The first successful community accountability process, ever!

This year, I completed an accountability process that was…well, gorgeous. It was challenging, lengthy, radical, honest, transformative. It has also been an outlier over the last nine years – one that has bolstered my commitment, big time, in this life’s work. 

What was different this time? I am hesitant to use the word failure, because I parent three teens (solo) in the teachings of lessons and consequences. Of course, Rihanna’s oft-quoted tattoo (“never a failure. always a lesson”) is with me as I write. Still, there have been losses, breaks, heart-breaks, break-ups, and so many unexpected disappointments over the last nine years of practicing TJ and accountability, both formally and informally. There have been swells of pain so great that I thought my body would hold onto it forever. It did not, and the pain dissipated with time. And each next time, I recognized a bit more capacity in me to hold a bit more, each time with less feverish fear of misstep or judgment. It feels important, now, to name the differences and lessons that unfolded with this recent process.  

Reflections and lessons:

  • Deep desire and mutual recognition must embrace one another tightly at the beginning of any accountability process. The “conditions, the conditions,” as Angela Davis often used to often say, were ones that were right at the start. The process was wholeheartedly voluntary on both sides. We committed – despite all that was swirling around us — to the time it would take, which we acknowledged right away, would be at least a year. Importantly, we trusted one other enough to get started, and we built trust, intentionally, as we moved forward. We met in person when we could, Zoom-ed when we couldn’t. We were honest about our capacities and limitations throughout the process. We honored the sanctity of the process, as well as its privacy. We took care of ourselves after our meetings and in between. 
  • Where is your heart? This question is such an important, necessary self-interrogation for those of us engaged in community accountability work. This time, I said yes because I was certain my heart was ready, which is to say, the radical honesty and non-judgment I needed were present and pulsating within me. This has not always been the case, and I have failed to recognize this, at times, in the past. Even more than capacity, I believe, a heart- commitment is everything. My time is much more limited than most: I am a single mama to three teenagers, work a full time job, and am committed to two (very) time consuming, long-term community projects. I also prioritize my own wellness in all that I do. We have to make sure that we are willing to commit for the long ride; that we are committed to our own mundane, ongoing healing practices; and we have to be honest when our capacity is strapped. 
  • Listen, intently, up front. Listen to both sides, beloved friends of those involved, listen to each person closely. Ask questions. Listen some more. Ask more specific questions. Be committed to texture over truth. Ears over mouth. Heart over head. 
  • Kill the noise quickly. This process began with many community folks weighing in, passing judgment, choosing sides, being quick to cancel. Anxiety levels were very high at the start. Whoa. Before beginning a process, it can be important to meet with the sources of ‘community noise,’ explain the work of TJ and also, explain to folks how accountability processes work. Leave space to listen to their doubts and personal grievances. Then: Set hard boundaries, kindly. I found myself sounding like a broken record at the start, sharing just enough information to set boundaries needed for the process to fairly begin, while safeguarding both its sanctity and privacy. One of the most beautiful things about this process, was the clarity and wisdom that lived and breathed within the person who had been harmed, even through grief, anger, frustration and doubt that, at times, bubbled to the surface over the course of our year together. As such, I followed their lead, saying things like:

“Both parties are fully committed to this process”

“The person who has been harmed is really clear about what they want and need right now” 

“You cannot be a part of this process with them; this accountability circle is closed to X, Y, Z” 

“In order for this process to be successful, it is important that these two people have the privacy they need” 

“I ask that you please refrain from sharing any details about the process you know, or think you know, with folks you share community with”

  • Don’t go it alone. Hirut reminded me of this at the start, a great reminder from our training with the Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective years ago. I live in a (very) young TJ community, and the folks I may have initially turned to as co-facilitators at the beginning lacked the capacity for a process – either in time or trauma. We took care and time to find the right accountability team, which is to say, we found folks who were no stranger to difficult conversations, harm, and shared a political commitment to wade through layers of harm with heart and integrity. What we lacked in experience, we made up in curiosity. We negotiated our needs and capacities together often. We offered each other grace. And, radical honesty. Even after one of our supporting members needed to step away, we were able to continue on. 
  • Be reminded (and re-reminded) that conflict does not create a foundation for friendship. Perhaps, it does for some. But, this is not – cannot — be a goal at the start. It is important to self-check in regularly, I found, about ones personal threshold for “likeability.” In short, we were not together to be liked, but rather, to work. And to be honest and helpful. 
  • Finally: Community accountability work happens within community, not outside of it. With TJ, we need our community to grow as we grow. This bullet point requires some detail. 

One of my greatest lessons over the last decade has been understanding how important it is to understand the pulse of organizations, elders, visible community leaders, and churches in a community in relation to TJ. What is known and misunderstood about this thing called “transformative justice?” What do we assume people understand or accept about TJ, that we are actually deeply mistaken about? Where are people especially resistant to TJ in our community, and why? I have mis-stepped, mightily, in the past with the false belief that those in my communities would somehow align themselves with an accountability process or other accountability measures we were attempting. Oh, how wrong I was. 

This shortsightedness early on cost me dearly and broke my heart more than once. At the start of this recent process, I understood that transformative justice was in its infancy in my new community. Lots of people I spoke with knew people who had harmed, harmed and scattered, or harmed and been banned from community spaces. Some had simply been cancelled. But, no one I spoke to had seen or heard of a community accountability process gone right. It is also fair to say that I initially encountered a strong drive towards the statist impulse of cancelling people who had harmed, despite a burgeoning local abolitionist movement in the aftermath of the execution of brother George Floyd. In this, I was much more curious than angry, which is to say, I was ready. I created a BIPOC TJ community study group at the same time as the process began. I spoke often about the importance of study alongside action. I spoke about TJ with folks I organized with, especially elders, whenever the opportunity presented itself. 

I was also, by a stroke of good luck, invited to facilitate a TJ workshop at our Anarchist Book Fair early on in the process. Dozens of community members attended, and the workshop was generative, even when difficulty presented itself real-time: When a (Black) man, waiting nearby at the bus stop, overheard me talking about “abolishing police and prisons,” he became incensed and began screaming that I was “stupid” and “ignorant.” I got to model TJ real time as I bantered back and forth with him. When it was clear that a two way conversation was impossible, a few people in the workshop group intervened until he boarded the bus and took off. When I think back to this moment, I often think about how important it was for a group of 50 or so people to witness my response to his anger in the heat of the moment. 

How are you thinking about the young TJ community you are a part of, as you study, practice, and attempt accountability? How are you helping to facilitate learning that reaches widely and into the tight spaces of resistance that, if unattended, will eventually reach back to us?

Life, death, and withstanding the weight of the world

In honor of Ming Mei

“Wayward: to wander, to be unmoored, adrift, rambling, roving, cruising, strolling, and seeking.”

“If she could feel deeply, she could be free.”

Saidiya Hartman,Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Stories of Social Upheaval

Recently, my life has been in close proximity to a number of people who have died, or were ready to die. On February 15, at the university where I work, a young woman, Ming Mei Ip, hung herself because she could no longer stand the weight of the world. With this act, she became a sudden ancestor amongst us.

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Year Five

In 2017, a wave of local and national events regarding gender violence against Black women we know poured new violence—faster, harder, simultaneously—into our work.  These stories, and our interventions, have made our relationships and work experience a greater sense of urgency than ever before.  In this light, we felt it important to share some key learnings from our last four years of organizing in Montreal as a call for our local community to do better in addressing the ceaseless sexual violence that disrupts the lives of so many Black women who live with and around us.

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Fear of a Black Feminist Nation

(The French version can be found here)

“What kind of society have we created for ourselves?”
Stella Gibson, Tambourine Army

Since 2012, we have been working to make our homes and communities in Montreal safer, more accountable, and more love-filled for Black women and our children. Being consistently asked to witness and share platforms and stages with known Black men who rape and harm our sisters, has compelled us to issue this statement. Sadly, even in Black activist and intellectual communities, sexual assault remains the issue that folks are unwilling to challenge.


We are a collective of survivors, led by Black women and supported by the beloved work of transformative justice practitioners in our wider community. We are mothers, sisters, daughters, god-mothers, other mothers, aunties, birth practitioners, community workers, and scholars. We stand on the shoulders of our Black feminist foremothers and sister-ancestors who have shown us how to do the work that we do in our communities. We honor those in death with our lives and our work in the present.

Importantly, we closely study the work of Black women—such as Marie Vieux, Barbara Smith, Pumla Dineo Gqola, Beth Richie, Nefertari Bélizaire, Stella Gibson—who have worked to develop an intersectional analysis of gendered violence and state violence. We depend on this canon of work as a way of knowing in the world, as our embodied Black feminist epistemology. Undergirded by this collection of work by Black feminist thinkers, we build upon Black feminist histories and theories that are instructive for those of us who work close to the ground.

Yet, we are clear about the shortcomings of Black feminism in North America historically in failing to develop an analysis of the histories of gendered violence that have infiltrated our Black radical traditions for the last 50 years. Black radical cultural and intellectual traditions are inherently spaces where Black freedom is both imagined and theorized, and we acknowledge our intellectual and spiritual kinship with these traditions. Yet, as radical Black feminists, we also note the glaring, normative historic silences pertaining to our lives, bodies, and spirits within these traditions. We note the ongoing violence against us within these traditions. As such, the Third Eye Collective pays particular attention in our activism and work to the histories of complicity within our formal and informal learning spaces in sustaining violence against Black women. With this activist spirit, we offer the following statement as a manifesto of naming, truth-telling, and change-making so that our work as Black intellectuals and activists can proceed unimpeded by the trauma of violence that continues to plague us whenever we step into a classroom, lecture hall, conference space, or reading group and encounter Black men, unchecked, who have harmed us.

Simply, we have had enough.

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If Black Women Were Free: Practising Transformative Justice in Black Communities

Writing in her 1993 memoir A Taste of Power: A Black Woman’s Story, former Black Panther Party (BPP) chairperson Elaine Brown revealed that in her time as a leader in the party, women were perceived as an “enemy of the black people.” “Nobody said it,” wrote Brown, “but a Panther was a man.” Her political commitments situated her as “a comrade with pussy.” Not long after her memoir was published, Brown’s BPP co-activist, Angela Davis, disclosed that “many of our former comrades – women and men alike – are expressing disgust that [Brown] would ‘air so much dirty laundry’ after all these years.” But Davis, like Brown, also exposed the details of the misogyny embedded in the politics of Black nationalist organizing. No matter women’s position or contribution, Davis wrote, power “was sexualized so that women’s place was always defined as unalterably inferior.”

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Nous Sommes Nos Meilleures Ressources: Un sondage communautaire

Vous identifiez-vous comme femme[i] noire ou d’origine africaine?
Avez-vous personnellement été l’objet ou témoin de violence de genre/sexiste ou d’abus sexuels[ii]?

Si vous avez répondu oui à ces deux questions:
Le Collectif du Troisième Oeil vous invite à participer à cette enquête anonyme sur vos expériences personnelles avec les services publics et communautaires à Montréal dédiées aux victimes/survivantes/résistantes de violence à caractère genré et sexuel. Continue reading

We Are Our Best Resource: A Community Survey

Do you self-identify as a girl or woman[i] of Black and/or African origins?
Have you personally experienced or witnessed gender violence[ii] and sexual abuse?

If you answered yes to both questions, the Third Eye Collective invites you to participate in this anonymous survey about your personal experiences navigating Montreal-based public and community services directed to survivors/victims/resisters of gender violence and sexual abuse. Continue reading