Dr. Bernard Lafayette, Jr. with studentsCELC students met with Civil Rights legend Dr. Bernard Lafayette, Jr. during an event that was co-sponsored by Connecticut Central State University and the Connecticut Center for Nonviolence.  This event entitled Continuing King’s Work of Nonviolence: Confronting Injustice Then and Now – A Conversation with Dr. Bernard Lafayette, Jr., Civil Rights Legend took place on Friday, 11 February on the CCSU campus.

Dr. Bernard Lafayette, Jr. with students Dr. Bernard Lafayette, Jr. with students Dr. Bernard Lafayette, Jr. with students

Dr. Bernard Lafayette, Jr. was a leader in the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement.  He played a leading role in the early organizing of the Selma, Alabama voting rights campaign, was a member of the Nashville Student Movement, was cofounder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and was a Freedom Rider.  As an executive staff member for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he was appointed to be national coordinator for the Poor People’s Campaign.  He is currently a Distinguished Senior Scholar-in-Residence at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, and continues to conduct Kingian Nonviolence training around the world.

Dr. Bernard Lafayette, Jr. with studentsAs part of our peace studies curriculum, our student’s work with the Kingian Nonviolence curriculum to learn about different levels of conflict and develop skills to understand and incorporate Dr. King’s Six Principles of Nonviolence into their everyday lives.  These principles form the basis of King’s philosophy and are ‘the will’ that supports the work of reconciliation.  They are as follows (as written for youth):

1.  Nonviolence is a way of life for brave people.

2.  The Peaceful Community is the goal for the future.

3.  Attack problems, not people

4.   Know and do what is right, even if it is difficult.

5.   Avoid hurting the spirit and body of yourself and others.

6.  The world is on the side of justice.

Effective communication strategies, such as “I” statements, are another way to give others clear information, and instead of lashing out, it becomes possible to accept one’s own responsibility and make the choice to care for another.  So much of today’s society is filled with violence, especially in young people’s lives. Violence is entrenched into the media, music, and everyday interactions, at times without even realizing.  As human beings, we have our differences and also our similarities.  When we are taught to appreciate both and have effective tools to communicate in a respectful way, we not only learn from one another, but also are able to obtain that peaceful and just community that Dr. King envisioned and strived to achieve. As Dr. King said, “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”