School of Justice
School of Justice
Guest post by Matt Clarke
As a high school English teacher, I always seek opportunities for my students to engage, in a tangible way, with people who practice the concepts and themes I teach. Often, I wish I had friends in the relevant businesses, industries, and systems which I cover throughout a year. Rarely do I have such connections.
When I looked ahead in the curriculum several months ago, I saw just such a chance. The unit I would cover with my sophomore honors classes was focused on Justice.
Jason Clarke’s bearded face immediately came to mind.
I originally met Jason and his family through mutual friends on Halloween several years ago. His family and mine and our kids, crazy and adorable in equal measure, hit it off. It helped that we lived in the same neighborhood. Watching Jason build up and continually pursue peace and restorative justice through Free City International – now Seek The Peace – and his focus on families, refugees, and communities destroyed by violence, conflict, and injustice, has been paradigm-shifting. I’ve watched him continually push, with graceful firmness, into lives and situations locally and internationally, bearing peace in his hands and justice on his lips. Rarely do we meet people whose ability to dream is equally matched by their practical ability to reach their visions.
When I saw my upcoming unit, I knew my students had to hear him. Not simply so he could reframe their concept of justice and its application to their lives, but because I knew that Jason’s work impacts people’s lives in real, powerful, and pragmatic ways.
On the 19th and 20th of May, Jason came to North Garland High School and over the course of two days, essentially wrecked about 280 high school students’ preconceived notions of what justice actually is, and how it can look when we change our focus on justice from crime and punishment to restoration and healing.
In the two days since, using my copious notes from the presentations, my classes and I have processed not just what was said, explained, or demonstrated, but rather how we can allow the words to impact us on a heart level so that our new “principles” begin to “inform our positions.” Essentially, that once we know, we can’t un-know. As a result, we are weighted with the responsibility of a response to both harm and injustice in a way that restores relationship and repairs harm.
I have seen, and read, firsthand how, within 48 hours, students’ attitudes are affecting their opinions and treatment of their peers. To say they were inspired is not only an understatement, but inaccurately reflects what has begun to transpire in their hearts.
An inspiration, at its most temporary and basic, simply uplifts a person emotionally. It is not catalytic. A person must decide to act upon an inspiration. Hearing the impact of his dialogues with my kids has made it clear to me that these students are feeling the weight of their responsibility to respond, they are empowered to act as advocates within their families and communities, they are now motivated to be agents of literal change in their spheres of influence. The have begun the process of acting.
As a personal friend of Jason’s, if I may call myself that, I know that he stands on the shoulders of Christ in order to see and reach those who are ignored, marginalized, cast aside, abused, neglected, and broken. His perceptive vision into a person and beyond their beliefs and circumstances allows him uniquely to reach out in love, justice, comfort, and peace to those being crushed under the weight and experiences of their darkness, brokenness, and battles.
His presentations for my students although insightful and engaging, were important on a much more crucial level. He showed students that healing and justice go hand-in-hand. He revealed the divine nature of contending on behalf of the voiceless and forgotten. He opened the eyes of their hearts and spirits to see the imago dei – the image of God, written in the faces of friends, strangers, family, and adversaries. The seeds of justice planted this week at North Garland have already begun to change the way these kids see others, their communities, and their role in this world.