Monday, December 14, 2015

Fourteen Going on 40: An Open Letter to the First Man to Call Me Beautiful

By Anonymous

“Mia bella,” you said. “I love you.”

It made me uneasy. When you told me to say it back, I was afraid. When you told me not to tell, I was terrified. If I said five years later I’m not scared anymore, I would be lying. I’m suspicious of any man who’s not significantly younger than I am. 

For five years now, plus one day, you’ve overtaken me. You’ve bitten my nails and gritted my teeth and carved deep into my skin. 

You taught me that love was controlling. Love was fear and anxiety and depression. It was giving in and giving up. It was lying and fake smiles and falling grades. Love was hating myself. It was falling asleep on the bathroom floor. It was shamefully leaving every meal to bow down to the toilet bowl and watch the numbers on the scale go up and down.

You taught me that keeping secrets was better than walking into school to get shoved into lockers and called a slut and a whore and a home-wrecker. Keeping secrets was better than getting dumped. Keeping secrets was better than watching myself become a news story.

Keeping secrets was better than being blamed for my stupidity. Keeping secrets was better than watching my dad cry.

You taught me what a sociopath was. You taught me how a predator’s eyes shine with insatiable hunger.

You taught me a lot of things that I didn’t know yet.

But you also taught me empathy.

You taught me how to see past another person’s defenses because I had built up so many of my own. Fighting back was not an option, at least not a good one. You taught me that it is better to meet insults with kind words, anger with happiness, and stubbornness with patience.

Working myself up to bring someone else down isn’t worth it.

You taught me to see fear behind bright eyes. But you also taught me to see light and naivety behind dark suspicion.

Most importantly, you taught me to teach myself.

I’ve learned how to be the bigger, better person. I’ve learned how to cry and not feel ashamed. I’ve learned that I’m not fighting this battle alone; I’m striving for a world without fight.

I’ve learned that wounds heal, and while scars don’t disappear, they certainly fade and there comes a time when they’re no longer a reminder of the past, but of the future I chose to have.

I’ve learned to stand up for myself. I’ve learned to be myself.

I’ve learned that you taught me the wrong meaning of “I love you.” He’s kind, and caring, and sees beyond the countless walls I’ve built up. He knows my past and who I am. He taught me the meaning of “I love you,” and it is not full of shame and secrets.

I’ve learned to open up. It’s not so bad to put myself out there sometimes. As horribly cliché as it is, every time the sun sets it promises to rise again in the morning. Darkness doesn’t last forever. I’ve learned that.

Life should not be a power struggle, but it often is. The thing is though, I have to have power over myself. My life is not about you, it’s about me. Growing up isn’t easy on the calendar’s time. It’s even harder when forced to grow up faster. Even then…maturity isn’t such a bad thing. Sometimes bad things aren’t always bad things. They’re opportunities to grow and see the strength that was already there. You’ve given me opportunities not to fight the world, but to try and save it.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Peace means Community

By John Stratton

Last night (Dec 8) about fifty people—students and community members—gathered around the flag pole on the AU campus for a silent vigil remembering the victims of mass shootings. It was mostly silent. There was some chatting, some singing, and a little speaking, but it was a time of reflection on the shootings that are filing the newscasts and the headlines.

We lit candles, but it was hard to keep them lit in the chilly breeze. We turned to each other to relight them, and often the candle that had just been relit was used to relight the other candle that had itself just gone out.

That lighting, relighting, and relighting of the candles is a powerful metaphor for community. We lit and relit each other's candles without thinking that in another moment our candle would need to be relit. We kept the community bright, not by building a single giant candle but by keeping all the candles lit. We held back the darkness because we each were holding candles and helping others keep their candles going.

We were a small group acting out, in a small way, the meaning of community. It is a model for all us—to light and relight each other's candles, while knowing that someone will relight ours if we need it.

John Stratton is a member of the steering committee and emeritus director of ACN.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Prerequisite for Peace

By Andrew Kinney

Tonight, on Ashland University’s quad, we’ll gather to honor the victims of violence and make silent protest to recent threats of violence. Prayer and community can be powerful strategies in times of terror.

The recent uproar over “prayer shaming” (we would do well to recognize our own constant struggles moving from good intention to appropriate action) misunderstands the purpose and function of prayer. Still, in this time of social upheaval and national angst, those of us who pray may wonder if we’re doing it right. We may wonder if we are talking, like Ginsberg, to ourselves again.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Let's Come Together for a Vigil for Peace

The Ashland Center for Nonviolence is planning a candlelight vigil for tomorrow 
in response to recent mass shootings.

Everyone is welcome.

Tuesday, 12/8 at 8pm
Meet at the Flagpole in the Ashland University Quad

Friday, December 4, 2015

Understanding Our Gun Culture: 2017 Conference Theme Announced

The United States reportedly has more gun deaths and more guns per capita than any other developed country. It is also estimated that there are now more guns than people in the U.S. Now, as mass shootings seem to have become routine, the political climate has settled into clear camps of those who advocate stricter gun controls and those who oppose them. ACN hopes to improve and enrich these and other discussions through its 2017 annual conference, "Understanding Our Gun Culture."

"Something clearly has to change," says Craig Hovey, executive director of the Ashland Center for Nonviolence. "Everyone agrees that there's too much gun violence in the United States. But we're deeply divided on how to address it. I don't think we should be afraid of disagreement, but as H. Richard Niebuhr once said, the first question isn't 'What should we do?' but 'What is going on?' The conference is meant to lead to a smarter discourse about American gun culture by helping us understand it."

Understanding Our Gun Culture conference
March 31 - April 1, 2017
Ashland University

More details will follow. 

Don't forget to REGISTER for our 2016 conference on Sports and Violence. 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

ACN Intern Maria Cardona discusses her "Know Violence, No Violence" series

Images from Maria Cardona's graphic art series "Know Violence, No Violence" are currently circulating on campus plasma screens. We wanted to hear about what inspired Maria, an ACN intern, to address the many ways we encounter violence, including issues of race and stereotyping, using graphic media.

ACN: What inspired you to create the "Know Violence. No Violence" series?

Maria Cardona:
 There are multiple factors that went into the creation of the Know Violence, No Violence series. The first was artist Traci Molloy's visit to Ashland in October. Her artwork really showed me the impact that images can have and how art can be used as a way to combat violence and ignorance. 

Aside from Molloy's presentation, the idea of microagressions and racism played a huge role in the series. I wanted to represent the harsh stereotypes people of various races have to deal with on a daily basis and how these stereotypes dehumanize people into caricatures of who they really are. Sometimes stereotypes and generalizations make us miss the opportunity to really get to know people for who they are and not who they are "supposed" to be. As a minority, it is such a struggle to debunk these stereotypes, because sometimes we get so caught up in not being a stereotype that we can't really show every part of who we are. 

Other than race, mental violence also helped me to create this series and to focus on the idea that violence isn't always physical or perpetrated by someone else. Mental health issues, especially anxiety and depression, inspired me to show the inner war many of us fight daily with our own selves. We don't think of these attacks on ourselves as violence but the long-lasting effects they leave on us and our self-esteem are proof that it is a type of violence--and that it is important for us to recognize it as this in order to combat it. 

The final element that inspired me to create the series was the massive issue of rape. After reading the play "I Dream Before I Take the Stand" by Arlene Hutton, I was frustrated by how widespread victim-blaming is in this play and how ten years after this play was written our society seems to continue to hold the same beliefs. Reading this amazing play was what really inspired me to do something against victim-blaming and show that instead of silencing victims, we need to encourage them to seek help and justice.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

After Beirut & Paris: Justice without Mercy?

By Craig Hovey

Last weeks horrific and deadly attacks in Beirut and Paris call first and foremost for silence. After Pearl Harbor, Dorothy Day began her column in the Catholic Worker by asking “shall we keep silent, or shall we speak? And if we speak, what shall we say?” Like the commendable silence of Job’s friends when they saw that his suffering was great, human tragedy of this sort and on this scale shocks us — the most human thing we can do is suffer with the sufferers and mourn with the mourners.
In the last few days we have been seeing a lot of different forms this solidarity takes. I was struck by this account in which a Parisian tells NPR’s David Greene how she opened her apartment to frightened mourners who had gathered in the street outside but who became alarmed when a loud sound went off:
DAVID GREENE: You brought 40 strangers into your apartment… who were just very afraid? 
JULIE MARKS: Yeah … I said, of course, come in. I mean, being friendly is all we have now. Having compassion, it's all we have now because if we just keep being afraid and being lonely and alone, you know, an individual, we have lost everything.
This initial burst of spontaneous mutual support and compassion for strangers, born of the mayhem of the last few days, is impressive. It is the spirit of nonviolence: discovering the community-building alternatives that meet needs and build people up.

But it also contrasts with the long-term war-planning coming out of the French government. Inevitably, it seems—as with Job’s friends—the talk will change from openness and solidarity to explanations and calls for justice, punishment, and revenge. Dorothy Day went on from her initial silence to affirm her organization’s commitment to nonviolence in the remainder of her column, “Our Country Passes from Undeclared War to Declared War; We Continue Our Christian Pacifist Stand.”

The nonviolence tradition with which I most identify is a faith tradition that, in an earlier time, preferred the language of nonresistance to nonviolence, peace, and even justice. Nonresistance was a way of talking about refusing to respond in kind: hatred for hatred, violence for violence. The cycles of reprisal and revenge, it was acknowledged, would go on indefinitely until they are decisively and peaceably broken when one side embraces an alternative instead.

This tradition, and ones like it, have always faced their toughest opposition when nonresistance appears simply to be inadequate to some injustice, usually in wartime. Speaking about nonresistance in times like this feels a lot like speaking as Job’s friends: unwelcome and ill-timed.

Yet I believe it is necessary to speak, primarily since others are speaking too. French president François Hollande has called these terrorist attacks “an act of war” against France. The decision to call these acts “war” is the choice to respond to violence with violence rather than find other ways, ways to break the cycle. Hollande, we have heard, has promised a “merciless response” to the attacks.

War may not only be waged mercilessly, but it is also itself a response devoid of mercy. After Pearl Harbor, Dorothy Day acknowledged that war is a place and a circumstance where mercy is most needed. “Our works of mercy may take us into the midst of war.” She urged members of her organization to refuse to contribute to the fighting, but instead to look for ways to continue works of mercy where there are especially great risks because the needs are also so great.

Nonviolence does not mean being passive in the face of violence and injustice. It requires our greatest innovation and creativity in addressing the serious troubles endured by victims and which threaten to make victims out of yet others. What it will not do is withhold mercy in order to accomplish its ends.

Craig Hovey is executive director of the Ashland Center for Nonviolence.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Identities: Murderer

By Emily Wirtz

Every one of us has an identity. Every one of us also has an ethnicity, a race, a gender, a class, and a past. How we choose to identify ourselves may or may not be one of those categories. Unfortunately, all too often a stereotype arises from something that makes us who we are. Our race becomes our label, or our gender, sexuality, class, etc. and those labels become how we are identified—not how we identify ourselves. All too often a black man is perceived to have a gun in his pocket instead of a checkbook. A woman dressed in old sweats is perceived to have a food stamps card instead of a teaching license. A man on the streets is seen as a lazy addict instead of a man with a Ph.D. and a family to feed.

On October 8, visiting artist Traci Molloy spoke in the Ridenour lecture hall—and she filled the house. As her presentation went on, it was clear that the information she was sharing with us was a powerful message she shared through her art. She considers herself as much a social activist as an artist, and I would have to agree. One of the first pieces she shared was a series entitled “Kids that Kill Kids.”


From this series came a variety of portraits and overlapping text. One piece that stood out to me in particular was one named “Missed/Dismissed.” Its display contains a series of mugshot-style portraits of both victims and perpetrators on death row. Each portrait is equally whitewashed, and the text plaques on either side are statements made by the mother of a murdered child and by the mother of a child who committed murder. The grief is the same. It is the same humanity captured within the art and the words it speaks.

If we were to look at a portrait of a sad 17-year-old, wouldn’t our immediate thought be of a child? But, if we were to look at the mug shot of a 17-year-old on death row, knowing that he had murdered a child, would we still think of him as a child? Would we have the heart to forgive him or would we condemn him? These are the exact questions that Traci’s art seeks to make us ponder. They aren’t easy questions to answer; how much worse it must be for their mothers! Perhaps this piece deals less with stereotypes and more with morality, but “murderer” and “victim” have become these children’s labels. Those are their identities—she seeks to challenge this. Nothing is black and white. Even the portraits have grey areas.

Emily Wirtz is an ACN Peace Scholar and Intern.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

What We Didn’t Talk About - Race and Diversity

By Maria Cardona

On a chilly fall Wednesday night at 7:40, 7 shots are heard in downtown Ashland. A single bullet strikes a Chinese restaurant where outside, a group of Americans and Asians stood conversing. The shots startle and frighten the group as a car drives away somewhere between the Church and West Second street intersection. Relief washes over the group; no one was harmed.

Four days go by. The buzz about the seemingly random shooting has died down quite a bit, when suddenly email alerts go off everywhere. Staff and students from the University all open up an email and concern and fear takes hold of them. The vagueness of it all inspires fright in the community worried about themselves and the rest of the student body.

It is then all revealed in multiple news reports: The shooting was not as random as previously thought but an act of racial violence. While it has become clear that the victims of this horrid crime are Asians, many questions are left unanswered. Who would do such a thing? Why would they do it in the first place? And, is everyone truly safe?

More news reports surface and suspects are taken into custody, but three words stick out from the page: charges are pending. Seph Valentine, a 32 year old and Tammy Lunsford, 54 have been apprehended and the community is alerted that once more, we are safe. But in reality, are we?

With no knowledge of charges being brought up yet, and the disconcerting revelation that Valentine had been convicted in 2010 after “making and leaving homemade bombs in public places,” (Mansfield News Journal) how could we feel truly safe? We were being pushed back into the bubble of the safe, small town dream, but this only filled us with a false sense of security.

While it is true that Valentine did serve out his sentence, and stronger charges were not pressed because the bombs were not capable of detonation, Valentine still intended for these to function properly and harm others. As I read the article from the Mansfield News Journal, an important piece of the puzzle is uncovered. Valentine is a schizophrenic which might give some insight into why he’s committed these crimes but the article concludes by stating that “during his 2010 trial, he was declared competent to stand trial.” Unsettling feelings resurface once more as it’s clear that his condition is no excuse.

Multiple articles on the shooting spread through social media like wildfire as the students vocalize their concern, yet by Wednesday/Thursday it seems as if the buzz has died down. I came into this short class week expecting students and/or professors to reference the violence that had ensued just 0.6 miles from our campus, but nothing was said.

Classes went on as normal and professors expressed that they hoped we had a “nice fall break,” but the shooting went by completely unspoken of. It was jarring to me and some of my fellow students to realize that we were apparently going to ignore this. We seemed perfectly content with the news that suspects were apprehended and we were “out of danger,” but are we truly in the clear?

If 5 years ago this man had committed a crime and after 3½ years in prison he committed another, what’s to say that Valentine won’t do it again and again? And if not Valentine, what’s to say that someone else won’t come into our small town and commit a crime of a similar nature? Our false sense of security and the fact that we keep our guard down because “it’s Ashland” paints a huge, red target on our town.

I am not suggesting that we should live in constant fear and are plagued by paranoia of crime being around the corner, but we need to stop using “it’s Ashland” as an excuse. Yes, we live in a small town. Yes, most of the time it’s calm and quiet. But we can’t ignore the days when it’s not.

Perhaps there is more to us ignoring this than just the belief that we are safe in our small town bubble. It is clear to anyone that our campus is mostly Caucasian students, and perhaps it is the lower rates in diversity that we experience that bring about this carelessness. While I do not claim that it is intentional, some students might have ignored the facts because it didn’t directly affect them.

However, what happens in our community happens to all of us. We need to stand together; worry together, and more importantly we can’t sweep the issues under the rug and pretend they’re not there. An important conversation needs to take place, I believe, on race and discrimination.

Many are blind to racism nowadays because they see racism as something overt, but that is not the racism of our day. While clearly the shooting was an obvious racial attack, it is microagressions that plague our world today. Unless we learn to recognize these and talk about race openly and respectfully, we will make no progress.

So let’s talk about race and racism, let’s talk about microagressions, and let’s talk about prejudice. Let’s clear up some stereotypes, let’s love each other for who we are instead of what we look like. Ashland University has a growing diversity rate and these students are not different from anyone else. We are all AU Eagles so let’s talk about this shooting and move forward, stronger and more united than ever before.

Maria Cardona is a junior at Ashland University and an intern with the Ashland Center for Nonviolence.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Professional Profile: Dr. Marc Hedrick

A new professor in Criminal Justice at Ashland University, Dr. Marc Hedrick, grew up in Naperville, just outside of Chicago. Obtaining a Bachelor’s and proceeding Master’s degree after working in the Air Force, Hedrick began work in the police force and subsequently as a teacher in North Carolina.

His work and interest in the field of restorative justice began in law school, where he was introduced to the subject. He later taught at Taylor University, a relatively small Christian university, which introduced these new and unfamiliar practices within their Justice Studies curriculum. As a Christian university, restorative justice was vital to practices in peace and justice, characteristic of Christian doctrine. This became Hedrick’s capstone project, ending his chapter at Regent and beginning a new chapter in education.

I had the wonderful opportunity to speak with Hedrick personally about restorative justice and his career.

Wirtz: How do you see restorative justice being used practically outside of the classroom?
Hedrick: Restorative justice can be used in everything from vandalism to rape and murder. During my career, I was able to work with a juvenile facility, and we tried to build a restorative justice element into the system. Unfortunately that goal never got off the ground. The Real Justice Institute [now the International Institute for Restorative Practices] does a lot to teach restorative justice and does a lot of conferencing. They bring the victim and offender together, as long as both parties agree to meeting, and ask “How can we make this right?” It’s like mediation, yes, but used in criminal cases instead of civil cases.

Wirtz: Do you see mediation and other forms of restorative practices being used in the community?
Hedrick: Absolutely. Restorative justice is generally not used, but I practiced law in Mansfield for 8 years, and I know most—probably 99%—of their civil cases are resolved through mediation. These cases are usually between an insurance company and the other party and are often court-ordered. On the criminal side, prosecutors’ offices also supplied victim services outside of this, providing updates on cases and preparation for witnesses.

Wirtz: Clearly mediation dominates restorative justice practically, but do you see it coming into play in the future?
Hedrick: I think the question here is has it topped out yet? We don’t know. Restorative justice probably won’t ever abolish the current justice system, but I could see it possibly becoming some sort of hybrid between the two. Restorative justice could replace criminal justice in juvenile cases and low-level or first-time offenders, but with violent crime there’s just not that possibility for full restoration, although it’s still beneficial if the perpetrator has true repentance. The goal here is to put the victim first. The victim has the say so in whether or not these types of practices and meetings are used.

Wirtz: So what are the benefits you see in using restorative justice?
Hedrick: Obviously the victim gets some kind of resolution, maybe closure, but the offender and society also benefit, if their benefits are second. These kinds of practices would greatly reduce the law and order kind of system we’ve had in place since the ‘80s. It prevents recycling the offender through the system, which really just causes more damage and costs more money anyways. Restorative justice is repairing harm rather than creating more harm.

Wirtz: Now that you teach here in the CJ department, do you teach any restorative justice classes or incorporate these methods into your other classes?
Hedrick: Unfortunately, no, we don’t have any restorative justice classes at this time. I do incorporate some of the ideas into my Victimology class, though. We focus of the why, how, who, and history. It’s basically the rediscovery of the victim. Our criminal justice system focuses so much on the perp., we forget the victim, so much so that the wrongs went from the individual to the state. Now, with restorative justice, or even just its basic ideals, we can focus on the actual damage done to the victim. This is restorative justice.

Emily Wirtz is an ACN Peace Scholar and Intern.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

ACN Peace Scholars Meet with AU President

Ashland University President, Dr. Carlos Campo, met with the ACN Peace Scholars and interns today. 

From left: Maria Cardona, Brianna Sargent, William Summers, Dr. Carlos Campo, 
Emily Wirtz, Ryann Crockett, Marissa Johnson 

“I am excited about the new scholar program as part of the University’s Center for Nonviolence, which is a perfect fit for a University founded by the Brethren, a church rooted in the peace tradition,” said AU President Carlos Campo. “The center as well as its new program challenges us to begin with a mindset of peace instead of one for war.”

Find out more about the ACN Peace Scholars program here.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Peaceable Animal Kingdom

By Emily Wirtz

Over the summer, my two new roommates and I took a girl-bonding trip to the Columbus Zoo. What can we say? We find rescued animals much more interesting than the latest fashion trends at Macy’s. We walked through exhibits from all over the world, got an impromptu tour of the manatees, and took more than enough pictures. However, what I didn’t expect was a lesson in peace from apes.

The bonobo, closely related to the chimpanzee and humans, is on the Red List of endangered species. The most fascinating part of this exhibit, however, was the sign in front of the bonobos’ habitat. “Peaceable Kingdom,” it read, using the language of Stanley Hauerwas, a prolific theologian and ethicist. This could additionally reflect the Quaker ideals represented in Edward Hicks’ painting, portraying a peaceful scene of animals and children from the book of Isaiah.

It explains the bonds between these apes. The female bonobos, especially mothers, are extremely sociable and get along well with both male and female bonobos. This allows the apes to live both in small and large communities—up to 200 in a single group! Very little conflict occurs within these groups due to their cliché, but entirely legitimate, way of living: “Make love, not war.” This quote held its own spot on the bonobos’ exhibit, and yes, it means exactly what the peace-mongering hippies of the ‘60s intended: “The hallmark of bonobo society is its use of sexual activity to help keep peace!” Granted this is probably not the method we as humans should use to reduce conflict, the bonobos and science alike have proven that this methodology does in fact relieve tensions.

We might not take a literal lesson from the bonobos, but if apes can strive for peace, why shouldn’t we find a way that works for us? Even if we don’t take the lesson from them, ideas of peace and community were scattered about the entire zoo, including one by Martin Luther: “Everything that is done in the world is done by hope.” I think if anything is to be learned from the zoo community, it is to move forward in peace, hope, and love—“not war.”

Emily Wirtz is a Peace Scholar and student intern with the Ashland Center for Nonviolence.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Our 2015 Annual Report

Check out our annual report and read about all of the exciting things we did last year.

Click on the above image.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Our Souls

By Craig Hovey

Seventy years ago, the United States dropped two atomic bombs on Japan, ending World War II. Now, after decades of nuclear weapons buildup across the globe and some disarmament following the end of the cold war, there are questions about whether and how Iran’s nuclear plans can be kept reliably peaceful and how Japan’s pacifist constitution can be maintained. Nine nations currently have nuclear weapons.

Urakami Cathedral following the Nagasaki bombing Courtesy of
Aristotle taught that we do not simply act based on decisions that we make; our characters and dispositions are formed by what we do and in turn inspire our further actions. This works for both virtues and vices: good actions can make a good person; bad actions can make a bad person. And while most ethicists categorically condemn the US bombing of Japan, it is less common to ask what kind of societal soul both produces and is produced by it.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Sign the Nonviolence Commitment Card -- Help us reach 1,000 signatures

Alycee Lane's book, Nonviolence Now!: Living the 1963 Birmingham Campaign's Promise of Peace got me thinking about the kinds of commitments we make to nonviolence. Have a look at our interview with her here. Lane cautions against the inherently "masculine" accounts of nonviolence in which nonviolence is merely a tactic that better ensures victory for a cause in certain instances. 

But when peace is a personal commitment and a way of life, as Lane insists it should be, it will not only run much deeper within us, but it will also, as a consequence, yield a much more disciplined and ultimately effective movement. Even though it's now 50 years later, today's continuing challenges especially on violence and race in America will benefit from the kinds of cautions and counsels that Lane makes. 

So we at ACN thought it would be good to have another look at the 1963 pledge and to invite others to consider committing themselves to it. 

Even though the original Commitment Card reflected the Christian ethos of much of the movement, many others have since then found other religious and secular ways of articulating their deep concern and personal devotion to the ways of peace.

Our goal is 1,000 signatures. Help us reach our goal!

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

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.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Unchained, Unbroken

By Emily Wirtz

Recently, during the final weekend of January, amidst the chaos and costume of Ohayocon, members Ashland Women’s Chorus had the opportunity to travel to the Ohio State University to participate in the CONCEPT: Freedom Choral Festival. To raise awareness and funds for human trafficking and its prevention, OSU hosted the choral festival over a three-day period, consisting of a screening of Very Young Girls, a Women’s Glee club performance, featured speakers, a photography exhibit, “Unchained” fashion show, and CONCEPT: Freedom.

Kristina MacMullen, who also contributed to many other aspects of the program, was centrally the director of the CONCEPT: Freedom Chorus group, putting together a collection of three pieces, sung by multiple groups who had never before sung together in the span of a three-hour morning rehearsal. The pieces, “Untraveled Worlds,” “Will There Really Be a Morning?,” and “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” were all incredibly moving, their subject matter consisting of breaking through bonds and adversity—the overall message of the program.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

#TheSelmaProject – Racist Normativity

By Emily Wirtz

Selma—both the movie and the city—has raised a lot of thought-provoking questions, some of which have clear answers: Yes, racism does still exist. Some questions, on the other hand, remain pretty vague: I don’t know, what do we do about it? While I don’t have an answer as to how we go about knocking down racism in its entirety with a single hit, I do have a proposal. We need to talk about it—not just “we” as Americans, but we as Caucasian Americans who somehow still believe we live in a world of equality. We have to stop acting like racism doesn’t exist, or at least like it doesn’t affect us, and we have to start becoming aware. “Well, what the heck does it mean to be aware of it?” Listen, and in time, speak.
When I was in high school, I dated a guy for a short period of time—we’ll call him Phil. White, blonde hair, blue eyes, middle-class guy who listened to punk rock and country music. Country music was big. Austintown is barely a twenty minute drive to the Canfield Fair Grounds, which holds the largest county fair in Ohio and always has at least one country artist playing that week, only about 40 minutes from the Dusty Armadillo, Ohio’s leading country bar/club, and about 20 minutes away from Yankee Lake, which hosts Y.L. Truck Night every Friday in the summer. Now, I’m sure I don’t speak for everyone, but truck night was a little off-putting to me when I finally tagged along with Phil. Granted, I don’t at all mind watching a line of drunken people dance to Cotton-Eyed Joe, or the monster truck school bus go mudding, or even the occasional decent-sounding band. What I minded was the incredible number of rebel flags on display. “I don’t think that means what you think it means…” They were everywhere.

Friday, February 6, 2015

#TheSelmaProject – The Movie and the Aftermath

By Emily Wirtz

After Dr. C.T. Vivian’s extraordinary visit, the Ashland community was moved by his passion, stories, and testimonies to the cruelties of racism and segregated persecution. Those on both ends of the activist spectrum—those who criticized Vivian’s bias on racism as well as those inspired to change the presence of racism—spoke out. “Not all white people are racist.” True. “Racism doesn’t really exist anymore.” Doesn’t it? “I’m not privileged because I’m Caucasian.” Are you sure? His discussion clearly brought about a variety of opinions from all ethnic and race groups in the community and here on campus. A week later, a few faculty members and students came together with the Diversity Group and Student Affairs to drive through Sunday’s blizzard and into Selma.

I’d never been to Mansfield’s Cinemark, and I’d thoroughly enjoyed the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. event, so “why not?” I dragged my roommates out into the snow, bribing them with promises of popcorn and pizza and a free movie. They joined me, half-enthused by my desire to save the world by watching history unfold on the big screen. I’m glad they came. So, we hoarded into a van of people we didn’t know, bought some popcorn, and sat down for the always-exciting previews. Two minutes into the movie, the roommate to my left was in tears and she to my right was wide-eyed and watching intently as the camera zoomed in on the bodies of four little girls crushed and intertwined in a mound of church remains. Two hours later, we’d had the experience of witnessing MLK, C.T. Vivian, and LBJ make history. I’ve talked about history books and the distance they create—and they do. A factual, emotionless description of such events sometimes makes me question both the heart of the author and that of myself as an unmoved reader, but such is the way of a text book. A dramatic, emotionally-fueled account of America’s painful history, brought to life with real voices, untouchable filmography, and Oprah revokes all questions because a text book is a text book, but the history contained within holds such an incredible amount of pain, pride, failure, and triumph, any American History book editor would be brought to tears.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

#TheSelmaProject – The Encounter

By Emily Wirtz

When Dr. C.T. Vivian arrived on Ashland’s campus Monday, January 19, I was both inwardly and outwardly ecstatic simply to witness from a distance this civil rights legend. It’s not very often that one has the opportunity to meet someone from the history books. At first impression, prior to the event, I’d expected an ordeal—some kind of showy, Obama-esque, “look at my battle scars” kind of encounter. What I got on Monday evening was my grandpa. Granted, there was a glaring difference in skin tone between my biological grandfather and this legend standing before me, but all the same, Vivian was much less and yet so much more than I was expecting.

Down-to-earth and socially-aware are not two descriptions I would usually put together. I see the “check your privilege” bloggers who in the most basic sense are holding themselves on a privileged pedestal with an “I’m better than you because I’m socially aware” aura. Then I see the sincere, stay-out-of-the-way people sitting in the back corner of events like these, not because they’re okay with social injustice, but simply because they’re not public orators. Vivian, in a sense, held the best qualities of both—though obviously he was a public speaker. That is why my impression was that he was my grandfather reincarnate. I know that sounds a bit bizarre. In middle school, I did a history fair project on the March of Bataan in WWII, in which my grandpa was a prisoner of war. When I interviewed him about his experiences, an entirely different person I had no idea was there came through. In that moment, my down-to-earth grandpa became a victim, a hero, and a survivor, doing so with the humility with which I was familiar, but with an additional distance—he was a man from my history books. This is what Vivian became. He began as a legend, someone who existed in textbooks and documentaries but who I’d never encounter in a real-life setting. The privilege of meeting him completely shifted that outlook.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Thoughts on the Cuban Missile Crisis

By John Stratton

“Who do we want to be with when we die?” That was the question. Should we be with each other or with our families? I was a senior in high school during the Cuban missile crisis, and that was the question we asked each other as we heard about the Soviet missiles in Cuba and about “our” response.

I don’t remember being shocked that we were asking that question. We were accustomed to the idea of “mutually assured destruction.” We all knew that if someone — i.e., the Soviets or us — launched a nuclear missile, the other side would launch its missiles. Mutually assured destruction — and I don’t know of anyone who commented, then, on the acronym. It was the official policy of the nuclear age, the way to keep us safe — Mutually Assured Destruction, MAD. It was madness we had come to accept, and that acceptance was another kind of madness.

One of the unexpected joys about sitting in a doctor’s waiting room is finding old magazines, sometimes with really interesting articles. That’s how I found “John F. Kennedy's Vision of Peace” by Robert Kennedy, Jr, in Rolling Stone.