Activist, educator uses indigenous traditions to heal his community

Tomas Ramirez grew up with the understanding that to be healthy as an individual, his community had to be healthy. He believes it’s his responsibility to help maintain and heal his community.

Ramirez moved to Chicago from Central Mexico 20 years ago to reunite with family. He has since become an essential member of Chicago’s restorative justice community.

“Restorative justice” uses peacemaking circles to mend broken relationships and help people heal. “Restorative justice” has recently become a buzzword when talking about alternative sentencing and the flaws of the justice system. The practice can be used as a non-punitive way to promote the healing and justice that might not occur when an individual is simply sent to prison.

Ramirez prefers the term “healing justice” to define his grassroots work. As an activist, educator and restorative justice consultant, he seeks to build nurturing communities that foster individual healing to achieve holistic betterment. The idea is to break the cycles of trauma, violence and oppression that lead communities to need healing. Peace circles and restorative justice draw their philosophy and structure from Native American practices.

As a traditional headsman chief, Ramirez uses a blend of North and South American indigenous cultures to help people from all walks of life center themselves spiritually and mentally. Whether in a sweat lodge ceremony or during a lunch break with fourth graders, Ramirez helps South Side residents recover their roots and discover new ways to build strength as a community.

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