Bernard LaFayette Jr., former director of the URI Center for Nonviolence & Peace Studies has completed a book about his civil rights experiences from the 60s. He was a cofounder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), a leader in the Nashville lunch counter sit-ins, a Freedom Rider, an associate of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and the national coordinator of the Poor People’s Campaign. At the young age of 22, he assumed the directorship of the Alabama Voter Registration Project in Selma — a city that had previously been removed from the organization’s list due to the dangers of operating there.
In this memoir, written with Kathryn Lee Johnson (URI School of Education and Center for Nonviolence & Peace Studies), LaFayette shares the inspiring story of his years in Selma. When he arrived in 1963, Selma was a small, quiet, rural town. By 1965, it had made its mark in history and was nationally recognized as a battleground in the fight for racial equality and the site of one of the most important victories for social change in our nation.
LaFayette was one of the primary organizers of the 1965 Selma voting rights movement and the Selma-to-Montgomery marches, and he relates his experiences of these historic initiatives in close detail. Today, as the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is still questioned, citizens, students, and scholars alike will want to look to this book as a guide. Important, compelling, and powerful, In Peace and Freedom presents a necessary perspective on the civil rights movement in the 1960s from one of its greatest leaders.
It’s that time of year when we honor Bruce Tancrell with the 3rd Annual Pasta Dinner & Nonviolence Scholarship Fundraiser for the Center. For information about this event see Tancrell Facebook.
Bruce’s family members work tirelessly to create a fantastic celebration of Bruce’s life and his commitment to nonviolence as they put on an amazing spread of food, fun and entertainment for all of us. The money raised supports international participants to attend the International Nonviolence Summer Institute held each June for 2 weeks at the Center. Bruce found his passion for nonviolence there in 2008 becoming a nonviolence trainer, and enjoying the new friends he met from countries all over the world.
We miss you, Bruce. You would love how your spirit is spreading nonviolence all over the world. Many thanks to the Tancrell Family for their wonderful work for peace!
The highly acclaimed Second Step - Violence Prevention Program, kicks off the year in Central Falls as the Center begins its 6th year of service in this school district. Under the direction of Prof. Paul Bueno de Mesquita and Center graduate intern Lacey Feeley, the URI violence prevention team of Jenni Barrientos, Meena McGowen and Jenna Porcaro provides weekly direct, on-site instruction to approximately 250 young children. These URI students offer essential skills for Kindergarten and preschool children in our state’s most impoverished school system. Teachers and children there are very excited to have the URI students come into their classrooms each week and engage the children in fun activities including puppets, songs and games that build core social-emotional skills, such as empathy, emotion management, and problem solving. Congrats to the Central Falls team for a great start.
We were delighted to find this sign posted at the Robertson School greeting us when we arrived.
Padre Melo, a courageous priest from Honduras gave, an experiential and insightful account about violence in Honduras at the Lily Pads Unitarian Church in Wakefield, RI. The talk was well received by dozens of people affiliated with URI as well as the local community.
Father Melo tested us about our awareness of issues in Honduras. He mentioned that he saw no news about Honduras in US newspapers during the last 10 days he has traveled through states, although Honduras continues to be the world’s most violent nation. Honduras, the tiny Central American country with a population of eight million people is located adjacent to Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador. According to Melo, more than 80% of the cocaine consumed in the US is being smuggled through Honduras. Ordinary people there suffer from intimidation, violence, and poverty on a daily basis. He mentioned five factors that contribute to immense problems in Honduras: abundant weapons, narcotics trading, weak governance, unequal wealth distribution and US militarization policy. Linking unequal distribution of wealth to the immigration issue in the US, Melo said that only a small budget is allocated for agricultural and rural development. Therefore, Honduran youth are forced to either cross over the border to the US through Mexico or participate in drug trafficking activities. It is better to help create jobs in the rural areas rather than building walls at the US border because a wall will increase deadly incidents but will not decrease immigration attempts, Melo told the applauding crowd.
In conclusion, he emphasized that now is the time for empathy and support for Honduras. It is so sad that such a beautiful country is riddled with so many problems. He welcomed each of us to visit Honduras.
There was full agreement that Destiny Africa wowed and amazed the hundreds of students, faculty and community with their dazzling performance – singing, dancing, and drumming on Thursday night. We were invited to join them on stage for the final number and the stage was packed as we danced along with the children, moving and shaking to the drum beats and music.
Earlier in the day the children gave a preview performance in front of the Multicultural Center where the Center for Nonviolence & Peace Studies is located, and captivated URI students coming and going to lunch. They dance with such joy and the positive spirit was certainly contagious! Tour guides from the Student Nonviolence Involvement Coalition walked them around our beautiful campus. When our own Olivia sang opera to them their faces glowed in delight. Another special moment was when Anita, a URI grad student from their home country of Uganda hugged each one and spoke to them in their language. Anita’s a wonderful role model for them to see that a woman from the middle of Africa can come to school in America. Perhaps they, too, will join our campus one day!
Melo will speak on the topic, “The Price of Truth:Human Rights Since the Honduran Coup” at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of South County - Lily Pads - 27 North Road, Peace Dale, RI.
Honduras is a country rife with impunity and flagrant human rights violations. Padre Melo’s life is repeatedly threatened. Nevertheless, he continues to direct both Radio Progreso and The Team for Reflection, Research and Communication, advocating and acting for nonviolence, human rights, freedom of expression, and independent analysis. His presentation will illuminate the struggles and successes of building a fair and inclusive society in a country where, by some estimates, 50 journalists & social commentators have been killed since June of 2009.
This event is sponsored by Witness for Peace New England.
The Multicultural Center Forum was filled for the Diversity Week session on Malala Speaks: A Young Girl’s Nonviolent Response to Terrorism. She spoke to each one of us personally. Paul Bueno de Mesquita and Kay Johnson from the Center presented a brief history of the Pakistan Taliban and heard Malala’s story of activism. It became clear why the words of a teenager incurred the wrath of the powerful Taliban that they would want to silence her voice by assassination. After watching her riveting speech to the UN Youth Assembly, students gave their own personal and poignant responses about this young advocate for education and human rights.
URI students joined the world in the spirit of peace on Thursday as the campus celebrated the UN’s International Day of Peace. Thousands wore blue peace bands that read, “Think Peace – Live Peace,” put on peace stickers and pins, and saw the world through peace-sign sunglasses. They enjoyed hula hooping for peace, while others created life-sized peace bubbles, and students hungry for peace devoured Orange Leaf’s delicious Yogurt for peace. See our Facebook photos!
The candlelight vigil included a circle of friends who honored all victims of violence by reading universal peace messages, meditating, and singing together. Afterwards, the Dance for Peace featured amazing dancers who rocked, shook and twirled for peace, involving all of us in learning how do break dancing, African dancing, Nepal dancing, and capoiera. It was an international experience of various world dances that filled our evening with fun and excitement. Thanks to all dancers who participated!
The Center along with several departments on campus are sponsoring a performance by Destiny Africa, a Children’s Choir that raises their voices in song, hope and joy. They are from the Kampala Children’s Center in Uganda that rescues children from war-town areas to offer them love, education, and a family environment which nurtures them to become agents of transformation. This group of young people has become a voice for millions of suffering children in Africa and the world, a channel that brings healing, joy and hope to a desperate world through music and dance.
The event is free but contributions are welcomed. This electrifying performance is open to the public, so come, bring your friends, and enjoy.
“In Darkness” was shown to an appreciative audience that nearly filled Swan Hall on October 2. This amazing Oscar-nominated film was a dramatization of one man’s rescue of Jewish refugees in the Nazi-occupied Polish city of Lvov. Screenwriter David Shamoon was present for a Q&A afterwards and talked about the historical significance of the film. This was one of the highlights of Diversity Week 2013. View the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nb2TyPfxaQU
Shamoon and his brother, a URI graduate, visited Paul Bueno de Mesquita’s Nonviolence & Conflict Resolution class before the movie and had a riveting discussion about nonviolence and resilience of the human spirit during periods of extreme violence.