Learn with it, rock with it
For anyone who follows my blog posts and have kept up with my self-discovery in Selma, I’m sorry that I’m catching you up on what I’ve been learning so late. Last Monday was the start of Art Camp and I was not prepared at all for how energy and time consuming everything would be, but so far I love every moment of it. The week before Art Camp, we had a 5-day intensive nonviolence training and I can solidly say that it has started to change my once “advanced” views on issues of social justice.
While I would prefer talking about my personal progress and self realizations with nonviolence on a person-to-person basis, there was one aspect of the training that stood out to me. Emphasized in each reading, activity and principle, nonviolence encourages, requires really, an inclusive compassion from all of its practitioners. It’s a completely selfless way of thinking, its practitioners beliefs and survival completely dependent on the morality of all humans. It assumes the best in everyone, complete and assured by something called ‘agape love.’ Agape love, according to my quick dictionary search, is unconditional love for everyone. Everyone including the enemy, who is awarded as much respect and understanding as one’s Mom.
When I learned about agape love, I’m not sure I really understood what it was. Actually I didn’t understand it all because I was (am) struggling with the concept of unconditional love in general. I felt like everyone was generally taught to love each other so how hard could it be? I could work on being less judgmental and asking people how they felt instead of assuming. But the word ‘love’ next to ‘agape’ meant I had to extend my feelings of compassion to something other than myself. One site even describes the essence of it as “self-sacrifice” which is so powerful. For me, I understood it as being willing to sacrifice my own life for anyone if it meant they would be freed from their own struggles with the truth. So then with that logic, it meant I was willing to give my life for a klansmen so they would have the chance to learn that everyone is equal?
LOL. As if.
But after learning more and more about nonviolence and its implementation first in self and then in others, I started to reevaluate my own preconceived notions about the proper way to achieve equality, civil rights, human rights, etc. I had to stop making it about me because it wasn’t just about me. Yes, I was being oppressed in many ways as a Black American female, but nonviolence was way deeper than personal struggles. It was about the oppressed as well as the oppressor. It was about systems of injustice. It was about our conditioning. It was thoughtful, caring, loving and really hard to do.
Martin Luther King Jr., who was famous for his nonviolence tactics during the Civl Rights Movement in America, was a perfectly imperfect nonviolence practitioner who worked tirelessly to embody and embrace the principles to achieve equality. In our training manual packet (I’m technically certified in nonviolence so hit me up for a sesh), we read stories and quotes about how leaders such as Nelson Mandela and Gandhi used these tactics to allow people to see the truth. But for me, it was most impressive to read about MLK’s philosophy that allowed him to use agape love to respect the best parts of people in order to gain his own understanding around nonviolence. MLK could look past the obviously prejudiced opinions of Gandhi toward Blacks and appreciate, implement and learn from other ideas Gandhi had to offer. It was beautiful and challenging and something that I wanted to work towards because my anger was becoming an overbearing burden on a weary soul.
Nonviolence was an introduction to a way of living that took off the heavy shackles of injustice by allowing us to see past our own anger and reinforce the humanity in everyone. It meant recognizing the various struggles of the oppressed as well as the burdens of the oppressor and relating the two by breaking down the barrier of inequality, misunderstanding and fear that led people to carry the heavy weight of being superior or inferior to another. So, united we stand, divided we fall. And we can always get back up.
P.S. My friend Sam’s post is a great place to read up on some of the principles and her awesome interpretation of what they mean to her.
Andeulazia Hughes-Murdock ’18