Check out this new radio series!
The Power of Nonviolence, a major new series distributed worldwide by NPR, is now available to hear (or download):www.humanmedia.org/nonviolence
History proves over and over that violence breeds more violence. Victims are traumatized by brutality — as are perpetrators, and the cycle is uninterrupted.
Yet, today ISIS terrorizes the Mideast and Europe, civilian jetliners are shot down in Ukraine and Sinai, mass shootings erupt even in “safe havens” like churches and elementary schools in the U.S. People of conscience everywhere are heartsick and looking for answers.
The Power of Nonviolence, by award-winning radio documentary producer David Freudberg, seeks deep solutions to this vexing problem. Voices of peacemakers are heard and their stories are uplifting. And we turn to wisdom teachings across our great spiritual traditions for guidance and inspiration. This is a powerful free resource. Please share with everyone.
In April, AVP Indiana was invited to Berea, Kentucky to facilitate a Basic (1st level) AVP workshop. One of our original group of apprentice facilitators is a Kentucky native and has been working for the last several years to regenerate interest in AVP. This spring, Steve was successful in organizing a group of local Quakers from Berea Friends Meeting to attend a workshop held on the campus of Berea College. It was a beautiful spring weekend, with the trees beginning to leaf and the mountains beckoning in the distance.
Our facilitation team consisted of me, Steve, and Arnold, who was a new apprentice from South Carolina, looking for an opportunity to gain experience. I had never met Arnold before the Friday evening of the workshop, so team building that first evening was crucial. Also, I had not facilitated a community workshop since the fall of 2012 and I knew it would be a different experience than my prison workshops.
Fortunately, the weekend proved to be a great learning experience for all of us. As a facilitation team, we learned how to smooth out some or our own rough spots and became aware of issues that we, ourselves, needed to work on. Personally, I learned to be more sensitive to the needs of the participants. We tried an exercise I had never done, or seen done before, and it generated some strong emotions among the participants. In the evaluation process, I received really good, critical feedback that will help me facilitate the exercise better in the future.
I also discovered that I have come a long way from my former, introverted, conflict-avoiding self. When conflict arose in several instances, I was able to handle them with a great sense of calm. Transforming Power was truly present, because I knew exactly what to do without thinking. It reminded me that the AVP process works and that we can trust it. It was a superb beginning to a new AVP presence in Kentucky!
This past weekend (March 28-29th), AVP Indiana conducted an Advanced Workshop at the Indianapolis Re-entry and Education Facility. This workshop was facilitated by two inside facilitators, Fly Ty and Stellar Steve, and two outside facilitators, Courageous Kirsten (myself), and Magical Miriam. The workshop was exciting and all but one participant signed up to take the Training for Facilitators workshop when it becomes available.
Working with inside facilitators on a workshop is an incredible experience, and one that really breaks down barriers to stereotypes that a person may unconsciously have developed about people who are in prison. I enjoyed my experience and the lessons that I learned from my co-facilitators about humility, bravery, and dedication. Both Fly Ty and Stellar Steve put their full selves into the workshop, taking risks to facilitate activities that they had not participated in before, and taking risks to make the workshop inclusive and engaging for all of our participants.
One of the struggles of crafting a workshop with inside facilitators is that preparation time is very limited. During times when Magical Miriam and I were able to talk and plan, our fellow co-facilitators had to return to the dorms for mandatory “counts.” This happened twice a day, and took away from valuable planning time that we could have used. Fly Ty and Stellar Steve showed such flexibility and calm in the face of this lack of preparation time and really immersed themselves in the unknown in order to make the advanced workshop meet the needs and desires of our participants.
Our focus for the workshop was around poor communication and issues of power/powerlessness, with a bit of anger and stereotyping mixed throughout. Speaking with participants at the end, it was clear that people got a lot out of the workshop and only hoped that they would have a chance to pursue these topics more in depth with each other in the coming weeks. The participants and our inside co-facilitators decided that creating an AVP support group that could meet weekly or bi-weekly would be a great way for people to stay in touch, practice skills, and have deep conversations about the skills and ideas that we covered in the workshop. Magical Miriam and I fully support this idea and hope that participants are able to make it a success so that they can work with each other through the many confusing and concerning issues that we all deal with when encountering conflict.
Thanks for reading! Till next time,
In October, we held our second 3rd level AVP workshop at the Indianapolis Re-entry Educational Facility (IREF). The significance of the third level is that it trains participants to become facilitators of the workshop themselves. One of the beauties of the AVP model is that it grows its leaders from the ground up, empowering participants to transform themselves as they seek collectively to transform the violence they encounter and learn to channel their power into solving conflicts in creative and constructive ways. They learn by practicing and doing actual facilitation.
In this particular workshop, we trained eight new facilitators who will now begin their apprenticing. Two of the facilitators are from outside prison and six of the new facilitators are residents of IREF. At the end of the workshop, after each participant had concluded approximately 55 hours of workshop experience, I asked them to write a few words about their experience with AVP and what it has meant to them or how it has changed them.
I will share these responses one by one in separate posts and at the end, I will put all of the responses together on a page of Testimonials. As we continue to conduct these workshops and grow new facilitators, I will continue to ask the questions of participants and facilitators alike, “What have you learned? How have you changed? What does AVP mean to you?”
Below are the words of Dependable Dale. Dale did not attend this particular workshop because he was moved to a different facility, but without his help, this second Training for Facilitators workshop and all of the other workshops before it most likely would not have happened. He attended the first workshop we conducted at IREF in November 2013 and was one of the first group of inside facilitators in the state of Indiana. The program at IREF owes him a great debt of gratitude for his tireless organization, incessant recruiting, attention to detail, communication, and his inability to stop talking about and advocating for AVP once he saw how much it really worked. What I quote here are words I heard him say on multiple occasions.
“AVP has opened up a whole new world for me that I never knew existed. I used to think, where there is a will, there is a way, and I usually meant a violent way. Now I think that where there is a will, there is a non-violent way. I want to see AVP conducted in every prison in the state of Indiana. I want to see it in every half-way house, recovery center, community and school system in the state as well. And I will pursue my goals as long as I can take a breath.” –Dependable Dale
The documentary film, In An Ideal World, follows “three men who live and work in Soledad prison. Their stories center around the possibility of change, particularly the transformative change made possible by the Alternatives to Violence Project. The purpose of this film is to help move the conversation about criminal justice in America away from crime and towards justice. The film is Sundance, MacArthur Foundation and California for the Humanities funded and is in its FINAL stage before release. Please join us in nudging the project past this final release-prep phase so it can move on to the more important work of outreach, community engagement and impact.” (Noel, film maker, editor, and AVP facilitator)
I have been struggling to figure out ways to shed light on the brokenness of prisons in the U.S. in order to bring about real change. I think this project will help greatly if it can get completed. AVP Indiana has already contributed to this effort. To learn more about the project and what they hope to accomplish, as well as contribute to the cause, please visit these links:
An invitation to join us (from the national AVP USA organization):
We are volunteers who use interpersonal tools for peace, working around the corner and around the world to prevent violence and promote healing. We don’t lecture, or show slides, or sing anthems. Instead, we work face-to-face with people to help them discover their connectedness, their empathy and their common bonds – even where there is bitter animosity or a history of conflict.
In 2013 we shared our journey with nearly 16,000 people across 29 states. We are more than 2,000 volunteer facilitators, working in prisons, gang intervention, drug
recovery, with veterans and refugees, in schools, churches, colleges, community organizations, and more. Our story is told in many languages, by people of all colors and beliefs, and it’s captured in this first-person witness of one participant in a prison in New York: “I finally found something that cracked the wall around my inner energy and allowed me to see that other person I always wanted to be. . .that person I am now.”
We need your help, to grow our community and reach more people with our workshops. We have launched the Campaign for AVP-40, to celebrate our 40th anniversary of service and engagement with people who need our help. There are waiting lists for workshops – we need to recruit and train more facilitators. There are people in remote locations who can’t afford to travel – we need to meet those costs. There are models of success – we need to share those models with each other.
At our National Gathering in Philadelphia in May, we started our own drive to reach 100 percent participation in the Campaign. Now we invite you to join the Campaign for AVP-40 with a contribution. Please give what you can to:
1050 Selby Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55104
Our website is http:www.avpusa.org. You can donate there, too. It is all welcome, all appreciated, and all in the service of peacemaking and healing.
The men and women of Alternatives to Violence Project – USA