120 people sat in the pews of Hammerschmidt Chapel on October 19, 2018 to hear Ameena Fort Matthews in the annual teach-in at Elmhurst College. This year, the topic was “Act For Justice and Restorative Justice”. The purpose of the teach-in was to educate the students and alumni in attendance about restorative justice and how to open dialogue with a peace circle.
The main topic of the teach in was restorative justice. Matthews defined restorative justice as, “a highly effective way to prevent harm and to rebuild relationships when harm has already been done.”
Peace circles tied into the topic of restorative justice because they aid in opening dialogue for those seeking justice. Matthews explains the purpose of a peace circle stating, “the circle can hold anything going in the family, in the community, with self. To most important is to have an open ceremony, a centerpiece that has value, guiding questions and a closing ceremony.”
Matthews ended her 35-minute presentation with a simple peace sign, and the audience migrated to the basement of the chapel to participate in the four teach in sessions: Advocacy, Outreach and Service, Preventing and Ending Relationship Violence, Social Causes of Violence and Making Your Voice Count.
The room that facilitated the advocacy, outreach and service talk focused on the speakers’ work with the Youth Safety and Violence (YSVP). Each presenter spoke about their programs and how it benefits underprivileged youth and military veterans.
The second session, Preventing and Ending Relationship Violence, focused primarily on informing the people in attendance on signs of an abusive relationship and what to do if they find themselves, or somebody they know, in an abusive relationship.
Social Causes of Violence was the third discussion of the teach-in. The purpose of this was to inform the people in attendance of why marginalized men are the victims of violence and addressed the injustices faced by them in society.
The final facilitation was centered around making your vote count as a voter. The two speakers spoke about the importance of voting, making sure you know who you are voting for, and adequate research techniques that a voter can utilize in order to make their decision when it comes time to vote November 6.
As people shuffled up the stairs to return to the pews of the chapel, about 30 people filled the chapel for the call to action. The call to action, moderated by Noah Pearson, served as a forum for the attendees to ask questions about the teach-in.
The last two activities to close off the teach-in were a reflection and the recitation of a poem. After reflecting what they learned with another audience member, Pearson and Aaron Villasenor stood together and urged the students, faculty, and alum to hold hands with a new person and recite the Mayan poem in English and Spanish, “Tu Eres Yo”, or “You Are Me” in English.