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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.


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 »


Thank you UC Irvine!

February 7, 2013

L to R, Globe, Doc, Kazu and UCI student leader Angelina Dayfallah

At the end of January, PPWN was able to join our chair Dr. Bernard Lafayette at the University of CA Irvine, as he received the prestigious Citizen Peacebuilding Award, an honor that has previously gone to the Dalai Lama, President Jimmy Carter, and Mikhail Gorbachev.  During the trip, we were able to help with two workshops, one for students and another for faculty, and Doc was able to present to two classes in addition to the evening event where he received the award.

UCI seems very interested in exploring what it might mean for them to institutionalize Kingian Nonviolence on their campus.  We are grateful to all the students and faculty that made this all possible, especially student leader and Kingian Nonviolence trainer Angelina Dayfallah, who took the lead in organizing all of the events.  We look forward to working with UCI in the future to continue to expand our Beloved Community!

Check out videos of Doc’s presentations below.

Highlights of Doc’s speech before receiving the award

Full speech and presentation of the award

Doc speaking to a class on community based research

Doc speaking to a class on mediation and negotation

More People! More Power!! More Progress!!!

 

 

 


Waging Nonviolence: MLK’s Final Marching Orders

January 21, 2013

1965 anti-civil rights billboard in Selma, Ala., showing Martin Luther King, Jr., at the Highlander School. (Flickr/Penn State Special Collections)

“Now, Bernard, the next movement we’re going to have is to institutionalize and internationalize nonviolence.”

It was a comment made almost in passing. Dr. Bernard Lafayette, Jr., then the national coordinator for the Poor People’s Campaign, was walking out of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s motel room in Memphis, Tenn.

Dr. Lafayette figured this was a conversation that they would finish later, and he walked out of the room and headed to Washington, D.C., to attend a press conference. But the two would never go on to finish that discussion; five hours later, Dr. King was assassinated.

Dr. Lafayette was determined to not let Dr. King’s vision die with him. He took those last words, “institutionalize and internationalize nonviolence,” as what he has since called his “final marching orders” and has been working ever since to accomplish just that.

In the late 1980s, Dr. Lafayette joined forces with David Jehnsen, another activist who was involved in the civil rights movement and was responsible for drafting the first proposal for the U.S. Institute of Peace. Together, they created the Kingian Nonviolence Conflict Reconciliation training curriculum.  READ THE REST OF THIS STORY AT WAGINGNONVIOLENCE.ORG


Happy Birthday Dr. Martin Luther King!!!

January 15, 2013

Today, January 15th, would have marked Dr. Martin Luther King’s 84th birthday.  I find myself wondering how things might be different if he were still with us today.  But while his heart may have stopped beating in 1968, his legacy continues to live with us today.  His dream is far from being realized, and it’s up to all of us to ensure that one day, we will reach the Beloved Community he spoke so passionately about.

As the nation moves into a week filled with activities, ceremonies and events organized in his honor, let’s remind ourselves of what Dr. King really stood for.  If we are going to continue to use his name and image as a moral compass for this nation, we owe it to him to never forget what his real legacy is.

While it is great that many communities will come together over this weekend to celebrate, to participate in neighborhood clean up projects and other activities as part of the “Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service,” I can’t help but think what he would have thought of people cleaning up trash from the streets in his memory as homeless people sleep on those same sidewalks.  What would he have thought of us celebrating the work he did in the 60s as young people are being murdered in the streets today?  What would he have said about big banks and corporations spending lavishly to build him statues while kicking people out of their homes, or of McDonalds celebrating Black History while poisoning the community?

Not all of those things are “bad” things.  People should be beautifying our neighborhoods, corporations should be honoring the legacy of great leaders of the past.  But if that’s all we do when we think of King, we are doing him, and the nation a disservice.

Today, tomorrow, and every day from this point on, let us remind ourselves what King really stood for, and let’s commit ourselves to being a part of his living legacy.

King was not simply a “nice” person who wanted all people to get along.  He was a fierce organizer who was not afraid of confrontation.  He was not only a man who had some wonderful dream one night, but a man who had the courage and the audacity to take to the streets and demand justice.   He was a man who called his government the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world” and wanted to see a movement that was “nonviolent, but militant, and as dramatic, as dislocative, as disruptive, as attention-getting as the riots.”

If we are to ever get anywhere close to seeing his dream come to reality, we must never water down his message.  We must always have the courage to stand up and speak out against all forms of injustice, no matter where it is coming from.  That is how we will honor his legacy.  And that is how we should celebrate his birthday.

We need to shift how his Holiday is framed and celebrated.  It is not enough to have a “day of service.”  No, we need to demand a “day of justice.”  And in our struggle for justice, let us also keep in mind that King reminded all of us that Agape, unconditional love for humanity, is the most powerful weapon at our disposal.  As radical and as militant as his politics and tactics were at times, it was always grounded in the power of love.

I want to leave folks with this, a video of Dr. King’s favorite singer, Mahalia Jackson, singing Precious Lord, Take My Hand.  After he was shot in Memphis, his last words were to musician Ben Branch, who was at King’s side.  He said, “Ben, make sure you play ‘Take My Hand, Precious Lord’ in the meeting tonight. Play it real pretty.”

 

 


I Agree with Mike Huckabee

December 23, 2012

I sorta agree with Mike Huckabee.  There, I said it.

If you haven’t already heard, former Presidential candidate and current Fox News personality Mike Huckabee caused a minor uproar for some comments he made last week in response to the shooting in Newtown, CT.

Appearing on Fox News, Huckabee said that part of the reason for the violence in our school systems is that we have “systematically removed God from our schools.”

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And, understandably, many people came out and criticized him for making such comments.

But I sort of agree with Huckabee.  Sort of.

I’ve been struggling with this for a few days and I recently saw a post from a Facebook friend expressing similar thoughts, so I thought I’d put mine down on paper (also known as a laptop) to see if I can make more sense of it.  So hear me out.

Huckabee went on to say that our school systems have become “a place where we don’t want to talk about eternity, life, what responsibility means, accountability.”

“People are going to want to pass new laws,” he continued.  “This is a heart issue… laws don’t change this kind of thing.”

Speaking as a non-Christian Read the rest of this entry »


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