Why Restorative Justice?
Many times I have been asked why we named our movement “Restorative Justice.” Restorative
Justice has been used historically within the criminal justice system where an offender makes
amends to a victim. So, why Restorative Justice as a larger community principle? Because then
and now, Charlotte and Mecklenburg County are facing critical questions:
In 2019, at a Charlotte listening session organized by advocates from the Greenspon
Center for Peace and Social Justice, it was clear that there was “unfinished business” in
Charlotte and Mecklenburg County regarding the destruction of Brooklyn and Second
Ward. This is when Restorative Justice was birthed as an initiative focused on what was
truly needed at this time in our city. The question at that time was this: How do two
communities -- one wealthy, the other stuck in abject poverty -- from opposite sides of the City
become one? How do two disparate communities become one without properly addressing the
harm done by one to the other? According to the Listening Sessions and call to action, what is
needed is a process of true reconciliation.
What our city and county needs is a process of true reconciliation, and that can begin
with resolution the Mecklenburg Board of Commissioners is considering this month. "
Restorative Justice has been used historically within the criminal justice system to
preconciliation after an offense. ilitionytembto sys producing reconciliation between the two
parties. However, Restorative Justice (using a literal definition of the term) can be applied more
broadly. Any where there has been injustice, Restorative Justice can be utilized. Where there has
been racism, and that racism has led to harm, Restorative Justice is applicable. In the case of
Brooklyn and 2nd Ward, Restorative Justice is an appropriate path. The facts state that despite
the outcry of local Black leaders (such as Kelly Alexander Sr., when he was NAACP President),
the City Council voted to demolish an entire Black community. This Black community had
made a vibrant beloved community out of unwanted flood lands after Reconstruction. This
beloved community, consisting of 1,400 homes, 216 business, 11 churches, 2 schools, libraries,
and theaters, was demolished. That is the act of injustice that makes Restorative Justice
applicable as it pertains to the displacement of approximately nine-thousand Black Charlotteans.
That is the “immoral act” voted upon by an all-white City Council with no input from Black
residents, that makes Restorative Justice necessary. An entire, thriving community with a rich
culture disappeared, so the theft of social capital is unquantifiable. The Black wall street of
Charlotte was eliminated, crushing the African American economy and creating the current
upward mobility crisis for B.I.P.O.C in Mecklenburg County.
The next phase of the process of reconciliation using the Restorative Justice model, is an apology.
Mayor Vi Lyles checked this box on August 10th, 2021. In her public comments, the Mayor apologized on behalf of the City of Charlotte for decades of inequality. She pointed to the Jim Crow era,
redlining, upward mobility, and Charlotte’s “Urban Renewal:”
Charlotte lives with the continued impact of those laws, policies and social determinants resulting
in health disparity, food insecurity, negative environmental impacts,” Mayor Vi Lyles.
Restorative Justice is the next step in the process, aftter the apology comes the restitution equal to the harm done. What is the appropriate restitution
for the injustice which has been committed and which the Mayor has apologized for?" How do we
adequately compensate the victims of injustice and immoral acts? How do we compensate when
the damage of an act has lasted through generations? How do we adequately compensate, when
the damage has current significant economic impact, to the point where sixty years later, the
grandchildren and great grand children have the hardest time in America escaping poverty? According to the minutes of the City Council meeting in 1960, about 75 Million dollars in value would evaporate from Black families. That is roughly 675 Million dollars today using inflation. Restorative Justice seeks to reconcile the people of Charlotte, who continue to be divided by class and poverty. Restorative Justice confirms that it was a crime to take away land, businesses, and culture from taxpaying Black citizens. Restorative Justice says it was an unethical and immoral act, to segregate the city in the 1960's the way it did through urban renewal. This segregation, according to the Leading on Opportunity report, is a cross cutting factor attributing to the Upward Mobility designation of Charlotte being dead last in escaping poverty. Restorative Justice says it is time for the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County to acknowledge and make amends to what happened to the black Wall Street of Charlotte: Brooklyn and Second Ward. Restorative Justices says making the right investments is the right thing to do in this moment of George Floyd’s and Breonna Taylor’s deaths, so that a new Black Wall Street might emerge oneday for the African Americans in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County who helped build Charlotte into this “New Southern City” everyone is so proud of. We call upon community members to support Restorative Justice and Reparations in Charlotte. It’s the Right thing to Do..
Dr. Willie J. Keaton Jr, President and CEO, Restorative Justice CLT
Pastor Reggie Tuggle, Chairman of the Board, Restorative Justice CLT