Our Community Could Be Safe from Violence? Investing in the Possibility of Peace
I had the opportunity to sit down with Kingian Nonviolence trainer Kazu Haga a few weeks ago. Built on principles outlined by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Kingian Nonviolence offers inspirational and practical training in prisons, schools, and communities. This is the first in a series of excerpts from our interview together. ~ Dawn
The Impossibility of Nonviolence
We were in a training two years ago [at Chicago's North Lawndale College Prep] and in the middle of the workshop one of the young women in the workshop got a text message that her best friend was just shot and was in the hospital.
We put the training on hold and we circled up and we were singing songs. The teacher for that school mentioned that there are communities, neighborhoods even, in the city of Chicago where kids getting shot up every day is not part of their daily reality. The level of violence they see in their community is not normal and we can do better than that.
Another young woman stood up with this puzzled look on her face and she was like “What?” and she started arguing with us, saying that’s not true, this is how it is everywhere and this is how it’s always been.
It hit me at that moment that for a lot of young people growing up in these communities they have never known anything but. The idea that they could either turn their communities around or the idea there are other communities where this isn’t normal is just so foreign to them that she couldn’t even comprehend the idea.
It hurt me so much to recognize that, but then a couple years later looking back on it to realize she is now one of the student peace workers at North Lawndale College Prep and is one of the students responsible for the amazing turnaround of the culture of that school just gives me a lot of hope.
Origins of Kingian Nonviolence
Kingian nonviolence grew out of a conversation that a man by the name of Dr. Bernard Lafayette had with Mr. King on the night before King was assassinated, when they were in the motel room in Memphis together. And as Dr. Lafayette was leaving the motel room, he had to go to off to Washington, D.C. to attend a press conference, Dr. King called out to him and said: “You know Bernard, the next movement we need to have is to institutionalize and internationalize nonviolence.” Dr. Lafayette left the room thinking he didn’t quite know what King meant by that, but that they would finish the conversation some time.
He left the room, and unfortunately they were never able to finish that conversation because of what happened just a few hours after that. Dr. Lafayette took that to be Dr. King’s marching orders, to institutionalize and internationalize nonviolence education. He worked with another gentleman named David Jensen to create this training curriculum called Kingian nonviolence to take Dr. King’s teachings and try to embed them into the day to day operations of high schools, prisons, jails, community centers, things like that, as a way to really take nonviolence not just as a way to protest and as a way to organize demonstrations and movements, but also as a way to teach people to relate to each other within movements, within our communities.
Investing in Peace
One of the principles of Kingian nonviolence is that the universe is on the side of justice. A lot of people look at that principle and say, “With all the violence in the world, how can you tell me that the universe is just?” One of the ways I like to look at it is sort of like the sense of karma. We get out of life what we put into it and we look at all the investments we put into violence as a society, then we act surprised when we see so much violence in the world.
I think the example that that young girl at that school showed us is if we invest in the peace, the justice in the universe will ensure that those are the returns that we get. But, it is really up to us to invest in it.
Dr. Lafayette’s idea and Dr King’s marching orders of institutionalizing nonviolence education in institutions around the country is a way to invest in peace and having faith that if we invest in that peace will reward us and we will see some of those returns.
Kazu Haga is a nonviolence trainer and founder of the East Point Peace Academy in Oakland, California. East Point Peace Academy envisions a world where historic conflicts are fully reconciled and where new conflict arises solely as an opportunity for deeper growth. Where the depth of human relations are so high that it allows each individual to attain their fullest human potential. Kazu works in prisons, jails, schools and communities to build a powerful, nonviolent movement of peace warriors.
Kazu’s strength comes from his commitment to peace work since the age of 17, when he embarked on a 1.5-year journey across the US and South Asia, studying nonviolence while living in temples with a Buddhist order committed to peace and justice. He reflects “I believe that those working for peace need to have the same levels of commitment, training, strategy and discipline that the military invests into war. The military trains its leaders at WestPoint. EastPoint will serve as a counter to that.” Contact Kazu at firstname.lastname@example.org