Metta’s Opinion

Martin Luther King, Jr. is Not Dead

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After the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, Viet Cong resistance fighters testified that they were encouraged in their fight for freedom by the spirit and steadfastness of Dr. King and the Black freedom movement (Hope and History, Vincent Harding, p. 5). Martin Luther King was not dead in Vietnam.

In June 1989, 21 years after the death of Martin Luther King, thousands of Chinese students protested for Chinese democracy. In Beijing’s Tiananmen Square they hung great banners announcing in English, “We Shall Overcome” (Ibid, p 3). Martin Luther King was not dead in China.

In October that same year, the Lutheran church in Leipzig, East Germany, began holding prayers for peace every Monday evening. After the prayers, people began holding candles, demonstrating for freedom and democracy. Within a month, the demonstrations had grown to 70,000; the following Monday, 120,000; then, 320,000. They sang, “We Shall Overcome” (Ibid, p 4). Martin Luther King was not dead in East Germany.

Then, as East and West Germans together began tearing down the Berlin Wall, they sang the words, “The wall is coming down.” But the tune they sang those words to was the old slavery tune, made famous by Fannie Lou Hamer, “Go Tell It on the Mountain… to let my people go” (Ibid, p 4). Martin Luther King was not dead in their hearts.

In December 1989, there was a terrible massacre in Timisoara, Romania. Not long afterwards, one of the freedom protesters explained, “The people have broken through their fears. We cannot turn back”—the same words Black Americans had used to explain how they had finally found the strength and courage to stand firm in the face of police dogs and fire-hoses (Ibid, p 4). Martin Luther King was not dead in Romania.

The struggle for freedom, justice, democracy and the beloved community tied the children of Africa—South Africa and the American South—together. Nelson Mandela began recalling Dr. King’s courage, discipline, faith and spirit (Ibid, p4). Desmond Tutu became the champion of truth, love, forgiveness and reconciliation.

Thank God that Martin Luther King is not dead.

Above photo: ImgArcade.com (in the public domain)

Gandhi Searches for Truth: A Practical Biography for Children

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Mahatma Gandhi was an ordinary child who rried to do something extraordinary with his life: he wanted to discover Truth. This book chronicles Gandhi’s inner and outer journey from childhood to the independence of India in twelve short stories, with beautiful watercolor and ink images of Gandhi and his family. For both children and grown-ups, these stories explore how Gandhi discovered key principles and tools of nonviolence, including concepts like “satyagraha” and “nonviolent non-cooperation.” Most importantly, it addresses how we can bring his great message in our own lives and become peacemakers at any age!

Pre-order your signed copy today!

Dear Metta Center Community,

Here’s some big news
Many of  you know that in my “spare time” I am a Montessori early childhood educator. Inspired by conversations with three to six year olds about the principles of nonviolence and the life of Mahatma Gandhi, I decided to write a book that could serve as a tool for deep conversations with kids about the power of nonviolence while giving some insight into Gandhi as a person. I wanted to show the children that the most important ideas about nonviolence that Gandhi discovered as an adult were really learned while he was still a child. What emerged was Gandhi Searches for Truth: A Practical Biography for Children. Equally exciting is that this is the first book published through Metta’s new publishing wing, Person Power Press. In short, great things are happening at Metta!

We just ordered a shipment of books to arrive at Metta in the coming weeks, and since I created this book as a labor of love to share the message of nonviolence with children (and grown-ups), I really want all of the proceeds my book to help support the good work of the Metta Center. This means that all funds over and above printing and shipping will support Metta’s programs. (And in the course of the next year, there will be a one-year peace curriculum and parent/teacher study guide to accompany this title…)

Make a donation and receive a book.

I am writing to ask you to become a monthly donor starting at $10/month to support Metta’s work, or if you are already a monthly donor, to consider increasing your monthly donation at this time. For anyone who can do this, we would like to thank them with a signed copy of the book from our first shipment.

Of course, not everyone is in a position to become a monthly donor or some would prefer not to have a monthly obligation, even to a wonderful organization like Metta. To that end, I hope you will consider making a one time donation that equals $10/month in celebration of the birth of this book and the work it is about to do in the world.

And if you still would like a copy or several, we are making them available for donations of $20, which will include your sales tax, plus $4.00 shipping and handling for anywhere in the United States.

Finally, if you are someone in a position to become a champion of this project and help us to make this fundraiser a massive success, please write to us and let us know that you would like to help cover some of the production costs and/or initial print run, and we can schedule a time to talk about how far we made our limited funds go to create something so lovely and practical, and how you can be a part of it. You’d be a part of Metta history!

Think about how often children are exposed to violence in their media and in their lives. Way too often. We can show them the promise of something else. Let’s all come together as a community to support children in their learning about nonviolence while also giving support to great organizations like our Metta Center.

Fill out this form to pre-order, and make your donation pledge today.

With love and practical idealism,

Stephanie Van Hook
Executive Director & Author of Gandhi Searches for Truth

Nonviolence Education Call #3: Six Steps to Reconcile Conflict

Post by Joseph Gardella

This summer, the Metta Center for Nonviolence hosted a conference call series on nonviolence education and building community that focused on how and why nonviolence may be particularly effective for reconciling conflict in schools.

Special guest Robin Wildman, a nonviolence educator from Broad Rock Middle School in Rhode Island with 25 years of teaching experience, led this three-part series on June 9th, July 14th, and August 4th from 5 – 6pm PST. Topics included breaking down conflict, understanding core nonviolence principles, and reconciling conflict.

Throughout, participants were encouraged to read:

Letter from a Birmingham Jail and King’s Pilgrimage to Nonviolence.

You may find summaries of the previous calls at the following links:

Call 1 on Breaking down conflict

Call 2 on Six principles of nonviolence

We appreciated participants’ questions, engagement, and participation throughout the calls!

In the final call in our series, Robin Wildman spoke about King’s six steps to reconciling conflict. Click here to listen to an audio recording of the discussion, and click here for a full copy of Joseph’s notes.

Background of King’s six steps to reconcile conflict:

Dr. King first wrote about four of the steps in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”. He went to Birmingham, Alabama in 1963 to support civil rights direct actions and was put in jail. Local clergymen wrote a letter to Dr. King that argued that he was an outsider and didn’t belong in Birmingham and their local affairs. They essentially argued that they were doing well and that the African American population should wait instead of engage in direct action. Dr. King wrote a rebuttal letter, now famously known as the Letter from a Birmingham Jail. Among multiple statements, he justified choices to pursue direct action through explaining these steps for engaging with conflict.

Six steps to reconcile conflict

Step 1: Information gathering

  • Learn all you can about the problems you see in as many ways that make sense. Some examples of places to gather information include reading news or bulletins, talking with people involved, processing other media, self-reflection, other forms of communication, etc.
  • The goal of this phase is to find out the truth of the situation.
  • Teach students to be skeptical of their initial reactions following conflict (“Doubt your first impression”) and instead, ask questions about what happened.
  • This step often requires asking questions of multiple people involved in a given situation.
  • Students should be encouraged to ask adults for support.

Step 2: Education of self and others

  • Dr. King wrote about this as self-purification.
  • Armed with the information one has gathered, one can help those involved in the conflict so that they might better engage with the conflict.
  • Conflicts can often be solved through information gathering and education.
  • Sometimes this includes building a team of people to understand and find a solution to a conflict.

Step 3: Personal Commitment

  • Ask yourself, or students, about the conflict you or they are in: are you willing to invest the time and energy to resolve the conflict? In other words, are you prepared to face what might come when working through the conflict?
  • Sometimes it is helpful to engage commitment with others: through singing, talking with a friend or going to a mass meeting. Other times, it’s helpful to engage commitment through meditation, reflection, or other personal contemplative practices.

Step 4: Negotiation

  • Talk about all sides of an issue, including those who are deeply affected and are contributing to the conflict.
  • A goal of negotiations is to come to win-win solutions (See principle 4 at this website).
  • Negotiation can take a lot of hard work and patience.

Step 5: Direct action

  • In Birmingham, they had gone through all of the steps, and because attempts at negotiations failed,  they engaged in direct action.
  • The purpose of direct action is to create a crisis and foster such a tension that the community that has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue.
  • Here is a list of some kinds of direct action one might take
  • In schools, direct action sometimes includes talking with an adult.

Step 6: Reconciliation

  • This is the goal!
  • Reconciliation is always in the one’s mind when working on a “win-win” negotiated solution.
  • Robin suggests a four part process to reconciliation:
    1. People must acknowledge the truth. Everyone has a part in the conflict, and when everyone acknowledges the truth, then we know that we are on the right path to restoring a community back to its whole.
    2. Work with community members to devise a way to demonstrate that they are sorry. Demonstrating an apology involves changing behavior.
    3. Work to repair relationships that were harmed in the conflict.
    4. Seek forgiveness and restore a communal relationship for the sake of the Beloved Community. This sometimes means simply restoring an relationship such that one can say hello and smile at each other. It doesn’t necessarily mean re-establishing a friendship.

Some additional notes about using the Six Steps to reconcile conflict:

  • Reconciling is not the same as resolving conflict. Reconciling insists upon repairing relationships that were harmed during the conflict.
  • One can use all of the steps, repeat them, or just use some of them.
  • They can be used out of order and sometimes steps must be repeated.
  • However, one must always use the steps with a commitment to reconciling conflict. That is, no matter what order one uses them, they must strive to ultimately reconcile conflict.  

Helpful school practices:

  • Use an Agape box for notes where students may submit concerns privately. To set the ground rules for the box, let students know that you (the educator) will check the box for notes each day. Student and teacher will meet to discuss the conflict and how the student would like to proceed (e.g. which Steps to use).
  • Teachers’ roles in conflicts may vary. At times they should talk with the student, help them with gathering information, coach students about how to engage with the Steps, or perhaps ask the student how the student would like them to be involved.
  • Lead Nonviolence trainings for parents. And, send home materials that explain the Six Steps so that parents better understand what their children might be trying to achieve when engaging conflict using these steps.
  • Robin’s school has transformed the in-school suspension model. They now have a reconciliation room where students go to work on a reconciliation plan following a conflict. Students fill out a reconciliation plan with prompts to consider each part of the plan and an assistant principal or other caring adult might review the plan with the student. Schools might reconsider their punishment practices and use of consequences that let students know that they’ve done something wrong, must take responsibility for their actions, but also let them know that they are cared for and have capacity for learning from and righting their wrongs.
  • Do a nonviolence-oriented activity everyday for the first few weeks of school. This will help build community. Robin uses activities from her nonviolence manual, and recommends starting training on the first day. She frames these lessons as the most important lessons that students will learn all year because they will help the students do everything else in school, and in life.

Example: First Day of School Activities

Robin knows that students are nervous because they are coming from a variety of different schools. She also pays attention to how students are doing and invites them to share how they are doing by participating in an activity where they respond to four questions on Post-it notes that she then puts on the board. They respond to:

  1. How they are feeling,
  2. What Ms. Wildman can help them with this year,
  3. What kind of classroom they would like to have, and
  4. What is their favorite thing about school

She will then note any themes across Post-it notes and talk briefly about them. Next, she will jump into activities that will continue to build relationships including introducing others. These kinds of activities encourage perspective taking and empathy. She continues to use team building activities over the first week.

A success story of students using the six steps in action:

Students were concerned about their lunch food options provided by the school. So, they engaged in using the Six Steps. They gathered information by circling all of the unhealthy foods offered at lunch on a menu. They then wrote a list of some alternatives. Then, they wrote an invitation to the head of food services to talk about this. He was surprised when he came to talk about this with the students because the students had arranged themselves into a circle and engaged with him using practices associated with nonviolence. Throughout negotiation, they learned about some reasons for why food choices were made. They also achieved success because the head of food services changed some of the menu items as was requested. Given that this happened at the end of the year, and most of the students were graduating, the positive changes were mostly made for younger students, a true example of Agape!

Questions for further thinking:

  1. What everyday classroom activities or processes are particularly amenable to integrating all or parts of these practices?
  2. What are supportive classroom and school-wide practices that might facilitate an effective use of these practices? What are some practices in your school that might obstruct or make the use of these practices more challenging?
  3. What are other dynamics that happen in schools that could benefit from reconciliation (i.e., repairing harmed relationships)? One example might be re-entering schools after being out of school in a juvenile justice system.
  4. What digital media would you recommend other teachers to view or process related to this material?

Additional resource:

This is a link to a video called “Dinner for Two”. It is a cartoon that beautifully illustrates the Six Principles, Six Steps, and the Levels and Types of conflict, all of the aspects of Kingian Nonviolence that were spoken of on the 3 conference calls.

To Sanders’ Supporters: An Open Letter

Dear friends,

I share your frustration and your anger over the outcome of the Democratic (?) National Convention. I’ve had my share. There is a place for anger; but there is also a way to use it. Anger is power. The revolution launched by Senator Sanders has accomplished amazing results. The point is now to recognize the beauty and power of our momentum — and, as Martin Luther King, Jr. says, harness our anger “under discipline,” meaning convert it into determination. Let’s think what that might look like now.

Senator Sanders has announced that he will create a support base for progressive candidates for local and national offices. That is the perfect role for him. But our role is even bigger. Remember what President Johnson said when MLK urged him to give the nation a voting rights act: “That’s a great idea. Now go out and make me do it.”

A prominent Republican, as he was bolting the party, said Donald Trump is not just a political mistake but “an indictment of our character.” I would say it’s an indictment of our culture.  The real revolution is not just political; it’s cultural. As long as people are bombarded by 3,000-5,000 commercial messages a day (according to recent studies) telling us we’re separate, material beings who need to plunder the Earth for satisfaction and fight one another for security, specters like Donald Trump will arise, and we will be fighting a rear-guard action to keep them out of power. We need a “new story” about humanity and our place in the universe.

The good news is a “new story” is being talked up in various circles. It’s based squarely on two supports: the best of modern science and the perennial wisdom that has supported every human tradition, from Jesus to Gandhi.   Taken together, this story says we are not alone in the universe. The same human agency that’s degrading the Earth can also restore it; the same humanity that’s blowing up in violence all over the planet can also learn and practice nonviolence. Learning this story and how to use it, patiently and persuasively, to explain why we’re against war and for a beloved community on a healthy planet should be part of every activist’s toolkit today.

We now have the technologies to stay connected in ways that were never possible before. Great. Don’t use them as a substitute for face-to-face relationships, but use them to, for example, start a discussion on strategy that we can all work on together, taking us from our present baffling but in some ways amazing situation all the way to the distant vision of peace and justice for all. A joint strategy doesn’t mean everyone working on the same issue, but rather, as I see it, situating our issues on a progressive (in both senses) trajectory, starting from things that are hard but doable, to things that seem undoable now but will eventually appear as inevitable. It would certainly include what Joanna Macy calls “stopping the worst of the damage,” which means the climate. We’ll carry on with the creative blend of legal argumentation and downright obstruction we saw in the “kayaktivism” that kept Shell from drilling the Chukchi Sea last June — but at the same time, do things that not only block the future we don’t want, but build one we do.

I can see one trajectory for this that starts with establishing restorative justice as a norm in the nation’s schools (it’s already happening in more enlightened districts), then goes on to do the same for the prison system, and then we set our sights on the war system. All this would be supported by a steady drumbeat of explanation about human nature and our intimate relationship to one another and the planet.

Other trajectories would move similarly from achievable to apparently distant goals, all based on that common vision. Let’s not get hung up on whether we should vote for Hillary Clinton or Jill Stein. From Occupy to the Bernie Sanders movement, we have shown what we’re capable of. Now let’s build on that momentum. It will be a lot of work, and yes, every now and then some risk and suffering, that can be kept to a minimum, with the right strategies. We need a greater awareness that we’re all in this together; we need to do more long-range planning; and we have to find ways, to reach out to the opposition. The “Trump phenomenon” is a shocking revelation of the state of mind of millions of Americans. We could probably “defeat” them in an out-and-out political fight, but is that any foundation for a secure future?  In our kind of future, the political process itself will no longer be a fight, but what it once was (or was meant to be): a decision-making process among citizens who have learned to disagree within the framework of civil discourse.

I think this is going to require all our imagination, compassion, tact and courage; which is why we need our “secret weapon” — a way to turn anger into determination and bitterness into optimism, that’s empowering — and justified.

(First published on Truthout)

View the Open Letter Animation on FACEBOOK and help share it out!

If you’d like to join the conversation about how to build a long-term strategy and make the movement unstoppable, fill out this form and we’ll keep you posted, for example about the major conference being planned in Berkeley, Nov. 12-13.

 

The Gap Between Nonviolence & Social Sciences

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I was introduced to nonviolence and sciences in a university setting.

During undergraduate studies, I was a student and later a teaching assistant for a course on the philosophy and theory of nonviolence (textbook for the course). I also learned from Dr. Michael Nagler’s PACS 164-A, B, & C courses. I was familiar with various peace studies programs that considered nonviolence (e.g., Tromso; University of Peace; and the Kroc Institute) and organizations that engaged in thoughtful nonviolence work (e.g., Metta Center for Nonviolence; M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence; and the Albert Einstein Institution). Taken together, these examples suggest that a lot of folks are interested in shining thoughtfully about nonviolence and making connections with social and nature science evidence where appropriate (e.g., the Metta Center for Nonviolence Science of Nonviolence). (more…)

A Silver Lining Conference Call – Podcast

A Conversation About Violence & Healing

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Do you feel overwhelmed by the recent episodes of violence? Are you wondering whether there could possibly be a silver lining to any of it?

You’re certainly not alone. But if we’re going to build the saner society we all want, we cannot stay stuck in despair. It’s time to get constructive.

On July 20th, Metta Center hosted and recorded this productive, inspirational conversation about finding our way to mutual healing and reaching for our highest human potential.  For those of you who could not make, or for those who could and would like to review, click here to listen or use the audio controls below.

 

Nonviolence Education Call #2: Six Principles of Nonviolence

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This summer, the Metta Center for Nonviolence is hosting a series on nonviolence education and building community that particularly focuses on how and why nonviolence can be particularly effective for reconciling conflict in schools. Special guest Robin Wildman, a nonviolence educator from Broad Rock Middle School in Rhode Island with 25 years of teaching experience, leads this three-part series on June 9th, July 14th, and August 4th from 5 – 6pm PST (Register here!). Topics include breaking down conflict, understanding core nonviolence principles, and reconciling conflict.

(more…)

Intro to Kingian Nonviolence with Kazu – Podcast

This webinar is the first part of a two-part offering the Metta Center is making primarily to Bernie supporters going to Philadelphia, but essential as well for the long term.  In it, Kazu Haga of the Eastpoint Peace Academy offers the basics of nonviolence training.  Part two will be a long-term nonviolent strategy.  For the latter, those of you at the Philadelphia gatherings can contact Gail Koffman through Metta’s Facebook page or find her at the Progressive Democrats of America booth.  And/or have a look at our Roadmap tool and if it interests you sign up to be part of the strategy conversations at this link.

CLICK HERE to listen or use the audio controls below! 

Martin Luther King