What if We Just Spoke to Each Other? – Evelyn Alvarez
Growing up in Crown Heights in the People’s Republic of Brooklyn, I was always aware of the need for restorative justice and practices, but I didn’t know what to call it then. They were needed in my family, and the community at large.
I only recently learned. I’m still learning.
During the riots, I remember thinking “damn… what if we just spoke to one another? Without feeling like punks, and made a plan on how to live in peace?” I didn’t know who to reach out to start the dialogue I knew our community desperately needed, nor did I think a teenager would be taken seriously.
Fast forward many moons later, I worked in schools and after-school programs and often supported young people in crisis. At more than one school, my colleagues referred to me as the “kid whisperer.” I wasn’t doing anything special, in my eyes, just offering youth an opportunity to be heard. I was also practicing how to listen deeply. I didn’t know that was a restorative practice at the time.
A few years ago, I was invited to join the RJ Team at Ramapo for Children, and it was love at first explanation. I get to see and make suggestions about restorative practices in different school environments.
I’m also a doula and founder of Prom King (PK), a nonprofit. Restorative Justice is very closely aligned with reproductive justice, and many of the youth we serve via PK are court-involved. My learning about RJ improves my practice on every level.
The ability to learn and expand how I lean into conflict, facilitate circles to discuss issues, and listen enables me to move forward in using RJ practices to engage and support people who are vulnerable in all communities.