May 17, 2019
“Find a way to let your voice be heard.”
Julianne Hoffenberg is the Director of Operations of the Gathering For Justice, a social justice organization founded by Harry Belafonte in 2005. We discuss the holistic, multi-pronged approach for effective advocacy, the practice of Kingian non-violence, and the power of storytelling, art, and culture for social change.
The Gathering excels at bringing coalitions together with a common agenda; rapid and urgent response to crisis situations in communities; organizing, like marching in protest from New York to Washington, D.C.; and advocacy for criminal justice reform bills with members of Congress. In addition, it works with incarcerated youth through cultural education and non-violence training, and facilitates dialogue between communities and formerly incarcerated people.
Kingian non-violence is the practice of de-escalating tensions between groups who disagree and discussing their differences peacefully. Some of the principles are to suspend first judgments and to attack the forces of evil, not the people doing evil. Meeting people where they are creates a level playing field, which makes it possible to champion others to your cause. North Lawndale High School had the highest instances of daily violence in public school in the Chicago area in 2010. After training students in Kingian non-violence, the school went two academic years without a single violent incident.
The power of storytelling
At the intersection of art, theater, and activism, our stories can be shared for powerful effect. The Exonerated, a play of monologues by inmates on death row successfully showed their humanity and helped change the misconceptions and conversations around the death penalty. Bringing the stories of the actual, lived experience to the public provides a perspective that raises awareness and expands our discourse beyond stereotypes.
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Julianne Hoffenberg is the Director of Operations of The Gathering For Justice. She is also Co-Founder of Project A.L.S.; theater and film producer; Advisory Board member of SAY, an artistic home for children who stutter; and member of the theater company, Naked Angels. You can follow Julianne on Twitter at @JulesHoffenberg.