When Dr. Roslyn Pope was asked what kept her and her association continue their movement against the oppression that made her and her peers feel less of a human, she gave a simple, yet powerful answer: “We were right”. These simple words were enough to dismantle most of the academic words and powerful quotes I noted down throughout the John Lewis Fellowship 2017. Dr. Roslyn Pope talked about the Appeal for Human Rights and her experiences and took us on a journey in Atlanta of 1960’s. At the same time, though, she depicted Atlanta of 2017. With her words, she painted the history, as she lived it, so that we could acknowledge it. She unfolded the motives, the circumstances, the role of the oppressors and the reactions of the victims, the outcomes of their efforts and their worries that keep hunting today’s society. She exposed us to the harm done to her, her peers and the harm that had been done to generations before her. And she demanded actions to restore it. Bold ones. At the same time she gave me the power to ask questions. How can you restore justice? How can you recognize and celebrate the strength of these students while history has not celebrated her and them as she deserved to be celebrated and recognized? How can Greece restore justice in marginalized communities and how can I ensure equal opportunities through my work?
How can Greece restore justice in marginalized communities and how can I ensure equal opportunities through my work?
Professor David Hooker asked us once more what restorative justice is. The term itself is an ambiguous one. Who has the responsibility to restore justice? How can you be honest about the harm that has been done? Who do you have to engage and how actions towards justice can be sustainable? These questions do not give simple answers and the reason that this is happening may lie to the fact that the harm done by injustice, is a complexed one, involves many, may be unachievable and is untraceable in the past in most cases. What can be specific though, is the fact that restorative justice needs the power of diverse perspectives that help analyze what has been done and how you may reach justice. Analyzing what has been done is clearly connected to an honest approach of history and its acknowledgment. Apart from history, the knowledge of the current situation and issues of the targeted community is vital in the process of the restoration. Within this process, it is necessary to involve and engage the community where the harm that has been done and initiate restoration.
The John Lewis Fellowship has been a starting point for a process of restoration and human rights advocacy that will lead my work and actions.
The case of Atlanta
It can be easy to identify inequalities in Atlanta today. What is hard is to identify the harm done by them. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr once said “A little Progress is a dangerous thing”. After decades of movements that paved the way towards advancement of civil and human rights, the city of Atlanta still faces numerous issues that indicate the problematic little progress that has been done and the harm that has to be identified and restored, along with justice that has to be claimed. Spread out all around the city, issues of segregation and unequal access to transportation, housing, healthcare, education, job opportunities, create a city of divisions where, according to Shirley Franklin, former Atlanta mayor, a fair 30 per cent of the population is on the verge of poverty. At first sight, skyscrapers and infrastructures may fascinate. However posing the question: “Who benefits from this?” may facilitate the process of your social understanding. This question, along with the exploration of why, will unfold a reality in 2017 that keeps disfranchising people in various ways end recreating Jim Crow laws to establish in their new forms that keep hunting the society and the black community in particular, around the city.
Processes such as recruitment and attraction, development and retention within an organization should be handled with acknowledgment of history of each community that an organization has and identification of unconscious biases that will function as barriers in a person’s development.
All this knowledge, along with the creative learning process and my background, form my perspective. As a Diversity and Change Management graduate student I am interested in exploring the role of organizations in providing equal opportunities to diverse identities, include and develop diverse identities and act proactively in the restorative justice process while empowering people. Processes such as recruitment and attraction, development and retention within an organization should be handled with acknowledgment of history of each community that an organization has and identification of unconscious biases that will function as barriers in a person’s development. As noted for the criminal justice system from Sara Totonchi, Executive Director of the Southern Center for human Rights, I strongly believe that the business world operates as it is set up to: Full of discrimination, unequal opportunities, in a white heterosexual male world. This clearly leads to disfranchisement of minorities and harm is consistently being done to them with a historical inherited burden. Whether restorative or not, justice will be a priority for me through my perspective after the knowledge acquired from Atlanta, the U.S. and my co-fellows.
This month in Atlanta, gave me questions, provided me with a toolkit of powerful perspectives and different lenses to tackle issues of the communities I am working and would like to work on, the LGBTQ+ in Greece being one of them. The narratives have to be retold and persistence on engaging different stakeholders within the process of protecting the communities has to be established. After all, we have to expect others to be different. Not just accept each other. And the John Lewis Fellowship has been a starting point for a process of restoration and human rights advocacy that will lead my work and actions.