Women in the Wake

A few months ago I sat in a room with more than a dozen women in a Restorative Justice Mediator training through Pikes Peak Restorative Justice Council.  High School Teachers, Professors, college students, social workers, coaches, and community leaders – these women were eager and excited to learn how to bring victims, offenders, and their communities together to repair harm.  I was the only male.  Lynn Lee taught the class and said this happens often and its not unusual to have all female classes.

Here is a little about the three women who led the training:

Lynn Lee has been working in restorative justice since 2001 as a volunteer community member, victim advocate, facilitator and coordinator for restorative justice programs in Manitou Springs and Colorado Springs.  Lynn is Chair of the Pikes Peak Restorative Justice Council and Co-chair of the Manitou Springs Restorative Justice Project.  She is a practitioner member of the State Coordinating Council for Restorative Justice and has facilitated over 500 restorative justice conferences.

Robin Spaulding has been working in restorative justice since 2009 and was the lead planner of the Restorative Justice Symposiums in 2009, 2010 & 2013 and is currently working on the 2015 RJ Symposium. She also planned the 2012 state-wide RJ Summit in Denver. She is a restorative justice facilitator and trainer as well as professional mediator for the BBB, Small Claims Court and in private practice.  She is on the PPRJC board as secretary and helped create the Mediators without Borders graduate course.

Karen Lee has been facilitating and teaching RJ since 2006 for the Manitou Springs Court, Colorado Springs Municipal Court, and local middle and high schools. She has recently co-facilitated a “high risk” RJ conference in the Department of Youth Corrections. Ms. Lee is also on the board of the Pikes Peak Restorative Justice Council

This is not to say that men aren’t involved in RJ.  Lynn Lee’s husband Pete Lee, it a state legislator who authored a bill to get RJ into Colorado’s criminal Justice system.  Take 15 minutes to get a feel for the impact of Restorative Justice:

Throughout the training I couldn’t help but think about a book in a seminary class, A Woman’s Place by Carolyn Osiek, Margaret Y. MacDonald, and with Janet H. Tulloch.  It illustrates how women played a prominent behind the scenes role in the operations and growth of the early church.  As in the early church wasn’t possible without women pulling strings and sending messages and offering their homes to the patriarchs of the the early church.  Its ironic, because all of the emails I get about RJ happenings in Colorado are from women.  I was taught by women.  The upcoming RJ Symposium in Colorado Springs is coordinated by women.

In Walter Brueggemann’s work on narrative in the Old Testament, one of the first steps in interrupting the world narrative is often performed by a woman.  Look no further than Mothers Against Drunk DrivingMoms Demand Action, and a host of other advocacy groups started and organized by women.

Or look at the story of Sharletta Evans.  In December of 1995, she went to pick up her grandniece because of a drive by shooting the previous day.  While inside the house, her sons were in the car.  Casson was 3 years old and sleeping-his older brother Calvin was 6 and two cousins, 17 and 22, stayed in the car with them.  A car drove by and started shooting again, killing Casson.    The shooter, Raymond Johnson-then 14, was sentenced to life in prison without parole.  On Mothers Day in 2013, Sharletta wrote this in repsonse to Raymond’s request that she serve as his mother, “I cannot replace his family, but my answer was and is yes, I will be his mother in whatever capacity I can. I have requested permission to revisit him for his accountability and because of our mutual commitment.”  More than that, Evans actively works to let Raymond be eligible for parole after a recent change in the law.  Raymond Johnson and Ms. Evans went through Restorative Justice mediation, led by Lynn Lee.  Sharletta will be speaking at our next PeaceMaker event in Denver on May 24 at St. Andrew United Methodist.

And the story of Terri Roberts.  Her son was the shooter in the Amish school shooting.  This tragedy tore her family’s world apart, not to mention her past and current bout with cancer.  She spoke at our recent PeaceMaker event in State College, PA.  The Roberts family experienced grace from the Amish community most of us may never know. (David Works, a victim of gun violence and RJ participant, said it well, “It’s a good story, I just wish it wasn’t mine)  Roberts shared at the PeaceMaker event that, less than 24 hours after the shooting, the Amish were in her home, rubbing the shoulders of her husband saying “Roberts, we forgive you.  Roberts, we love you.”  Now Terri speaks of how no one, no matter our offense, wants to be defined by our worst action.  Roberts regularly meets with one of the survivors of the shooting, reading books with her and helping care for her.

Its the stories of Sharletta Eveans and her son Casson; Terri Roberts and her son Charles; and the many stories that Lynn Lee and other Restorative Justice mediators facilitate; that will move our communities to a place that will tip the scales to encourage nonviolence as a legitimate response to trauma.

A day after Easter and the celebration of the resurrection, may we learn to listen to the women of our community.  It started with Mary Magdalene (and her restorative experience), it will continue so long as we make space for women to “bring their pain to speech,” as Brueggemann says.

You can support Sharletta Evans and her community organization here

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You can support Terri Roberts here and look for her book this fall

Terri Roberts

 

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