitting these walls, these locked doors and these brick walls for some time now. Um, you know, in, you know, growing up in the Andrew Jackson houses and the South Bronx, and allowed me to experience some things, some things in which I'm not so happy or so lucky. 

William Evans  
For but also the other part of it, that I was able to experience is the life the struggle, the unity, the support, and being able to, to be being able to know what it is to, to survive. Right. And having those different experiences allowed me to open my eyes whether rather encouraged me to open my eyes and see the world for what it is. Right? It's it's a space that's limited. It's a space with limited visibility, right like growing up in the Andrew Jackson houses didn't expose me to so much, but yet expose me to so much. Right and on the things that I was exposed to, on a minimal level, right? Many of us notice as the as like, dah, dah, dah, Michael, right. This dislike level of understanding just to be in community, right? 

William Evans  
But but you know, never never leaving those four corners and understanding that so much go on and hear all neighborhood where you you see war. You see hunger, see poverty, she oppression, you see these different things that so many of us are struggling with, right to either overcome or just to be able to live live within that we can identify what's going on around the world, just based on our own experiences within that four corners. Right. But for me understanding that, at that point, allow me to maneuver and create different tactics that I can use just to survive. 

William Evans  
And school wasn't teaching me much of those survival tactics, I learned it from the neighborhood. But you know, after losing so much, and after being impacted, for many directions, I had to figure out a way to where I can think outside the box. But it wasn't until I started meeting other people from different neighborhoods to where I wanted to explore what 10 blocks away from my neighborhood look like, you know, it wasn't until I met an additional group of people to where I wanted to see what the next bar was, like, in going through those different going through those different levels of relationship building also exposed me to the similar things that I was going to and Andrew Jackson houses. 

David (he/him)  
you say, what, are there a couple of those interactions or people that stand out that were helping you shift your mindset? 

William Evans  
I will say yes, right. Because I always had, like, I have two sides that family like most people do, right. And, and my mother's side was always a promising side, because that was the working and struggling side, were my father's side. Um, the ones that I know, and that side had a had a different type of survival to them on those was the one who explored the streets, understood the streets, and survived, like, so I was able to learn two different two different pieces of this pie. 

William Evans  
But the people that I had in my ear from both sides, whether it was my uncle, God bless the dead, moving, or my cousin Jebel, who was in my area, encouraging me to be a leader encouraging me to do what I need to do to survive, showing me how to take care of family. If it wasn't them, it was my, it was my my sisters, and my cousins, you know, the majority of females on my mother's side, who was, you know, being supportive of me and encouraging me to go back to school and do more with my life, knowing that I had these different scales and the different techniques that they really acknowledged on a different level. But you know, after Wow, after you take these different pieces, and you put it all together, and you see how many people trust in you to be a better person, eventually, you snap, right. And I don't mean snap as in lose it, I mean snap into place. Right. 

William Evans  
And for me, it was different things along the journey that helped me snap into place. Unfortunately, for me, it was me losing so much, right, losing people, losing freedom, losing hope, um, those different things, created a mindset for me to want to do more.

David (he/him)  
Yeah. What did more mean for you, you talked a little bit about like, being exposed to different things outside of what you already knew, but like, what was your vision of more than

William Evans  
I wanted to be an entrepreneur, I wanted to be able to provide for my family, like provide for for my sisters, my brothers, my cousins, aunts, my uncles, on be because I saw so much of that, right, like my grandmother was with all the flaws she could have. As a black woman growing up in this society that was geared towards keeping her down. She was able to survive and show me what it means to take care of a household. 

William Evans  
Like, and then I have uncles and cousins who was like running the streets, and knew that there was a part of the impact for which came with poverty and oppression, but they still allow themselves to survive. You know, I'm in it's just those moments where I can say to myself, that these people educated me enough to want to be more than just a person standing on a corner, or, or person is going to just stop and allow the system to continuously impact me. More for me was being a breadwinner, being a survivor being a person who would only look back because because I'm coming into saved somebody,

David (he/him)  
Was there a model for you, that you were looking towards their person or an idea of like, that's who I want to be like,

William Evans  
my family, it was only was the only model that I saw. I couldn't see past the struggle. Right. And, and not being able to see past a struggle, um, made me one made me want more made me want to do better. Like, it was many people in my family that achieved something. But there was always a struggle that came with it. And I just didn't want to have that struggling or like, I was just tired and burnt out and hurt. No, like over and over. I'm the same little kid I grew up in Andrew Jackson house, lost his mother at the age of nine by lost his father to the incarceration system at the age of probably four. Right? knew what it was to sell drugs in our community and impact and impact your own neighborhood, right in a negative way. The same individual that thought that violence was the violence was the answer. Right. But also played on a monkey balls and played on a basketball court, sat on benches and talked about my problems with my my my friends and my neighbors, you know, but entire community helped me, right anti community made sure I went to school and Thai community made sure I ate my grandmother could go down the hall and knock on the neighbor's door for some bread and some sugar and some canned goods. Right. So so these are the different things that I look backwards. When I say more, I just knew that we all struggled. And struggling wasn't something I wanted to do because it hurt. Right? Just because it don't show outside. It shows then well shows inside. No struggle is hopeful. And it's pain. Painful. Yeah.

David (he/him)  
So out of all of this, you are where you are now. And I don't know the entirety of that journey. One of the things that I'm curious about is when you were introduced to the words restorative justice.

William Evans  
Okay, so I was introduced to the words restorative justice, probably 2000. And I will say 2016 2015. And I was attended Fordham University at the time, I'm studying studying for my masters. Like, I've heard the word be thrown, thrown around. But one brother by the name of Elma, sent me down one day to learn about the work that I was doing, and community. And he immediately told me like, I'm doing a restorative justice work.

David (he/him)  
So pause, what was the work that you were doing in community? Or that point?

William Evans  
Yeah, so So I had launched an organization by the name of the agency, which is these hands, educate a generation, everyone's now call your righteousness. And within that organization, right, um, I had a model called neighborhood benches. And it was talking about, it was designed to sit down on benches with different community members, and have a conversation with them, I wanted to, to like affirm people how easy it was to have a conversation with someone who probably needed the support of mental health or counselor, but how easily you can engage that person in a conversation, just sitting on a local bench.

William Evans  
 And through that process, you can support a person and have them better understand of Western needed or how they could, how they how they can contribute to the work of communities. And he immediately told me, like, No, you need to, you need to really talk more about that. Like, you really need to have your organization name neighborhood benches. And then he was telling me that, by me returning to community to help community do better. Like, I was not just doing great work, but I was also doing what you call restorative justice. 

William Evans  
And I asked him to explain it to me. And then he walked me through the whole process over about a month or two. And in just just helped me understand that just the idea that I've no, I've harmed the community, and for me to return to that community, and then make amends with the people who I have impacted in such a way is enough example of what been what being restorative justice. And he said, because it wasn't no no legal system that got me to that point, and I'm doing it on my own, that that alone is restorative justice. And he explained to me distributive justice has nothing to do with the legal system putting in place, what you need to correct an action. And from that point forward, that was like I prided myself on making sure I returned to the neighborhoods that I've impacted in such a negative way. Every storming what I took away from it, and that was humanity. And mentorship.

David (he/him)  
Yeah, what was the there are a lot of ways that people can give back to their communities be a part of their communities? What was it about starting those conversations between folks that really made you think like, No, this is what would have helped me. This is what is needed in this moment.

William Evans  
Um, I remember, I remember growing up, when we used to wait to get on the basketball court, right. And it could be so many things going on around in the neighborhood. But we will all gathered or gather on the benches or ages, and just start conversations about what went on in school, what happened at home, we may what may have happened the day before, whether it was violence, gun violence, or just domestic violence, or someone sleeping on a bench or someone starving somebody drinking, we used to have all these different conversation, including who've, who've suffering from a sickness and our health. And we share that information without any strings attached without judgment. And, and we built a relationship off of that, but at the same time, knew how to support one another, because we all was going through something. 

William Evans  
And I knew that was missing from my neighborhood, as well as many others, many other neighborhoods that I've, that I've explored on my journey. And, and I wanted to bring that back because that what that is what allowed me to understand that I couldn't contribute more to the work that I've been doing, whether I was on Rikers Island doing work, whether I was incarcerated on Rikers Island, was I was working at different organizations like forcing society, community learning schools, how I knew that there was something that I had to offer my neighbor that was not being offered on a regular basis from different organizations, or different people, you know, and I wanted to return to my neighborhood to offer that same type of support that obviously, because it, it was, it was all of those different things that had me acknowledge who I am in the long run, and believe in myself in that same instance, I think, without that, I would have had a difficult time getting to where I am now. 

William Evans  
It's like somebody had to plant the seed. Right. And it was different neighbors, um, catering to me, that planted the seed in different ways. And, you know, I just always remind myself of that, I remember my, my sisters told me this reminded me of this at Thanksgiving, she said, um, everyone contributes, right, there's no way to give credit just to one person, everyone contributes, right. And as I look back, everyone can contribute, whether it's negative or positive, everyone contributes. And if you learn enough, you could, you could extract what you need. But but just to even dig a little deeper, right?

William Evans  
 It wasn't until, like, I got shot 16 in the same project that I spoke of any, and I dropped out of school because the school wouldn't give me an elevated pass. I was a bright young kid in school, I got selected to all of the schools that I've, I've picked by and you only was able to pick 12. I picked like 14. But because I got shot first I got arrested for 15 About lawfully arrested after leaving one of the buildings from packing bags and making the delivery on then a year. And as a result of that,  because it's housing housing told me I had to leave housing Oh, my grandmother letter that I had to leave because I had an open case, which was a drug case. But even though although the case was dismissed, I still had to leave. Right. So that read that led me to the streets. Within that year of being in the streets. I got hit in my network with ricocheted in bullet, right. 

William Evans  
And as a result of that, I needed an elevator pass while I was going to art and design. They wouldn't give me an elevator pass and after There's so much knowing that I have stapled on my neck, my neck to the side. And I couldn't walk up three flights of steps without me ripping my neck or like my neck hurting even more. Because even till this day, I'm still like, I'm still like number on the side, right? So you can imagine what it felt like going to school, and then just filling out a place. So I eventually dropped out. And it wasn't until I went to art and design, where they showed me, um, they have I mean, I design on the College of New Rochelle. Right? My my sister encouraged me to go back. That's a school that they graduated from. And they encouraged me to go back to the school. 

William Evans  
So eventually, I went back to school. And they introduced me to school introduced me to something called a life OSS project is where you're looking at the, the literature, from the, from the different books, these different studies, and you're cold, and you're connecting your personal experiences to it. And for me, it was so easy. But I've never, I've, for some reason I've never thought that you can connect was in a book, that business based on research and based on storytelling, like based on these real life experiences, like I've never thought that you can actually take data, take stories, take research, and connect it to your real life experiences. I always thought these people was long gone, far fetched. But that allowed me to open my eyes to see these pivotal moments, these pivotal moments that you asked me about recently, like, it allowed me to go back in time and identify different pieces of my life, that that I was able to overcome and work towards something. And it wasn't until then. It wasn't until that moment that I realized I can do more, and I'm going to do more.

David (he/him)  
Yeah, I mean, what you shared a lot, one of the things that stands out to me is, you know, even as you were encountering the criminal legal system, and the different branches that like prevented you from, you know, of government that prevented you from staying housed, right, the different systems that prevented you from continuing your schooling, right. There were people there were relationships that helped you keep going, there are people who stayed in your life to, you know, continue to support you encourage you to those different places, and I'm thinking about how, you know, neighborhood benches is a way to help others continue to stay connected to people in their community, because they're, I think we're hard pressed to find people who understand someone's story like that, and say, like, Well, alright, good luck. 

David (he/him)  
No, like when people know those stories, like people want to help. Cheryl Graves is one of my mentors in this work, the first episode of this podcast for those who haven't taken a listen, she talks about how, you know, restorative justice, can be boiled down to, you know, how are you? And what do you need, and then, of course, being responsive to that need, but like, it really just takes the time to listen to somebody's story, like, and, you know, we're talking about simple ideas, but like, you know, listen, deeply listening, reflectively listening to understand, instead of just like to respond, but then figuring out how people can be helped, how can people be supported? You know, whether they've caused harm or have been harmed, or are contributing members to the community in some other way? Because to your point, like, you're, I think you said, your sister said, like, you know, we all have a role to play in all of this. I'm thinking about how, you know, the neighborhood benches initiative, like isn't just you, you created you, you helped create a team of folks who have taken this work on, tell me about them, how did you bring them into the work?

William Evans  
Neighborhood journey is one like one I could never forget or like, shake off like, Because? Because the development of neighborhood benches was me finding peace. Right? I said to myself, if I want to fully heal, right, this is at the height of the talk of restorative justice, healing. I knew that I had to. I had to go back to where it all started. Right. So once I came up with this idea, and I learned more about restorative justice work. I resigned from my work at on the 14 society. Um, you know, I'm leading a group of discharge planners now. We're working on Rikers Island. And I said, I need to go back to where it all started. Like I did not feel whole, like, you know, being impacted by these different systems being incarcerated for like 11 months, while being held and detained for 11 months, four days, on visiting the same place when I was a teenager, knowing various people that went through it are being impacted by gun violence and by poverty and oppression, these different things by the social welfare system as a whole, as a whole. I wasn't feeling whole. So I wanted to go back to where it all started. 

William Evans  
And that led me to, to back to Andrew Jackson houses after leader for over like 10-15 years. And out, as I said, to myself, I need to revisit this neighborhood and put myself back in the neighborhood, to see what I could find out about what's missing. In the process of me doing that. I had different friends and different associates and different people that watching me along my journey. Talk about the different things and I wanted to do in life, reach out to me. And these individuals reached out to me because they wanted to experience what I was experiencing. They wanted to really fully understand what it was that I was doing, and why I was doing it. So in the process of me healing myself, different people tapped in to that journey, and said, I want I too want to do what you are doing. And what I discovered was that I had, I had a number, a number of followers, who was also supporters. 

William Evans  
So what I designed was a way for them to shadow me, in the process of me doing the work. And that was me going to meet him too to, to locate funding to do the work. That was me, going into meetings to establish partnerships to get the work done. That was me going to organizations looking for young people that I could mentor, that was me meeting with different parents from the neighborhood in which I came from, to talk with parents, some top attended socialization.

William Evans  
That was me just making sure people are buying into what it is that I wanted to do. Because I knew I had to have community buy in to outdoor different conferences, do outdoor different conversations throughout that different walk through the neighborhood. There was a team of individuals behind me that wanted to learn more about what it was that I was doing, after just seeing me talking with a group of kids on a court for about a month. Right. But they started hearing about other things when I'm doing interviews with different people about the importance of mentoring and like establishing partnerships. So they wanted to know more about why I'm doing it, and how can they be a part of it. So in that process, they join me. And then they just shadow me in the field. 

William Evans  
And these individuals also brought some different things to the table, whether it was ideas, whether it was strength, whether it was different views, and we were able to build as a team, and challenge each other thoughts on different ways that we can have an impact for our community. So in, in each one of those individuals are doing things now, right. These are some individuals who've never had a supervisory role at their job that they've been at for 10 years. Some people never work directly with young people because they always thought about doing construction. Or they may have thought about doing retail, and different people join us on this journey and establish different scales that they're now using. Today, like each person ever joined neighborhood benches as as a as a student, to be a part of our leadership development team is now doing something they have never done in their in their life, in regards to employment, right. And I think that's huge, because we always talked about how people overlooked us by how people always talk about how they want to help us but never see us and on you know, seeing somebody is very important is vital to our growth. Because if we feel that we are not acknowledged, then we are we are no longer on, we require this work to further develop someone and their skills.

David (he/him)  
One of the things that really stood out was that, you know, these are things that take time. And these are things that are built on relationships, right. You talked about, you know, the impact of you spending time with these kids on a court for a month. Yeah, right. The impact have you the people in your life, who have watched your journey wanting to go on that journey with you learn more because of the relationship that you've built over the years. When people think about like, oh, I want to start this restorative initiative, oh, I want to make this community change. And I'm gonna, like, go out and change the world tomorrow, right? There are tasks that you might be able to get done in a short period of time. But like there is this, there has to be this acknowledgement that this work takes time we're dealing with years and years, centuries, if you will of, of these oppressive systems in these places, and you know, through the relationships through people bringing their unique gifts, like that's how we're going to, like, slowly dismantle these places. Are there a couple people who, who specifically, like you were like, Oh, we wouldn't be here without this person doing this thing that you want to shout out?

William Evans  
Yes, so um, I would definitely shout out Elmer because I definitely know we wouldn't be here. If you never introduced me to restorative practices. Um, I would definitely shout out during your Savio, who's always been on the ground. That's what individually that washed us out the window and said, I'm going to do what it is you guys are doing. I will shout out Rene Brown, who, who is who is the neighborhood benches, Director of Education. I met her at Fortune Society. And she came with by over 20 years of experiences, experience working with young people inside and outside the juvenile justice system. She's leading us through like different partnerships with different universities. 

William Evans  
 James Young, who had incredible strength and incredible knowledge around around gang violence. Then I would, I would, I will look at like our partners, Tamara forte, who believed in us enough to like really, really support us with like gathering young people  to like mentor, Carl Maza, who's on who's the chair, who the Social Work Chair of Lehman College, who like setting or one of the conferences before we actually started doing like programs, and heard that heard my journey, and heard my team talk. And just like provided our first experience with the neighborhood and school partnerships.

William Evans  
 I will also shout out guys like Glen Martin who encouraged and challenged me, throughout the process of this work, just letting me know that the work is never going to be easy. And you will hit many more brick walls. And also Ray Tibut who took me on as as an intern, as a volunteer force in society when I first started knocking on doors to get experience hands on experiences with this work. And then those who are around where I'm now the restorative roots collaborative, I meet with them like every Friday, and like the knowledge that they share is very supportive, towards the journey that then I'm on my team at the Institute for transformative mentoring, who's who's who's also was targeted on practitioners, and mentors as well. And then my family and the people from my neighborhood who were challenging me every day with flight, keeping me grounded in, in the various events that's going on and challenging my my thoughts and my memories for how I will transform community in this day and age. So so so yeah, like so. So so many people contribute to like to like wherever it is, and neighborhood lunches is that and where I am as as an individual, right, because this is one thing for for neighborhood benches to be one place. But then it's another thing for me to be where I am today.

David (he/him)  
Yeah, for the people who don't see the visual, right? You're sitting in front of a background that says healed people heal people, right in those people like there's there has to be this acknowledgement that every one of us is responsible for making choices towards our own healing, but we can't deny the the the fact that so many people have contributed to you know where we are and we're able to do the work that we're doing. You mentioned a couple of other orgs while you were shouting those out of both ITM and the restorative roots collective. Would love to hear you talk about each of those individually. Which one do you want to Share on first.

William Evans  
Okay, so I talked during the restorative rules collaborative, sort of restorative boosts collaborative is a group of individuals that's like researching the impact of trauma, historical trauma on our work, like like how, how, how is this impacting us individually? Right, as we're doing the work, right, but also collectively, as we're trying to support others. And these are some dynamic individuals. You have Rochelle, who, like started them grouping and reached out to us and we have sky you have Nicole, you have El Tomay. You have looser, you had I think I said, Michelle, already. You have Elena, you have Mikayla and these individuals, every time we meet, they're bringing something incredible to the table that helped me to reflect on who I was and who I am. Right there. There. As a group. 

William Evans  
We're having conversations about what's not going on in the field as people talk about restorative justice, right? On how it's being commercialized. Right, and how it's not being authentic to, to his true nature and its true purpose. And how, how do we practice not falling into that category? Like, I how do we uplift each other? How do we raise the voices of those on the ground doing the work, who are also impacted individuals? How do we uplift those voices and support those voices? I think that's the checks and balances for me. Every week, I have a group that would allow me the space to review my check and balances. And I think that's powerful. In this field. There's something that's that's needed. Because after you read from that book, and you put it into practice, someone needs to help you to dot your i's and cross your T's and that's the restorative roots collaborative.

David (he/him)  
Yeah. And shout out to Rochelle, we're thinking about figuring out a way to get a representative group have y'all on to share a little bit more about the work and the research that y'all are doing, we will link to the paper that you put out in the in the show notes. But you also talked about ITM and the Institute of transformative mentorship. Mentoring, yes. You know, you talked about your your upbringing and the need that you had for mentorship like this, what is the ITM bring to community?

William Evans  
So, so so so first, let's tell them, let me tell you how I got there, right. I'm a strong believer after going to so many organizations being referred there and being being part of staff, I realized that many organiza4tions sin individuals places without actually experiencing it themselves. So as a result of them not experiencing it, when when a when the individual come back to share negative things, even positive things, we are not familiar with the patient enough to reflect on it or to turn encourage them to like go back or continue or make a different choice. And for me, my experience with individuals that we will possibly that we will probably counsel or talk to was always sharing these negative feed like this negative feedback after the experiment is going on being referred certain places. 

William Evans  
So when I design neighborhood benches, I say any place that we send anyone I want to go there first, right? And I made that as a part of my practice to go to, to go to these places first. So as James was like the second, the second behind me, James Jones, I said, I would like for him to also experience what this school is offered by so so he would always encourage my entire team, whether they were shadowing me on for a little while or not. I would always encourage them to take other training, but we will look at the different trainings that we can take to take up and I would join them on our process. So you can see that we are doing this together and you are not just doing it for yourself. I'm also doing it for myself as well. 

William Evans  
So in the process of referrals James, to this to this course that offered three college credits. And in a better understanding of our story that practices healing and unpacking trauma, I wanted to go through the process and see what it's like. But I didn't want him to return it to me and say, Now I don't want to go there no more, because it wasn't an invite for me, it wasn't a fit. So I went on that journey with him. So we was a part of cohort six. And you know, and in the process of being the best practitioner, you can be, you have to be one with yourself. And you have to understand healing, you have to be able to be restorative. Right? So part of me going into different trainings with my team was me being restorative, but also learning along the way. 

William Evans  
So when me and James registered for this course, we, we first went to Murphy Institute, to to enroll into a leadership program. But then we got in we like ran across another training organization, which was, which was the the new school, right, on the Institute for transformative mentoring. So there is where is where I learned the process of healing, right? Because because they, they walked you through this process, to where you not only just understand the circle methodology, not just understand on trauma informed care, how to unpack trauma, how to heal, how to build a network of individuals who have similar experiences, to be allies. They also educated you on how to facilitate the same things, in your own community with your own people. 

William Evans  
So as me and James went through that, we've, we've, we better understood what we were impacted by, and how we was moving in a world with this, with this high level of trust of traumatic experiences, that we never got the chance to unpack. And in around a campfire, we all had an opportunity to share our stories, it was like 22 of us, we all shared our stories, and shared our journeys and how it impacted us. And what it is that we are doing now to like heal from that traumatic experience. I'm in and when we graduated, it was like the best feeling ever. I remember at the time, when I participated in that program, as a student, I was enrolled in a Ph. D program, and I removed myself from the Ph. D. program, mentally, because I was like, I have to fully invest in this, because this is really a part of healing, like I'm revisiting places and reflecting on things that been impacted me for many years that I really didn't identify with. So that experience allowed me to, to dig deeper into the healing process. And then when we graduated, we I just knew like this was something that I had to be a part of. And, you know, when the opportunity presented itself, and the director, left from that organization, I applied. 

William Evans  
And I said these are this is something that I have to bring back to my community that I have to have be a part of me and I have to represent for those who who I know that would benefit from this program. So the Institute for transformative mentoring is this dynamic training, organization that that that provide professional developing professional development. Focus on centering on healing for credible messengers, which are the individuals in the field working with young people around gun violence prevention in different practices for them to be trauma informed care practitioners, as well as super transformative mentoring, you have three different programs. You have the adult program, which is the transformative mentoring, we we refer to it as 1500. It's a three college credit course, where different organizations that's working around the Cure Violence model, the crisis management team was sin there was in their staff to go on. To take this take take this course, to better inform them on the practices on and then lead as better practitioners in the field.

William Evans  
 Then you have the youth program. Where is is the self care and empowerment? Right we we are training young people between the ages of 18 to 24. On How To Be circle keepers, and and restorative justice practitioners as well, who will then go out and to the field as a part of their training and facilitate circle there are different organizations. And then you have the fellowship program, which is the the Institute for transformative mentoring public on Public Policy Fellowship, which is offered to graduates of the 1500 course, on to reengage in the program with a focus or with a focus on public policy analysis. And having encouraging them to have the ability to advocate on a different level.

David (he/him)  
Yeah, there's so many people who can tap into this work. You know, we're recording this conversation about a month and a half before it's going to air I know you're wrapping up a cohort. Now, when is the next time that? So it's credible messengers, people who are working in Cure Violence Policy folks and young people? How can folks get involved? And do they have to be in the New York area?

William Evans  
Um, yes, they will have to be in a New York area. But we also designed trainings that that that we can facilitate to those who are not living in New York City, we have been doing that for some time now. So the code, so we're now wrapping up g 10. For the transformative mentoring 1500 course. And we're offering now that the applications are open now, for g 11. So this is the 11th cohort of students that's being offered the training. So they can go to the Institute for transformative mentoring at the New School, and find our application there, where they can apply or refer someone who identified as a credible messenger, which are those individuals who identified who are identified by the community members, as a leader, as someone who was led to experience. The fellowship is being offered now is just launched on the 23rd. But the next one will be offered in 2022. During the summer,

David (he/him)  
And for people who want to learn a little bit more, we'll definitely have the Institute for transformative mentoring linked in the show notes below. We're coming towards the end. And I want to get to the questions that we ask everyone on the podcast for you define restorative justice.

William Evans  
Restorative justice is the process in which you need to transform yourself and community, you should know within yourself if you are doing something to yourself or to another person, and be willing and able to restore what it should be if you did not cause harm to yourself or someone else. 

William Evans  
For me, what that looked like was everything that I know I did it all, I had to be visited and corrected. And that means that I impact someone in a negative way, I had to go back to that individual without the support of the criminal justice system, and make amends with that individual. And together we talk to go what it is that we need to do better in order to see a better day tomorrow. So for me, restorative justice, is identifying the issues that may have impacted you or impact someone identifying a role that you have played with impacting yourself or someone else. And making amends by redefining what it should look like without you harming someone else.

David (he/him)  
And there's so much about that relationship with yourself doing the internal work that gets skipped by a lot of folks, not by the listeners of this podcast, though, because we all know, restorative justice is about relationships. First relationship you have is a relationship with yourself. As you've gone on this journey, what has been an oh shit moment, like a moment that you made a mistake or messed up or would have done something differently? And what did you learn from it,

William Evans  
trusting anyone in everyone? Just because they speak the words of restorative justice. I'm making sure that I understand that everyone is not on the same journey as I am and therefore have to be able to do the work with out a pattern someone in a negative way. But being able to understand how I can support them in a process,

David (he/him)  
specifically thinking about a national conversation about restorative justice, right? Those words get thrown around. And people mean different things when they say them. And I think almost everybody who's using those words, does it with good intention?

William Evans  
Yes, yes. Truly. However, the way I've learned of restorative justice, is that isn't done without the criminal justice system. And I've read across too many people that believe it needs to go through the criminal justice system before it actually can happen. And I remind people every day, that this is something that we can do alone, this is something that we've been doing a lot. I remember having fights in a neighborhood where, where someone from the community would bring me in individually together, and access to what happened, what's going on, have us acknowledge how we hurt one another, and how to shake or have us hug and take us back to our parents. And in many cases, our parents will have the same conversation, right. But people believe that we need that we need, the criminal justice system involved the order to get it right. And for me, that's like an oxymoron, right? Like, we cannot, we cannot mistake mistake in the process in which the process came. Right, we we have to know that we do not need law enforcement or the criminal justice system, to identify when and how we are hurt, and what we need to feel acknowledged and restored.

David (he/him)  
I know there are folks who are listening to this, who do parties who were actively a part of the criminal legal system, and are trying to do good. And, you know, sit with that statement and work through that. I also know that there are people like yourself who work for other organizations and institutions. And I'm not saying that the new school or the Institute of transformative mentoring is this right. But I do think that there's a risk of putting, like institutionalizing this way of being right, the way that like, you know, this, this process, this way of being gets gets co opted into just like, Oh, these are the buzzwords that we use at this organization, and it within the context of an organization, we don't really do the work. You see this with restorative justice in schools all the time, right? Where these organizations are replicating the punitive way that the criminal legal system operates. And that's the world that we live in. And that's the tension that, you know, we have to sit with as we're trying to grow these things beyond just people who know each other in the neighborhood, right? Because that's one thing, when you have those relationships that you with people you see every day, but when you're talking about people where those relationships aren't there, like we do rely on systems, I don't have the, like, easy solution for that. But it's just something that I'm always sitting with intention. Yeah, you

William Evans  
know, what, you know what else that you bring, bring that up, but it also connects to what, to what I just spoke about? That Oh, shit moment. Like, is also me acknowledging that people don't people, people, people commit to a nine to five and not I'm not a lifestyle, I committed to a lifestyle. And that lifestyle is being restorative, right, in whichever way is going to come is going to be distorted. Right? Like, it's, it's part of being solution driven, and being accountable and being responsible. And, and, and, and having the ability, or the willingness to learn, right, or many people are setting their ways. They believe that one way is only in a best practice, and therefore continue with that. But I realized that people are not doing this as a lifestyle. They're doing it as a 9 to 5. And in many cases, that's my oh shit moment, where I'm like, oh shit. People are not doing this, because this is a better way of living. They're doing it because it's a nine to five. And I always tell someone like we we have young people individual for a couple of hours a day. It's not about a lifestyle. It's about it's about applying a bandaid to a cut that's been cut 1000 terms, right like that same cut, healed 1000 times, but it also been sliced 99 999 times, right. So we are just adding a bandaid to it, we have to promote this as a lifestyle, and not just promoted as a nine to five, because there are too many people who are programmed out and tired of programming. And therefore, when the idea of restorative justice come about, they are just assuming it to be another program, if it's not considered a lifestyle,

David (he/him)  
honest question. There are always going to be people who take this job, take this learning and think about it as just the thing that they do at their job. Should we be teaching and people don't go on a straight linear path on like learning this work? How much of this work do we give to people who are learning it within the context of their job? And how much of this? Do we like say no, if you're about this, you're gonna come and find it and learn from elders? Because like, as I'm growing, amplify rj, and building training programs, right, building ways of teaching people, you know, there's this consciousness that not everybody who's going to take this learning is going to apply it in these ways that are lifestyle, right? So like, do we even teach it,

William Evans  
you have to, you have to generally want it. Like, like we could teach, we can teach all day long. But if people are not, if people are not fully accepting, or receptive of what it means to be restorative, then they are not going to live it. Right. And that's where we would run up against a wall and say to ourselves, do we want to write the same question that you asked us just just just now? Do we want to teach it? Or do we want to apply it as a lifestyle, right, and we want more people to apply it as a lifestyle. So therefore, they'll continuously learn the different elements that they need to not only just heal themselves, but help other individuals in the process towards.

David (he/him)  
So I know you have within ITM I know, you have the 15 piece, and then you have the fellowship, but not everybody who goes through that 15 piece is in the fellowship, like how do you continue to stay in relationship or like, keep track? Or like, I know, there's no way to guarantee that people are like, applying it to their lifestyle, but what are the mechanisms that you have in place?

William Evans  
So, so we have, we have, even even before the pain, the pandemic, we always have this monthly check ins, to where, where it may be moving nice. It may be, um, gatherings, um, different things offered every month. Right? Um, currently, we just established like Facebook pages, where we raised different questions and include different activities. But everything that's being offered is around the work itself. Right, whether it's a documentary that's like highlighting the transition, or is a documentary about how have we been impacted in some type of way. So so everything is intentionally designed to keep you updated, and reminded of where we are now. Right. And I think it's important that these teachable moments become something that's regularly offered, if we want people to adapt different styles, right, and, and apply different strategies towards restorative practices, as as it is a part of the healing process. But because we will, we will face different challenges all the time. 

William Evans  
But we put, if we open eyes only one way, then we will only get one practice, we need to continuously offer something that can open a person's eyes as it is a challenge, and allow them to adjust and reapply strategies that they learned that they learned as a practitioner in order to move the needle forward. Right and collectively as we contribute into the different spaces. That's the way that we are going to continue to grow. So at the Institute for transformative mentoring, we're reaching out to different people using social media, using ongoing trainings, advanced classes like the public policy, the youth programming, and the placements, even even with our youth program, after these young people are training, we're looking to put them under different organizations that need the work done by who probably know nothing about restorative justice or the or the circle keeping process. But we're training people to play some back at different organizations or their own organization who may not have these practices in mind. And we allow our people to then amplify their voices and uplift the strategies at those organizations. So every month, we're trying to engage with everyone about something, whether it's us, inviting them to the graduation, by adding them to a movie night inviting them to the public policy, about NRM to work with some young people, but we're inviting them and engaging them in any way, we can just know that just so they can know that we are still here.

David (he/him)  
Yeah, that's right. I mean, the relationships, right, there's got to be some kind of accompaniment and continual presence, right? To continue to see this work, grow,

William Evans  
the practice, never stop, right? And it evolves over time. And we have to readjust our own practice in order to get the best out of it. So someone else can learn from it. Right, so So we may be teaching RJ as one big circle right now. But eventually we'll, we will have to break that circle down into 10 other circles, just to be able to apply it to different groups in different matrix, just so people can then learn from it. And after it becomes like a household, a household household name, right, then people will then start applying it to every part of their life. Like, for example, like, you have kids that may go into a store, still out of the store, about a chips in a juice, right?

William Evans  
 And in the person with the practitioner mind, would then stop that child and ask that child why. Right, and then probably find out that that child is hungry, the parents are not around, right. And then in that process of that conversation, we'll have a conversation with the payments, about how they're being how they're impacted by the various systems. Right, so that's a practitioner mind, that would then dig that deep enough to make sure that their child is not placing a criminal justice system of foster care, just because the individual wants to take a bag of chips. And and the juice, may well still pay the store for what it is that they may lose, or have that store owner feel as though you know what I better understand now. And I am now going to give that that young kid something to to do, or just give them the bag of chips. And I'm and I'm just right, because I do not want the criminal justice involved. And these are things that's been going on when I was younger. Right, but we will we want to be able to break this down enough to where it's easier to is it easy to transition for individuals to leave the the punishment, mind that alone, and look at being more restorative?

David (he/him)  
Yeah, it's not just about giving people the tools. As we've said, it's how do you how do you apply it? And there's no perfection in any of this, but we will, we will get there with with continual practice. Yeah, man, that went a lot longer. This is supposed to be somewhat of a speed round, but we're gonna we're gonna keep pushing through those. Those last questions have you get to sit in circle with four people living or dead? Who are they? And what is the question that you ask the circle?

William Evans  
Can it be six people? Sure. Okay. So it won't be my uncle Lubin, my cousin Djebel. My Uncle Paul, my grandmother, Jesse, my mother, Patricia, and my. And my best friend, Joel. Well, um, what I would ask them, How am I doing? And what can I do for them?

David (he/him)  
How would you answer that question for yourself right now? How would you, um, are you doing and what are you doing for them?

William Evans  
I'm not okay. But I'm here. I'm present. I'm and what I'm doing for them is making sure that we have a better world to where our people will never have to experience the things that they they've been spiritual.

David (he/him)  
How do you think their answer would differ from that? Their answer? Yeah. Like what you could do for them?

William Evans  
I know it's challenging because each one of them have they have been impacted a different way. And lost their life, in similar but different ways. But the more I learned not only just how to be restorative. But as I learned about the four aggravating factors that we teach through the Institute for transformative mentoring, out of a book called The dead child, I heard something like that I can't get the right title right now. But we like teach the four aggravating factors, which is evaluation humanize the dehumanized laws. Erosion of community and rage. And as I look at that, and then I look at the social determinants of health, I have a better understanding for how I lost each one of them. And I look at it as if, if I can see some people in those same neighborhoods, where these individuals lost their life, and I lost myself, I believe I'm contributing to a better place, right and supporting individuals to be better individuals. But I think the response could be different for each one of the because each one of them experience something through a different means. And I know for sure, we'll have something different to tell,

David (he/him)  
thank you for sharing that, that's really heavy, with a lot of responsibility that I hear you feel like you have to take on. When I when I hear you say that, that and like I'm projecting, like what I'm feeling into this, like this overwhelm of responsibility to do all of this. And when you say like, I'm okay, I'm surviving, I know that they also wants you to thrive and not just survive. And so encouragement mostly to myself, as I'm talking to you, but like, find the ways to get beyond survival. Because you've got, you've got, you've got a long, you've got a long road ahead. Yeah. So much more to do,

William Evans  
you know, like, you know, right, thanks, thanks for saying that, as well. Um, and, and I always look at the journey to how I started life. And like how I get to where I am now, right, um, many years ago, I wouldn't have never thought of, of being a college graduate, I would have never thought of of starting a nonprofit organization that have saved hundreds of lives, I would never have thought of being an entering, Echoing Green competition and being being one of 34 people selected out of 2500 plus people from around the world, I would have never thought of being a co director at an organization that's under school. At the new school, I would have never thought of receiving the awards that I received and set on a platforms that I've set on arm to talk about the work on. And I think those are great accomplishments. Right. And I know, just like you said, I've got so much more to offer and so much more to achieve. 

William Evans  
But I want to always remind myself, that we still have work to do, right? Like we have work to do, and no matter how we see it. And that's the sad part. Because so many we was wrapped in so many layers of oppression. By the time I dug out of it, I was ready, well in my 30s. Right. And it and if that had not been the case, I would have I would have been where I'm at many, many years ago, right as well as the individual that I run across. So we are practicing this as a lifestyle and making sure that we are healing ourselves enough to where we can take this weight off our shoulders and grow each each time we grow. We're dropping a brick, right? And our brick is making us much more lighter to to you know, to reach the level that we need to reach. But I know that I have much more work to do, and I only identify it as survival. Because where we are, um, to me, it's just that right like We are surviving, right? We we are thriving, but we are also surviving. Right? Every day is never promised to us as as human beings. But it makes it that much harder. Being a black person, a black man living in a nice in these conditions and this environment.

David (he/him)  
Like there's this acknowledgment that like it's never going to, quote unquote be enough to solve all the problems save the world reverse 400 500 years of white supremacy on this continent and other forms of oppression. But but it's the work that we're charged with and like, I don't know how to put a light spin on that. I'm curious, like, is there a mantra or an affirmation that you tell yourself that keeps you going that you want to leave with people here?

William Evans  
Yes. I'm always say, I want to be legendary. Right? And being legendary means doing the work, right? practicing what you preach. But I would, I would stand by like what you see behind me, right? Help people heal people. Right? And that's because I already know hurt people hurt people. Right? And I'm not in this space to hurt people. So I will stand by the words healed people heal people.

David (he/him)  
To more questions, who's one person I should have on this podcast? And before you answer you have to help me get them on.

William Evans  
Um, I give you on shames deBaron the homeless hero. Yeah, many articles. He worked with neighborhood benches. And he said through that process, he got his he got his mojo back, right to do the work all over again. And he used to do the work and many fun, very bright brother. Yeah, he advocates for the homeless and trying to impact the voices of the homeless people to end homelessness. And he you know, he'd been through it all. He'd been through it all he's he used to practice. He used to practice with the Islamic community. He'd been around since like, Larry Davis has been around. You know, like he he got so many, you know, he got stories, stories. And, and he's definitely an inspiration. I don't know how I left him out. But he watched me grow up. And he helped me he was the first person that ever sat me down to be viewed a Quran in the Holy Bible together. So he compared it to, and actually opened my eyes to what it means to compare contrast.

David (he/him)  
Last question. And, you know, we've talked about a bunch of different places that you're doing work and how folks can support but how can people support you in your work in the ways that you want to be supported?

William Evans  
I think they can acknowledge the importance of community and return to that place where all started, I would like more people to really look at the place where all started and find a way to give back there and get back there.

David (he/him)  
And if people want to learn more about the neighborhood benches, and if they want to learn more about how to change formative mentoring, we'll have those in the show notes below. I love it when you know, the folks like you like yes, like do this work, do this work from your heart and that's what supports our community. And there are all these ways that you can get plugged in exactly to what you do. Thank you so much. Anything you want to leave the people with,

William Evans  
um, you know, um, look, look at our work day to day on Instagram, neighborhood benches, look at our, our work at both in neighborhoodbenches.org neighborhoodbenches.info. Look at the work that's being done with the Institute for transformative mentoring, as is a part of my healing process, my healing journey as co director and as our alum. And you know, keep keep an eye out for the work. If you want to resources and you want to community of support. You cannot you cannot just visit those sites, but also visit the restorative roots collaborative, because there you will have a unique group of individuals that's going to support you and plug you into a larger community of practitioners.

David (he/him)  
Beautiful. Well, again, we'll have all of those linked below. Thank you. So much William for your time wisdom and stories everyone else we'll be back with another conversation next week till then take care 

William Evans  
Thank you

Transcribed by https://otter.ai