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What does "doing sorry" mean?

In her book Until We Reckon, Danielle Sered defines "doing sorry" as "taking actions to repair harm to the degree possible, and guided when feasible by the people harmed."  It means putting remorse for harm caused into constant life-giving practice.  But what does this mean?

When I first entered the state prison system in 1998, I was introduced to the Caribbean African Unity Organization (CAU) where I initially encountered the essence of "doing sorry" as a concept in the nontraditional approach of Eddie Ellis.  Founded by Ellis, the CAU became the vehicle through which his nontraditional approach was disseminated.  Consistent with the approach, we as incarcerated men had to acknowledge the debt we owed to the communities we had harmed.  And this required us to perform acts of service where we lived.  

Such service, meant to empower others, inevitably resulted in a critical tension between the value we found in ourselves and those being served and the values associated with the warped personas we had previously constructed.  Our core hypocrisies suddenly became vulnerable to challenge.  Resolving this tension required self-examination to discover and break down the barriers that had prevented us from adequately displaying empathy and compassion, and which kept present the toxic masculinity that made violence more palatable than open communication.  Thus, positive transformation achieved through sustained service is the starting point from which "doing sorry" is effected.  Over time, it manifests itself in the becoming of someone who is intentional about empowering and being empowered and who is committed to healing rather than generating exponential hurt.

- Patrick Stephens

Out of the night that covers me,   
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,   
I thank whatever gods may be   
For my unconquerable soul.   

In the fell clutch of circumstance 
I have not winced nor cried aloud.   
Under the bludgeonings of chance   
My head is bloody, but unbowed.   

Beyond this place of wrath and tears   
Looms but the Horror of the shade, 
And yet the menace of the years   
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,   
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.


by William Ernest Henly

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