Restorative justice, Donald Trump and the Women’s March were all topics covered in civil rights trial attorney and long-time social justice advocate Fania Davis’, JD, PhD, keynote speech at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Convocation on Wednesday, Jan. 25.

Interim President Lynn Babington, PhD, RN presented Davis the Reverend John Lafarge S.J. Award for her work in social justice and her national voice on restorative justice.

“(MLK) set an example of what it meant to be an authentic human person … a man or woman for others,” said Interim President Lynn Babington, PhD, RN.

Davis said she was “humbled to receive the award” and mentioned if Lafarge, an advocate for ending racism by making American Catholics aware of its moral implications, was alive today, he would look at the xenophobia, misogyny and police brutality and call it heresy and sin.

She described MLK as a beacon to lead us through what she described as “this perilous time.”

Davis explained restorative justice to the audience by saying it is based on a desired set of principles and practices to mediate conflict, strengthen the community and repair harm. She articulated how the healing process of restorative justice brings together everyone affected by the wrongdoing at hand with the perpetrator. She discussed it’s applications in schools and communities, more specifically in Oakland. Davis is the founder and Director of Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth (RJOY).

According to their website, “RJOY works to interrupt cycles of youth violence, incarceration and wasted lives by promoting institutional shifts toward restorative approaches that actively engage families, communities and systems to repair harm and prevent re-offending.”

“It invites us to heal as well as to interrupt the cycle of harm. It’s not about getting even but getting well … a healing justice rather than a punishing one,” added Davis.

Professor of Catholic Studies Dr. Paul Lakeland commented that “Fania Davis is an icon of thoughtful resistance to racism and prejudice. Her commitment to restorative justice has made her almost as widely known at Fairfield. Davis showed a wonderful blend of engagement, spirited humor and deep seriousness.”

“Her presentation and speech about the power of Restorative Justice was extremely interesting and I think it is a practice that we should try to implement within this University, especially in teams and organizations such as RAs and NSLs. I really enjoyed meeting her and hearing her empowering message,” said Bethany Russo ’17.

In addition to discussing her work in restorative justice, Davis addressed current issues regarding President Donald J. Trump, police brutality and the Women’s March. She discussed the hopeful power the Women’s March in D.C. brought her, which over 500,000 people attended, according to the New York Daily News.

Davis quoted Pope Francis to describe her views on Trump; “a person who thinks only about building walls, not building bridges, is not Christian.”

“Expressions of racism change from generation to generation but the essence of [racism] hasn’t,” said Davis.

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