The TCDSA Grievance Committee: Who we are and what we do

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Greetings from your chapter Grievance Committee. Since our founding in the fall of 2019 we’ve been hard at work trying to figure out our place in the chapter and how to best embody the values the committee was founded upon. We’d like to share what we’ve come up with so far to open a dialogue with the rest of the chapter and foster a discussion of how we’re doing and how we can improve.

Who we are

For the most literal answer to this question, see our contact info at the end of this article. More generally, the grievance committee is an elected, non-hierarchical group of comrades who enact and facilitate TCDSA’s Grievance Process.

We are a group of sweethearts who care about your feelings. We are self-taught empathy nerds big on transformative/restorative justice, prison abolition, trauma, power dynamics, social disparities, interpersonal conflict, relationships, and conflict resolution.

Who we are not

We are not experts in transformative justice.  We are continually learning how this stuff works and how to apply it, and know that we all need bravery to stumble through together. Building a new model is hard, but it’s definitely better than the existing predominant model of punishment and isolation that we all grew up with.

Aptly stated by our very own JD: not your mom, not your boss, not a cop. We are not a hammer for striking down villains. We don’t even believe in villains. We’re all just imperfect people trying to do good work together, and the Grievance Committee is here to facilitate owning up to your mistakes, mending harm, and keeping our organizing spaces safe.

What we do

If it’s safe to do so, we’re going to make you talk to each other. We remind you that we’re all human and have a lot to learn. We help you figure out what healing looks like and facilitate the process, whatever it may look like. We help set up boundaries to avoid future harm. We check in to see how things are going.

Why?

Cooperation is hard. In our capitalism-induced state of hyper-individualization, we’ve been taught that our only responsibility is to ourselves, and that the best solution to interpersonal difficulty is to expel those who make us uncomfortable from our echo chamber. This keeps us divided and powerless.

Every time we come together to meet and discuss and build, we’re performing a complex dance of taking up space, evaluating ideas, and communicating clearly. We will step on each other’s toes and we will cause one another harm. The Grievance Committee’s work is to address that harm, facilitate healing, and help us get back on the dance floor so we can keep doing the important work we’ve come here to do.

How to avoid grievances

Be nice to each other, talk about your feelings, and talk to each other. Follow the community agreements, especially ‘Assume Full Humanity’ and ‘Oops, Ouch’. If we start giving folks the benefit of the doubt and talking openly about the harm we inflict on one another, 90% of Grievance Committee work would be taken care of.

Do some learning! My favorite lessons lately: conflict is not harm and disagreement is not disrespect. Borrow someone’s copy of Beyond Survival or pull up Everyday Feminism for great content on Transformative Justice.

Join Us

If any of this sounds great to you and you’d like to get involved, please do — send us an email at [email protected]. We’ve currently got a couple open spots on the committee we’d love to see filled by you compassionate, imperfect, lovely humans. Also join the #transformativejustice channel on Slack for ongoing justice chatter.

Grievance Committee Members

JD, Elle, Chrissy, Meg, Jessy, Kara, John, Alex

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