By James Marien —
Martin Luther King Jr. was not only an activist for civil rights in the United States, but a key proponent of the principles of nonviolence. Nonviolence and civil rights are just as important here at UW–Stout as anywhere else and UW–Stout peace studies instructor Jim Handley is teaching King’s nonviolence to students, faculty, staff and local community members.
On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Monday Jan. 18, Handley led his first Kingian nonviolence workshop. He was assisted by Stout student Rohini Singh, who, along with Handley, is a certified nonviolence trainer. In 2015, Handley received his level one training through a two-week seminar in University of Rhode Island.
According to Handley, “There were 19 people at the MLK Day training and it was beautiful. First, because what better way to celebrate MLK Day than to explore his teachings and philosophy? And second, the participants were all thoroughly engaged and all brought their own experiences and backgrounds into the discussions that made the whole day thought-provoking and interesting.”
Kingian nonviolence has 6 principals at the heart of its philosophy. According to Handley, they are:
“1. Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people
- The Beloved Community is the framework for the future
- Attack forces of evil, not persons doing evil
- Accept suffering without retaliation for the sake of the cause to achieve the goal
- Avoid internal violence of the spirit as well as external physical violence
- The universe is on the side of justice
These steps represent the heart of King’s teaching and are the core elements of the nonviolence training.”
Handley also advises a group of students called Students UNITE, “Which is modeled after the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) that was instrumental in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.” Handley states, “My hope is that my skills and knowledge can serve to help create student-leaders that are applying Kingian Nonviolence.”
Nonviolence is an effective and important method in a world where “Violence has become normal” and, Handley philosophizes, “when something becomes normal, it becomes acceptable. And when something becomes acceptable, it becomes inevitable. Humans aren’t born violent. They learn to be violent and if people can learn to be violent, they can also learn to be nonviolent.”
In addition to the seminar in 2015, Handley also helped organize a trip to civil rights movement sites in the South. Their first stop was the Abraham Lincoln Museum in Springfield, IL, which, Handley asserts, “really set the tone for the rest of the trip.” The group also visited multiple sites important to the civil rights movement in Alabama, including Selma, Montgomery and Birmingham.
“No one that went on the trip came back unchanged. The experiences we had were profound and transformed the way we think about social movements, about race and racism, and about U.S. history,” Handley said of the trip.
Handley, in addition to his work at UW–Stout, is also on the executive council for the Wisconsin Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies (WIPCS) which supports the spreading of Kingian nonviolence. Handley describes the institute: “The Wisconsin Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies (WIPCS) is a consortium of private and public colleges and universities dedicated to enriching academic private and public colleges and universities dedicated to enriching academic and public discourse on issues of peace and conflict. They are a vital organization for promoting and supporting peace and nonviolence studies in our state. WIPCS has an annual spring conference where mostly undergraduate students present ideas about different aspects of peace and nonviolence. The Institute also publishes a peer-reviewed journal called the Journal of Peace and Conflict Studies.”
Handley continues to praise the work of WIPCS by saying, “The Institute was the sole sponsor of the Kingian Nonviolence training at Stout. This is one of the many benefits Stout receives as an institutional member. To fulfill its mission, WIPCS created a Nonviolence and Peace Studies Fellowship. As the 2016-17 recipient of that award, I will be traveling to several campuses throughout Wisconsin conducting Kingian Nonviolence trainings over the next two years.”
When asked what caused him to attend the International Nonviolence Institute at URI and choose to spread the message of nonviolence, Handley states, “There were a couple things that drew me to the training. I was one of the people who led the development of the Applied Peace Studies minor here at Stout. I care deeply about this program and want to do everything I can to help it grow and evolve in ways that add value to students’ experiences on our campus. My experience at the Summer Institute has helped shape the peace studies curriculum and has made me a more effective peace educator. I also want to find ways to bring nonviolence and peace studies into the community. The training I received not only has helped prepare me to be a part of building the Beloved Community that King envisioned, it has also given me a great way to connect what we do on our campus to the local community.”
Handley plans on continuing to spread the word of Kingian nonviolence, both at UW–Stout and elsewhere. He intends on returning to the University of Rhode Island in 2016 to get his second level certificate in Kingian nonviolence. As for the near future, Handley and Rohini Singh are currently planning a two-day training seminar from February 27-28, and plan on offering them periodically on campus.
While many of us view King and his close proponents as a thing of the past and nonviolence having finished its job, Handley and others continue to spread the word of peace in hopes of a better world.