Susan Burton is the founder and executive director of A New Way of Life Reentry Project, which provides housing and support services to formerly incarcerated women in South Central Los Angeles. Before participating in a panel on why so many Americans are in prison, she talked about the superpower of forgiveness, and how she gets inspired to do the work she does, in the Zócalo green room.
If you could have any superpower, which would you choose?
Forgiveness. That’s a power. That’s something that we all get power from, so forgiveness would be my superpower, just to spread that all over the world. Just douse everybody in that.
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
Being asked a question that you already have the answer to. Someone posing a question to me, and I know they have the answer already. Why do you want to work me like that?
What was the last thing that inspired you?
This morning I was at the Board of Prison Terms with a group of people who had served multiple decades in prison, and they were thanking the Board for releasing them. I need to be inspired regularly in this hard, hard work, so that was a very inspiring moment for me this morning.
What’s your favorite season?
Spring. And it depends on where I am in the country, but spring.
What surprises you most about your life right now?
That my life is able to have such an impact on people who usually are not even cared about or thought of.
What does your ideal Saturday morning look like?
It would be planting a vegetable garden, planting flowers. Knocking around the house would be my ideal Saturday morning.
If you had one more hour in the day, what would you do with it?
I’d talk with the women in our houses—have healing circles in our homes.
What’s your comfort food?
I love cornbread.
Are you good at keeping secrets? If so, who can vouch for you?
Yes. No one, because I keep a secret.
Where do you come up with your best ideas?
I’m not sure where my best ideas come from. I feel like they’re a gift from the universe or from God. I feel like the universe just sends me these really kind and thoughtful ideas about ways to make things better, and I go with them.