New Clear Vision


constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted


RJ in LA

September 24, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Diane Lefer

Bringing Restorative Justice into Los Angeles Schools

by Diane Lefer

In May, when the LAUSD board voted to end the practice of suspending students for “willful defiance,” the blogosphere heated up. Monica Garcia, then board president, was called a moron, and students were referred to as thugs, animals, and savages. Well, guess what, haters? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Recently, after the school year began with LAUSD rolling out a plan to replace punitive disciplinary measures with the practices of restorative justice, Garcia was applauded by community advocates at a meeting at Loyola Law School. In return, she gave the activists their props: “It’s because of your advocacy,” she said.

The restorative justice initiative was championed by community groups including CADRE, Community Rights Campaign, Dignity in Schools, and Youth Justice Coalition, all committed to keeping kids out of the criminal and juvenile court system and in school. This approach asks, Who was harmed? How can that harm be repaired? What are the needs and responsibilities of the parties? How can the parties be held accountable in a positive and healthy way? (more…)

The Great Mobilizer

August 26, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Erin Niemela, Politics

Hope in the Face of Injustice

by Erin Niemela

The International Center on Nonviolent Conflict recently hosted the James Lawson Institute in Nashville, Tenn. The first event of its kind, the Institute is an eight-day intensive training for North American organizers and activists, hosted by none other than Rev. James Lawson, himself an iconic figure of the Civil Rights movement. I was among 45 applicants afforded the opportunity to attend, notable activists and organizers from a variety of causes and campaigns (all of them far more experienced and courageous than I consider myself, to be sure). What I went there hoping to learn about civil resistance is nowhere near as important as what I actually gained: a profound sense of hope for the future of this world, this powerful group we call the people.

Our teachers included Rev. James Lawson, an instrumental figure in the Civil Rights Movement, Ivan Marovic, a leader of Optor!, the Serbian nonviolent revolution of 2000, and Mary King, an inspirational woman who worked in the pre-eminent Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee during the Civil Rights Movement. We underwent four 14 hour-per-day trainings, covering historical cases, strategies, tactics, and movement cultures, among other more sensitive topics such as privilege, systemic oppression in movements, sustainability, burnout and dealing with interpersonal conflict. The intensity of these discussions had been set too high and left there permanently with little reprieve, and I found myself asking some existential questions: Who am I? What is my purpose? Where am I going? (more…)

Stop Stop-and-Frisk

August 20, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Politics, Robert C. Koehler

From Outside Occupation to Community Engagement

by Robert C. Koehler

Stopping crime before it happens is a great idea, but stopping young men for “walking while black” — touted by true believers as the same thing — is a game played by an occupying army.

The tactic is called stop-and-frisk. As practiced by many police departments, including New York’s, it amounts to blatant racial profiling. Stop-and-frisk makes it impossible for young men of color to lead normal lives, to walk outside without fear of preemptive police harassment. The long-term hatred and tension it engenders does far more harm to a community than all the questionable good that proponents ascribe to it. Security based on racism is a sham. (more…)

Justice Fast

August 19, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Current Events, Pat LaMarche, Politics

Clergy Members Take Action on Behalf of Gitmo Detainees

by Pat LaMarche

The five pillars of Islam are pilgrimage, alms giving, profession of faith, prayer and fasting. And the last Christian Beatitude promises, “Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Perhaps that’s why it’s so fitting that I’ve partnered with a minister to join the Clergy Gitmo Justice Fast. Because I’m not a member of the clergy — not by a long shot — I can’t sign up on my own.

The Gitmo Clergy Fast calls on ordained clergy — of any religion — to do a water-only fast one day for one prisoner at Guantanamo Bay. There are 166 prisoners, so there needs to be 166 clergy. Even though I’m a dyed-in-the-wool confirmed agnostic, I’m still horrified by the U.S. indefinite detention of ‘terrorist suspects’ and I wanted to participate. (more…)

Justice Begins with Seeds

August 15, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Devon G. Pena, Ecology, Economy

Reclaiming a Free, Fair, and Democratic Food System

by Devon G. Peña

I was recently at an international gathering in Seattle comprised of a diverse network of farmers, farm workers, union and community organizers, seed savers, plant breeders, consumer right-to-know activists, research scholars, students, philanthropists, entrepreneurs, and elected officials. What we all shared in common is a thirst for justice and an understanding that “Justice Begins with Seeds,” which was the theme of the meeting organized by the California-based Biosafety Alliance.

The theme of the conference reflects part of a global social movement response to the enclosure of the biological heritage of humanity by the biotechnology industry — the “Gene Giants” like Monsanto, Dow, and Syngenta — which seeks to privatize ownership of seeds and make all living things patentable. (more…)

Love Crowds Out Fear

August 09, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Current Events, Guest Author, Politics

On Trayvon Martin and the George Zimmerman Verdict

by Valerie Elverton Dixon

I waited. My tears waited…

In March 2012 when the story of Trayvon Martin’s murder became national news, I waited to comment. Like those who took to the streets in hoodies, I could not understand how George Zimmerman could shoot and kill an unarmed teenager who was simply walking home from the store, be taken into custody by the police, and then go home to sleep in his own bed the same night without being charged with a crime.  Zimmerman told the police that he acted in self defense, and that was enough. Trayvon Martin’s family had to hire a lawyer and the lawyers had to contact national civil rights leaders before a prosecutor brought charges. I did not comment.

Trayvon Martin’s parents said they had faith in the criminal justice system. They wanted a trial. The trial happened and a jury of six women found their son’s killer not guilty. When I learned of the verdict on Sunday morning, July 14, my delayed praying tears ended their wait. I wept. I grieved for Trayvon Martin and for all the teenagers whose lives are lost to gun violence, and I grieved for our criminal justice system and for our nation. (more…)

Embedded Racism

July 23, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Current Events, Politics, Robert C. Koehler

Time to Build a New System Based on Healing and Inclusion

by Robert C. Koehler

Did the ghosts of our slave-holding and Jim Crow past high-five each other in the Florida courtroom on Saturday? George Zimmerman was acquitted, but does that mean that American history was, too?

The experts who weighed in on the legal battle essentially noted that, in the absence of any witnesses other than Zimmerman, the prosecution couldn’t prove what had happened, or more to the point, couldn’t convincingly counter-argue his version of events — that he was returning to his car when Trayvon Martin assaulted him and threw him to the ground, forcing him to kill the boy in self-defense. Trayvon was dead; that left him, legally, voiceless and out of luck.

Hmm . . . wasn’t that the case anyway? (more…)