Peacemaking Circles & Urban Youth

Nov 15th, 2009 | By | Category: 21-2: K-12 Education, Winter 2009, Media Reviews

By Carolyn Boyes-Watson

Living Justice Press, St. Paul (2008)

Review by Michael Thompson

Peacemaking Circles & Urban YouthIf you’re Native, you probably understand well the power of the Circle. For others, especially those in the social and restorative justice movement, the Circle’s extraordinary ability to change lives is a relatively recent discovery.

Within Peacemaking Circles & Urban Youth, Carolyn Boyes-Watson tells the story of Roca (“rock” in Spanish), a nonprofit in Chelsea, MA, that serves at-risk youth primarily in the greater Boston area.

In 1988, staff members attending a conference discovered Native talking circles and realized their potential for giving voice to disadvantaged youth. With help from six mentors, including a number of Natives, members of Roca’s staff took the idea of the Circle to heart and incorporated its power and principles into almost every aspect of the group’s mission.

Beginning at first with simple talking or healing circles for young people struggling to overcome terrible odds, Roca’s staff completely embraced the Circle, eventually including young people and their families, as well as staff members in the local schools, law enforcement, and court systems.

Author Carolyn Boyes-Watson is Director of the Center for Restorative Justice at Suffolk University, and she offers useful commentary on the way that the Circle process transformed social workers and the community – and she wisely allows the voices of the Roca youth to do most of the talking.

Michael Thompson (Mvskoke Creek) is the English chair at Bloomfield High School in New Mexico and a speaker on contemporary Native literature.

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