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Transitional Justice: Can A Nation Reconcile With Their Past?

A quest through Northern Ireland, Germany, Poland, the Netherlands, Israel, Rwanda, Tanzania, and South Africa imagining a United States that reconciles with its legacies of genocide, enslavement, and apartheid.

After sitting in a world politics class in 2017 learning about apartheid in South Africa, an idea dawned on me that the United States needed a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, establishing once and for all a national reckoning with the past we had done so much to do without. This thought occurred before I had been introduced to any literature or scholarship done around reconciliation or reparations in a United States context. I submitted this idea as a policy proposal, a requirement for the prestigious Truman Scholarship. My application, my story, and my idea of a truth and reconciliation commission in America was shot down by professors at my University. The next year (2018) around the same time, I was being interviewed by the Watson Foundation, seeking to win $36,000 to go and explore around the world the very idea I was told was “unfeasible.” By March of 2019, I was notified alongside 40 other students that I had won the Watson. My interviewer told me my project and story was something she knew she could bet on and was vital to the progression of the United States. Family, friends, colleagues, and others who had never heard of transitional justice started to think about our collective past, and how the future could be different if we decided to change our course, address our history, and find beauty within our struggle. Here is a piece of that journey.

From August 2019 to March 2020, I traveled to 16 countries (United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Greece, Israel, Egypt, Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa), interviewed 40+ survivors, ex-prisoners, scholars, activists, museum directors, and state officials, and visited 60+ memorials, museums, and sites. I was unable to complete my project that was to extend 4 more months into South America (Chile, Colombia, Peru) due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Below you will find an article about my background linked to the photo immediately below, interviews linked to Instagram I did over 8 months, journal entries alongside photo albums (Flickr) from Northern Ireland, Germany, Poland, Rwanda, and South Africa, and a reading list I engaged while exploring transitional justice. I am available to present my project to large and small groups, such as universities, corporations, advocacy organizations, or other institutions who are interested in what transitional justice could be in the United States and what my experiences were navigating these countries as a Black American. Please do not hesitate to reach out through my email, Instagram, or phone number listed at the end of the page. 

In the middle of the journey of our life, 

I came to myself, in a dark wood,

where the direct way was lost.

It is a hard thing to speak of, how wild, 

harsh and impenetrable that wood was, 

so that thinking of it recreates the fear.

It is scarcely less bitter than death: but, 

in order to tell of the good that I found there, 

I must tell of the other things I saw there.

- Dante Alighieri, The Inferno (Canto I), Trans. Joseph Sultana

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