Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Nonviolence Now! Author Alycee Lane discusses her book


Alycee J. Lane is a former professor who taught African American literature and culture at UC Santa Barbara. She is author of "Coming in from the Cold," a blog in which she analyzes political and social issues through the prism of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s philosophy of nonviolence. A student of Engaged Buddhism, Alycee in 2012 participated in the year-long Commit to Dharma course offered by the East Bay Meditation Center under the tutelage of Larry Yang. She earned her Bachelor of Arts from Howard University, Doctorate of Philosophy from UCLA, and Juris Doctor from UC Berkeley (Boalt Hall). Alycee currently lives in Oakland, California. Alycee was one of the presenters at ACN's 2015 conference on "Challenges to Nonviolence."


ACN: We were so pleased to meet you when you came to Ashland earlier this year and presented a terrific paper about the ways that the language of nonviolence gets co-opted by official and governmental appeals to "peaceful protests." Now it's great to celebrate the recent publication of your book, Nonviolence Now!: Living the 1963 Birmingham Campaign's Promise of Peace. Could share with us, first of all, the reasons why you wrote this book?


AL: Nonviolence Now! was not the book that I intended to write. What I intended to write was a book on the subject of African Americans and Buddhism – a topic inspired by my participation on the East Bay Meditation Center’s year-long Commit to Dharma (C2D) Buddhism study group, facilitated by Larry Yang. In particular, I was initially interested in the growing African American Buddhist community and how it was thinking through the relationship between African American histories/cultures and Buddhist practices.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Charleston Shooting was Terrorism

By Craig Hovey

It’s important to refer to the shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina as an act of terrorism. I join with others (like here and here) in insisting not only that the June 17 massacre meets the FBI’s definition of terrorism, but also that calling it by its proper name is important to highlight America’s long history of terrorism against African Americans.
Photo courtesy of ibtimes.com

There may be a connection between Wednesday’s terrorist attack and the thwarted 1822 slave revolt centered at the church (see articles here and here). Even more likely is a connection with April’s shooting of Walter Scott, an unarmed black man who was shot in the back and killed by a white police officer in Charleston as he tried to flee. (The police officer was indicted for murder.) The church’s pastor, Clementa Pinckney who was also a state senator, had led a prayer vigil for Scott and had pushed for police officers to wear body cameras. 

Monday, June 8, 2015

An Element of Violence

By Jeff Weidenhamer

Following Freddie Gray’s death in Baltimore, the Washington Post reported that he, like too many other children of the inner city, grew up with lead poisoning.  At 22 months, Freddie Gray’s blood lead concentration was 37 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood.  This is high enough to cause serious brain damage and far exceeds the level (5 micrograms per deciliter) identified by the Centers for Disease Control as the current level of concern.  Less well appreciated is the link between lead and violence in our society.
 
It is hard to grasp just how poisonous lead is to young children.  An average grain of salt weighs approximately 100 micrograms.  Dissolve that in 2 liters of water and you have a concentration of 5 micrograms per deciliter. What do these miniscule amounts of lead do to a young child?  Effects linked to low-level lead exposure in children include reductions in IQ, learning disabilities, and ADHD. Ralph Spezio, a Rochester NY principal, found that all of the children in his school’s special education programs had histories of elevated lead exposures.  The brain damage caused by lead is permanent, and the only way to prevent harm is to prevent exposure.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Peaceful Protests and Rioting in Baltimore

By Craig Hovey

The recent rioting in Baltimore following the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray from injuries sustained while in police custody has called for a return to “peaceful protests” from various government entities. As someone committed to nonviolence, I might be heartened to hear authorities suddenly embrace the language of peace. But there are some reasons to be wary of how this language is being used.
  1. When authorities call for peaceful protests, it is because security achieved and maintained through violence is under threat. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was right to distinguish peace from security. Security, at least in the short term, might be achieved through violence and the threat of violence. The security that has been achieved this way is likewise vulnerable to being upset by violence. In a speech delivered in Denmark in 1934, Bonhoeffer declared that “There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared. It is the great venture. It can never be safe. Peace is the opposite of security.” When peaceful protest flows from a belief that peace and justice are the deep grammar of things, or the arc of the moral universe, or God’s will, then protest isn’t restraining itself in the name of security. 
  2. Why does the media seem more reticent in their condemnation of police violence compared to their condemnation of the violence of rioters? Check out the double standard in Wolf Blitzer’s interview with organizer Deray McKesson [video featured above]. Calling for peaceful protests amounts to a double standard if wrongful police violence isn’t also condemned with the same moral intensity and sincerity as are riots. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

“We’re Taking Back the Rainbow!”

By Emily Wirtz

Now, I know that I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, specifically those of #TheSelmaProject, that I’m from the Youngstown area, which just so happens to be ridden with crime and inequality. This is not to say that everyone from Youngstown falls into this category of anti-activism, but it’s come to my attention that some crazy things have been going on back in my hometown.

Youngstown State University is big on diversity—it is in Youngstown, Ohio—and for the most part, people are okay with that. Youngstown city and YSU are full of wonderful, accepting people…but there are always those who fight progress for the traditional, for the safe, non-progressive “values” that seem to always end up being on the wrong side of history. Must we revisit the Civil Rights Movement? Yes—because we’re still in it.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Whiteness and Blackness

By Emily Wirtz

During the month of February, Ashland University’s Center for the Arts hosted a faculty art show in the Coburn Gallery. Dr. Cynthia Petry, the director of the art gallery, created a piece for show entitled “Whiteness and Blackness.” Centered in the gallery, the piece seemed large but simple at first glance. After an up-close look and a discussion with Petry, however, it was clear the piece had a life all its own. In the light of the recent Black History month, MLK Day, Selma, etc., the piece stood out as a bold statement, not simply on the colors of black and white as art, but on the contrast of Blacks and Whites in America. She portrayed in the piece both contemporary situations and those dating back to pre-abolition.

The piece reflected modern racism in a way that throws you back into history and reveals an incredible parallel between the civil rights movement and the racially motivated crime and discrimination of today. “Whiteness and Blackness” included pictures and printouts of news articles and social media posts sewn together and hung from repeated printout portraits of two black adolescents, a male and a female, with whom the artist attended school. She then explained that the girl photographed in the project was one whom she considered her best friend, but lamented that they were only able to be "school friends," as races did not mix at all in the south. She says that she was taught from a very young age what was appropriate and what was not--being friends with a young black girl was not.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Welcome Remarks for ACN's 2015 Conference

By Craig Hovey

Our theme of challenges to nonviolence is meant to encourage a certain amount of introspection. It’s designed to provide a chance for those of us who are committed to nonviolence in one way or another to allow the best accusations and arguments of our critics to engender some reflection and response that’s hopefully not overly quick. To me, this is actually part of the way of nonviolence itself and it is something I have seen most consistently displayed in the work of the Mennonite theologian John Howard Yoder.

Yoder, who had a long career at the University of Notre Dame, was from this part of Ohio. And even though he was deeply committed to the pacifism of Mennonite Christianity, he understood what he thought of as kind of ecumenical openness to be an expression of his commitment to nonviolence. It’s a form of turning the other cheek, going the extra mile, and loving one’s enemy to give one’s opponent the benefit of the doubt or to attempt to take her professed position seriously and, in some cases, more seriously than one’s opponent does herself.