I joined EJUSA’s Advisory Board in August, and this past Thursday I attended my first Holiday Party, an annual Advisory Board tradition to build support for EJUSA’s work.
While the last few months have put forth challenges as we process the difficult results of a tumultuous election cycle, there is tremendous reason to be positive. Even though the movement to end the death penalty faced setbacks in November, the momentum to replace a punitive and unproductive justice system with one grounded in victims’ perspectives and healing has never been stronger.
Equal Justice USA, and the community that surrounds it, has a great amount to look forward to as 2017 approaches. As a member of the Associate Board, a group of young professionals working to build support and spread the word about EJUSA’s work, my feelings of hope and excitement for the coming year were reinvigorated at this year’s Holiday Party.
The annual event, hosted at ThoughtWorks in Manhattan, brought together a wide array of supporters new and old to share perspectives, hear about EJUSA’s work on the front lines of justice, and raise money to support those efforts in the New Year. The headline of the evening was Purple Haze, a participant in EJUSA’s Trauma-Informed Policing in Newark, New Jersey. The project, which has convened over 150 individuals—ranging from local civilians to police officers—explores the complicated relationship between the justice system and community through open dialogue that acknowledges trauma from multiple perspectives and seeks to foster trust.
Purple, a Hip Hop artist, speaker, and educator, spoke powerfully about her personal experience participating in the Trauma-Informed Policing project this November. She described the initial divide between police officers and residents as the program commenced—with the two groups literally separated on opposite sides of a room—to the collaboration and communication that emerged as participants shared their unique experiences with trauma. Purple spoke about the potential of trauma-informed trainings and their ability to not only support individuals as they delve into their own histories but also to acknowledge community trauma as a tool for healing across boundaries.
Afterwards, Laura Porter, Director of Campaigns and Strategies at EJUSA, spoke about the incredible work that the organization has accomplished this past year and will continue to build on in 2017. Laura articulated EJUSA’s vision for replacing a harmful and broken justice system with an approach centered in addressing harm and spreading trauma-informed tools for healing. She also shared the support from all sides of the political spectrum that EJUSA’s work has inspired.
With a pitch from the Associate Board’s own Nicholas Watson, the party, a small auction, and individual fundraising efforts raised nearly $3,000. As attendee Taylor Lanzet shared, the event “underscored the importance of bringing people together to end the oppression and dysfunction that our current criminal justice system embodies, but also to build a new justice system that heals rather than harms.”
Weren’t able to attend the party but still want to support the Associate Board’s fundraising efforts? Give online here: ejusa.org/holiday2016.
Photos by Associate Board Member Alex Thornton