What if We Just Spoke to Each Other? – Evelyn Alvarez

Jan 11, 2021 | In Their Own Words, News and Updates

In 2019, RJI invited a contingent of New Yorkers to join us in traveling to Denver, Colorado for the annual gathering of NACRJ. We provided scholarships for ten people. Here are excerpts from an essay written prior to the trip from one of the extraordinary members of our local restorative justice community about their relationship to restorative practices. 

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.