LARGO – The audience at Anona United Methodist Church were all in agreement of one thing: the violence in our community must end. Violence has no face, and it has no regard for race, religion or color. It is affecting the school system, the church community, the business community and the family unit. Today’s violence is affecting us all.
Kim Townsel, M.Ed., who is specialty trained in Kingian Nonviolence, held a two-day workshop to address this hot topic. Friday, April 27, a panel discussion called “Defeating Violence in Our Communities” was held and Saturday, April 28, Townsel conducted an introductory Kingian Nonviolence orientation.
Kingian Nonviolence is a philosophy of nonviolent conflict reconciliation in the tradition of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the organizing strategies of the Civil Rights Movement. It is a holistic view of conflict.
This training has been successful in so many different settings because of its broad approach. Conflict is universal, and whether you are dealing with conflict on a global level (between the rich and the poor), community level (street violence), social level (coworkers), interpersonal level (family) or personal level (internal), this philosophy applies.
The Kingian Nonviolence Introductory Training workshop was a transformational experience that explored the depths of the philosophy of nonviolence, and how to begin to bring the practice of nonviolence into our lives.
“What is the role of the faith-based in the community,” asked discussion facilitator Carl Lavender, who is the current managing officer of Workforce Innovation at Pinellas Technical College.
The panel consisted of Rev. Ken Irby, director of Not My Son; Dr. Darrell Wilson, dean at Stetson School of Law; Wali Shabazz, Southern Region director of National Trust for Development of African American Males; Clearwater Police Chief Daniel Slaughter, Dr. LaSonya Moore, professor at University of Central Florida and University of South Florida and Dr. Terry Collier, director of Anona Counseling Center.
Responses to the question varied with each panelist. Irby suggested having justice, unity, balance and opportunity. He recommended establishing values; assist in meeting needs and showing mercy with one another as crucial elements.
Slaughter saw the faith-based community as a valuable resource to connect for youth collaboration and having the pastors for support and relationship building.
Wilson feels it is important to be “real people” and not hypocrites, while Collier suggested having open doors, minds and hearts.
Although most would agree that these are difficult days, Shabazz reminded the audience that this is the greatest time in human history for alive.
The panelist and audience discussed other concerns throughout the evening such as the breakdown of the schools. For instance, art and music programs are cut, classrooms are overcrowded, and textbooks and equipment are outdated or nonfunctional; yet, the idea of arming and training educators to use guns is on the table.
The audience was challenged by a panelist asking when will we stop playing the blame game. We need conversation, communication and collaboration, not one without the other. The issue of trust, or lack thereof, brought out head nods and sounds of agreement.
Irby suggested that today’s society is more complicated and is in need of more services, particularly in the neighborhoods that have low income and impoverished families. He said building more trust with the residents is important.
“The system is not broken. It is doing what it is designed to do,” said Moore. “We need to restructure the system. Culture beats strategy every time. We are all operating in broken systems in the school, police, church, organizations, everyone.”
Townsel wrapped up the evening by stating that he advocates for a coalition of willingness that represents different parts of the community who will move from aspirational language to sustainable developmental goals.
“We must shift from blame and accusation to accountability and responsibility.”
This is something that we all can agree to.
About Kim T. Townsel, M.Ed.
Kim T. Townsel, M.Ed. is the founder and principal consultant of Townsel Consulting Group, which have been working in the Pinellas County Schools for over 18 years, providing educational consulting that formulates, creates and develops prescriptive and highly contextualized opportunity to learn and expand curriculum for educators, human service providers and the faith-based collaborative community partnerships.