Crafting Restorative Change: Symone Walters and Rick Kelly’s Vision against Oppression

In an enlightening session, Symone Walters and Rick Kelly came together to shine a light on the profound impact of restorative practices in addressing systemic issues. Originating from their mutual association at George Brown College in Canada, their shared passion for restorative practices provided the foundation for their ongoing collaborative efforts

Both Symone and Rick, though from distinct paths, converged in their drive to address anti-black racism and various other forms of societal oppression through a restorative and peace-making lens. Their unique experiences, combined with their respective initiatives, offered a comprehensive perspective on addressing these deep-seated problems.

Symone’s journey, marked by personal tragedy with the loss of her 15-year-old son, transformed into a mission of resilience and hope. Her tragedy became a catalyst for the creation of “Towards a Higher Journey” (T.A.H.J.), a community centre dedicated to supporting Black youth. The centre stands as a beacon of hope, not just as a response to personal loss but as a testament to the broader challenges faced by Black youth – marginalization, exclusion from economic opportunities, and systemic deprivation of privilege.

Rick Kelly, on the other hand, leveraged his academic background and his enterprise, “Just Us: A Centre for Restorative Practices”, to further the cause. His two-decade-long journey in shaping restorative practices as a craft, provided a robust framework to support Symone’s initiatives.

The duo’s presentation centered on the narratives driving their projects, the pedagogical underpinnings guiding their actions, and the guiding principles of social innovation and design thinking pertinent to transformative change. Their combined efforts strive to dismantle what they termed as “wicked problems” – issues deeply entrenched in society and perpetuated by isolated, colonized mindsets. By adopting a relational approach, they challenge these pre-existing notions and work toward creating inclusive spaces for marginalized communities.

A highlight of their collaboration is the 3-year mentoring program aimed at integrating Black youth into the trades. This initiative is particularly noteworthy, as it addresses the economic dimension of racial oppression by creating tangible pathways for Black youth to secure stable and potentially lucrative careers. By focusing on the trades, they also challenge the stereotypes often associated with vocational jobs, presenting them as viable and respectable career paths.

Another significant aspect of their presentation was the emphasis on the Social Innovation Hub. The hub, which played a pivotal role in Symone’s journey during her time at George Brown College, underscores the importance of having dedicated spaces that foster innovation, collaboration, and holistic thinking. The hub equips individuals with the tools and mindset to tackle complex societal issues, turning personal passion into purposeful action.

In conclusion, the session with Symone Walters and Rick Kelly wasn’t just a discourse on restorative practices, but a testament to the transformative power of shared vision, personal resilience, and innovative thinking. Their combined endeavors emphasize the importance of community, collaboration, and the need for systemic change. Their story serves as a beacon for others, illuminating the path towards a more inclusive and equitable society.