HAMDEN >> Twenty people — residents, clergy and police officers — are working together to help make the community a better place through the philosophy of Dr. Martin Luther King, a message they say is more important today than ever.
They are participating in Kingian Nonviolence Training, teaching how to reconcile potentially violent situations through the use of nonviolence that was King’s most passionate message.
According to its website, Kingian Nonviolence is “a philosophy and methodology that provides the knowledge, skills and motivation necessary for people to pursue peaceful strategies for solving personal and community problems.”
There are six steps involved in Kingian Nonviolence — information gathering, education, personal commitment, negotiation, direction action and reconciliation, and using those steps are the key to defusing a potentially violent situation.
The participants earn a certificate after completing 80 hours of training, according to Victoria Christgau, the executive director of the Connecticut Center for Nonviolence, who leads the sessions. Of the 20 people in the current class, four are New Haven police officers who will take their training back to the department to implement a program there for existing and new officers, she said.
“Their intention is to do year-round training with officers and in the academy,” she said.
“It gives them the tools and skills to deal with violent situations,” she said. “They will be working with community groups to address the causes of violence in the communities.”
“This is certainly very unique,” said Diane Jones, who with Christgau led the session. “It’s bringing together police officers, community members and service providers — it’s very unique training.”
“I think it’s fantastic — it’s really what we need with the climate we are in,” said the Rev. John Lewis, one of the participants. “It breaks down the fear factor with the community to work to break down racial tension.”
“It’s something we all want to do,” said New Haven police Lt. Sam Brown. “We all have an inherent sense of justice and we all want to help — it’s what brings us here, to get knowledge and make a difference in the lives of the community and the world.
“I think it’s great training, we have learned a lot about remarkable aspects of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King and other movements,” he said.
“After the events of last week, I was watching the news,” said Michael Melvin, when one broadcaster made a comment that a nonviolent way of life is for courageous people, which helped him understand how some of the family members of the nine people killed in a South Carolina church by a 21-year-old white supremacist could forgive him.
“That is a lot to be able to forgive,” Melvin said, and the training sessions are geared toward that kind of attitude. “I think you would be hard pressed to find a soul in here that hasn’t experienced growth,” he said.
“Forgiving someone doesn’t mean you forget,” said Lewis. “It’s a process, and we have to utilize what we have learned.”
One of the victim’s family members said she couldn’t yet forgive, Melvin said, which is understandable. “She was being honest with herself, some people need time and in time the process would happen.”
This weekend, the sessions move to Litchfield, which will feature an appearance by Dr. Bernard Lafayette, who worked with King in the 1960s and was with him the night before King was assassinated in Memphis on April 3, 1968. Lafayette helped create the Kingian Nonviolence Training program based on King’s belief that the success of the movement would be based on the institutionalization and internationalization of nonviolence.
Article originally posted on New Haven Register News By Kate Ramunni
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