As the nation debates gun control in the wake of the Dallas police shootings, a veteran of the civil rights movement is advocating another way to bring about societal change.
Long-time civil rights activist Bernard Lafayette Jr. — who also serves as national chairman of the board for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a minister, educator and writer — believes non-violence training could be part of the solution.
Lafayette knows first-hand the impact of non-violent activism. He participated in the historic Selma marches to Montgomery in the 60’s with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that were carried out against the extreme violence of the times, which ultimately resulted in one of the most momentous pieces of civil rights legislation in U.S. history — the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Lafayette is in Selma this week at the Selma Center for Nonviolence, Truth & Reconciliation for a week-long training event where he’s helping equip participants with the necessary tools to transform their communities.
According to the Center, the the training is for those who “would like to learn to live and teach the principles and steps of Kingian nonviolence that John Lewis is courageously displaying in Congress right now from the person who sat-in with him at the lunch counters in Nashville, rode on the bus with him as a Freedom Rider and marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge with him and who was commissioned to institutionalize nonviolence by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.“
Lafayette believes nonviolence training should start at a very early age.
“At a very early age, we need to let people know how to deal with differences and conflict,” Lafayette said in the wake of the Orlando nightclub shootings. “One of the things we do in our nonviolent teaching is help people recognize others, rather than just themselves. To manage conflict, you have to understand why people feel the way they do. The truth comes from being able to understand both sides.’’
While the training is now underway, the public is invited to participate in a discussion entitled “Where do we go from here? A conversation with Dr. Bernard Lafayette” on Thursday, July 14 at 7 p.m. at the Center.