Restorative Practitioner | Mediator | Trainer | Consultant
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I began my career as a graphic designer, inspired by ACTUP and their use of graphic design to fight for healthcare for people with AIDS and HIV. Through ACTUP, I saw design as an effective communication tool for political action and subsequently worked at a commercial design firm started by ACTUP members. Seeing design spark dialogues and propel communities to action, I focused on designing for social justice.
During this time, I became an Empowerment Self-Defense (ESD) Instructor through my martial arts training at Brooklyn Women's Martial Arts. In collaboration with Asian American feminist martial artists, I co-founded Ruckus Safety Awareness in 1993 to teach self-defense that emphasized violence prevention, assertive communication, and safety strategies, in addition to physical techniques. Our focus on sharing skills to empower Asian American women expanded over the years to include all women and the LGBTQ community. I took Ruckus to Japan in 1998 and taught throughout the country for 15 years.
An ESD participant's question—how do I resolve everyday disputes?— brought me to conflict resolution in 2004. Her question sparked a curiosity in me to explore and study conflict resolution theory and I became a mediator to work with conflicts first-hand. With the support of mentors and colleagues, I developed trainings that combined conflict theory with practice to build capacity in communities and organizations seeking to work through differences, improve communication, and find common ground.
In my work with conflict, I witnessed individuals and organizations— especially those working towards social justice—suffer from severe burnout. I saw how that exacerbated conflicts and relationships. Through my friendship with and support from Laura van Dernoot Lipsky, author of Trauma Stewardship, I developed a training in secondary trauma and self-care. Conflicts overwhelm us. It became clear that understanding secondary trauma and creating paths to wellness through self-care were powerful ways to support individuals and organizations in conflict.
My consulting work with organizations involve listening to and understanding their culture, then collaborating with them to prevent, manage, and transform conflicts. For organizations who wish to specifically engage in examining conflicts involving racism and to communicate effectively across differences, I partner with Robin Schlenger, an antiracist, white social worker to provide trainings that look at race, power, privilege, and communication in conflicts.
I arrived at the doorstep of Restorative Justice in 2014. It opened its door to a way of being in the world that felt right. I was offered a part time position as a restorative justice coordinator in a New York City public high school and took the position to work with young People of Color impacted by racism. In schools, Restorative Justice centers racial justice to disrupt the school to prison pipeline stemming from disproportionate suspensions for African American and Latinx youth. Restorative Justice strengthens community through shifting the culture from punitive to restorative.
Restorative Justice became my foundation, from which I view conflicts, trauma, wellness, and life. I practice from a place of compassion, love, and collaboration, towards racial justice and equity.