Author: Morgan Bach

My Intro To The Oakland – East Bay DSA (Democratic Socialists of America)

Anyone is welcome to join or attend a DSA event – look for DSA signs at the Women’s March in Oakland tomorrow and come say hi! 

A few weeks ago, I found myself wandering around Grand Avenue, looking for a panel discussion on single-payer healthcare with the East Bay Democratic Socialists of America. The area around the Cathedral of Light is always pretty quiet at night, so I didn’t see any signs of life that would point the way….until I saw this sign:

“The worker must have bread but she must have roses too.” – Rose Schneiderman.

I knew I was in the right place. I found the door, the sign-in table, and the warm, bright room with 100+ people and a panel discussion on the future of healthcare.

Like so many of my peers, I’ve spent the last decade struggling with student and medical debt. I’m fortunate that bread has never been an issue for me, but roses, and the idea of thriving, is seen more and more as a luxury for my generation. What would you do if you weren’t weighed down by debt and financial insecurity? So many people I know just want to enhance their education, or start a business, or visit another country. How can we change our reality if we’re kept uneducated, inexperienced and sheltered from the rest of the world? Not to mention suffering from anxiety and depression because we’re still told that our worth is tied to our financial stability?

These are the questions my friends at the DSA are asking, and the fact that the East Bay chapter is one of the fastest growing in the country gives me up. I think Oakland knows what’s up. It isn’t hard to see that our country has the resources to responsibility for the health and education of its people.

DSA events happen every week or so, whether they’re happy hours, neighborhood canvasses for single-payer healthcare, watch parties, workshops or panels. I enjoy having unusually meaningful conversations with strangers at every event. You don’t have to exchange small talk before diving into politics, housing, healthcare and labor. The people I meet are issue-driven and care deeply about Oakland. At the last happy hour I learned about the brake light initiative, which was started in New Orleans and offers free brake light repair to get rid of just one of the excuses police use to pull over and harass people of color. It’s not just that these chapters are full of people committed to intersectional solidarity work, but they operate independently enough that they have the agility to take on a variety of meaningful projects that benefit their communities the most. It’s an exciting movement to be a part of.

Upcoming events:

Tuesday, January 23rd
Bernie Medicare For All Town Hall Watch Party
Temescal Brewing (4115 Telegraph Ave)
Facebook Event

Saturday, January 27th
East Bay DSA Bimonthly Informational Meeting
East Bay Community Space (507 55th St, Oakland)
Facebook Event

Tuesday, February 13th
West Oakland/Uptown/Adam’s Point Social
Telegraph Beer Garden (2318 Telegraph Ave)
Facebook Event

Saturday, February 17th
Adam’s Point Single-Pare Canvass
Facebook Event

Restorative Justice For Oakland Youth

Restorative Justice In Oakland And The East Bay – Morgan Bach

Restorative Justice For Oakland Youth
Restorative Justice For Oakland Youth

In 2015, I went through a restorative justice training in Oakland with RJOY (Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth), and I learned that it takes a community to heal a community.

When I found out that restorative justice was starting to replace suspensions and expulsions in Oakland schools, it made so much sense. Young people obviously benefit more from being called in to their communities than being shamed or exiled. By then I also understood that making sense is a kind of resistance, because our current policies aren’t designed to reduce harm. They actively destroy communities and perpetuate cycles of trauma.

What if a young person who caused harm was told that they matter, that they have it in them to make better choices, and that they’ll be supported? That’s what a restorative justice circle does, and the investment that Oakland schools have put into RJ practices has resulted in more than just a symbolic showing of care for students.

The Oakland Public Schools Restorative Justice effort has employed staff in schools whose sole purpose is to promote social and emotional health. It has created safe places for students to express themselves without shame or judgement. It has even trained and empowered students to practice calling in their peers when they face conflict, without any intervention. I wish my classmates and I had had that kind of education in school.

As a young person, I learned that punishing people and banning things were the way to solve problems in society. I wasn’t really challenged to think outside of that box. I wasn’t shown an alternative, or taught about indigenous practices, like restorative justice. It took a lot of learning and unlearning to become a harm reduction enthusiast.

Another organization I’ve trained with is the SEEDS Community Resolution Center in Berkeley. There I learned the basics of mediation, which is another restorative practice that is becoming a more popular way of settling disputes outside of court. The beauty of mediation is that it doesn’t involve an external judge or expensive lawyer – it is at its heart a safe container for a conflict to be resolved by the people affected. Mediators are trained to create and maintain this space, and it’s not an easy task. Often there are differences in power that haven’t been addressed, and painful histories, traumas, and emotions that emerge.

Like restorative justice, mediation empowers people by getting to the heart of the conflict, rather than escalating, isolating, or punishing. I see the rise in popularity of these models as extremely promising for the East Bay and any community in need of justice that empowers and heals.