This morning at Centennial College, I had the joy of sharing the stage with Senator Kim Pate.

Senator Pate is an ally.

What exactly is an ally?

In the framework of Sawbonna, which is both a new model of social justice & a new model of restorative justice, an ally  is someone who does not choose an us versus them dialectic when it comes to justice as a lived and living experience.  An ally is someone who does not choose offender over victim or victim over offender. No matter the relationship to either or both.

An ally does not want to be known because of titles or awards.

An ally wants to know what you stand for.

And as the saying goes, if you stand for nothing, you will fall for anything.

Part of the sharing this morning addressed a pressing issue.

The issue of: choosing a side. The side of the offender or the side of the victim.

Sawbonna addresses the fact (shown in the very act of Senator Kim Pate and me standing side-by-side, witnessing and supporting each other) that empowerment within the context of Sawbonna: shared -humanity, is not negated by anguish, life-long grief, or trauma. Sawbonna is work for and with and because of justice that cries out to be lived.

Empowerment is certainly not negated by being accepted into spaces where by reason  of a title before or after one’s name, a person is somehow deemed more worthy to be heard than another. To be seen. To be Sawbonna-ed. To Sawbonna.

The complexity of being human, means that to live with paradox, is to walk the liminal spaces, the frontier places, where it is not necessary to be forgiven or to forgive; not necessary to eradicate anger, anguish, and volcanic rage, just to look nice.

Sawbonna means we are in shared-humanity. And humanity includes the gamut of our emotions, our thoughts.

Anger is not revenge. Wanting revenge is not revenge.

We may not be able to, and we should not be expected to, do anything but see ourselves to another day, particularly after brutality faces us and wears our body, flesh, soul; however, allies do not pick a side. We walk with paradox. We hold our responsibility to speak truth to power with a focus, commitment, and tenacity that wills a new way of being in the world.

Empowerment is key. And no one gives it to us. We must decide how we want it. And why.

Sawbonna invites us to come to know our allies.  To be an ally. Because shared-humanity matters. It is a very practical choosing. And you do not have to be forgiving. Nice. Accepted into any system.

Sawbonna carries the paradox. Of all that it means to be complex human beings.