2017 Session 8

The Greensboro Counter Stories Project: Establishing a Culture of Dialogue and Problem-Solving – Panel

Sarah Carrig (University of North Carolina – Greensboro), Nathaniel Davis III (City of Greensboro Police Department), Mary Louise Frampton (University of California –Davis), Lamar Gibson (On Earth Peace), Hollyce Giles (Guilford College), Judia Holton (Guilford College), David Anderson Hooker (University of Notre Dame)

The proposed session will provide a comprehensive look at the Greensboro Counter Stories Project (GCSP) from conception through initial evaluation. GCSP is a community-developed and -led, action-oriented dialogue, in Greensboro, North Carolina, that engages residents in ongoing discussions about how to transform the city into a community that benefits all its members. The project emerged from an 18-month community inquiry regarding the status of race relations and economic conditions five years after the report of the Greensboro Truth and Community Reconciliation Commission (GTCRC). Though not directly associated with the TRC process, GCSP has built on the successes, recommendations, and areas of incompletion of the 2004 – 2006 GTCRC. After many years of tension, acrimony, and use of power and politics to address or avoid historical and structural injustices in Greensboro, GCSP seeks to change this community culture to one of dialogue and engagement. The approach uses training and mini story-telling models to increase community capacity for cross cultural engagement of difficult issues. The process, detailed in The Little Book of Transformative Community Conferencing (Hooker, 2016), is used for larger community engagement on questions such as: “How can local government, the police, and broad spectrum of community members build a community in which everyone feels safe, protected, and respected?” While there are clear shortcomings in the early phase of implementation, a preliminary evaluation indicates that the model demonstrates an innovative, transformative justice approach to community action in response to long standing racial tensions and economic stratification. In the spirit of the GCSP, the session will be conducted as a panel presentation with a series of brief illustrative stories told by community members who have participated in the process and the academics who helped develop the model and evaluate its implementation.

The Constructive Program: Gandhi and Beyond – Panel

Wendy Kroeker, Stephanie Knox Steiner (Director of Education, Metta Center), Sean Chabot (Eastern Washington University), Kurt Schock (Rutgers University), Stellan Vinthagen (U Mass-Amherst), Randall Amster (Georgetown University)

Near the end of his life, Gandhi realized that nonviolent construction, rather than nonviolent contention, was at the heart of his decolonizing approach to nonviolent struggle toward self-rule. In Constructive Programme, a pamphlet written in 1941, he conceived of civil disobedience as a peaceful way to protect or enable constructive effort toward personal and communal swaraj, not as a priority: “Civil Disobedience is not absolutely necessary to win freedom through purely non-violent effort, if the co-operation of the whole nation is secured in the constructive programme… It should be clear to the reader that Civil Disobedience in terms of Independence without the co-operation of the millions by way of constructive effort is mere bravado and worse than useless.” Unfortunately, nonviolent resistance scholars have mostly ignored Gandhi’s warning and emphasized large-scale contentious at the expense of grassroots constructive campaigns.

The purpose of our panel is two-fold: To return to Gandhi’s original interpretation of the constructive program, on the one hand, and to reinvent his concept as a tool for understanding and enhancing contemporary decolonizing forms of nonviolent construction, on the other.

  • “Exploring Constructive Program as Nonviolent Strategy”, Stephanie Knox Steine

Nonviolence is much more than simply the absence of violence – it is better described as “love in action” and is, as Martin Luther King, Jr. defined it, a way of life for courageous people. The most successful nonviolent movements – from the Indian freedom struggle to the US civil rights movement – were highly strategic in their application of nonviolence. The challenges of today’s world demand that we collaborate strategically to advance a peaceful, just, nonviolent, sustainable agenda that is better and fairer for all. The Metta Center’s Roadmap model, which draws from the successful principles and strategies of Gandhi and King, is a framework that individuals and groups can use to gain a sense of united nonviolent action and to design a strategy for concerted action along nonviolent lines leading to major, systemic change (some call it “The Great Turning.”). The message of the Roadmap is that “we all belong here” – everyone can find themselves and their passion within the Roadmap, and realize that they are part of a bigger picture. Working together, we can create a powerful, nonviolent strategy for weaving our work together toward a safer and saner future.

Creativity in the form of constructive program (CP) is at the heart of the roadmap and is integral for any successful nonviolent strategy. The Roadmap is grounded in the new story, the vision of humanity that acknowledges our interdependence, interconnection, and collaborative, compassionate potential. The model’s progression involves developing our “Person Power” (our innate capacity for strength, courage and compassion), being constructive when possible (it’s always possible!), and resisting when necessary. In this session we will explore the role of constructive program in nonviolent strategy, and particularly how Person Power – including the upliftment of the human image – is the ultimate constructive program. Using the roadmap model and the example of restorative justice (RJ), we will explore how RJ as CP can be used at all levels, from the internal to the global, addressing the school system to prisons and reconciling our nation’s history of colonization, slavery, and genocide. We will also explore how RJ could strategically be a keystone issue – one that, if we get it right, could shift the whole culture from one based in violence and fear towards a culture of peace, nonviolence, compassion, and love in action.

  • “Decolonizing Nonviolent Construction: From the Constructive Program to the Commons”, Sean Chabot

Gandhi realized early on that British colonialism was a totalizing system of domination, grounded in political, economic, cultural, and spiritual violence. Decolonizing such a system not only involved contentious resistance against colonial rulers and elites, but also constructive struggles for political, economic, cultural, and spiritual autonomy. Gandhi insisted that removing British authorities and replacing them with Indian authorities was not enough to achieve complete independence for the majority of Indian people. Besides throwing out “the tiger” (British colonial rule), he also wanted to transform “the tiger’s nature” (the colonial mentality afflicting colonizer as well as colonized). While Gandhi favored nonviolent over violent means of resistance, he primarily focused on creating alternative ways of life and social relationships beyond colonial violence. He acknowledged that contentious campaigns were sometimes necessary, yet prioritized the Constructive Program as guide for making decolonizing ways of life possible. It encouraged Indian people—especially the most oppressed among them—to take charge of their own lives by showing how they could work toward communal equality, material self-sufficiency, and personal well-being in their local communities.

Decolonizing revolutionaries in the twenty-first century are coming to similar insights as Gandhi. After starting with contentious resistance against today’s colonial-capitalist world system, they now often prioritize constructive efforts to decolonize their subjectivities, relationships, and lifeworlds. Instead of Gandhi’s notion of Constructive Program, however, they use concepts like “the commons” to articulate how to recognize and respond to today’s colonial mentality. The Commons basically refer to communal spaces where people organize, manage, and govern themselves for the common good without depending on the capitalist market or centralized state. While capitalism and colonialism have enclosed, commodified, and conquered most forms of Commons (including land, water, and knowledge), decolonizing communities and movements are creating autonomous ways of life by reclaiming the Commons and engaging in commoning practices.

This essay stages an encounter between the Gandhian vocabulary of Constructive Program and the emerging vocabulary of the Commons, and proposes areas of overlap and distinction. It shows how each perspective can benefit from exposure to the other. On the one hand, it argues that Gandhi’s Constructive Program can only thrive in the context of a vibrant Commons. On the other hand, it contends that the Commons must be grounded in a sustained decolonizing movement (as was Gandhi’s Constructive Program) to avoid cooptation by the capitalist market and centralized state. Empirically, this essay draws on insurgent Zapatista women in Chiapas, Mexico to illustrate decolonizing forms of Constructive Program, Commons, and revolutionary mixtures of the two in today’s colonial-capitalist world system

  • “The Landless Rural Workers Movement in Brazil (MST) and the Gandhian Constructive Program”, Kurt Schock, Stellan Vinthagen

The anticolonial struggle led by Gandhi in India is a famous nonviolent struggle that inspired movements throughout the world. One part of that struggle was the constructive program, which took the form of local village development (Khadi and Swadeshi, etc.) and aimed for “Hind Swaraj” (Indian “home rule” or genuine local autonomy). Gandhi viewed it as the most important element in the liberation struggle, but the Indian Congress Party largely ignored it. It can be argued that nonviolent activism is a combination of nonviolent resistance (against violence) and nonviolent construction (of nonviolent alternatives and ways of life). Nevertheless, activists and scholars overwhelmingly focus on the nonviolent resistance component (protest, disobedience, non-cooperation, etc.), while the nonviolent construction aspect is under-theorized. Moreover, although Gandhi developed a specific 18-point program for reforms of Indian villages and associations already 1941 in India, it is unclear what a constructive program means today and outside of India.

Therefore it is perhaps not surprising that contemporary social movements engaging in nonviolent constructive alternatives and alternative ways of living are autonomist oriented movements outside of the Gandhian tradition, such as the Zapatistas in Mexico, the Kurdish liberation movement, and the landless rural workers in Brazil (MST). The MST has an ambitious program of alternative agrarian development, amounting to their vision of a “New Brazil”, consisting of, for example, organic farming, democratic governance of their own camps and villages, cooperative businesses, health clinics, primary and adult schooling, as well as their own activist university.

  • “The Oceanic Circle: Nonviolent Resistance and Environmental Resilience”, Randall Amster

As we consider effective responses to mounting global challenges that intersect social and ecological dimensions, there is a need for coherent and systemic visions that can provide viable templates for an alternative societal framework. One important yet relatively under-explored vision was articulated by Gandhi, contemplating an “oceanic circle” composed of self-sufficient communities that are autonomous yet interlinked. This presentation explores contemporary manifestations of Gandhi’s vision, in terms of their efficacy as individual units and as to how they are networking today. The aim is to discern best practices and offer a working model for a society that is resilient in its ability to transform conflicts and crises, and sustainable in its baseline operations. How do these Gandhian experiments initially form and maintain themselves over time? What modes of governance do they utilize? How are social and environmental issues linked in these communities? What forms of connection and networking exist both within given communities and with other similar experiments elsewhere? These queries can be analyzed through a dualistic lens of nonviolence and ecology, with the aim being to adduce a sense of resistance and resilience in evaluating progress toward Gandhi’s grand vision—an endeavor made urgent by the confluence of sociopolitical and environmental challenges at hand today.

Telling Important Stories – Panel

  • “Conscientious Objection & Draft Resistance: The Vietnam War”, Katie Jo Breidenbach Wooding (Manchester University)

​​At the height of American paranoia over the spread of communism, the United States entered a war in Vietnam. Unlike the relative unity of the American population in the face of World War II, the war in Vietnam was not unquestioningly embraced by all the American people. During this time, citizens were confused about the purpose of the war, which led to distrust of the United States government. This led to a surge in conscientious objection and draft resistance; the numbers were larger than those during any other war in United States’ history. Conscientious objection and draft resistance are topics we rarely grow up learning about in school. When we think of these terms, we tend to relate them solely to the stereotypes of the 1960s-1970s: hippies, protests, mass social movements. Students have few opportunities and resources that allow them to consider the reasons, the pressures, and the religious beliefs that might have led these men to the paths of conscientious objection and draft resistance during the war in Vietnam. I have conducted oral history interviews with men who made these difficult decisions. I have questioned them about the reasons why they chose to be conscientious objectors or draft resistors during the Vietnam War. Through analyzing their responses, I am able to begin to draw a more accurate and nuanced portrait of this aspect of our understanding of the reactions in the United States during the years of the Vietnam War.

  • “Deconstructing Mentacide in the Black Community: A comparative analysis of the theories of Joost Meerloo and Bobby Wright”, Herman Spencer (Director of Programs, Alternative Education Research Institute)

The purpose of this study was to understand how theories of menticide and mentacide connects and how they are different. This is important to understand as young scholars studying the effects of persistent trauma on people of color, particularly Black people. As with any serious academic undertaking it is important to understand the history and subsequent evolution of any concept to better apply the concept in a practical environment.

This research was designed to provide an insight to the perceptions and experiences as told by the theorists, scholars and critics – even apologists. In order, to more thoroughly investigate the etymology of the term(s), especially with regards to Wrights theory of mentacide it would be important to implement a research study that is more qualitative in nature. Although Wright is considered a pioneer of Black psychological thought, it is not clear why the writings on this particular topic were so sparse and yet it is a prominent theory used by Black psychologists to describe a set of oppressive institutional conditions that could potentially cause or exacerbate mental illness amongst people of color.

This may be an opportunity to engage in phenomenological qualitative research that would allow the researcher to reconstruct the conceptualization of the term mentacide through in person interviews with those still living in Chicago that had intimate knowledge of his scholarly pursuits. This is important to do sooner rather than later. With Wright’s closest confidantes presumably reaching elder status within their respective communities, it is important to preserve this rich history through the re-telling of his story in a more thorough and critical way.

  • “Memory Activism and Transformation”, Elham Atashi (Associate Professor of Teaching & Co-Director of Justice and Peace Studies Program, Georgetown University) and Elena Itameri (Undergraduate student, Major in Justice and Peace Studies, Georgetown University)

This Paper is focused on the role of memory as a tool of activism and social transformation. The focus on memory is unique in providing cases where scholars and activists are working against the impulse to forget and erase from memory atrocities, human rights abuses and historical injustices that ought to be remembered. Using case study methodology it focuses on the Armenian Genocide and how state denial through a specific use of language has been challenged by memory activists to transform and reshape popular narratives. The paper explores ways that memory activism can be used to provide a route for bringing the responsibility of the past into the future, as well as the role memory contamination in relation to fragmentation of master narrative.

Dealing with Displacement: Refugees, Human Rights, and International Policy – Panel

Jeremy Rinker (University of North Carolina-Greensboro), Ali Askarov (University of North Carolina-Greensboro), Daniel Rhodes (University of North Carolina-Greensboro), Amal Khoury (Global Studies Department, University of North Carolina-Charlott

One of the major humanitarian consequences of war is human displacement. The question of displacement and state responsibility has become even more pertinent in the past several years, especially with the on-going war in Syria. This round table explores and critically examines such issues, focusing on the successes and failures of refugee assimilation in the US, Turkey, and elsewhere; local and international policy surrounding refugees, and; collective education around this vulnerable worldwide population.

Presenters will briefly discuss the following papers/topics in brief 10-minute presentations. Upon completion of these presentations, presenters will facilitate a critical solution-based discussion of dealing with displacement.

  • “Building Collective Resilience and Trauma-Awareness among Refugee Populations in North Carolina”, Jeremy Rinker

While limited understanding between both the newly arrived and long-time citizens act to maintain separate discourses about the added value of refugees and immigrants, it is argued here that building shared narratives about the refugee experience is critical to overcoming the social discord among Bhutanese refugees and between these refugees and citizens of their adopted homeland in the Triad of North Carolina. A general lack of understanding of the ‘other’ does little to create an outlet for the collective trauma among the newly arrived, or the nationalist chosen traumas of the average Triad citizen. This paper will be a summary of findings from an on-going community wellness project among Triad Bhutanese communities – – a project aimed at building collective social resilience.

  • “The Middle Eastern Refugee Dilemma: Humanitarian and Political Aspect”, Ali Askarov

As the new wave of the violent conflict in the Middle East has caused a grave humanitarian crisis, it has become apparent that most European countries are reluctant to accept refugees from the Middle East. Turkey is the largest receiver of refugees and perhaps the host country that has offered the best opportunities for its refugees. This paper will discuss the basic policies of the Turkish government to address refugee problems in the country and examine the details of the negotiation between the EU and Turkey.

  • “When the Local is Global: Exploring Global Critical Pedagogies in Refugee Education”, Daniel Rhodes

The global West has historically suffered from ethnocentrism and Westerners often do not feel the need to understand or respect those from other cultures. However, with the dramatic increase in refugee and immigrant populations, those who live in the West no longer have the luxury to ignore the sociopolitical events that lead to mass migration. This paper will be drawing from such critical theorists as Kwame Anthony Appiah, with his ideas of “Rooted Cosmopolitanism,” and Edward Said’s ideas of “Orientalism” as context to frame the importance of global critical pedagogy in helping educators and students understand the diversity and complexity in how our local communities are now becoming global communities.

  • “Critical Analysis of Resettlement Policy in the US: State Variations and Refugee Outcomes”, Amal Khoury

As of December 2015, a record high 65.3 million people were displaced from their homes by conflict and persecution. Only about 1% of the 21.3 million refugees worldwide are resettled to third countries every year following a thorough and lengthy process of selection and vetting by UNHCR and the admitting country. While the United States accounts for a small percentage of such resettlements, it is important to study the resettlement experiences of displaced communities in the U.S. and critically analyze the variation in state-level resettlement programs that lead to different experiences for refugees. My study not only investigates the policies but ultimately seeks to reveal the impact of resettlement policies on the refugees themselves and understand how issues like cross- cultural educational differences, language barriers, cultural differences, precarious financial condition, and anti-refugee sentiment, to name a few, can generate serious obstacles in the process of their resettlement. This critical examination seeks to inform more effective resettlement policies and programs that can meet the demands of the increasing humanitarian crises.

Rights and Relationships: Humanizing the Human Rights Discourse in the United States – Roundtable

Amanda Guidero (Fellow of Conflict Engagement, Department of Interdisciplinary Studies, Creighton University), Palma Strand (Professor of Law, Department of Interdisciplinary Studies, Creighton University)

After a brief presentation to set the stage, we will engage in a dialogue that experientially connects relationship building to social change and legal evolution.

Music for Social Justice – Workshop

​​Tom Neilson, Lynn Waldron (Music for Social Change)

A mini-concert showing the role of music in teaching social history; Songs will be historical and contemporary addressing many issues under the social justice umbrella; The genre is folk music with significant application of humor and satire; The presentation is interactive with encouraged audience participation.

Lessons in movement-building and women’s leadership from the First Intifada: 30 years after the uprising – Workshop

Emma Alpert, Daniel Nerenberg (Just Vision)

This year marks the 30 years since the the start of the First Intifada, the popular uprising that mobilized Palestinian communities through sustained, civil disobedience campaigns in order to render the Occupied Palestinian Territories ungovernable by the Israeli military. For Palestinians, the uprising represents a moment of courage, hope and collective civil resistance: through the use marches, sit-ins, commercial and social boycotts, symbolic public acts and other classic forms of civil disobedience, Palestinians forced Israel and the world to recognize their struggle for rights and dignity.

In response to calls from grassroots activists, movement leaders and journalists, Just Vision embarked on a multi-year research project on this period, culminating in our newest film that documents the untold story of the women leaders of the First Intifada, set for release in late 2017. In this workshop, our team will share key findings from our research, taking a critical look at movement-building tactics, strategies and outcomes, as well as the Israeli and international media coverage of this period. In addition, we will showcase early footage from the film, which captures the personal experiences of those involved in the First Intifada. Finally, we will lead a conversation on what activists working to end the occupation and build a just, rights-respecting future in Palestine and Israel — as well as those working to further movements for justice in the US and elsewhere — can learn from this crucial period or organizing.

Meeting Mr. Clotworthy: A Simulation Game to Introduce Restorative Justice to Students and Community Groups – Workshop

Anne P. Wheeler, students from UAB’s Justice Science and Peace Studies programs

Restorative justice emerged in the latter third of the twentieth century as an alternative paradigm to heavily retributive modes of criminal justice embraced by the formal adversarial systems of the United States and other common law countries. Restorative justice seeks to hold offenders accountable in ways that will bring healing and reparation for those specific victims and their respective communities, as well as for the offender. Restorative principles and practices are increasingly being adopted not only in the criminal justice system but also in schools and colleges, and the core concepts resonate in the truth and reconciliation commissions working to transform societal conflicts rooted in long-standing concepts of community and exclusion.

The anecdotal evidence demonstrates the power of applying restorative principles in individual cases, but the goal of producing such highly individualized outcomes for victims and offenders challenges systemic goals of consistency and uniformity in how offenders are held accountable for similar types of wrongdoing. Of perhaps greater significance is the risk that, by focusing on individual cases, restorative practitioners actually reinforce patterns of racial injustice and other forms of systemic injustice that are hidden by the system’s focus on the appropriateness of given outcomes in individual cases.

In this interactive workshop we will explore this paradox through a simulation based on an early restorative justice case from New Zealand, R. v. Clotworthy. Students from host University of Alabama at Birmingham will fill the roles of victim, defendant, prosecutor, and key family and community members; Conference participants will have the opportunity to “step into” these roles, if they choose, and will then serve as judges, analyzing how to weigh diverse interests to reach a “just” resolution.

The simulation invites participants to explore how a restorative approach can be used to transform rather than to exacerbate conflicts between individuals and within the community. To the extent that we can understand and effectively apply restorative principles in individual cases, we will be better equipped to incorporate restorative practices in our efforts to transform conflict at societal and systemic levels.

This simulation has been used successfully to introduce university students to the challenges presented by restorative justice in the criminal justice system, and is readily adaptable for use with school and community groups in a wide variety of settings. Participants will have access to simulation materials for use after the Conference.

Recovering Racist: A documentary – Film

Lawton Higgs Sr, Marti Slay & Dale Short

This hour-long documentary tells the story of the religious epiphany of R. Lawton Higgs, Sr. around race, and it challenges viewers to reconsider their own thoughts on race, justice, and grace. (HSC Alumni Theater)