I went to school at Fresno Pacific University for my undergrad and graduate studies. I had heard about “restorative justice” and “mediation” but I never really got a chance to dive into the course that professor Ron Classen taught. It was always during the Spring break and typically from 8-5pm, Monday through Friday, and as a result, I just could not fit it into my schedule.
Fast forward to 2020 and I am leaving my post as a youth pastor. I landed a position as a “Community Mediator” with the Community Justice Center at the end of February of 2020. Three weeks later, the world is shut down due to the COVID pandemic. That did not stop conflict from happening. If anything, conflict rose because of the pandemic. As an organization, CJC was in search of funding and we came across the JAMs Grant, which is in collaboration with NAFCM (National Association for Community Mediation). Of the hundreds of organizations that applied, the Community Justice Center, here in the Fresno, Central Valley of California was selected on a two year journey with: Six Rivers Dispute Resolution Center in Hood River, Oregon, California Lawyers for the Arts in San Francisco, CA., UNITY of Greater New Orleans, in New Orleans, LA., and The Mediation Center of the Coastal Empire in Savannah, GA.
The leader that led us in this cohort was the incomparable D. G. Mawn, J.D. He holds the title of the President of NAFCM and I am honored for the CJC to be part of this nationwide cohort community that was bent on bringing about local and national transformation. Some of the highlights were the two projects that we collaborated on and are called “toolkits” that are in the NAFCM library, learning with each other but more than anything, the partnership that we have with a local CBO (community-based organization). In our case, our partner is Advance Peace (AP). Advance Peace’s goal is to work with the most “lethal and active shooters” in the community. The Outreach Workers are in constant connection to young men that have resolved their conflict by discharging a firearm, and typically in the direction of a perceived enemy. Partnering with AP allows CJC to stay in contact with those who are in the trenches with community conflict. CJC’s strength is providing training that gives theory to community mediation.
The majority of individuals who are living their life on an everyday basis do not need or desire conflict in their lives. And why should they? We all desire for things to run smoothly, so as not to interrupt our lives, but we know that is not the real world. When one is involved in community mediation, we know that conflict is: normal, natural and necessary, and if conflict is not dealt with at the earliest stage, it only festers and builds and leads to the type of situation where more injury can occur.
Being a part of this process has allowed the CJC to expand our training process by making it available to anyone that would like to resolve conflict. Sometimes, those individuals have unique backgrounds that allow them to resolve conflict. When we train individuals in the community to become certified mediators, it is the best of both worlds. It allows those that are trained to have real world experience to resolve conflict and for those that desire to enter any field, being a certified mediator separates you from other candidates when applying for a job. Not only is this something that one can use on the job, but it provides real life benefits. And, I also use the skill of mediation with my three young children when a dispute arises.