Peace Fellows Trained in Kingian Nonviolence

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Coordinator, Chicago Peace Fellows

On Monday, July 8, the Institute for Nonviolence Chicago hosted a Kingian Nonviolence workshop for the Chicago Peace Fellows and grantees of the Chicago Fund for Safe and Peaceful Communities. The Institute for Nonviolence is a street outreach organization that specializes in connecting with individuals who are most at risk of being a victim or perpetrator of violence. They also provide support for families of victims of violence and help people returning from prison find resources such as jobs, housing or health related services. The Chicago Fund for Safe and Peaceful Communities provide small grants of up to $10,000 to grassroots community leaders who are hosting activities in neighborhoods on the West and South sides that have high rates of violence. All of the Chicago Peace Fellows were recipients of these grants in 2018. 

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The Institute for Nonviolence Chicago invited the Chicago Peace Fellows and grantees of the Chicago Fund for Safe and Peaceful Communities for training led by Benny Lee on the steps and principles of nonviolence as taught by Martin Luther King Jr to his organizers in communities across the nation. Benny is a former leader of the Vice Lords, a notorious gang on the West Side, who spent decades in prison. Benny talked openly about his stint on death row after he and several others were charged with inciting a prison riot in the ‘70s. He shared about how nonviolence principles changed his life and helped him learn how to solve conflict and fight for justice in a different way.

 

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Through the training, Benny shared his vision for building the Beloved Community, an all-inclusive society built around universal acceptance, healing from trauma, and celebration of successes. He encouraged the participants of the workshop to join him and each other in building the Beloved Community. 

The Chicago Peace Fellows and other grantees asked questions and participated in conversation with Benny and each other. One Chicago Peace Fellow, Adi Lerner, who works at the Westside Justice Center as a program director, asked,

“How do we truly embrace nonviolence in violent circumstances?” -- Adi Lerner, Chicago Peace Fellow

Adi stressed that often she finds many of the people she works with are victims of overt violence but also violent systems such as forced poverty, mass incarceration and systemic oppression. Benny shared his experience in fighting against these forces for returning citizens, people coming home from prison, and how he has made breakthroughs in returning their rights such as getting licenses that they were previously prohibited from getting by the state of Illinois. He said the principles are his grounding metrics for how he takes action to fight for peace.

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The Nonviolence Principles are as follows: 

  • Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people.
  • Building the Beloved Community is the goal.
  • Attack the forces of evil, not persons doing evil.
  • Accept suffering without retaliation for the sake of the Just Cause.
  • Avoid inner-violence of the spirit as well as outwardly physical violence.
  • The universe is on the side of justice. 

Overall, the group really enjoyed the experience and connected with one another around the material. The Institute for Nonviolence hosts 3 day nonviolence workshops that are open to the public. Please visit their website to learn more about the organization, their upcoming events and trainings.

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