Shameeka Mattis, LMSW, is a dedicated social change agent focused on equity and justice. A Brooklyn native, she has fifteen-plus years of experience in social welfare and justice reform. Shameeka was a founding member of Common Justice and served there for nine years as a restorative justice practitioner, where she supported communities impacted by violence. Common Justice is a victim-service and adult-alternative-to-incarceration program based on reconciliation practices in New York City. Prior to her work there, she served communities in Philadelphia through prison social work, reentry support, and children and families advocacy.
"In My Rightful Place"
Shameeka Mattis reminds us that, as inviting as restorative Circles appear, they remain emotionally contested spaces racially. Mattis, who identifies as a Black queer woman, expresses humility and appreciates the value of doing restorative practice work. Not surprisingly, these two attributes call her to be accountable, i.e., self-reflective, while engaging in restorative practices, particularly among communities of color. She embraces restorative practices as a way of life—in her words, “walking the talk.”
Mattis is acutely aware not only of how these spaces operate within and without POCIP’s communities, but also of how they can be manipulated to divide and rule us. To undo the harm oppressive spaces inflict on POCIP, Mattis consciously addresses her own control issues, something we can all relate to. But relinquishing control is only part of undoing harm; Mattis reminds us that genuine listening—intentional listening—is at restorative practices’ core.
By acknowledging the social dynamics in Circle, such as colorism, Mattis invites all participants to become aware of each other’s awareness: our value systems are on display. To be vulnerable in this humble way is restorative practice’s strength. Mattis’s commitment to being in her rightful place resonates with CRJ, since colorizing restorative justice is about voicing our realities. Mattis’s voice reminds us that we are prisoners to neither racial oppression nor colonization. We can be who we are meant to be, and our restorative story begins with recovering what is ours: being in our rightful place.