Transcommunal Cooperation and Peacemaking: Testimonials from Behind and From Prison Walls

June 21, 2018

As a part of their colloquia series on May 17th 2018, Sociology@UCSantaCruz together with Colleges 9 and 10, hosted a panel discussion titled, “Transcommunal Cooperation and Peacemaking in Soledad Prison: Teaching and Learning Behind and From Prison Walls”. The gathering was introduced by Dr. Lindsey Dillon (Assistant Professor of Sociology and previous instructor and tutor at San Quentin Prison, through the Prison University Project) and led by Dr. John Brown Childs, author of Transcommunality, from the Politics of Conversion to the Ethics of Respect (Temple University Press, 2003) and volunteer teacher of the Transcommunality classes held within Soledad Prison.

With an engaged audience of undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, staff and Santa Cruz community members, UCSC Sociology Professor Emeritus Dr. John Brown Childs, introduced “transcommunality” - an idea and set of practices which he draws from the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois Confederacy) ways of thinking. This philosophy approaches communities as coalitions that account for differences in their very act of coming together (Childs 2003).

The discussion was opened to Dr. Flora Lu (Professor of Environmental Studies and Provost, Colleges 9 and 10, UC Santa Cruz; and speaker in the Soledad Transcommunality class) who is involved in creating a joint UC Santa Cruz/Soledad Prison course.

They asked the audience to consider:

  • How are peace and social justice actualized in a world of deep inequalities?
  • How can communities create social change while also acknowledging the power asymmetries among different members?

A 10 minute video documenting personal testimonies of members of the Soledad Prison’s “Cemanahuac/One World Group” class was presented along with a personal testimony from Wesley L. Haye a graduate of the Barrios Unidos Prison Education Project's class on Transcommunal Peace and Veterans Advocate for “Veterans Healing Veterans” located in Marina, CA.

UC Santa Cruz alumnus, Daniel Nane Alejandrez, Founder and Executive Director of the National Coalition of Barrios Unidos and the “BU Prison Project” coordinated a telephone call from members of the “Cemanahuac/One World Group” class where audience members asked questions and provided comments.

We later heard from Sociology undergraduate student Erika Lopez, who works as the Coordinator of the Barrios Unidos “Prison Education Project” on what getting involved has meant for her.

Learn more about the Barrios Unidos “Prison Education Project” at:


Childs, John Brown. Transcommunality: From the Politics of Conversion to the Ethics of Respect. Temple Univ Press, 2003.