Restorative Justice Collaborative at UNCW to Address Generational Traumas

Thursday, February 11, 2021

The Department of Sociology and Criminology and the Office of Community Engagement and Applied Learning have partnered to establish the Restorative Justice Collaborative at UNCW. The collaborative’s goal is to aid in resolving the pain caused by crime and other harmful experiences and to address the generational traumas of racial injustice and other forms of injustice.

The RJC at UNCW offers training and case facilitation to help people move forward, said Director Kim Cook, who is also a professor in the Department of Sociology and Criminology. The collaborative is housed within the Office of Community Engagement and Applied Learning.

“When people experience harmful and traumatic circumstances, we often feel alone and isolated. Along with that, we might feel that no one else cares about how we have been affected,” she said. “Through deep and rich dialogue, after a thorough preparation, people connected to a specific situation or event can respectfully listen and share with each other what they have been through. The conversation can also include searching for or creating viable solutions for the stakeholders to engage. The key is to design the dialogue in such a way that the conversation is safe and does not inflict additional damage. Because each situation is unique, solutions can be developed that address those unique needs.”

There have been efforts in communities across the country to address generational traumas using restorative practices often called “truth and reconciliation” projects, said Cook. She hopes the collaborative will be able to address such traumas in Wilmington.

“We cannot ignore the wounds of the 1898 massacre and coup d’état here in Wilmington; many of those wounds have not yet healed. In significant ways, we are still living in the aftermath of that violence,” she said. “Generations of Wilmingtonians are impacted, descendants of those harmed and those who inflicted the harms experience different aspects of that legacy."

"The world is watching us; in the wake of the January 6, 2021 violence at the U.S. Capitol, news organizations from around the world referred to the 1898 coup and massacre here in Wilmington to point out that type of violence has occurred before in the U.S.," Cook continued. "I would like to see the city of Wilmington engage in a serious effort to repair the wounds that remain. Imagine if we wrote a new chapter to that story: a chapter that includes Wilmington and New Hanover County governments establishing a reparations commission. We could be a leader and inspiration to other communities struggling with making amends for racial injustices.”

Cook is grateful for UNCW’s investment in this work, the resources to build the collaborative, and for the community partners who have collaborated with her and her students over the years, she said.

“Our community is a vibrant multicultural place that also includes Latinx communities, Asian communities and diverse cultural traditions with European roots in addition to those previously mentioned. It’s humbling to be invited into this diverse community for deep, authentic and transformative collaborations,” she said. “In an effort to break down barriers and build a stronger community, the collaborative can be a resource to move us in that direction.”

The collective is continuing to build its website and will be scheduling trainings and community discussions in the near future. It is seeking community feedback as to what the needs are and how the collaborative can address them. To submit feedback or to contact the Restorative Justice Collaborative, email

--Venita Jenkins