The burden of leadership

July 6, 2013

Everyone seems to like the idea of leadership and everyone claims to be leaders in their own right. Growing up I struggled with the idea of leadership and I remember thinking that they have so much courage putting themselves out there to be judged by people who can’t do what they do. I continued to study and found that it doesn’t matter the leaders effectiveness or style because others always find something to point out as a flaw or weakness.

In my experience as a leader I have not been able to escape this burden or these judgements. I have stood in the door and made room for many others to come through only to find on the other side of the door for folks to turn their backs or express ultimatums. Then I sit with my thoughts and go back an forth fighting with myself. I ask myself, “Why do you want to empower others before you have what you need?”, and my answer is because it needs to be done and these are the skills that i posses and it would go against the idea of the Beloved Community if I don’t. I also do this because it was done for me and I owe it to those who came before me.

The only partnership I believe will always be there is my relationship to my God. I am striving to be a better human being but will never strive to be more like any of you. I seek acceptance from above not from the horizontal plane. I accept the suffering without retaliation for the sake of the cause to achieve the goal to the best of my current ability and if I don’t live up to your expectation sorry but your not my goal or the judge I am seeking and awaiting your decision/verdict.

I embrace the judgements and will continue to improve at my fastest pace. Leadership is not easy but it is necessary to move us beyond our past order of business.

Positive Peace,

Jonathan L. Lewis


It is time for OLD ideas with NEW legs and the Montgomery Movement type of committment.

June 4, 2013

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I am sitting here feeling the need to get something off of my chest. I write these words with a deep love for all those who sacrifice personal profit and struggle to make tomorrow better than today.

In the wake of all the domestic tragedy/terrorism many of us are frightened that the next place we go could be the next place to go KaBoom or to be laced with bullets. We are living in a time where violent expression of ones internal pain and external disappointment over a personal conflict with an individual or society as a whole, is becoming the norm.

Understandably, folks are calling for more gun laws and more police in our schools to protect our most precious gift to the future, our children. I cant imagine how I would feel if I was to receive a phone call stating that my child was gunned down by an unstable person, a student, or a police person. I agree with having the strictest of policies that do not infringe on the 2 Amendment of the Bill of Rights (as reads today). I believe that many of us are correct with our outrage with the current crisis we call reality, however, I will not condone violent acts of retaliation until all other Kingian & Gandhian nonviolent solutions have been explored. We continue to have protest/demonstrations that last for less then 48 hours. We think we are doing something but it pales in comparison of the activist of the the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the 381 days of commitment that serve as the foundation of all of Dr. King’s activist life and future campaigns. I think here is the secret to their victories and the reason for our constant tire spinning. We can not be afraid to live differently. We can not be afraid to take a stand in the face of personal persecution.

This is why Gandhi is quoted saying that, ‘ if cowardice is the only option to violence, he believed it better to fight back’. Cowardice is not an option! The american way is to fight back and I agree we must fight back to show our children how to redirect our nation in the moment of crisis. We must act in a way, so our land doesn’t experience any more victims of senseless violence. I must be clear that I am not suggesting to suppress the voices of decent. I am suggesting that we must move with military precision, Kingian compassion, and Gandhian determination to uncover the root cause of the recent acts of domestic tragedy/terrorism/violence. Dr. Martin Luther King jr fought with tenacity of a rattle snake and the compassion of the dove. His venom was a vision of a new world and philosophy of reconciliation to bring forth the Beloved Community. After being bit by his vision none of us have ever been the same.

Dr. King was a solider for God.
Dr. King was a man of Courage.
Dr. King was a human that spoke truth to power.

Our children deserve more from us than to just honor the mans ‘Dream’.
He did not speak to please everyone but rather to ease his conscience and better his relationship with his God. When speaking he seemed more focused on justice for all of humanity and working for the people not prestige. As we continue into the 21st Century let us learn from him that the price of freedom is a life’s commitment not lip service and half steppin.

I must tell you I am intrigued by the idea of more trained forces in our schools. Our teachers need all of the support we can provide them in order to create a positive learning environment. I believe if we are to save the smallest of us we must be proactive in a way that prevents all people from potential pain and conflict growing into violent expression. Dr. King believed in a special forces group that received special forces type training with the focus of creating a final outcome of reconciliation not absolute surrender of the opponent . Our schools need specially trained individuals who have the courage to act nonviolently in the face of expressed violence. This will be the key to us creating a healthy positive learning environment for our children, for your community, for the United States of America, and our planet.

As a people, we have surrendered to violence as the solution and because of that we are constantly exposed to more violence. I don’t hear the everyday citizen talking out against the constant forms of suppression that the American people are being exposed. I see many honoring those heroes of the past that were willing to risk everything to help humanity get back on track with honorariums, statutes, and jobs. I wish we honored them by conducting the same type of courageous acts of solidarity in the name of future generations. I also realize that just because I don’t see or hear our elders and current activist conducting themselves strategically that they are not trying. It does put me in a place where I want to try harder and offer my hand in the effort.

If we have been woking in the same field for decades and we can not point to major progress than I must ask how effective have we been. Folks continue to encourage others to get involved in the system so that you can change the system and I would have agreed 10 years ago with that approach. At one time I thought only if the idea and plan was presented that intelligent people would decide to include the ideas because it would further the cause for humanity as a whole. If this was only the case. In my short life I have seen brilliant ideas ignored because those in leadership did not identify with the expression of the idea or the accent that echoed throughout the room as it was explained. When will this end?

It is time for new ideas and the Montgomery Movement type of committment.


Help Support PPWN!

May 10, 2013

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To our Beloved Community,

And we thought 2012 was a big year.

Barely five months into 2013, PPWN has already directly exposed close to 500 individuals in Kingian Nonviolence.  We partnered with Selma’s Freedom Foundation to offer a three-week Alternative Spring Break program for 250 college students.  We hosted a concert, “Rock the Movement,” featuring Hip Hop artists Talib Kweli and Jasiri X.  We partnered with Christian Peacemaker Teams for our first fundraising event.  We helped Dr. LaFayette receive UC Irvine’s Citizen Leadership Award, an honor he shared with the Dalai Lama and President Jimmy Carter.

And we’re just getting started.  As you read this letter, Jonathan is in Medellin, Colombia conducing a Level I training for a group of Hip Hop artists and youth workers, and I am heading to Tokyo, Japan to participate in an international interfaith event and speaking in front of Japanese youth.

This summer, we will certify over 100 youth to become peer educators in Kingian Nonviolence, and they will be working with our local partners to create a culture of peace in their communities all year.  Read the rest of this entry »


Yelling Without “Yelling”

April 12, 2013

Globe was watching “Survivor” the other day on the computer, and I had mentioned that I still had never seen single episode of that show. So when we got back to the house later that night, we put it on the TV. At one point two of the contestants were having a heated debate (of course they were, It’s a reality show). One of them said to the other, “please don’t yell at me,” to which the other replied back aggressively, “I’m not yelling at you!”

And technically that contestent was right, he wasn’t “yelling.”

The dictionary defines “yelling” as to “utter a loud cry.” And this character wasn’t being loud. His volume wasn’t high. But his tone was aggressive, his language was sharp, and the tension in the conversation had clearly escalated.

Conflict can escalate even if the volume doesn’t

You can “yell” without “yelling.” You can “yell” without raising your voice. And yes, I’m saying the dictionary is wrong.

“Stop yelling.” I’m sure we’ve probably all had that said to us. And I’m sure there are plenty of times that we didn’t feel like we were yelling, so we responded with a sharp (and quiet), “I’m not yelling!” I know I have.

And as I think about it, in many of those cases I was technically right. I rarely “yell.” I have a loud voice naturally as people who know me know, but I don’t “utter a loud cry” very often.

But conflict can escalate even if the volume doesn’t. Even if you’re talking in a whisper, depending on the tone of the conversation it can feel like you’re being yelled at. And it can be annoying to be accused of being yelled at when you technically aren’t. When I feel like I’m being falsely accused of yelling, I often times end up escalating the conflict even more by responding back, “I’m not yelling!”

And I usually whisper it really loudly.

Often times when people accuse each other of yelling, they’re not actually talking about the volume, they’re not talking about the dictionary definition of “yelling.” They’re not accusing you of raising your volume, they’re accusing you of raising the level of conflict from a normal level to a pervasive level. They’re not asking you to lower your volume, they’re asking you to lower the level of conflict.

It could be tone. It could be language. It could be body motion or posture. It could be about interrupting each other and not listening. It could be about one person standing up, or stepping closer to the other. It could be about facial expressions. There are many ways for conflict to escalate, and volume is just one of them. There are many ways to be aggressive, and any of them can cause fear and/or harm. Any one of them can make someone feel like they’re being yelled at.

So next time I feel like I’m being falsely accused of yelling, I’m going to try to take a deep breath and reflect on Survivor. Maybe I am “yelling,” even if I’m whispering.


Happy Birthday Kingian Nonviolence

April 4, 2013

Today, April 4th 2013, marks the 45th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination.  45 years since a bullet was fired into his chest.  And 45 years since the bullet missed its mark.

That bullet may have killed the man, but his legacy lives on through the millions of us who have stood for justice since that fateful day.  His legacy lives on through elders like Dr. Bernard LaFayette and David Jehnsen, who authored the Kingian Nonviolence philosophy to ensure that the assassin missed.  His legacy lives on through the hundreds of college students who were exposed to Kingian Nonviolence during the three-week Alternative Spring Break program we just finished up, and the hundreds of high school youth who will be trained this summer.  His legacy lives on though each and every single one of you, who have supported us in our effort to ensure that we carry on his message.

As many of you already know, Kingian Nonviolence was born out of a conversation Dr. King had with Dr. LaFayette just hours before his assassination.  So while April 4th marks the death of Dr. King, it also marks the birth of Kingian Nonviolence.  As we commemorate his death, let us also celebrate the 45th anniversary of the birth of this important legacy.  Let us celebrate how much Dr. King taught us, how much he continues to teach us, and let us recommit ourselves to fulfilling his dream.

A few of the college students recently exposed to Kingian Nonviolence

PPWN will be recognizing this important day across the nation, from Atlanta to Oakland.  In Atlanta, PPWN Founder Jonathan Lewis will be on a panel discussing gun violence with the organization started by Dr. King, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.  In Oakland, members of the PPWN community will be attending an event organized by one of our biggest supporters, the East Bay Meditation Center.  And we will be continuing to celebrate Dr. King’s legacy next week as we return to the San Bruno County Jail to work with a new group of 40 men.

Dr. King’s dream is far from having been realized.  As the community in New York struggles against stop and frisk in the wake of another police shooting (this time of 16-year old Kimani Gray), as the battle rages on over same sex marriage and LGBT equality, as the president signs into law the “Monsanto Protection Act,” as communities around the country protest the Keystone XL Pipeline in the face of yet another oil spill - we are reminded daily how far we still have to go.

It is for this reason that PPWN remains committed to living out Dr. King’s vision, and continuing to push forward towards his dream of a Beloved Community.  It is for this reason that we not only honor his death, but we honor the birth of his living legacy: Kingian Nonviolence.

Over the coming months and weeks, we will be sharing with you more news about what we’ve been up to recently (working with 200+ college students from 20 schools in Selma, working to institutionalize Kingian Nonviolence at the University of WI River Falls, etc.) and where we are going (upcoming work in Japan and Colombia, ongoing programming in the Bay Area, trainings for hundreds of High School youth over the summer).  We look forward to connecting with all of you, and helping to ensure that those who wanted to kill Dr. King’s vision missed their mark.

PPWN


Jailhouse Stories

February 21, 2013

Photo from San Bruno County Jail, taken on International Day of Peace

Many folks have been asking us how our work is going in the jails and prisons.  Due to some changes in regulations, we have not been able to take pictures inside as freely as we had been in the past, so we have not been able to share images of our work.  But the amazing, inspiring stories continue to flow.

We are excited to start thinking about moving into the next phase of our work inside – certifying men and women to become presenters in Kingian Nonviolence, so that they can become peer educators and help us with the workshops.  We will be sharing more on that work later, but in the meantime we wanted to share with you a few of the most inspiring stories we’ve seen recently.

Juan’s Wish
Recently, I had the honor of bringing in author/poet/activist Luis Rodriguez into the San Bruno County Jail and to San Quentin State Penitentiary to share some of his work and talk to the guys.

For those who may not know, Luis is a man who has gone through many of the challenges that these men have gone through.  In his own words, he has been involved with gangs, battled addiction for years, served time, has a son who served 15 years, has shot at people, been shot at…..

Yet he was able to turn his life around to become an incredible peace activist, mentor to countless youth, an internationally known poet and best selling author.  I knew his life story would really connect with the men we’ve been working with, and it was a real treat and an honor for all of us, myself included, to be able to spend time with such an inspiring man.  I encourage everyone to check out his work here. Read the rest of this entry »


Join Us at Sonoma State Univeristy!!

February 12, 2013

Join PPWN and the Metta Center for Nonviolence for a two-day introductory workshop in Kingian Nonviolence!!!

Over 1,200 people attended this workshop in 2012, with participants ranging from incarcerated men and women, students (middle school, high school and college), activists, former city mayors, anarchists, meditation teachers, school teachers, and people from every walk of life.  Each walked away having learned a skill that will help them with whatever conflicts they are dealing with in their lives and in their work.

Find out more about Kingian Nonviolence here.  These workshops are offered on a gift economics basis, so no one will be turned away due to a lack of funds.

Come join us!

Two-Day Kingian Nonviolence Workshop
Sonoma State University (register for exact location)
Sat & Sun, February 23rd & 24th
10AM – 6PM both days
Cost: Gift Economics (No one turned away due to lack of funds)
Register Here!!!

Carpools are being organized from the Bay Area.
Contact emailkazu@gmail.com or (510) 967-4710 for more info.


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