Over the past year, The Brown Boi Project has been approached by several people who have shared that members of our community have engaged in harmful behaviors. We have supported multiple accountability processes to address these harmful behaviors that community members have engaged in.
This process has been difficult, challenging and one we do not claim to do perfectly. We recognize that while we have been working through creating and engaging in processes, people have still experienced a great deal of pain, resulting in the distrust of our organization and community. However, it is a process that we are committed to continuing to develop in alignment with our core values. Knowing how to support each other in the context of harm is hard, and BBP and our movement more broadly is still learning how to best do this.
How We Have Addressed Harm:
We have been intentional about how we try to address these concerns and struggled with when and how to share these things publicly. We recognize it is important to share with our community how we address harm in BBP and how our core values shape this process. When we are made aware of harm that was created, our policy is to believe the survivor and offer support. This is then followed by BBP engaging in a restorative justice process either through an active facilitation or in other supportive roles, based on the needs of both parties.
We work to invite all parties, the harmed as well as the one who did harm, to the table. In order for the process to be truly restorative and not punitive, all folks must willingly choose to be a part of this process. Our intentions and hopes are for the person who engaged in harmful behavior to work towards a resolution that will aid in everyone’s healing and ability to be in community with each other. We recognize that this process may or may not actually lead to that.
We strive to recognize the context in which harm occurs: the political, systemic, and structural issues rooted in racism, misogyny, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia that give rise to a culture that often makes harm and violence a common way to relate to each other at home, in our families and in our organizations. We also know that survivors are seeking the support of BBP because the criminal justice system has failed our communities and contributes to significant harm in communities of color specifically. We recognize both that individuals need to acknowledge and make amends (if possible) for the harm that they perpetuate, and know this harm does not exist in a vacuum. We strive to grapple with the complexities of each incident.
In addition, we recognize that these incidents impact the community as a whole, and that we are all affected by the harm. This work, and conversation surrounding it, is critical to our movement. As a movement there are many ways that people create harm within our organizations and our relationships–from physical violence to embezzlement and systemic violence around race, gender, ableism and much more. We need to engage as leaders to push our organizations to develop internal conversations and processes to address harm and find a way towards healing.
Our accountability process is one that attempts to utilize the values of restorative justice to restore and repair relationships that have been impacted by harm as much as possible. We are not restorative justice practitioners and rely on the expertise of circle keepers in our community. We do not ‘out’ or publicly shame survivors or people who have committed harm in our community. Our process is one that aims to support the survivor and provide the space to heal and grow for those who have caused harm, without being invalidated and villainized.
Our commitment to maintaining the privacy of all involved can often be misinterpreted as a lack of concern or care for the survivor. However, we are deeply committed to building and practicing a restorative process that does not engage in forms of punishment, retribution, retaliation or isolation. This is why we believe that all parties need support and care when harm is perpetuated in our community. This care can only happen in the context of relationships. This is why we do not ‘out’ or dispose of any of our community members, so long as they show a commitment to grow, learn, and change their behavior. In the few instances where this was not possible, we have no longer allowed individuals to participate in community events, gatherings and discontinued all communication via social media and email. Even in these instances, we are open to folks returning to the community, but only if they demonstrate a willingness to change.
Our Next Steps:
Our ability to address harm in the BBP community is a work in progress. Our community includes a broad spectrum of LGBTQ people of color, not just masculine of center folks. We are actively engaged in an internal conversation as an organization to strengthen our processes around this work.
In moving forward, we have dedicated additional resources to support restorative justice circles that can address harm when it occurs. We are working on further developing and documenting the process we have in place, and seeking support from people who are trained to hold restorative justice circles. We are in active partnership with other organizations that are navigating similar challenges within their memberships to leverage our collective wisdom around this work.
We are also working on being more explicit about the kinds of values and behaviors we expect from the members of the BBP community. While we are clear that work with our members during our 3-5 day retreats does not erase a lifetime of learned trauma and harm, being in community with us comes with a deep responsibility to do the work of growth. Our expectation is that those who would like to call themselves Brown Bois share our organization’s commitment to leveraging power in a way that creates a world where we are all free and safe, especially for the women and femmes who make our work possible.