There are as many ways and causes in which to get involved as there are people on this earth; recognizing our diversity, Justice by the Pen has begun its movement by focusing on seven interconnected social justice themes.
1. What is Community Justice:
Community Justice is a very broad term, which encompasses doing positive work in one’s physical as well as virtual co-habitations. In our efforts to not neglect working for justice in our local community we have set a clear definition of “local” in order to keep a balance between working for the global greater good and being held accountable to our neighbors undergoing struggles. Everything starts at home: first, by working on one’s self, then by nurturing one’s family, and next, caring for one’s neighbors. In an ideal world, we would have a real connection with these people who share similar space with us. We would know everyone’s name, their profession, their families, their interests, and we would care for them and their well-being as if they are our close friends or family.
Our goal as a direct action group is to recreate that small-village feel in our community, where we really perceive each other to be family, care about each other and work together to uplift one another. We will accomplish this by organizing activities to build community. People do not start caring about each other without getting to know each other. This involves creating a “commons”, or common space where people from the community gather for activities that make them interact with each other and therefore form connections and relationships with their neighbors.
To understand what we mean by neighbors, examples can be taken from food production. Most of the food we consume today comes from a land most of us have never seen, by a people we know little about, and at a cost that affects everything from local jobs to climate change. Therefore, just as local home-grown farmers have set a clear radius on what makes food “locally grown”–anything from 50 to 300 miles–we too have set a radius on what we consider to be our “local community”. Local community for us is a ten-mile radius from where we sleep each night. On average, it only takes two and a half hours to walk ten miles, a manageable distance that could serve as a workout while not requiring any money or alternative transportation. All JBP youth enrolled in our program will be required to engage in some level of community work as a priority before addressing larger-scale issues.
2. The Issues:
Issues in any particular community will vary. Therefore, local JBP groups will spend time pinpointing the issues they feel are most pertinent to address. Below are potential problems local communities may consider:
- We are disconnected from ourselves: Just as we spend time to advance our careers and to work on charitable causes for others, equal time should be spent on self-growth, seeking knowledge and taking care of our emotional and physical well-being.
- We are disconnected from our families: Often time as activists we organize amazing events, actions or meetings, but far too rarely do we organize meaningful activities that promote strengthening our own family bonds.
- We are disconnected from our neighbors: Many of us don’t know our neighbors well enough to ask them for an onion when we need one. We walk by people in our community that are asking for money without caring enough to stop and ask how they got into that situation and what it would take to get them out. We see dilapidated or empty properties and are unable to think creatively about how to use them for common good, whether as gardens or meeting spaces.
- Homelessness: There are still individuals without access to housing. In an ideal community, we wouldn’t have people sleeping out on the street if there are people in the vicinity that have shelter.
3. Direct Actions:
Below are a few suggested starting points and direct actions. Each local youth group will identify their community’s needs and solutions. There are three levels of suggested activism.
Choose your ways and get involved: Learn – Advocate – Engage
Learn: Read Twelve Steps to Political Revelation by Walter Mosely.
Visit these links:
Advocate: Teach a Know Your Rights workshop, lead HIV/AIDS prevention education, attend city hall meetings and address concerns when necessary, assist already existing organizations with their advocacy work, such as Picture the Homeless, City Harvest or Coalition for the Homeless.
Engage: Organize a speaker’s commune (where people from the community come to listen to a prominent speaker or professor speak on a particular issue), organize weekly reading circles (community members come together to discuss books they read), organize weekly documentary nights, organize free exercise classes, organize weekly movie nights, create suggestion pamphlets of fun things to do with the family, organize kid-friendly community activities, help create ideal schedules for families with night jobs and day jobs outlining how to make time for family time, organize a neighborhood watch program (take back control of the streets from the police), organize community potluck dinners, organize block parties, organize town hall meetings, organize interfaith dialogues, protest to demand affordable housing, participate in creative actions to overtake abandoned buildings for homes, join other like minded community groups, participate in anti-eviction demonstrations, organize to create a community trust fund, build local co-ops, create a pamphlet to pass out to the homeless about their options for housing/food/job support, etc. , participate in Midnight Run.