A History of Twin Cities Nonviolent
THE MISSION OF TWIN CITIES NONVIOLENT IS TO REDUCE VIOLENCE IN ALL ITS FORMS; TO INCREASE AWARENESS AND ENGAGEMENT IN NONVIOLENT POLICIES AND PRACTICES; TO BRING TOGETHER LOCAL COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS, INCLUDING NONPROFITS, RELIGIOUS INSTITUTIONS, EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS AND GOVERNMENT AGENCIES; AND TO DISMANTLE THE STRUCTURES AND SYSTEMS THAT LEAD TO VIOLENCE THROUGHOUT THE TWIN CITIES AND BEYOND. WE ENVISION A TWIN CITIES FREE FROM VIOLENCE.
by Fr. Harry Bury
Working with Pace e Bene, an independent, non-denominational 501(c)(3), organization committed to spreading the power of active nonviolence, Fr. John Dear, a longtime peace activist and advocate for nonviolent action to address issues of justice and peace, was shaping up a new national project: the Nonviolent Cities Project.
Fr. Dear issued an invitation to Fr. Harry Bury, to help initiate a Nonviolent Cities project in the Twin Cities. Minneapolis/Saint Paul is a major metropolitan area of more than 3 million residents built on the riverbanks of the Mississippi, Minnesota, and St Croix Rivers, and is recognized as the 16th largest metro area in the United States.
The national Nonviolent Cities Project was based initially on the experience of Carbondale, Illinois. For more than seven years, organizers there have sponsored events occurring over seven-day periods, with themes that focused on compassion, welcoming, nonviolence, and other components of a nonviolent culture nurtured within Carbondale.
The Twin Cities would soon become one of the leading participants in the Nonviolent Cities Project. Organizers would meet wherever they could: in the basements of local churches, conference rooms within city parks and recreation buildings, a diocesan priests’ retirement home, and other locations throughout the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.
September 21 to 30, 2018 was selected as the time frame for the initial “10 Days Free From Violence.” September 21 was chosen as the day to begin the “10 Days” because it is the International Day of Peace. It was our hope that scheduling the events in September would result in schools and colleges getting involved. A major effort was made to involve the Twin Cities mayors, city council members, police officers, and other elected officials in Minneapolis and St. Paul and later, other nearby cities. Outreach was made to libraries and schools in the area to incorporate a focus on nonviolence in their various programs.
A twelve-member steering committee was established and monthly meetings were convened. Naming themselves Twin Cities Nonviolent (TCNV), the group spent the initial months agreeing to focus on a broad definition of violence, including gun violence, bullying, domestic violence, and street violence but also including poverty, hunger, malnutrition, homelessness, and lack of educational and work opportunities.
During this time of planning and organizing, individuals and organizations working to reduce and end violence in the Twin Cities were identified and invited to monthly collaborator meetings. After some discussion, the term “collaborator” was chosen to refer to these individuals and groups because they were and are envisioned to be the heart of this project. Their work and their involvement in the Twin Cities would be highlighted for residents and other groups throughout the Twin Cities during the “10 Days Free From Violence.” TCNV would collaborate with and highlight these individuals and organizations, supporting their ongoing work instead of starting from scratch with a new approach.
During the 2018 “10 Days Free From Violence” campaign in Minneapolis and Saint Paul, 70 collaborating organizations and individuals sponsored more than 80 events throughout the Twin Cities. These events featured individuals and groups working to reduce and end all types of violence in this large urban area.
“10 Days Free From Violence: September 21 to 30, 2018” opened with participants joining Native American Ojibwe elders and spiritual leaders conducting a “Circle of Healing from Violence” on the shores of the recently renamed Minneapolis City Lake, Bde Maka Ska (formerly Lake Calhoun – renamed Bde Maka Ska because of John Calhoun’s active support of slavery). As the “10 Days Free From Violence” period continued there were concerts, songs of solidarity, workshops, theater productions, a special jazz composition created specifically for this occasion (“Let It Begin With Me” by Aane Fosse), prayer services, a poetry slam, spoken word events, photography and art exhibits, training in nonviolent communication, readings by social justice and peace authors, peacebuilding films, local lessons from international peace-making interventions, a cabaret performance on abolishing war and violence, workshops looking at alternatives to violence, and many other events. Hundreds of participants joined in these events as Twin Cities Nonviolent completed its first annual recognition of the work being done to reduce and end violence and create a culture of nonviolence throughout the Twin Cities.
Funding for this work has come primarily from local faith communities and individual donations, which totaled about $12,000 for 2018. These funds were used to help pay the cost of venue rental, insurance, printing of programs and a calendar of events, supporting musicians, etc. The proposed budget for the 2019 events was $15,000 raised from local faith communities, individuals, and donor advised funds administered by local community foundations.
September 20-29, 2019’s “10 Days Free From Violence” opening event was a Walk for Planet Peace in collaboration and support from TCNV, India Association of MN, Veterans for Peace, and other grassroots organizations in honor of Mahatma Gandhi’s vision on his 150th birthday. Fr. John Dear’s impassioned keynote address can be viewed on our Facebook page There were more than 60 events which you can check out on our website. We were honored to have so many wonderful programs, including music, film, workshops, readings, meditations, commissioned mural, concerts, stargazing party, master storytellers, Global Roots music festival, and much more.