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Nonviolence workshops are response to harrowing year

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Taylor Moore
Staff Writer

Christian Bracho, associate professor of teacher education in the LaFetra College of Education, led the final workshop to his three-part nonviolence workshop series called “Learn ways to practice nonviolence daily in thoughts, words, and deeds” on April 1 via Zoom.

Bracho shared a slide show that went over what participants had learned over the 64-day period of the nonviolence season – from Jan. 30 to April 4.

Bracho explained that the workshop spanned the international Season for Nonviolence, which was originated by Arun Gandhi, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi.

His idea was to create this international season between the two assassination dates of Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi. Jan. 30, Gandhi’s assassination date, and April 4 is King’s assassination date.

Arun Gandhi wanted to change the meaning of these dates to celebrate the legacy of both men and their belief in nonviolence, Bracho said.

“The goal is to empower people to envision and help create a culture of peace and nonviolence, one day at a time,” Bracho said during his presentation. “Our works and actions can create ripples of peace around us and beyond. A culture of peace and nonviolence is created one choice at a time, one action at a time and one day at a time.”

After his slideshow, Bracho put the 15 workshop participants into breakout rooms to discuss 5 words that resonated with them over the course of the workshops. Once brought back into the main meeting, one person from each group was asked to share the group’s thoughts.

After participants shared, Bracho shared the History Channel’s video on Cesar Chavez, in honor of Cesar Chavez day, March 31. In the video, Chavez shared his viewpoints on the importance of nonviolence and the need for civil rights.

Nonviolence series workshops were also led by Zandra Wagoner, university chaplain and assistant professor of philosophy and religion.

“Nonviolence is a hard road, but it’s a beautiful road,” Wagoner said.

After the Chavez video, Bracho asked for a response to the question: What are some ways you could see the University community practice or learn about nonviolence?

There were a variety of answers. Some suggested that ULV offer a semester-long course on nonviolence or that the nonviolence workshop series should be longer than 64 days. Others talked about the importance of having uncomfortable conversations regarding discrimination and racial injustice.

“Most people think of nonviolence as sitting back and taking it,”said Linda Bartelt, senior adjunct professor of education, who participated in all three workshops. “I view it as ‘How can I hear your story and where you’re coming from.’”

Bartelt said she decided to join for personal reasons and to bring the practice of nonviolence into her classroom.

Along with the workshops, Bracho had sent out daily emails to the participants in the mornings, each with a different theme of nonviolence.

“I found myself quoting and really doing the actions (from the email),” Bartelt said.

At the April 1 meeting, Bartelt said those daily emails were her favorite part about the workshop series. She said that she looked forward to reading the inspirational quotes and guided practices towards nonviolence.

Bartelt said she forwarded these practices, especially forgiveness, to her husband, John Bartelt, professor of education.

“Forgiveness is letting go of all hope of a perfect pass,” John Bartelt said.

At the end of the workshop, Bracho asked every participant to share something that would stick with them beyond the workshop series.

Linda Bartelt said that her biggest takeaways were forgiveness and self care.

Wagoner ended the meeting with the promise that she and Bracho are going to meet to plan ways to expand the practice of nonviolence.

The inspiration for the workshop began in a conversation between Bracho and Wagoner. Bracho had been telling her about his book “Teachers Teaching Nonviolence” published in 2020.

Wagoner had shared with him that ULV’s history is wrapped up with people who really care about nonviolence. Wagoner talked about the wars that went on in the early years in the history of ULV, and how students here refused to fight. Instead, they went to labor camps, which allowed them to continue to serve their country in a way they felt was more humanitarian.

From that conversation, they decided to form a partnership to create a workshop dedicated to teaching people the philosophy of nonviolence.

“For me, it was a beautiful collaboration that connects our past with our future,” Wagoner said.

Bracho said that these workshops were much needed after the violent year the world endured in 2020. He said that people needed a new way to deal with violence and to fight back against it, and too many people viewed nonviolence as being passive.

“It’s not that you’re not fighting back, you’re fighting back in another way,” Bracho said. “Part of fighting your enemy is loving them.”

Taylor Moore can be reached at taylor.moore@laverne.edu.

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