A Lesson in Restorative Justice: Mack Students Do the Teaching

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by Pamela Tapia

Strange sight.   The tables were turned at Mack last week.

Judges received a lesson on restorative justice from McClymonds students last Friday.

The 15 students opened “the circle” with agreements about trust and honesty. Senior Amber Hill read  a quote by Maya Angelou (“if we lose love and self respect for each other, this is how we finally die”) as students related it to violence in their lives. The judges from Hayward, Richmond, Chicago, and a Mack graduate, all former prosecutors,  looked astonished at the students’ analyses of the quote.

After the circle ritual, the judges praised the students as thinkers and reminded them about the need for more people of color to become attorneys.

As the demonstration of restorative justice came to an end, students who take part in the REAL HARD program escorted the judges to the Malcolm X room where the judges shared the life experiences that led them to become judges and attorneys.

Most Mack students paid particularly close attention to the Mack alumna (class of 1972), Alameda Superior Court Judge Brenda Harbin-Forte, who moved from Mississippi to Oakland during the civil rights movement as a teen mom.

“You cannot use discrimination as an excuse (for not trying harder),” she told the group. “I know:  I lived through it.”

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