In Memoriam Leonard Flippen

Restorative Practices Leader, Trainer, Facilitator and CSCSB Board Member

Back in 2009 or so, Kimberly Rosa, former Executive Director of Conflict Solutions Center and founding member, made a presentation to the Live Oak Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Goleta on Restorative Justice.  Leonard Flippen had been asked to come by his friend, Roger Brown.  This is where and when Leonard and the Conflict Solutions Center became acquainted.  Leonard went on to take CSC’s 40 hour mediation skills training course and then the 21 hour Restorative Justice training course.  He would tell Kimberly years later that something “clicked” inside of him when he heard her talk about restorative justice.  When she spoke about how RJ was about restoring “relationships” and healing community he said he knew this was going to be his life’s work from then on.  

Leonard became a fierce advocate for restorative justice in the north Santa Barbara county communities.  He worked in schools and assisted the Probation department doing Restorative Justice interventions that promoted healing and understanding between people who were harmed and by those doing the harm.  He has been a long-time board member at the Conflict Solutions Center, offering his time and energy to ensure our mediation and restorative justice services were in integrity with the core philosophy of both:  facilitating understanding, healing, restoring relationships and building community.

Below is an excerpt of a letter Kimberly started for a gofundme campaign to support Leonard and the ongoing Restorative Circle work he had been doing even during this covid-19 period.  He believed so strongly in the power of these practices, he continued to offer them for community members even during his illness. The letter so aptly describes Leonard and his passion for the Restorative Circle work he was doing.  

“I’m reaching out to you because we both know Leonard Flippen and his work in offering Community Circles, Healing Circles and Restorative Practices in our local community. I wanted to share some information with you and then give you an opportunity to help. 

Leonard and I worked together years ago because we were both passionate about Restorative Justice and Restorative Practices and the value it offers us as human beings who have needs for healing and ultimately meaningful connections with other human beings.  In these times when we have become more separated from one another as fellow human beings sharing the same communities and the same planet, healing and community building via these restorative Circle processes offer a safe way back to ourselves and each other.  

The use of the Circles to help individuals in need has grown in recent years and is now being used in many settings, including neighborhoods, schools, prisons, workplaces, families, and marriages. There are many different types of circles, such as healing, conflict resolution, community building, and celebration. Healing circles in particular provide a safe space in which people who have suffered or are suffering trauma can come together and speak openly about their experiences and leave feeling healed or on the road to recovery.

Guest Commentary-Santa Maria Times

Leonard Flippen lives in the wisdom and healing powers he shared

  • From the Santa Maria Times Jan 19, 2021

Leonard Flippen was taken recently by Valley Fever, but he has not been taken from us at all. He lives in each person whom he blessed with his strength and wisdom and healing powers. Leonard was a healer, and he facilitated hundreds of healing circles. He knew that all have been hurt in life. He helped each to feel that hurt, and to move on.

In 2015, I directed Leonard in a Poetic Justice Project show called “Inside /// Out.” It was about a man’s experiences in prison, and his life when he got out. Leonard played the central role. He needed no research because he had lived the part.

At the end of each performance, Leonard would say, “You may have entered tonight thinking life is a matter of US and THEM. Now you see that there is only US.”

Every group Leonard brought together was a healing circle. Whether it was the cast of a Poetic Justice Project play, A Vision for Men group of prisoners mentoring a man newly released, or a multicultural community group. Leonard knew that a circle of people, listening to each person with an open heart, was the medicine all sought.

Leonard Flippen faced his demons head on, and helped others do the same. He managed a half-way house for former convicts looking for a way to reengage in society. Having done heavy drugs, he helped other men to get clean and sober. Having formerly fought in and out of prison, he studied mediation and worked as a restorative justice coordinator and facilitator at the Conflict Solutions Center.

Leonard lost his father through a divorce when he was 11 years old. In searching for a father figure, he went down many dead ends until he found the father in himself. He became a father figure for those who needed him.

Leonard was strong, and he was vulnerable. He was smart, and he was compassionate. Though big and tall, his ego did not lead him. What led him was his desire to help those who had lost their way and needed someone to believe in their ability to find their own way back.

Leonard felt most at home in a circle, where each person was appreciated for the unique individual they were. He created a safe space where even a beginner could share. He would ask each to say, “If you really knew me, you would know that …” and each person would say what was important about them.

What was important about Leonard was that he listened deeply to each person and was always honest and kind to them in response. In serving others he became the good man he was destined to be.

In death, he asks us to be honest with ourselves and others, and to continue healing the world with love and understanding. He asks us to be the mentors others need to find their true selves. Leonard trusts that we are strong enough and wise enough to do that.

By Gale McNeeley-Santa Maria resident.

Conflict Solutions Center