Justice Conversation (justiceconversation.org) grew out of an art exhibition, Working from the Torn Things, at the Eddie Rhodes Gallery at Contra Costa College in 2016, when I placed a torn paper ballot box in the center of the gallery and solicited comments and stories relating to justice from visitors. The comments were then used to create a torn paper compilation piece for the exhibit, and were also posted online. A salon-style conversation was also held where attendees shared their own experiences and reflections. This was not the first exhibition of my work that revolved around the premise “The Law is Love,” but it was the early beginning of Justice Conversation.
Signage in the initial exhibition at the Alameda County Law Library coinciding with the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, noted the long evolution of how the principles of the charter were reinterpreted throughout its history to reach our present understanding of the US Constitution. I began to explore through the work, how could this evolve next? Could we move from the present system, heavy in retribution, condemnation, and punishment, to one rooted in love? What could that look like?
Through legal scholar Peter Gabel’s writing, and research on restorative and collaborative justice practices, and observation of the activities of non-profits, I found a great breadth and depth of work underway that I’d been unaware of as a citizen. Many people have invested their lives and careers in teaching, representing, and fostering a justice based on human needs, personal and community accountability, and restoring connection and relationship. In short, justice based on love.
Yet “we the people” haven’t yet reached the collective understanding that justice is about love, and that it is truly possible to live that. At least not enough of us. When we do, we will expect differently of our politicians, teach our children different behaviors, and shift the way we ourselves treat one another. The behavior of our institutions will change because they are, after all, just made up of us.
The purpose of the Justice Conversation is to witness and take part in the developing awareness of justice as a concept rooted in love, in other words in relationship and healing. We do this by:
- Disrupting thinking that equates justice with punishment or some judgement of what someone ‘deserves.’
- Inviting people to consider restoration and relationship as factors to achieving meaningful justice
- Listening to concerns and experiences through varied perspectives
To explore this project, please spend time on the website: justiceconversation.org