Arc of the Universe is long but it bends towards Oakland

Written by: Kazu Haga

Hello Beloved Community!!!  July has been an incredibly busy and rewarding month for myself and for Kingian Nonviolence in the Bay Area.  This month, I got to do two full two-day core orientation and a half-day training, exposing many new people to the philosophy.

I even did a training for a man whose father was a guard at the jail in Birmingham, and was the one that gave Dr. Martin Luther King a notebook so he could write his Letter from a Birmingham Jail!

There is some information about the training’s on the Peace Development Fund’s website: http://www.peacedevelopmentfund.org/article/129.  I wanted to share some additional thoughts from the training’s here for all the Positive Peace Warriors out there.

Youth Uprising & RJOY

Jonathan L. Lewis, aka “Globe” and Founder of the Positive Peace Warrior Network, and I were sitting in my living room the night before our most recent series of workshops, when we heard four shots go off right outside of my window.  A young man was hit, and it was a sobering reminder of how much this work is needed, and how long we still have to go.

I was trying to think of the right word to describe witnessing a shooting so close to home the night before a nonviolence training: symbolic?  Ironic?  Either way, I felt humbled to have the opportunity to do a nonviolence workshop while something like that was so fresh on my mind.  It was even more meaningful that this training was sponsored by Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth and hosted by Youth Uprising, and more than half the participants were high school aged youth from Oakland.

After coming home from the first day of the program, I was in my house looking out of my window at the corner where the shots went off.  Things were back to normal, with little kids playing outside on the same corner.  While it is important for communities to be able to move on and live their lives, it also made me think of how normalized violence has become in a community like Oakland.

While the young man shot outside of my house survived, three young people were murdered that weekend alone in Oakland.   The three who were killed were 26, 21 and 16 years old, and represents the 69th, 70th and 71st murders this year in a city smaller than Tulsa OK, Kansas City or Mesa AZ.

71 is 71 too many.

At the same time, the training left me as inspired as ever.  To see youth in the same room as a former mayor of Berkeley, attending the same workshop, learning the same thing, and both walking away with new skills and a renewed commitment to building positive peace…….  The age difference between the youngest participant and the oldest was more than 60 years!  I don’t know how I would have taken the shooting if it had not been for all of the wisdom and inspiration from this training.

Oakland Peace Center

Two weeks before the training at Youth Uprising, Jonathan, Miss Lori and I conducted another Kingian Nonviolence two-day core orientation at the Oakland Peace Center.   This event truly represented the Beloved Community.  Participants included youth with former gang affiliation, civil rights attorneys, staff from the Department of Juvenile Probation, college students, and founders, executive directors, staff, board members and interns from large and small organizations that work on youth justice, global economic reform, restorative justice, environmental justice, media work, research and more.

I was reminded of this year’s University of Rhode Island’s Kingian Nonviolence Summer Institute, which had participants from Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Korea, Japan, US, Canada, Bolivia, Columbia, Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, Haiti, Brazil, and more.  In past years, we’ve had trainers who were former law enforcement working with participants who were formerly incarcerated.  We’ve had college deans and college students in the same room taking the same training.

People with such a wide range of experience, culture, age, and all the differences we always point out in people are coming together to take the same exact training, and all walking away feeling like it is something that can apply to their conflict.  From teaching nonviolence to middle school kids in Rhode Island to working with former rebel fighters in Nigeria, we are all coming together around a common understanding of conflict and a common set of principles.

The power of this training continues to amaze me.

Community Ambassadors

The half-day orientation, which I conducted the week in between the two two-day training’s, was for a new group called the Community Ambassadors.

Those of you in the Bay Area may remember some incidents of violence that happened in the Bay View neighborhood of San Francisco about a year ago.  It was presented as a conflict between the Asian and African American communities as two Asian people were attacked by some African American youth, and one elder Asian man was killed.

In response, the City of San Francisco created a new city funded agency called the Community Ambassadors.  The 12 Ambassadors are out in the community full time, doing street outreach, talking to people, making sure those residents know about the resources available to them.

Even though this was just a half-day presentation, it seemed to be more than worthwhile for them.  During the two-day training that we did at the Oakland Peace Center, a man was shot and killed in an incident with the San Francisco Police.  A video of the man dying as the police stood there and watched showed up online, and there was a huge outcry from the community.

The Ambassadors helped to organize a town hall around the issue, and from what I heard, it got overt real quick, with people trying to yell over each other.  Through going over the six-steps, many of them told me that they realized some of the mistakes they made, and that they will certainly respond to things differently next time.

And that’s what so much of our work is about: learning to respond to conflict differently then we are used to.  It’s a constant practice, but it’s the only way we will learn to deal with conflict in a positive way.

Thanks to Jonathan”Globe” Lewis and Lori LeChien, all of the participants of the trainings, and big ups to Tufara and everyone at Highlander for their two day, the whole Tucson and Phoenix crew for their Advanced Youth Training, to Doc and Chris for their two-day, and all of the other amazing work that I haven’t heard about yet!!!  Let me know what you are all up to!!!

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One Response to Arc of the Universe is long but it bends towards Oakland

  1. Robin Nelson Wildman says:

    Keep on MARCHING Kazu! You are making a difference.

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