Hugh and I joined a packed room at the Rhizome Cafe on July 21st for the Vancouver Launch of the Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Partner Violence in Activist Communities.
Ching-In Chen and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha shared readings from the book and there was a discussion afterwards about the state of safety and justice within Vancouver’s activist community (this part of the evening was not recorded). The evening was opened by Cynthia Dewi Oka reading her poem, Amulet. Afterwards, Hugh, me, Ching-in and Leah sat down and chatted about the idea of building real restorative justice as an alternative to the legal system, the prison industrial complex and the police.
We know these systems are oppressive and violent against entire communities, particularly racialized communities and working class/poor communities. But the question is what is the alternative we would envision and how do we enact real justice for victims? They make reference to INCITE’s work around restorative justice, which is included in the book and you can also check out their work online, too.
It’s an ongoing conversation, and one without any easy answers. When I think about the question for myself, I think about how hard it is in progressive communities to come to unity about what we envision as a positive and life affirming alternative to the deadly system that surrounds us. But it’s easy to see the disease, less easy to agree on the cure.
I personally think that a full transformation led by the most oppressed and exploited is what we need, towards a society organized by need and imagination rather than greed and profit. But that’s pretty broad. The nitty gritty questions of justice are more difficult to envision an answer to, and that’s where the Revolution Starts at home bravely treads. As Leah says, ‘people still murder and rape’, so what do we do with that? How do we centre victim safety while exploring transformative/restorative justice?
Music by Tracy Chapman, Mecca Normal, and Ndidi Onukwulu. I’ve been playing “I Walk Alone” around the house a lot since we aired this show!