Liberatory Consciousness

September 29, 2022

We cannot do restorative justice work well if we are not also fighting for racial equity in the spaces that we work. Looking through the lens of equity, we find the concept of liberation. This brings up the question, how do we grow our liberatory consciousness?

Developing a liberatory consciousness centers around freeing yourself and others from systems and institutions which promote oppression. Dr. Barbara J Love, who is an activist, consultant and Transformation specialist, names liberatory consciousness as “a framework used to maintain an awareness of the dynamics of oppression characterizing society without giving in to despair and hopelessness about that condition and enabling us to practice intentionality about changing systems of oppression. In her four step Framework to Develop a Liberatory Consciousness, she highlights what steps we can take as individuals when it comes to developing our liberatory consciousness.

Awareness: We have become aware of the oppressive systems and structures around us. How are they affecting communities? Who is marginalized? How have I interacted with oppressive systems?

Analysis: “Interrogating what we see happening in the world around us from a liberatory perspective.” Engage in deep thought with the information you are now aware of. Theorize about root causes and why it is happening.  

Action: Connect with other organizations and individuals engaged in the work and see what actions you can take as an individual to support change. Do thorough research before taking action to ensure your actions are not causing further harm.

Accountability/Ally-ship: Take a critical view and ask what needs to change so that others can experience liberation. Explore what it looks like to be an ally of individuals and communities that are oppressed?

"If you have come to help me you are wasting your time. But if you recognize that your liberation and mine are bound up together, we can walk together."  ~ Lila Watson

Check out these resources to learn more about developing your liberatory consciousness:

Tools for Social Change: How to Develop a Liberatory Consciousness by Leadership for Educational Equity

Barbara J. Love Consulting: Social justice, Transformational Change and Liberation & Healing

Chapter 3 of The Little Book of Youth Engagement in Restorative Practices: Intergenerational Partnership for Just and Equitable Schools by Anita Wadhwa, Evelín Aquino, and Heather Bligh Manchester.

other blogs and recommended reading

NYC's Push for Restorative Justice Was Put to the Test This School Year

Schools like Harvest Collegiate High School have embraced restorative justice and devoted resources to those programs.

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Solidarity as Social and Emotional Safety

This model of social and emotional learning emphasizes mutual aid, restorative justice and safety by design.

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Restorative Arlington Partners with Arlington Public Schools to Support Students and Strengthen Restorative Justice in Education

Restorative Arlington has partnered with Arlington Public Schools (APS) to support Restorative Justice in Education. Restorative Arlington has allocated over $140,000 to provide direct services to APS, including services for students who have experienced harm as well as restorative justice training for staff and additional resources.

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Where Is the Forgiveness and Grace in Cancel Culture?

A link to an editorial written on 12/28/21 in the New York Times from Michael Eric Dyson, reflecting on Bishop Tutu's approach to apartheid and the limited value of punishment or banishment.

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LTE: Restorative Justice in Schools

"We need programs and interventions that teach and model skills that will change behavior. Restorative practices are what can transform and guide the prosocial behaviors we want for our children and our communities."

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Remembering How to Be Friends: After COVID, One School Uses Talking Circles to Help Kids Reconnect

That predictable, structured place to safely share is critical, especially for students who want to take on society’s bigger challenges, Swearingen said. “It puts us in a spot where we can be vulnerable with each other, and because we can be vulnerable together we can be productive.”

Read full article (LINK OPENS IN A NEW TAB) →