Jamila Mindingall has nearly 20 years of ADR experience. She was introduced to mediation by Judge Harris Odell, a the employing Attorney at the law firm in 2003 where she worked as a paralegal. He is now a Judge in Chatham County. Upon noticing her attentiveness and effectiveness during client interviews, she was sent to the Savannah Mediation Center where she received her training and subsequently volunteered to improve her mediation skills. “I fell in love with the process of holding space for parties to resolve their own conflicts,” because knowing that parties had control over the outcome of the dispute resolution process was very settling for her.
The Art and Science of Conflict Resolution
More so, Jamila fell in love with the art and science of conflict resolution, pointing out the transformative possibilities in conflict. Oftentimes when disputes arise, parties tend to look at them through very narrow, black and white lenses, and knowing that there are opportunities for growth, correction, and reconciliation in conflicts is appealing to Jamila. So, in 2007, she left Savannah and moved to Atlanta, Georgia, with her family to pursue a master’s in Conflict Management from Kennesaw State University.
Jamila also has a bachelor’s in English Literature and Women’s Studies from Morris Brown College in Atlanta and a master’s in Organizational Development and Leadership from Fielding Graduate University in Santa Barbara, California.
Managing Power Dynamics
After receiving her master’s, Jamila began to work as a private volunteer community mediator providing services to the community-at-large. When parties in conflict arrived for mediation, it was obvious that they wanted to hear and believe that if they went to court they would have a reality-court tv experience. As a mediator, “I make it very clear that I am not allowed to provide legal advice, but I am allowed to explain the real legal process works and I always explain that the judge does not provide the parties of a conflict to speak “freely” about the conflict, that is what mediation provides.” She also explains that in “mediation the parties to the conflict are the ones that have the power to resolve the conflict. Mediation is their opportunity to be heard and I encourage them to take the opportunity.”
A lot of people are afraid of receiving the short end of the stick when it comes to dispute settlements. In addition to receiving the short end of the stick, there is a misconception that mediation means there is a winner and a loser. That dichotomy is more aligned with the court-resolved conflict. In mediation, “I make sure the parties understand that they are going to both win and lose. A successful mediation involves a tremendous amount of compromise, which is a give and take from both parties. When they leave mediation they will not feel 100% victorious or 100% defeated, instead they will feel something in the middle.” So, she has found that assuring people of the power they hold, especially in the Black community has influenced the way people approach conflict and mediation. This, in turn, minimizes conflicts and preserves relationships.
Jamila considers herself a facilitative mediator, stating; “facilitation made me a better mediator.” She began facilitating in 2007 shortly after receiving my Masters. Facilitation differs from mediation in that the parties willing to facilitate are open to discussing the conflict with a facilitator to assist. She likes to use this analogy, “facilitators are the oars, the canoe is the vehicle that holds the conflict, and the participants are the current that moves the conflict forward. As the facilitator, my role is like the oar, as an aid to make sure we don’t get stuck.”
South Fulton’s Emerging Community Mediation Center
Jamila is a member of the National Association for Community Mediation (NAFCM), volunteer with the Savannah Mediation Center, and is the founding executive director of the emerging Community Mediation Center (CMC) of South Fulton, Georgia. The CMC will provide services to the residents of South Fulton and those within a 60 mile radius. “I am a strong proponent of Community Mediation and ADR and this center is proof of that.” The CMC’s goal is to provide an alternative to traditional conflict resolution – to be a space for the community to be proactive in the resolution of conflict that is uniquely theirs and for their community. South Fulton is a newly established city receiving its cityhood in 2017 and does not have a mediation center and the new CMC will ensure that residents “are really getting what they need to transition conflict and beyond that.” This also allows community members to have “difficult dialogues, authentic and genuine healing, and a real opportunity to address some of these systemic issues.”
Jamila was introduced to MBBI by Jill Cheeks who was working with TRUST Network, and who is also the Executive Director of the Mediation Center of Savannah, Georgia. MBBI’s membership allows me to be a part of a community of peacebuilders and conflict managers. “It is a community I am proud to be a part.” Jamila hopes to continue working with her community and making mediation accessible.
On October 14th, 2021, Jamila is leading a PeaceConnect session entitled How Unchecked Biases Influence Our Neutrality. Register at the hyperlink for this engaging upcoming conversation.
Article by Jainaba Gaye, MBBI Writer