Lafayette teaches Kingian nonviolence

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 13, 2008

The Selma-Times Journal

Dr. Bernard Lafayette sat with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in a Memphis, Tenn. hotel room April 4, 1968. The last words that they had were on the nonviolence movement.

Five hours later King lay dying from a gunshot wound on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, but his words and wishes lived with Lafayette.

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Dr. Lafayette of the University of Rhode Island began nonviolence training at Wallace Community College in Selma that will end today.

The training focuses on teaching solutions to problems alternative to violence.

Lafayette began holding training for nonviolence action after the 39 days he spent in jail at Jackson, Miss., because he participated in the freedom rides.

During the 1960s in Mississippi, he worked in the Poor People&8217;s campaign and with the youth.

Teaching started as a way to encourage participation from citizens of Jackson to join in with the civil rights movement.

Lafayette worked with James Bevel, another renown leader, and together they taught the youth. In fact, their work earned them scrutiny by the taxpayer supported segregationist spy agency, the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission.

The commission kept a dossier on Lafayette

It didn&8217;t stop him. He works now.

To date, Lafayette has taught nonviolence training to more than 4,000 transit workers in Miami and 3,000 police in Dade County, Fla. He has nonviolence institutions in Columbia, Johannesburg, Nigeria, and Israel.

He also established programs called Building the Beloved Community to teach seventh and eighth grade youth the benefits of nonviolence.

&8220;These programs will help students related to their peers better. We have to re-teach our institutions and reevaluate our values,&8221; he said.

He stresses the importance of verbal nonviolence as well.

The nonviolence training is held yearly at WCCS, and there are plans for Dr. Lafayette to return to Selma in the fall.