Second Community Circle Report on Race

Ali‘iolani Hale, Hawai’i Supreme Court December 6, 2017

You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope some day you’ll join us. And the world will live as one.  — John Lennon

Event background: Hawai’i Friends of Restorative Justice (HFRJ) held a third community talking circle, the second one on race, December 6, 2017 at Hawai’i’s Supreme Court Ali‘iolani Hale (which was constructed in 1872 with the help of imprisoned people

The first community circle was held April 13, 2016 concerning justice in Hawai’i, which Dr. Angela Davis participated in. The second circle was held May 30, 2017, which focused on the concept of race and how people have been affected by it. The third circle that this report concerns, was continued discussion of race with a focus on what could be done do to prevent racism and prejudice. The circles concerning race were provided in collaboration with the Hawai’i Judiciary’s Center for Alternative Dispute Resolution.

Twenty-nine people planned to attend the December circle, and twenty-two were able to participate. Individuals ranged from people who provide social programs, high school and college students, lawyers, community advocates, feminists, and people on parole and formerly incarcerated. A list of the participants is attached. Many individuals had participated in the previous two talking circles.

The event was held from 1 pm until 3 pm. Participants were invited by email. They were sent Harvard’s implicit bias survey link ( before the circle if they wanted to measure any implicit biases they might have. Invitees were also sent the link to Dorothy Roberts’s TED Talk on racism in medicine (

“Acknowledge that you use your background to make choices, but use discernment without being judgmental.” ~ circle participant

Large circle process After participants signed in and everyone was seated in a large circle, HFRJ president, Rich Turbin, Esq., introduced Hawai’i Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald. Chief Justice Recktenwald opened the large circle by giving an encouraging talk. He spoke of the need to recognize implicit biases and the work the Hawai‘i Judiciary has done to help people become aware of their biases. He shared his belief in the value of openly discussing difficult topics, including race. Justice Recktenwald also thanked many for helping provide the talking circle and said that his participation in HFRJ’s annual Parole Completion Celebration “is one of the most inspiring things” he does every year.1

The 22 participants participating in the second circle on race, each said their names and any affiliation they wanted to share with the group. The large circle took about 20 minutes total time.

“Listen more, speak less.” ~ circle participant

Small circle process Rather than have the small circle facilitated by a select individual, the small circles were “self-facilitated.” In the large circle, before the small groups were convened, the participants were instructed that about one hour was allotted for the small sessions and that everyone in the small groups would be responsible for ensuring there was shared discussion among all the participants. After the large circle, the 22 participants re-grouped into small groups with up to four participants. The small groups were made ahead of time to make them as diverse as possible according to reflect each participant’s sex, age and ethnic identification.

“Conflict can lead to resiliency and strength.” ~ circle participant

Reconvening large group Participants had about one minute each to report on whatever they wanted to share that they learned or thought was valuable from the small group discussions. Topics shared by the large group participants that they said were important included:

  • Early education – start as early as possible teaching youth all are equal
  • Education is the key to prevention
  • Involve critical thinking – practice listening and considering other’s perceptions
  • Provide classes w/ people from different ethnicities
  • Don’t be complacent
  • It’s an elephant in the room & needs to be recognized and discussed to change it
  • Recognize everyone needs a sense of community & self-worth
  • Take a pledge to treat all with equality like social workers often take
  • Think about race and discrimination systemically to make real change
  • Develop language skills to address situations
  • Need to build self-esteem young
  • Starts with parents & teachers
  • Develop proactive positive ways to create
  • Need healing, health, language, & communication
  • Build a loving community where you are empowered to contribute
  • Address these issues head on but in a culturally appropriate way
  • Continue good discussions
  • Examine our own thoughts – what are we telling ourselves & our part in it
  • Acknowledge that you use background to make choices, but discern w/o being judgmental
  • See our own biases & prejudices
  • Acknowledge individual evolution
  • Teach kids to meditate & develop skills, but don’t let it distract us from doing the work to address the system that’s putting them in that place
  • Dismantle the systems so we can be in a more
  • Don’t be complacent – call it out when it’s not ok
  • It starts w/ us personally, and consider the context of the systems
  • Pay attention to what comes out of our own mouths… it starts at home & lead by example
  • Listen more speak less
  • Justice starts with the truth
  • Look at life in the way that appreciates all different flavors and be open to combining things that you may never think would be good together
  • Hold a safe space for collaboration
  • Surround ourselves with good leaders
  • Invest in programs instead of prisons

Other concepts that were discussed in more detail included:

  • How race has affected us at different times of our lives
  • How lucky we are in Hawaii, being so much better
  • It’s entrenched in our systems
  • Discrimination can be very subtle & subconscious but still powerful
  • Ageism is real
  • Role of privilege
  • Oppressors will never give their power away
  • It’s part of humanity, how we engage w/ each other & address our fear
  • There are good people helping others as advocates who were oppressed
  • Language plays a big role
  • Conflict can lead to resiliency and strength

Future conversations

It is recognized that more opportunities are needed to discuss this topic. Participants suggested we meet at least four times in 2018. Every effort will be made to convene at least three more talking circles about race next year. We plan to hold one again in the spring, at the end of summer, and in the winter.

Additional resource: If you re interested too, here is a link to an excellent TED Radio Hour podcast on Dialogue and Exchange, by National Public Radio, about the importance of communicating with others of differing views and how we can increase those skills

Please contact me at [email protected] if you wish to attend a future community talking circle or if you have any comments or questions about any aspect of the work that Hawai’i Friends does.

Aloha, love & mahalo,
Lorenn Walker, JD, MPH
Director, Hawai‘i Friends of Restorative Justice
December 19, 2017


Participants able to attend (highlighted) community circle on race December 6, 2017 Ali‘iolani Hale, Hawai‘i Supreme Court, with Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald opening:

1. William (Willy) Domingo – Hawai’i State District Court Judge

2. Rich Turbin, Esq, Pres. Hawai’i Friends of Restorative Justice

3. William Harrison, Esq.

4. Sandra Simms, Retired Circuit Court Judge & Chaminade adjunct professor

5. Fred Hyun, Chairperson State Parole Board

6. Kat Brady, Director Community Alliance on Prisons

7. Henry Curtis, Director Life of the Land

8. Jan Cockett, MSW student UH & Hawai’i Friends intern 2017 – 2018

9. Cheri Tarutani, UH Social Work Instructor 10.Kathleen Algire, Director YWCA Public Policy & Advocacy

11. Kacey Chong, YWCA intern

12. Mike Town, Retired judge & parole board member

13. Nancy Aleck, Retired Director Hawai’i People’s Fund

14. Toni Bisson, Director Pu’a Foundation (reentry services for women)

15. Daphne Ho’okano, Director Beacon (half way house)

16. Zea Billet, UH undergraduate student

17. Roger Epstein, Esq.,Vice Pres. Hawai’i Friends & Co-host HI Forgiveness Project

18. Robyn Pfhal, Esq.

19. Lisa Jensen – Treasurer Hawai’i Friends

20. DeMONT Conner, Founder Ho`omanapono Political Action Committee

21. Momi Conner, Community Activist 22. Michael Knott, State Parole Officer

23. Matt Taufetee, Director First Lap (half way house)

24. Innocenta Sound-Kikku, Chuukese Community Advocate

25. Ceceilia Chang, Center for Alternative Dispute Resolution Director

26. Jeanie Lum, Retired UH English professor & chair Hawai‘i Peace Day

27. Keahe Davis, Judiciary History Center

28. Chris Santomauro (DOE teacher)

29. Lorenn Walker, Director, Hawai’i Friends

30. Gracieuse (Grace) Jean-Pierre, Kokua Kalihi Valley

31. Mackson (Maxx) Phillips, Kokua Kalihi Valley

32. Anne Marie Smoke, Judiciary Center for Alternative Dispute Resolution

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