Q: What is transformative justice?

A: I will refer you to Philly Stands Up!‘s website definition…
Transformative Justice has no one definition. It is a way of practicing alternative justice which acknowledges individual experiences and identities and works to actively resist the state’s criminal injustice system. Transformative Justice recognizes that oppression is at the root of all forms of harm, abuse and assault.  As a practice it therefore aims to address and confront those oppressions on all levels and treats this concept as an integral part to accountability and healing. Generation FIVE does a great job of laying out the main goals, principles and questions of Transformative Justice. These are their words:

The goals of Transformative Justice are:

  • Safety, healing, and agency for survivors
  • Accountability and transformation for people who harm
  • Community action, healing, and accountability
  • Transformation of the social conditions that perpetuate violence – systems of oppression and exploitation, domination, and state violence

 The principles of a Transformative Justice approach to addressing all forms of violence include:

  • Liberation
  • Shifting power
  • Accountability
  • Safety
  • Collective Action
  • Respect Cultural Difference/ Guard against Cultural Relativism
  • Sustainability

 Transformative Justice invites us to ask:

  • How do we build our personal and collective capacity to respond to trauma and support accountability in a transformational way?
  • How do we shift power towards collective liberation?
  • How do we build effective and sustainable movements that are grounded in resilience and life-affirming power?

Q: What does this have to do with animal liberation?

A: So, we at ELK think the ideas above are fucking rad. We think transformative justice can be an answer to a lot of the major problems (and there are problems!) within campaigns for animal liberation, such as:

  • Why is the majority of mainstream animal rights campaigns being led by folks and communities of incredible privilege?
  • How does the refusal to acknowledge and discuss privilege reinforce other forms of institutionalized oppressions?
  • Why are our campaigns against animal violence endorsing the criminal-legal system, the justice model favoured by the settler governments across Turtle Island?
  • How do “criminal justice” tactics of alienation, stigmatization, policing and prisons help animals being abused, exploited and murdered through socialized and systemic speciesism?
  • What other tactics are available that deconstruct speciesism in ways that also empower the human communities being oppressed within the wider system of domination?

Integrating transformative justice into animal liberation requires building a cross-movement, anti-oppressive approach. We need greater community capacity and organization to prevent future violence and to actively address underlying roots contributing to each occurrence. Therefore, ELK exists to be used for helping re-envision the goals and strategies for animal liberation, whereby other issues and communities are not forgotten or exploited in attempts to advance the well-being of animals everywhere. We plan to achieve these goals through developing resources and supporting anti-oppressive and anti-speciesist community organizing. ELK will be developing a model of transformative justice that incorporates species-inclusive empowerment, by challenging all elements of hierarchies and domination within society. We are advocating for critical dialogue, community accountability, constructive solutions, collective healing and total liberation.

Check out this piece connecting prison abolition & animal liberation!

The following is a list of fantastic grassroots, community-led initiatives that explicitly apply transformative justice in their work for community empowerment, or otherwise promote transformation away from oppression and violence in their communities.

  • The Audre Lorde Project
    A Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Two Spirit, Trans and Gender Non-Conforming People of Color centre for community organizing, focusing on the New York City area. Through mobilization, education and capacity-building, we work for community wellness and progressive social and economic justice. Committed to struggling across differences, we seek to responsibly reflect, represent and serve our various communities.
  • The Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective (BATJC)
    A community collective of individuals working to build and support transformative justice responses to child sexual abuse. We are based in the San Francisco Bay Area of California. We envision a world where communities can intervene in incidences of child sexual abuse in ways that not only prevent future violence and harm but actively cultivate healing, accountability and resiliency for all.
  • Broken Beautiful Press
    Based on the basic assumption that love, knowledge and inspiration are renewable resources for revolution that we produce together every day.
  • The Challenging Male Supremacy Project
    A New York City-based collective, composed of men working to end gender-based violence and promote a transformative vision of social justice.
  • Catalyst Project
    Helps to build powerful multiracial movements that can win collective liberation. In the service of this vision, we organize, train and mentor white people to take collective action to end racism, war and empire, and to support efforts to build power in working-class communities of colour.
  • Communities Against Rape and Abuse (CARA)
    A seattle-based grassroots organization that promotes a broad agenda for liberation and social justice while prioritizing anti-rape work as the centre of our organizing. We use community organizing, critical dialogue, artistic expression, and collective action as tools to build safe, peaceful, and sustainable communities. Our blog provides a Black feminist analysis of contemporary politics, debates & local Seattle issues.
  • Community United Against Violence (CUAV)
    CUAV works to build the power of LGBTQQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning) communities to transform violence and oppression. We support the healing and leadership of those impacted by abuse and mobilize our broader communities to replace cycles of trauma with cycles of safety and liberation. As part of the larger social justice movement,
    CUAV works to create truly safe communities where everyone can thrive.
    Comprehensive educational and outreach programs for youth groups, community organizations and faith-based groups across the five boroughs. It provides support to survivors, offers legal advocacy to immigrant victims of abuse and raises awareness about the connection between domestic violence and animal abuse.
  • Creative Interventions
    Embracing the values of social justice and liberation, Creative Interventions is a space to re/envision solutions to domestic or intimate partner, sexual, family and other forms of interpersonal violence.
  • Critical Resistance
    Seeks to build an international movement to end the prison industrial complex (PIC) by challenging the belief that caging and controlling people makes us safe. We believe that basic necessities such as food, shelter, and freedom are what really make our communities secure. As such, our work is part of global struggles against inequality and powerlessness. The success of the movement requires that it reflect communities most affected by the PIC. Because we seek to abolish the PIC, we cannot support any work that extends its life or scope.
  • Decarcerate PA
    A grassroots campaign working to end mass incarceration in Pennsylvania.  We demand that PA stop building prisons, reduce the prison population, and reinvest money in our communities.
  • generative somatics
    To grow a transformative social and environmental justice movement — one that integrates personal and social transformation creates compelling alternatives to the status quo and embodies the creativity and life-affirming actions we need to forward systemic change.
  • generativeFIVE
    Mission to end the sexual abuse of children within five generations. We work to interrupt and mend the intergenerational impact of child sexual abuse on individuals, families, and communities. Through survivor and bystander leadership development, community prevention and intervention, public action, and cross-movement building, generationFIVE works to interrupt and mend the intergenerational impact of child sexual abuse on individuals, families, and communities.
  • INCITE! Women, Gender Non-Conforming, and Trans people of Color* Against Violence
    A nation-wide network of radical feminists of colour working to end violence against women, gender non-conforming, and trans people of colour, and our communities. We support each other through direct action, critical dialogue, and grassroots organizing.
  • Philly Stands Up!
    A small collective of individuals working in Philadelphia to confront sexual assault in our various communities. They believe in restoring trust and justice within our community by working with both survivors and perpetrators of sexual assault. They believe that sexual assault comes in many forms and are doing what they can to actively combat it.
  • Queers for Economic Justice (QEJ)
    A progressive non-profit organization committed to promoting justice in a context of sexual and gender liberation.  Our goal is to challenge and change the systems that create poverty and economic injustice in our communities and to promote an economic system that embraces sexual and gender diversity. We do this work because although poor queers have always been a part of both the gay rights and economic justice movements, they have been, and continue to be, largely invisible in both movements.  This work is always informed by the lived experiences and expressed needs of queer people in poverty.
  • Resource Generation
    Organizes young people with financial wealth and class privilege to become transformative leaders, leveraging resources and privilege for social change
  • Right to the City (RTTC)
    A unified response to gentrification and a call to halt the displacement of low-income people, people of colour, marginalized LGBTQ communities, and youths of colour from their historic urban neighbourhoods. We are a national alliance of racial, economic and environmental justice organizations.
  • The Rock Dove Collective
    A radical community health exchange working to address the need for accessible and anti-oppressive health care in our communities. We coordinate a network of health practitioners who provide physical, mental, sexual, emotional, social and spiritual care from a (radical/progressive) perspective on well-being.
  • The Safe OUTside the System (SOS) Collective
    An anti-violence program led by and for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Two Spirit, Trans, and Gender Non Conforming people of colour. We are devoted to challenging hate and police violence by using community-based strategies rather than relying on the police.
  • The StoryTelling & Organizing Project (STOP)
    A community project collecting and sharing stories about everyday people taking action to end interpersonal violence.
  • Support New York 
    A collective dedicated to healing the effects of sexual assault and abuse. Our aim is to empower survivors, to hold accountable those who have perpetrated harm, and to maintain a community dialogue about consent, mutual aid, transformative justice, and our society’s narrow views of abuse.
  • Toronto Transformative Justice
    Reading group’s 10-week curriculum.
  • The Transformative Justice Law Project of Illinois (TJLP)
    A collective of radical lawyers, social workers, activists, and community organizers who are deeply committed to prison abolition, transformative justice, and gender self-determination.
  • Transformative Justice (Berlin, Germany)
    We work to build community accountability for sexual violence in Berlin. That means, developing community-wide co-ordinated responses to sexual violence that include: prevention education, survivor support, perpetrator accountability, and an overall commitment to anti-oppression.
    We use models of transformative justice, or a focus on collective transformation rather than individual guilt or punishment, to guide our response to perpetrators and communities which condone abuse and violence.
    We work in a wider network within Germany and Europe to spread these ideas, which were originally developed by people of colour and queer communities in the U.S., and to develop our resources to make them a reality.
    Women of Color and Survivor-led in Durham, North Carolina, USA. Community members are breaking the silence about sexual assault and racist violence as part of a long struggle against racism, classism, sexism and all forms of oppression.
  • Save the Kids (STK)
    A fully-volunteer national grass-roots organization dedicated to alternatives to and the end of incarceration of all youth and the school to prison pipeline.

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