MLK, Jr.’s Kingian Training and When Is Enough Too Much

Roxanne and I attended the Kingian nonviolence training F and Sat. and it was truly a remarkable experience and many seeds were sown that Retake plans to nurture. The blog reflects on what we learned and what we hope are our next steps. The house is on fire my friends and we are the fire extinguishers.

Screenshot 2017-10-11 08.19.18Sunday Oct. 29, 3-5pm, 1420 Cerrillos. America Divided. Episode 1 and 2: From America Divided – Legendary TV producer Norman Lear investigates homelessness and gentrification in New York City and goes undercover to expose racial discrimination in housing. In the second episode, actress Rosario Dawson reveals new information on the Flint water crisis and its impact on tens of thousands of Flint residents.  After the two documentaries, we will host a community conversation facilitated by Miguel Angel Acosta Muñoz, a community educator/Organizer and and Kathy Sanchez, Environmental Health and Justice Program Manager of Tewa Women United. Click here to RSVP and for more information.


Monday, Oct. 30, 9AM-11AM at the New Mexico Supreme Court. ORAL ARGUMENT BEFORE THE NM SUPREME COURT!  New Energy Economy has been battling PNM’s attempt to offload their toxic coal and nuclear assets onto NM. Show your support by attending this key moment in NEE’s battle with PNM.  They’ve heroically been fighting for our planet, our present, and our future and it makes an impression of the judges to see a packed courthouse. I’ll be there and I hope to see you too. And then join us for a celebration lunch immediately after the hearing. For the hearing, just show up. For the lunch, please RSVP & DIRECTIONS HERE

Click here for more information on many more events and opportunities over the next 7-10 days.

Kingian Nonviolence Training: What We Learned and What We Do

Roxanne and I participated in two full days of Kingian training. It was absolutely remarkable. What’s more, there were 40-50 folks attending who are committed to working together to develop local nonviolent strategies and to organize a broader base of people who want to become participants in nonviolent direct action.

I couldn’t possibly share all that was conveyed in these two days, but since most of you were not able to attend, I have used one of the required readings for the training, Letter from the Birmingham Jail to try to capture what was learned and where we need to go.  If you want to read the entire Letter from the Birmingham Jail, click here. It is an extraordinarily powerful and clear articulation for the rationale for nonviolent direct action.

MLK, Jr. presents the context in which he felt it necessary to engage in nonviolent direct action:  “My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily.  Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.”

Why direct action?  Why sit-ins, marches, and so forth?  Isn’t negotiation a better path?”  You are quite right in calling for negotiation.  Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action.  Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community, which has constantly refused to negotiate, is forced to confront the issue.  It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored.”

What is Nonviolent Direct Action:  “In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps:  (1) collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist, (2) negotiation, (3) readying the physical and spiritual readiness and skills to make the personal commitment, and (4) direct action.”

The Urgency of Now. Why We Can’t Wait:  :I have yet engaged in a direct action movement that was “well-timed,” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation.  For years now I have heard the words “Wait!”  It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity.  This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.”  We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”  What follows is as powerful a justification for nonviolent direct action I have ever read. As you read it, consider how hard it must have been for Black parents to explain the racist world in which they lived. And also consider how much we take from Trump, the GOP and the capitalist system before we say, we can no longer wait. It is time to act.

“We have waited for more that 340 years for our constitutional and God-given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward the gaining of a cup of coffee at a lunch counter.  Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.”  But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick, and even kill your black brothers and sisters;  when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society;  when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her little eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people;  when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son asking:  “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”;  when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you;  when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”;  when your first name becomes “nigger” and your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and when your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”;  when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance never quite knowing what to expect next, and plagued with inner fears and outer resentments;  when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”;  then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.  There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into an abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.”

Why Indirect Action is Necessary.  “My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily.  Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.”

Why We Must Educate and Engage a Broader Coalition Committed to Action. “First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate.  I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council of the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice;  who constantly says, “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action”;  who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom;  who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.”  Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.  Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

This last quote calls to mind the urgent need to engage and educate as many people as possible, to move those moderates and liberals who may share some of our values and goals, but are uncomfortable with disrupting the status quo whether that disruption comes in the form of open criticism of systems, Parties, and candidates, or marches in the streets, or sit-ins at the Roundhouse.Our goal is to achieve a broader consensus of folks who feel strongly enough about our goals that, even if they aren’t someone who will sit-in, they are someone who will support those who will. King asserted that you must win the sympathy of over 50% of the community to create the critical mass to force change.

What Do We Do Next?  Retake was asked to convene those who participated in the training this weekend and we will convene all those who graduated from this round of training to decide how this trained group wants to collaborate and expand its base to include more people who were not involved in the training. But one thing that was driven home repeatedly throughout the training:  You can’t simply respond to a wrong and launch nonviolent direct action. In the Civil Rights movement months were spent planning and training for action.

In solidarity,

Roxanne and Paul

Categories: Economic Justice, Community & Economic Development, Election, Political Reform & National Politics

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3 replies

  1. Back in Santa Fe in mid-July. I hope this training or some version of it happens again.

  2. The training begins today. Paul and Roxanne are showing us, thru MLK, that almost all humans and Absolutely every fiber of this Natural world are IN a prison. Prisoners are numbed, terrified, manipulated, lied to in perverse ways. That means you and me. You want to go to a training to learn how to resist and force a change? No. You go to a training to BOND in flesh and blood, carrying on your back all those creatures who you have already pledged to liberate from hell. That means you have done your homework before now, now, and from this time forward. Envision the outrageous number of forces working against you. Multiply by ten. Repeat the obvious – there is no way this can work – and THEN, stop feeling sorry for yourself. You are not important without ALL of THEM, the innocents who have survived and flourised to guide YOU, without selfishness. If this does not humble and invigorate you, stay home and whimper.

  3. Here’s a talk I gave in the past weeks about narratives and MLK.

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