Notes from the Latest Nonviolent Cities Project Conference Call

On February 21st we held a conference call for the Nonviolent Cities Project. We discussed the progress cities around the country are making and the steps budding organizers can take to build momentum. If you missed the call, you can read the notes or listen to the audio below. 

Nonviolent Cities Project Organizing Conference Call

February 21, 2019, 5pm Pacific/ 8pm Eastern (60 minutes)

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Welcome – Ryan Hall

Updates – John Dear

  • Organizing steering committees help to make this happen. Use your resources -- ask Diana and John about it if you need help.

  • Currently making a brochure to be able to use for nonviolent cities. Also planning a pilgrimage to Assisi this year. Consider Assisi as a nonviolent city, one of the most peaceful cities on the planet. Help to inspire each other to bring about a new culture of peace and nonviolence.

Roll Call – Ryan Hall read the list of people who were on the call and where they were calling in from.

Diana Sussman – Carbondale, IL

  • Started around 2011 by Hugh Muldoon to gather a committee to work on issues of unity and nonviolence. Began with 11 days of peace to reflect upon the 10 year anniversary of September 11th and look for alternative responses to violence. Had 21 different events in 11 days to explore these issues. Included film discussions, vigils, and the participation of many organizations.

  • Also focused on becoming a compassionate city. Last fall the city passed a nonviolent and compassionate city resolution. In 2012, they received a grant to build projects that give people the opportunity to find common ground and build compassion. Now have 64 programs throughout the community and 2,500-3,000 people who participated in projects over these 11 days. Received grants and funds for the American Library Association, which has provided the money to make the work possible.

  • Continually bring up these issues in the community every year, which brings organizations and individuals together to synergize efforts to build a nonviolent movement. The city itself has embraced the movement, which has helped bring together the police, churches, park district, library, chamber of commerce, and local banks towards a common goal. NV Carbondale may not be the problem solvers, but involved in bringing together groups with various strengths to make real progress on issues like homelessness in their city.

  • Nonviolent resolution “holds your feet to the fire” and keeps a city accountable to do things like prevent their homeless from freezing in the winter. Crossover between organizations the most effective way to get things done like opening a warming shelter. Nonviolent Carbondale keeps the potential alive.

  • Jim Crosby asks for more information about compassionate cities. Diana suggests working together as a compassionate community and nonviolent city and to use their resources here:

    • Diana adds that the things that are appropriate for Carbondale might not suit much larger cities or smaller cities. “Do what works for you.” Also recommends to look for diversity in the planning group. Diversity in gender, in race, in faith, and in background. The celebration of diversity helps people to understand one another and build compassion.

    • John recalls that when he first met NV Carbondale, he was told, “Don’t start with the usual suspects.” Get out of the ghetto of the peace movement. Not just diversity of social groups, but institutional/civic diversity as well.

    • John has not been impressed with the compassionate cities project. Lovely vision, but lacks the action of nonviolence. The Nonviolent Cities Project breaks new ground by mainstreaming nonviolence and taking more concrete action, the way Dr. King did.

  • Veronica asks if most people involved in NV Carbondale are volunteers.

    • Diana and her staff get to do NV Carbondale work on the clock for the library. Many of the institutional members have also come to incorporate NV Carbondale work as part of their job. NV Carbondale does not pay people, but other organizations support this work. Have had teachers teach restorative practices to work with youth and dropouts in the community.

Jim Crosby – Austin, TX

  • Started in September with a facebook page and have been meeting as a book club so far. Have a diverse group of people involved with other groups like the Austin Justice Coalition. Working with city council on establishing relationships with the police and improving civilian oversight.

  • Represented Campaign Nonviolence at MLK march by handing out flyers and brochures. Bringing people involved with NV Austin to a retreat to learn about how to sustain a Gandhian/Kingian campaign.

  • Have recently heard about the Army Futures campaign coming to Austin. Researching now how to best respond to this and promote the aim of nonviolence.

  • John recommends getting a steering committee to help give some structure and direction. Also reminds us that meetings should happen in public spaces -- libraries, conference rooms, meeting places -- and not in people’s homes to be more inclusive. Start working then on a public launch of NV Austin by meeting every two months or so.

LaVaida Owens and June White – Wilmington, DE

  • Have been studying this movement for two years and are now trying to engage the larger community by educating people about what NV Wilmington would look like. Pursuing a holistic, creative, city-wide vision of nonviolence working with civic institutions. Have already begun to launch the project. Wrote a vision statement for their town. Asking local organizations and leaders to commit to the process by signing a pledge. Have done peace week for three years. Trauma Awareness Month is starting in DE, and they hope to work together with organizers there to move forward with nonviolence and climate conversations.

  • Also working on a brochure and putting together a diverse list of organizations and groups to contact to get them to pledge their commitment to nonviolence. Will get over 1000 signatures during Peace Week Delaware to formally launch. Not sure what the future holds, but looking forward to a year round pursuit of nonviolence work.

  • John adds that there is a benefit to reawakening people’s curiosity. Suggests integrating NV Wilmington and Peace Week -- starting every event by saying, “Everything we are doing here is working to make Wilmington a NV city.” Working our way up from a week of actions, to NV Wilmington, and eventually NV Delaware to take on the environmental destruction and the military base.

Wally Inglis – Honolulu, HI

  • At the baby-step stage. The city council has adopted a resolution “Urging the city of Honolulu to participate in the NV Cities Project.” Still one step short of declaring Honolulu to be a NV city. Project was initiated by university students studying nonviolence. Working to include people outside the university in order to increase diversity and create stability in the movement since students are transient. Still have not addressed militarization, which is a sensitive subject in HI. Looking at ways to include that in future efforts.

Harry Bury –  Twin Cities NV

  • Followed the Carbondale 10 Steps. Worked with gangs last fall to work on reducing violence in their neighborhoods. The gang members promised to work to keep their individual blocks free from nonviolence. Also teaching kids in the community nonviolence. Held a block party to celebrate their progress towards creating nonviolence in the city. When the press asked a gang member how they knew they were successful, they responded, “No funerals.” Organizing for more events in the fall again this year.

Final thoughts – Ryan Hall

  • We are working on brochures to distribute to city officials and anyone else who needs some information about the Nonviolent Cities Project. Contact Ryan if you need brochures. Will also be available to bulk order within a month or so.