Community healing through dialogue is the focus for the Sonoma County kick-off event of the 5th annual Sonoma County Season for Nonviolence on Friday, January 30th, from 6:30-8:30 pm at Santa Rosa's Piner High School. Sonoma County joins over 900 cities in 67 nations that have participated in A Season for Nonviolence since its founding in 1998 by Dr. Arun Gandhi and the Association for Global New Thought. Locally, a coalition of nonprofit peacebuilding groups organizes a Season opening event to provide information about nonviolent tools and practices anyone can use to help create a more peaceful community and world. Additional events hosted by community groups and churches during the 64 day Season will be posted on our website calendar.
All are invited to learn about and experience a taste of a community dialogue process at the January 30th event. Trained facilitators will work with small groups to foster the deep listening and heart-centered speaking that can allow participants to communicate more deeply and respectfully. The full program also includes snacks and beverages; the Love Choir; and presentation of a Lifetime Achievement Award to UC Berkeley Professor Emeritus Michael Nagler, a Gandhi scholar, author, and founder of the Metta Center for Nonviolence. A pre-event nonviolence workshop with Metta Center Director Stephanie Van Hook at 5:30 pm at the same location. Donations to defray expenses will be gratefully accepted.
In the current climate of urgency to bridge racial and cultural divisions in our nation and community, there are many successful models available to try. In Santa Rosa, there have been a number of community conversations in response to the Andy Lopez shooting, and community involvement in drafting proposals for change is continuing. Restorative circles and processes are being utilized by schools and juvenile justice systems locally and around the nation.
A Ferguson Truth and Reconciliation Commission similar to those in Africa has been advocated by Fania Davis, civil rights attorney and co-founder of Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth. Such truth and reconciliation processes rooted deeply in indigenous cultures around the world are being resurrected. In 2012, Maine’s governor and indigenous tribal chiefs established a truth commission to address the harms resulting from the forced assimilation of Native children by Maine’s child welfare system. It is still in operation. In 2004, the City of Greensboro, North Carolina Truth and Reconciliation Commission focused on the “Greensboro massacre” of anti-racist activists by the Ku Klux Klan in 1979. In its 2006 report, the Greensboro Commission stated: “There comes a time in the life of every community when it must look humbly and seriously into its past in order to provide the best possible foundation for moving into a future based on healing and hope."
A Season for Nonviolence is celebrated annually during the 64 days from January 30 - April 4. Those dates are inspired by the memorial anniversaries of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The purpose of the Season is to promote the philosophy of attaining peace through nonviolent action as demonstrated by Gandhi, King, Cesar E. Chavez, and Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, and their followers.
Deaf-blind author and activist Helen Keller said: "The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker." The Sonoma County celebration highlights local peacebuilding organizations and resources available to help community members learn and expand peacebuilding skills. In community restorative circles participants are asked what they did to prevent the problem and what they could have done to prevent it. We all need to ask ourselves these questions and then take on the mantle of peacebuilder, whether as a shover or a pusher.
Co-sponsors of the Sonoma County Season for Nonviolence include: the Peace & Justice Center, Veterans for Peace, Alternatives to Violence Project, Center for Restorative Practice, Love Choir, Peace Alliance/U.S. Dept. of Peacebuilding Campaign, United Nations Assoc., Restorative Resources. Contributors include Santa Rosa City Schools, printer Curtis Craft, Pure Water, Underground Bakery, and Oliver's Market.
"In every community there is work to be done. In every nation, there are wounds to heal. In every heart there is the power to do it." - Marianne Williamson