Crystal Blanton is returning to Sacred Harvest Festival, Aug 6-12th. She is bringing her whole family to experience the festival, and is offering a second Restorative Justice Circle as a service. Harmony Tribe is facilitating community participation by non-registrants of the festival for this event, Thursday, Aug. 9th, 10am at the festival site in Geneva, Mn. I talked to her by phone:
You are back at Sacred Harvest Festival (SHF) ?
Crystal: Yes, I had such a good time last year and I made such incredible connections with people that I really, really wanted to go back, and I wanted to share that experience with my family. I knew that if I could make it happen, I would.
Are you familiar with SHF Guest, Yeshe Rabbit?
We are both in the Bay area, and have had a great connection with each other as we both have continued to grow along our paths. I am really excited that she is one of the national guests this year. I think she will give the festival a great service. I visit her store often. I don’t work within her coven, but because we both are in the Bay area and do leadership type programs we come across each other frequently. We have been able to develop a great working relationship and friendship together even though we don’t work in the same coven.
You are offering another Restorative Justice Circle (RJ) at SHF, why a second one?
Usually when we do an RJ circle around a particular topic there is a follow-up. We do that as a means to make sure that after the first interaction that people have had the opportunity to be a part of the solution and deal with whatever has come up since the initial engagement. In this kind of scenario, my thought was to come back and offer that same kind of opportunity for people to engage in a follow-up but to also focus on some community building type exercises supporting the community with moving forward and gaining more tools as a community in that rebuilding process. This is the benefit for participating if you participated last year, to support going from one phase to the next phase of healing and restoring community values.
What if this is your first RJ experience, what would be the benefit?
As I am designing this my initial plan will likely change once I connect with the community. There is always what we think we want to do, and then once there, what is needed. My guess is that it would have a portion set aside to talk about the past year, and the feelings and emotions associated with the rebuilding of community. I want to focus more on that direction, but that is just based on impressions of what I left a year ago. Since this will be open to community, it also depends on who decides to participate and attends. Part of the RJ process, that can be both challenging and important, is to be able to move within the needs of the community which we are serving at that moment. Because I don’t know what portion of the HT community will be participating, I have to leave that somewhat open at this time. There will be time to get some basic feelings out, but my main push will be to get to the next phase of restoring.
There were commitments made last year by both Harmony Tribe and the larger community, will we check in on those?
Absolutely, we will have some conversation around how those commitments worked for people. We can come back with some commitments that are more refined along the path and yet comfortable for everybody.
You ask people new to this RJ circle to arrive at 10am?
Yes, I will need to personally connect with them, and their needs and prepare them for the RJ process.
For new people attending what should they expect?
One of the most important pieces to the RJ type model of intervention or activity is the idea that the participants are at a place where they want to restore whatever has been broken. It is not traditional conflict mediation where stories are going to be hashed out to determine right or wrong. It is about being understood and understanding, and from that it promotes healing and a level of restoring a sense of what has been lost with the initial problem that was presented. For the new attendee, it is important to ask themselves if they are coming from a perspective of wanting to find some sense of conclusion to a problem, to restore a sense of community. Whatever that means to a person. This is opposed to the thought of attending to try to identify right and wrong. That is the question someone should ask themselves as this is not the right process to determine grievance, or who did something, or who messed something up. It is a matter of understanding others and being understood. There are methods to mediate and deal with such conflicts, but this is not what I can offer in this setting and at this stage of the process. It would be unfair to come into a community like this, and assume a position of authority to determine who is right or wrong. I want to support a community with gaining understanding and sympathetic empathy for one another, so they can heal their own wounds. I think that is more sustainable long term and fairer for a community.
How does an informal community hold itself accountable to anything?
In the initial phase, because there was a rift, we tried not to corner people into something they really were not ready to commit to. So we came up with a loose goal for everyone to hold themselves accountable to. It is hard for one to hold another accountable for these things, the commitment was meant for people to decide within themselves the importance of community. Going into phase two, while evaluating our agreements, we can now narrow that down some and make commitments more specifically accountable. A year has passed and some healing has happened.
In an ideal world this second circle would have happened within a few weeks to a few months. It is hard to hold people accountable in a loosely defined community unless they hold certain titles or are committed to specific things. I think what is more important is the fact that the community made a commitment to start healing and that they actually acted on that. It is hard to commit to a community which is not whole, which is broken. Coming back to the table, after so much change has happened and now on the path of healing and growth, we can come back and say, “What can you commit to in a more tangible way?” It is unfair when in the midst of a break, or dynamic issue, or turmoil, to ask people to commit to something specific. A years worth of work has gone into this, and things have changed and we can now ask people to be accountable and not just hold themselves accountable. That is my hope, but ultimately the community has to hold itself accountable to its commitments.
To keep people and a community engaged you need people to help guide you in an ongoing process that has been started. Some Circle Keeper training may help create a landscape and offer some tools where the process can continue onward by an invested community.
Crystal Blanton and her family, will be attending the Sacred Harvest Festival from late Monday August 6th, through Sunday August 12th. Please read a complete description of the RJ Circle event, Aug 9th, if you wish to attend! Advance Registration for Sacred Harvest Festival ends Wednesday, Aug 1st, but is available at the gate through the festival.
Nels Linde, particpated in the 2011 RJ Circle, and follows this process via two editorials linked above. He is a Council Member at Large within Harmony Tribe.