*This series is being co-sponsored by other academic institutions as well as civil society organizations. To become a co-sponsor, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.*
Demands for justice reverberate across the nation at an unprecedented level and only grow upon each new revelation of the extra-judicial killing of a person of color at the hands of both police and private citizens. Less highly profiled are the everyday acts of racism, many of them also violent, that point towards a systemic problem and require a national reckoning to address the deep roots of racism in the United States.
Every day we hear increasing demands from affected communities, activists and thought leaders for criminal trials, truth commissions and reparations--all of which are approaches commonly associated with what has come to be known globally as the field of Transitional Justice. Transitional Justice describes the efforts of countless nations that sought ways to account for past episodes of systematic and generalized human rights violations perpetuated or tolerated by governments. For example, the government of South Africa established the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1996 to address the serious harms caused by apartheid and in doing so brought global attention to alternative approaches to justice.
Remarkably, the United States has never engaged deeply with the Transitional Justice approach to redress its history of racial injustice. Instead, there have only been a handful of initiatives, including The Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission was set up in 2000 to reveal the truth about the murder of labor organizers by the Ku Klux Klan and American Nazi Party in 1979; the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission established in 2013 to delve into the state practice of separating Native American families. There has also been a robust and dedicated grassroots effort to pursue truth, reparations and justice that until now has not garnered the national attention it deserves.
Yet, now, for first time in U.S. history, there is a unique window of opportunity as the movement grows and is creating official truth, reparation and justice initiatives across the country at all levels: town, city, state and federal. While celebrating these advances, this series recognizes that there are still many unanswered questions about how these types of alternative justice approaches will and can work in the U.S.
The series aims to reaches a diverse audience:
• Students at academic institutions interested in learning more about not only TJ but also local racial justice initiatives in the US;
• Scholars of all disciplines already immersed or simply interested in exploring how, if at all, the TJ framework applies to the US and how the local grassroots efforts of the U.S. brings new questions, insights and challenges to the field;
• Racial justice practitioners and advocates immersed in racial justice work who seek to learn from the experiences of not only other countries but also other locations in the United States working on these issues.
The Transitional Justice in the USA Speakers Series' primary objectives are:
• To help raise awareness of Transitional Justice initiatives across the country seeking redress for racial injustice;
• To offer an ongoing forum for encouraging dialogue about the benefits and challenges to the Transitional Justice approach as it might be applied to the U.S. context;
• To encourage the sharing of experiences to increase our collective knowledge about themes related to Transitional Justice, such as truth, reparations, and a range of justice such as reparative, restorative and transformative.
The series will be organized in parts to offer panels to address a wide variety of themes that will be multi-year. The first round of discussions will focus on the general theme of the transitional justice framework and comparative international experiences and how they may, or may not, be applicable to the United States. Additionally, the start of the series will set a foundation of discussing what collaborative models in this work could and should look like.
It will continue by profiling recent initiatives to create local truth-seeking initiatives while also learning from some past experiences. Future discussions will examine themes like initiatives at the state and federal level, reparations, institutional reform, criminal justice and other relevant topics to the question of transitional justice in the United States. When possible, panels will be followed by moderated discussion groups to open up a dialogue about particular themes. We hope that afterwards we're able to make a summary of these conversations made available publicly, although observing Chatham House Rules.