Recently on CBC’s Cross Country Check-Up, the wonderful and inspiring writer, George Elliott Clarke, said two brief sentences, which moved me in a profound manner.
“Apologies are not enough. Empowerment is.”
I took these words with me to my Social Analysis to Social Action (GNED500) students at Centennial College, as we discussed voice and agency. We discussed the pressing importance of unpacking words and ideas. Doing so to strengthen our own relationships with social analysis and social action. Choosing to be informed in our capacity to be decisive agents in own meaning-making, we spoke of, is essential. And meaning making is symbiotically linked to the personal and the political of each of our actions. And inactions.
Not only is it incumbent upon us to unpack what an apology means. It is incumbent upon us to follow the lineage and the trail of who is saying those words of apology and why. Learning about the connected web of relationships, tied to specific choices, can reveal many hidden facts. Facts that press us to ask if an apology holds any merit at all.
Seeking and creating opportunities for empowerment with community and allies, is crucial.
Theodore’s Place Virtual Healing Home for Crime Survivors is a response of victims’ empowerment.
As well, it is an act that underscores that “apologies are not enough.” There is a growing recognition and redress to the urgency that though restorative justice is supposed to be victim-entered, it is not.
Sawbonna, a new model of restorative justice, resting comfortably side-by-side with George Elliott Clarke’s exquisite wisdom, underscores that voice and agency insist on both equality and equity. Victims being used as pawns by researchers, agencies, government, institutions, offenders, following their own inflamed egos or bending to the will of funders, will continue to work for empowerment. Never being side-tracked from Sawbonna: shared-humanity.
And Sawbonna thrives on and by and because of empowerment. An apology is not enough.