Teaching GNED 500 at Centennial College, shatters, sculpts, shapes, strengthens my resolve to voice. The privilege of sharing in conversation with over sixty individuals, students for the purpose of our roles in the college setting, is a powerful invitation to engage. Engage. Engage. Each of us brings knowledge, lived-experience, biases, stereotypes. And a longing to understand. To be understood.
On day one, I shared about Sawbonna. On day two, I did the same. On day three, it will be done. And day four. And so on and so on and so on. WHY? Why do I do this? My reasoning is simple. Straight-forward. Content and context situated in a crucible of possibility, informs conversations of all depth and degree. Informs them with the salient and necessary knowing that when we begin with "I See You," and "Our Shared-Humanity," we can begin to voice, to listen, to challenge, to be challenged, to be made raw, to make raw. To critically analyze. To bring our reflective selves and our lived-experiences to the table. And at that table, with many voices and with diligent focus we can step into what and how transforming justice via articulating injustice can mean. And we can plan the actions we will take. Seeing that some actions have not worked well. Or at all. But we do not stop.
I live and work for, "Restorative Justice via a Sawbonna Lens."
I do so because "us versus them" insists that I tease out, tear apart, struggle with, and again address what it means to live the change I want to be in the world.
Restorative Justice is defined in many varied ways. The two that inspire me most are: process and social movement. Both ally themselves in the crucible of Sawbonna. Both highlight: respect, responsibility, relationship.
"How many more murders?"
"How many more deaths?"
"How many more hateful acts of racism?"
"How many more acts of sexual violence, harassment, abuse?"
"How many more conversations?"
"How many more reports?"
Sawbonna came for me thirty years after my Father, Theodore, was murdered. I am now a Grandmother of four. I share a deep and authentic friendship with, Glen, who murdered my Father.
NOW is what we have.
AND after I have died, NOW is what my Grands will have.
AND their Grands after them.
Sunday, 18 June 2017
CBC, The Current with Anna Maria Tremonti: Sawbonna-Restorative Justice. Therapeutic Writing. And An Unlikely Friendship:
rent/the-current-for-march-14- 2017-1.4022956/how-one-woman-c ame-to-forgive-the-man-who-mur dered-her-father-1.4023042
When Glen Flett and I had the beautiful privilege of being interviewed by Anna Maria Tremonti on CBC's, The Current, in mid-March, Anna Maria asked Glen and I what it is that we offer in our talks with victims-survivors, offender-survivors, and the communities of professors, wardens, guards, teachers, healers, etc. Glen said something that resonated to the very core of who I am, of what I Mentor in my Therapeutic Writing Courses and Workshops. He said, "We must look for the gold."
My partner is a gifted Geologist who uses his wisdom in the Mining Industry to both literally and figuratively "mine" for gold, by inviting conversations about: respect, responsibility, and relationship, in a terrain which can cause all manner of joy and grief.
I continue to be struck by the powerful and prolific potency of what is mined as I live with words, with story, with myth, with mindfulness about in-forming, re-forming, and trans-forming the justice system. Doing this in community of people who live with and for and because of love's vast and voluminous expressions.
My Father, Theodore, is ever near. My partner, Andrew, is ever near. And like Sawbonna, the nearness, the constancy of the togetherness, both literal and figurative, means that we are ever in relationships that challenge, nourish, and liberate us into our own capacity to find gems. Gems of utter possibility, even when and if we are grief-sodden, soul-seared, bone-weary.
Today is Father's Day.
Because of Sawbonna's yearning to be present to finding the gold, to mining for the nugget, I celebrate the fact that love is the reflection, the expression, and the healer upon which Sawbonna rests. And, I celebrate the fact that how we express love within the crucible of: respect, responsibility, and relationship, buoys us and holds us dear and near - even as we may be judged, criticized, maligned as can often be the case by those outside of our experience, those who wish to proscribe, dictate, or harangue because they wish to the "right."
Death nor distance denies us our right to love.
Death nor distance prevents us from both mining and finding the gold.
Death nor distance prevents us from being the very nugget we seek.
Death nor distance denies our right to be loved." (Gerry Ayotte, Mentor, Inspiration, Friend).
Sawbonna's vision of shared-humanity of seeing and being seen, of hearing and being heard, is a vein which we mine because our blood, our tears, our quest for justice, teaches us to trust the very value of our prospecting for justice as a lived and living f/act.
Wednesday, 10 May 2017
Lesley Stahl: You don't think they turn into savages even for the act?
Benjamin Ferencz: Do you think the man who dropped the nuclear bomb on Hiroshima was a savage? Now I will tell you something very profound, which I have learned after many years. War makes murderers out of otherwise decent people. All wars, and all decent people.
For me the word "war" is crucial. Historical and cultural horrors are part of our very bones. And create wars literally and figuratively. Listening to Dr. Gabor Mate, in Alberta, in 2010, he presented a talk after Glen and I gave our talk, Gabor said his family left Hungary when he was two. AND that the chaos and fear and anguish of living in an environment of war and oppression, lives in his bones to this day. To the benefit of each of us, I would state that from those horrors of what the bones live, Gabor writes books and does work that unravel the bones, and that speak compassion. That engage the heart.
Yesterday after our BBC interview, Glen Flett, said to me that he learned something about me, something he did not know until that interview. What he said is (to precis): "When you said that you were not angry or vengeful at me and the others who killed your Dad, but that you were angry and rage-filled about the horrors of life, that is how I felt as a child." I thought about "voice."
I do not know how our very lenghty interview, with some truly potent questions, will be edited. So, I will share further, that when I was 18 years of age, I tried to end my life. Pain so deep was sucking my very life away. I was reading three books which underscored that as humans we are all capable of any amount of acts. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, by William L. Shirer; No Man is an Island, by Thomas Merton; and, Man's Search For Meaning, Viktor Frankl.
When I put those books down and decided to swallow a large bottle of Tylenol, I did not know then, what I learned a few hours later, what I know to my very core, which is that love is the essence of our very being. My Mom standing next to me after my stomach was pumped. Saying, "Margot, I have lost Daddy. I can not lose you too."
At that time it did not occur to me that the act of writing was and is itself an act of love, of hope, of possibility. That the act of reading, of sharing our voices, is an act of love, of hope, of possibility.
Sawbonna, for me, for my vocation, is of and about shared-humanity and our capacity to love and be loved. Sawbonna the word I learned from the man who, if I believed in easy scripts, I am not supposed to love. But I do. Even as I might not belong to a religious group or community, I cherish what I know of those people who inspire us: Rumi, Jesus, Sophia, Hildegard of Bingen, among others. Three other humans for whom I hold respect and gratitude, Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud, and Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. Like Gabor, their work Mentors us to continue to grapple which shared-humanity. With Mystery too.
Thursday, 16 February 2017
Not one of us is independent. Each of us is forever in relationship. The tenor and tone of each relationship is as a hue, a shade. Each hue and shade speaks to us via our emotions i.e. the emotions of the heart and the emotions of the intellect, engaging us in a vast array of conversations. Some conversations simple and gentle, several cumbersome and challenging. When I knew that my colleagues in South Africa worked diligently and succeeded in getting me into Pollsmoor Prison, where Nelson Mandela lived for a time, to share with a group of pre-release young offenders, I was filled with gratitude. And, I was filled with fear. I began to doubt that sharing my journey of powerful and authentic healing with Glen Flett, who killed my Father, Theodore Van Sluytman, mattered. I began to question what I have lived and believed for most of my life, which is, stories can and do save and honour lives. It was in those moments of deep doubt that I did what it is that continues to nourish and free me. I contacted my trusted and respected community of friends, allies, colleagues. I told them my fear. They reminded me of what I had momentarily forgotten about my vocation. They reminded me that the colour of justice is hope. That the hue of hope is our shared-humanity. That shared-humanity sits in the crucible of relationship and resilience. And, further with their love and support, they reminded me that hope does not have a specific locale, does not wear a particular mantle, does not take sides. Hope, I began to remember is sitting in companionship whereby I and Thou speaks. Sawbonna is I and Thou. Sawbonna is not Us vs. Them. Sawbonna is the gift of reminder that not one of us is independent. That each of us is forever in relationship. The ripple effect of relationship, is often resilience, reaching far and wide and deeply into our shared-humanity. And Sawbonna is about: respect, responsibility, relationship. Sawbonna is the colour of hope. The colour of justice.
Tuesday, 17 January 2017
When I sat down to be interviewed by Marina Cantacuzino, Founder of The Forgiveness Project, I did not know what I would discover about my journey; that journey I call: murder to meaning. I did not know that in sharing with Marina, I would come to the realization that I did not choose to use the "F" word, but rather that the "F" word chose to use me. I discovered that the intention I carried in my heart from the day my Dad, Theodore, was murdered, March 1978, to that very moment in November 2016 being interviewed, the notion of forgiveness was as a constant companion. On the cover of Marina's book, The Forgiveness Project: Stories for a Vengeful Age, are actor, Emma Thompson's words, "...probably one of the most important projects in the world today." Yes. The project of sharing stories is an important one. After my conversation that stunning, sunny November day in London, UK, I left the tiny office where stories are sought, found, written, shared, and I walked down the street with a deep and profound awareness that it is indeed stories that sculpt us; stories that inform what constitutes our communities; stories that invite us into conversations with our very own selves about our meanings, our ethics, our morality. Our madness. Our joy. It is my belief that we are not naturally vengeful, rather that we are naturally protective and more times than not fear-full. Fear-full of rejection. Sawbonna offers acceptance. Sawbonna: I see you. Please see me. Sawbonna underscores and highlights our shared-humanity; Sawbonna reminds us that our lives, which are a fine and full fabric of stories, are scripts we can not always control, though our attitudes to those scripts can be proof-read, can be edited, can be re-storied. And in the re-storying we can infuse our relationship to Sawbonna/Restorative Justice's three values: Respect. Responsibility. Relationship. Sawbonna reminds us that our stories are part of a vast web of relationships, in which our script matters.
Tuesday, 15 November 2016
"You have to be still and quiet for these things to happen; you have to release your expectations; you have to stop thinking you already know things, or know how to categorize them, or that the world has already been explained and you know those explanations. You know nothing. You understand nothing. You have only what your own body tells you and your own experience from which to make judgments," Sharon Butala.
Sharon reminded me of the importance of authentic friendship, of vocation-ing whereby love underscores the why and the how of the journeys we take. Unfortunately, many people forfeit and forget that money is not the essential driver of the how and the why of the work we do, of the vocations we accept.
When my Dad, Theodore, was murdered on Easter Monday, March 27, 1978, I thought that my life had ended too. Standing at his casket, the last time I saw his body in this world, I promised him that his death would not be for nothing. It is not for nothing.
Daily, I honour the fact that love and love alone informs how it is we choose to engage in life. Those who would destroy, diminish, deny, and denigrate love and choice as ways in which love informs justice, are those who are dry, lonely, hungry for attention, fear-full, and so very, very sad.
Sawbonna, offers a way to live from a place of our interconnectedness, of our deep need to be respected. AND, of the fact that we must be brought to justice for our betrayals, our crimes. I have said it time and time again, I have only one "boss." That boss is beholden only to love, only to: respect, responsibility, and relationship.
My Father, Theodore, my friendship with Sharon, and my love for Sawbonna nourishes me even when tyranny feels to rise. No election, no brutality, no banality can eradicate the love my Father, Theodore, taught me as a child. I will never betray him. Never.
Monday, 15 August 2016
Sawbonna is community. Community within the crucible of the values of restorative justice: respect, responsibility, and relationship, means that diverse voices share - share to offer wisdom, experience, questions, research, ideas of all manner, form, contour, context. In the press release below from my friend and colleague Ian Marder, you are invited to share, to mentor, to teach, to engage - with your voice.
Margot Van Sluytman/RavenSpeaks
"PRESS RELEASE – 01/08/2016 – The Community of Restorative Researchers welcomes new members to its International Advisory Board
Now entering its third year of operation, the Community of Restorative Researchers (CoRR) aims to contribute towards maximising the benefits and minimising the risks of the growing use of restorative justice and restorative practices. It does this by facilitating an open and critical dialogue within the field, and by acting as a hub through which information can be shared, and communication and collaboration can be enhanced, between researchers and others involved in the field in different contexts and capacities.
In the summer of 2015, CoRR recruited members for its first International Advisory Board (IAB) in order to help achieve these aims. IAB members served a one-year term, which ended yesterday. In the last couple of months, I have been recruiting further persons to serve on CoRR’s second IAB. Like last year, the quality of applications was incredible, and I am delighted to announce that, in keeping with tradition, every single applicant has been accepted on to the IAB (including many who kindly agreed to serve for a second term).
This means that our board now comprises 37 individuals representing almost 20 countries. They include academic and independent researchers, students, project managers, policymakers, practitioner and activists. They will serve on CoRR’s IAB for two years, from 01/08/2016 to 31/07/2018. The new board members are:
Dr. Don John Omale, Federal University Wukari
Dr. Esther Friedman, Linnaeus University
Yutaka Osakabe, Aberdeen University
Margot Van Sluytman, Sawbonna Project for Living Justice
Vicenç Rul-lan, University of the Balearic Islands
Terri Kalaski, Independent Consultant
Ali Gohar, Justice Peace Initiatives
Grace Loseby, Brighton and Hove City Council
Dr. Heather Norris, Aberystwyth University
Haley Farrar, Victoria University of Wellington
Branka Peuraca, University of Zagreb
Dominic Barter, Restorative Circles
Demetra Sakelli, RISE Correctional Counselling and Prevention
Mary Clarke Boyd, Institute of Technology Sligo
Tania Nascimento, Community of Restorative Researchers
Jon Collins, Restorative Justice Council
Monique Anderson, KU Leven
Dr. Federico Reggio, University of Padua
Michael O’Connell, Government of South Australia
Dr. Nadia Wager, Willow Consultancy and Training
Nicola Preston, International Institute for Restorative Practices
Marius Whelan, Mediation Dynamic
Susan Phillips, Southampton Solent University
Christina De Angelis, Mediators Beyond Borders
Detective Chief Inspector Dominic Human, Cambridgeshire Constabulary
Nick Powell, University of Waikato
Jenny Wessels, University of Hull
Niamh O’Carroll, Trinity College Dublin
Dr. Anamaria Szabo, De Montfort University
Dr. Brian Payne, University of Gloucestershire
Dr. Belinda Hopkins, Transforming Conflict
Dr. Razwana Begum, Probation and Community Rehabilitation Service of Singapore
Pamela Cytrynbaum, Chicago Innocence Center
Rose Gordon, Taos County Juvenile Justice Board
Margit Guenther, Community of Restorative Researchers
Marcus Wilson, Antioch University
Claire DeWind, Washington University
CoRR also continues to recruit volunteers to assist with or lead on activities on an ad hoc basis. If there is anything you want to do for CoRR, anything you think CoRR should be doing, or anything CoRR can help you with, please get in touch, either by joining our discussion groups on Facebook and/or LinkedIn, or by emailing me on firstname.lastname@example.org. Similarly, if you think any of your students (or anyone else) would like to help, get involved or otherwise participate, please direct them to our online presence:
Facebook page: www.facebook.com/communityofrestorativeresearchers Facebook discussion group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1539088906310438 LinkedIn discussion group: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/8160553 New podcast series on SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/restorative-conversations Twitter: @restorative_res Restorative Forum: https://www.restorativeforum.org.uk/…/community-of-restorat…
Ian D. Marder
Founder, Community of Restorative Researchers