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 is currently the racial justice editor at YES! Media and a writing fellow with Independent Media Institute. She was previously a weekly columnist for Truthdig.com. She is also the host and creator of Rising Up with Sonali, a nationally syndicated television and radio program airing on Free Speech TV and dozens of independent and community radio stations. Sonali won First Place at the Los Angeles Press Club Annual Awards for Best Election Commentary in 2016. She also won numerous awards including Best TV Anchor from the LA Press Club and has also been nominated as Best Radio Anchor 4 years in a row. She is the author of Bleeding Afghanistan: Washington, Warlords, and the Propaganda of Silence, and the co-director of the nonprofit group, Afghan Women's Mission. Her forthcoming book is Rising Up: The Power of Narrative in Pursuing Racial Justice (City Lights, 2023). 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. She reflects on her professional path in her 2014 TEDx talk, “My Journey From Astrophysicist to Radio Host.” She can be reached at sonalikolhatkar.com