Restorative Justice helps us reimagine our communities and neighborhoods. Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth (RJOY) shared tools for repairing harm and creating healthy community relationships with leaders of North Oakland neighbor groups. Founded in 2005 by Fania Davis, a civil rights lawyer and restorative justice specialist, RJOY works with Oakland schools and communities to shift toward restorative approaches. A contemporary expression of ancient reconciliation and conflict resolution processes, restorative justice shifts justice from punishing to healing. This practice empowers communities to build healthy relationships by recognizing that we are all interconnected.
How do we bring together longtime and new neighbors in meaningful ways? Many neighbor groups are thinking about this. The workshop was a rare opportunity for neighborhood group leaders to come together and share ideas. Since the mid-2000s, North Oakland's demographics have been rapidly changing. As longtime neighbors leave the area, decades-long networks also disappear. Fewer neighbors come out to issue-oriented or problem-solving meetings. Neighborhood groups are grappling with ways to encourage more neighbors to participate: by attending meetings, volunteering, organizing events or taking on leadership roles.
Neighborhood groups are essential! With more than a half dozen groups, North Oakland offers a range of localized ways for neighbors to connect. Just as neighborhoods shift and change, so too do neighbor groups. Some groups have been around for a few decades, while others are relatively new; a couple of groups are part of the city's neighborhood crime prevention council, and others are independent non-profits, and a few are connected to community organizations. These all-volunteer teams foster connections through regular meetings, social events, community service and restorative justice.
Neighbors love to celebrate and neighborhood groups work hard to create fun events that bring everyone together, from chili cook-offs to large-scale yard sales, block parties, monthly potlucks and holiday celebrations. It's critical for neighbors to connect face-to-face. Neighbors recently came together for the annual National Night Out, always the first week in August. Started in the 1980s, NNO "enhances the relationship between neighbors and law enforcement." National Night Out for Safety and Liberation, started in 2013, is a parallel event to redefine and re-imagine what public safety means for our communities...to be less focused on fear, punishment, and criminalization and more focused on how we can build equity and power by investing in our communities.” The 61st Street block club is known for hosting awesome NNO parties, with lots of delicious food, line dancing, live music...we were happy to be part of the mix!