Announcing the Transformative Justice Initiative

Today we’re proud to announce a partnership with Mia Mingus of the Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective.

Photo via Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective.

Supported by a one-time grant from The James Irvine Foundation, this partnership aim of empowering Bay Area theater practitioners to address sexual harm and identity-based harm using Transformative Justice processes.

The first of these events is an invite-only one-day training intensive which was held last Saturday, December 15. The second is a day-long “Introduction to Transformative Justice” intensive which will take place later in January (more details to come) and which will be open to the larger Bay Area theater community.

Cal Shakes’ new initiative will be driven by Artistic Producer, SK Kerastas, in partnership with Mia Mingus of the Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective (BATJC) and will formalize a paid cohort of 15 local theater workers who have already been organizing work around this issue on a volunteer basis.

Kerastas says, “We need to be be proactive about this. There continues to be deep harm happening in and from our theater-making processes and our organizational structures that goes largely unaddressed. In an art form that uses human relationship as its medium, theater communities are primed to build relationships of accountability with one another, so that when harm happens, we have the processes, skills, and relationships to address it meaningfully. Transformative Justice can provide us a trauma-informed, survivor-centered, justice-driven structure in which to do so.

Artistic Director Eric Ting adds, “We need support and education on methods of addressing these issues in an impactful, holistic way. I’m proud that SK is spearheading this initiative and, with support from BATJC, helping to lead us through the work—both as an organization and as a community.”

This partnership is a follow up to the IT’S TIME Town Hall on Sexual Harassment held in 2018, which was attended by more than 200 participants, many of whom disclosed incidences of experiencing or witnessing harm. Most people grappled with unclear lines of action for how to respond—both from individual and organizational perspectives.

Through in-person feedback and post-event surveys, Cal Shakes learned that a particularly inspiring portion of the Town Hall for attendees was a presentation by Chicago-based Kyra Jones, a sexual violence prevention educator at Northwestern University, and Bay Area native, Adrienne Skye Roberts, a Transformative Justice Facilitator. Together, they introduced TJ frameworks and processes as a viable way to address these issues. According to the TJ Handbook provided by Generation FIVE (a non-profit organization whose mission is to end the sexual abuse if children within 5 generations), Transformative Justice offers an approach that centers survivor safety, healing, and agency; supports accountability and transformation of those who cause harm; requires community response and accountability; and aims for the transformation of the social conditions that create and perpetuate violence. While each TJ process is unique to those people and conditions, they generally involve a series of facilitated support circles and action plans for all parties involved.

Mia Mingus, a founding and core member of the BATJC, is excited about the potential of this project, saying, “Working with Cal Shakes to build the individual and collective skills and capacities needed to do transformative justice is right in line with our work to build a Bay Area that could effectively respond to violence within our own communities. We want to collaborate and invest in work that is collective, in alignment with a long term vision, and can cultivate the necessary level of depth needed to respond to, prevent and ultimately end sexual violence and abuse.”

Launching the Transformative Justice Initiative will allow Cal Shakes to learn how these principles can be modeled for the Bay Area theater community. In the coming year, the cohort will receive training and education from Mia Mingus; host listening circles for survivors of sexual violence and identity-based violence within Bay Area Theater contexts; provide resources to initiate one TJ process to address specific incidences of sexual and/or identity-based violence in the Bay Area theater community; and share out their experiences over the course of the year via a podcast series, so that the learnings are accessible to people in the theater field at large.

“This is an experiment for us in the theater world, exploring totally new ground,” Kerastas emphasizes, “And we are very cautious of co-opting this work. But it is essential that we learn new strategies and vision beyond what is currently in place. In doing so, we are taking responsibility for creating the world we want to live and make work in.”

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