On Day 2 of YES! Fest, a panel of four grassroots leaders engaged in a stimulating discussion on the concept of “transformative justice,” and how it can form the basis for deep solutions to racial and gender-based injustices, mass incarceration, immigrant abuses, the climate emergency, and more.
The panelists were Amanda Alexander, founding executive director of the Detroit Justice Center; Dallas Goldtooth, an organizer with the Keep It in the Ground Campaign of the Indigenous Environmental Network; Mariah Parker, a county commissioner in Athens, Georgia, who was elected at the age of 26; and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign.
Although the idea of transformative justice originated as a response to gender-based domestic violence, its applicability is broad. Panelists, using real-world examples of transformative justice, explored nonviolent approaches to repairing harm in communities by examining the root causes of that harm to inform upstream solutions.
For example, on the issue of the criminal justice system, Parker said that rather than pouring our efforts into reforming a system that disproportionately targets people of color, “we need to be thinking about what sorts of investments will prevent harm from happening in the first place.”
Sonali Kolhatkar joined YES! in summer 2021, building on a long and decorated career in broadcast and print journalism. She is an award-winning multimedia journalist, and host and creator of YES! Presents: Rising Up with Sonali, a nationally syndicated television and radio program airing on Free Speech TV and dozens of independent and community radio stations. She is also Senior Correspondent with the Independent Media Institute’s Economy for All project where she writes a weekly column. She is the author of Rising Up: The Power of Narrative in Pursuing Racial Justice (2023) and Bleeding Afghanistan: Washington, Warlords, and the Propaganda of Silence (2005). Her forthcoming book is called Talking About Abolition (Seven Stories Press, 2025). Sonali is co-director of the nonprofit group, Afghan Women’s Mission which she helped to co-found in 2000. She has a Master’s in Astronomy from the University of Hawai’i, and two undergraduate degrees in Physics and Astronomy from the University of Texas at Austin. Sonali reflects on “My Journey From Astrophysicist to Radio Host” in her 2014 TEDx talk of the same name.