The books we read, studied and discussed prior to the creation of JAA were The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander, Witnessing Whiteness: the Need to Talk About Race and How to Do It by Dr. Shelly Tochluk and Just Mercy: a Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson.

Our study of Witnessing Whiteness took place over an extended period of time –March 2014 through January 2015— using the workshop materials provided by the author, who is a Professor in the Education department at Mount St. Mary’s University in Los Angeles California. We further expanded our horizons in July 2018 by hosting a workshop presented by Dr. Tochluk – “Making a Difference One Conversation at a Time” where we explored how to successfully engage in difficult discussions in our racialized world.

Our mentor in the Criminal Justice arena is Tom Ewell. Tom has been a Quaker activist/lobbyist for criminal justice reform for a long time – both at State Legislative and national levels. His work in criminal justice also includes serving on the Island County Law and Justice Council where he co-chaired a task force on restorative justice that produced recommendations that are now being implemented in the juvenile justice system.

The nationally-touring exhibit RACE: Are We So Different?, hosted by the Seattle Science Center in 2013 has also contributed greatly to our evolution into an action group. Created by the American Anthropological Association, the exhibit explored the concept of race through a series of engaging, interactive exhibits that challenged us to probe deeper into this complex and often misunderstood concept that is so fundamental to our lives. RACE is the first nationally traveling exhibition to tell the stories of race from the biological, cultural, and historical points of view. These combined perspectives offered us a unique look at race and racism in the United States.

The film 13th, a 2016 American documentary by director Ava DuVernay, has been influential as well. It explores the “intersection of race, justice, and mass incarceration in the United States;” and is titled after the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which freed the slaves and prohibited slavery, with the exception of slavery as punishment for a crime.