Introduction to Transformative and Healing Justice for Choral Practitioners
Krystal Morin, TCC Leadership Group
Continuing the conversation on how the practice of abolition can help us reimagine the systems through which we operate, we offer introductions to Transformative Justice and Healing Justice to aid you on your path towards understanding, analyzing, and noticing where harm occurs in your practice and how we might transform patterns of harm into patterns of healing.
“What if we eliminate institutions that pathologize, punish, and brutalize, and instead develop methods of accountability that allow for change and healing?”
- Adaku Utah (Healing and Transformative Justice)
As we look to reimagine and reactivate the choir as a community of people coming together to do the hard and beautiful work of healing, transformation, and justice in the world, we recognize that we have much to learn from the frameworks of Transformative Justice and Healing Justice. These ideas are fundamental to a compassionate choral practice and our pursuit of justice.
Some beginning reflection questions for choral leaders:
- What musical experiences have you had that have been oppressive and harmful?
- Have our choral pedagogies, practices, or policies caused harm to members of our community?
- What are some of the harmful ways that choir members interact or treat each other and how can we change this? How can we prevent these harmful interactions?
- What practices of care are established within your choir?
- How do you respond to instances of harm within the choir? Do you examine steps that led to harm through a wide and holistic lens?
- Are there pathways for members to share experiences of harm with leadership without negative repercussions?
- What elements of your practice change when you center spiritual, physical, emotional and psychic wellbeing?
“Transformative justice begins with the acknowledgment that we have the capacity— individually and collectively—to reflect on the world we want, and to align our behavior and our choices with that vision.”
- Generation Five (Transformative Justice Handbook)
Transformative Justice (TJ) is an alternative political framework and approach for responding to violence, harm, and abuse without creating violence, harm, and abuse. TJ seeks to prevent, intervene in, and transform harm and violence through non-punitive accountability. TJ utilizes a path to addressing harm that relies on community members instead of the police, the law, or the government (also known as the state) and that asks us to take responsibility for creating the conditions that will prevent harm from continuing.
In their Transformative Justice Handbook, Generation Five describes TJ as an approach for responding to all forms of violence, whose goals are survivor safety, healing, and agency; accountability and transformation of those who abuse (with possibility for their transformation and humanity); community response and accountability; and transformation of the community and social conditions that create and perpetuate violence.
Transformative justice practice uses a wide lens to address “not only the moment in which someone makes the choice to cause harm, but all the moments which preceded that choice.” (Handbook) This community focused approach asks how we have all contributed to systems that create harm that we are trying to address. Often, this includes transforming harmful oppressive dynamics, our relationships to each other, and our communities at large.
What kinds of community infrastructure can we create to support more safety, transparency, sustainability, care and connection (e.g. a network of community safe houses that those in danger can use, an abundance of community members who are skilled at leading interventions to violence)?
What are the skills we need to be able to prevent, respond to, heal from, and take accountability for harmful, violent and abusive behaviors?
What do survivors and people who have caused harm need?
Why do survivors and people who have caused harm have so few options in our community?
What are some of the harmful ways that we treat each other that help set the stage for violence and abuse, and how can we change this?
- Mia Mingus (Transformative Justice)
Cara Page calls Healing Justice (HJ) a framework to identify how we can holistically respond to and intervene on generational trauma and violence. HJ is a community led response that works to increase the strength and sustainability of racial justice, reproductive justice, disability justice, and economic justice movements through “resiliency and survival practices that center the collective safety and wellbeing of communities—as an integral part of our fight for collective liberation”. (Healing Justice Report - The Astraea Foundation)
“Healing justice as a movement and a term was created by queer and trans people of colour and in particular Black and brown femmes, centering working-class, poor, disabled and Southern/rural healers.”
- Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha (Mice Magazine)
Healing Justice asks us to discover what transformation can look like when we center political, spiritual, physical, emotional and psychic wellbeing as integral to our communities, movements and the world we are trying to build.
“Collective protection emerges from a reflection and honoring of traditional (Indigenous and Afro) practices of care. This is different from how safety and security has been usually understood in the West, where most often it is concerned with individual protection alone. Thus, in this non-Western perspective, holistic safety is at its core both the protection of the individual through the collective and the protection of the community through the collective as well.”
-Tatiana Cordero (Urgent Action Fund - Latin America)