What does a child do with her life after her friends are killed in the 1963 Sunday School bombing in Birmingham, Alabama? If her name is Fania Davis, she becomes one of the country’s foremost social activists, restorative justice scholars and civil rights attorneys. The multiple-award-winning co-founder of Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth shared her insights into justice and community during a week-long residency as a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Scholar in October.
During her Intersections Convocation address to first-year students, Davis described how her focus has evolved. “I spent three decades being angry,” she said, “and it was burning me out.” Now she works to promote restorative justice, “justice that heals rather than does further damage” and community building, “creating spaces where people can feel connected” and stop injustice before it happens.
She said she felt a connection to her audience, noting that Pella, Central College and Iowa have a proud history of redressing inequality and creating community: Martin Luther King Jr. spoke by invitation at Central in 1968; “Pella” means “city of refuge,” and Iowa has led the country in civil rights legislation since 1839, when the state declared slaves who reached Iowa soil were free.
“We’re all related, we’re all one,” Davis said. “Because we are related, we have the responsibility to take care of one another.”