Meeting with the Field

We just returned from a week in sunny Oakland, CA giving a sneak preview to an enthusiastic audience of advocates and practicioners at the National Association for Community and Restorative Justice. Julie also co-led a panel discussion about the challenges and joys of documenting restorative justice.

We met all kinds of passionate and interesting people who want to end violence and mass incarceration in their communities: social workers, teachers, school administrators, prison officials, judges and the formerly incarcerated. In one extraordinary lunch conversation, a woman told Genny that participating in a victim-offender dialogue gave her a reason to keep living. "Most [prisoners] on the inside don't know there's any hope or forgiveness out there for us. They never let us be accountable. Our purpose was to rot in that cell." It was just one of many conversations we had that left a strong impression on us that CIRCLE UP could serve a larger purpose in getting dialogues started about the role of forgiveness and accountability in healing from the trauma of violence. 

We came home from the NACRJ with a renewed sense of purpose and that extra push needed to finish the film and get it out the door for film festivals and community screenings. Check back for updates on our journey!

Healing and Celebrating

Today would have been the 30th birthday of Willie Marquis Turner had he not been murdered six years ago in Charlestown.  I spent the day with his family, including his mother Clarissa Turner and sister Chardanney Dozier-Turner. It was 95+ degrees when we pulled up to his graveside and they tied shiny blue "happy birthday" balloons to his gravestone, set out a small cherry-topped cake, and signed greeting cards for Marquis.

I felt privileged to be there to mark this day: a day of both healing and celebrating for this family.

Earlier that morning I interviewed Chardanney, now 20, who described how she felt emotionally paralyzed upon losing her brother at age 14. "I felt stuck, and I wanted to be stuck. I loved stuck." She tried to end her life at age 16, wanting only to be with her brother.

Chardanney then described her journey of healing: "It took a lot of things - therapy, religion, family, positivity - to get where I am. One of the major factors in her transformation was her mother Clarissa, her "superwoman," who turned this tragic event into an opportunity for healing for herself and community by founding a homicide survivor support group called Legacy Lives On.

This is a beautiful family whose story I am graced to tell.  What a powerful last shooting day in this five-year journey to make this film.

Circle Up Training

Yesterday we conducted an all-day training to bring clips from THE CIRCLE into Boston Public Schools to foster conversations about forgiveness, accountability, and justice.  The training is a part of a project called CIRCLE UP funded by Mass Humanities that pairs survivors of homicide victims with interns from Suffolk University's Center for Restorative Justice to facilitate circle series in three urban schools.

The project is guided by filmmaker Julie Mallozzi; scholars Carolyn Boyes-Watson and Thomas Wartenberg; and restorative justice leader Janet Connors.

In the training we talked about how to establish a circle community at the school so that students  feel comfortable exploring complex issues of violence in their lives or community.  We also reviewed specially edited clips from THE CIRCLE designed to open discussions of forgiveness, accountability, and justice: fundamental human values important for all of us as we move forward in our lives.

We are excited for the circles to begin in a few weeks!  Thank you to all of the participants for your wonderful contribution to the training.

We did it!

I am happy to report that our crowdfunding campaign was a huge success.  We exceeded our goal and raised $53,815.  This funding will enable us to bring our editor back to incorporate the recent round of feedback we have gotten from our advisors Kay Pranis and Carolyn Boyes-Watson and from Janet Connors' circle of friends and family.

Thank you so much to the many backers who came out to support this project.  We will keep you posted on how it goes.