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Kazu Haga
Published: Monday 21 January 2013
If we as a nation are going to continue to use Martin Luther King Jr.’s name and image as a moral compass, then we owe it to him to continue his legacy of struggle.

MLK’s Final Marching Orders

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“Now, Bernard, the next movement we’re going to have is to institutionalize and internationalize nonviolence.”

It was a comment made almost in passing. Dr. Bernard Lafayette, Jr., then the national coordinator for the Poor People’s Campaign, was walking out of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s motel room in Memphis, Tenn.

Dr. Lafayette figured this was a conversation that they would finish later, and he walked out of the room and headed to Washington, D.C., to attend a press conference. But the two would never go on to finish that discussion; five hours later, Dr. King was assassinated.

Dr. Lafayette was determined to not let Dr. King’s vision die with him. He took those last words, “institutionalize and internationalize nonviolence,” as what he has since called his “final marching orders” and has been working ever since to accomplish just that.

In the late 1980s, Dr. Lafayette joined forces with David Jehnsen, another activist who was involved in the civil rights movement and was responsible for drafting the first proposal for the U.S. Institute of Peace. Together, they created the Kingian Nonviolence Conflict Reconciliation training curriculum.

Forty-five years after Dr. King spoke about his vision for his next movement, this philosophy has taken root in institutions around the world. In Bella Vista Prison in Colombia, youth are trained in nonviolence by the prison inmates. Tens of thousands of militants in Nigeria are turning in their arms after being trained in nonviolence as part of a government amnesty program. Chicago’s North Lawndale College Prep High School has seen a 90-percent reduction in violence over four years, which began with a 70-percent reduction during the first year it invested in Kingian Nonviolence.

As successful as this program has been in reducing and preventing violence in communities riddled with conflict, it has also found success in social change movements. Most recently, Kingian Nonviolence trainers have offered workshops in this philosophy to Occupy groups around the country.

In many ways, the Occupy movement was, and remains, the perfect place to continue living out Dr. King’s legacy. On the evening before his assassination, while delivering a speech to a packed church in Memphis, he called for people to move their money out of some of the major downtown banks and invest them in local institutions. The last great effort of his life was the Poor People’s Campaign, in which he called on poor people from around the country to gather in Washington, D.C., to create an encampment called “Resurrection City.” Forty-five years later, those very same struggles continue.

Part of the legacy left behind by organizers from the civil-rights era and other nonviolent social movements is the importance of training, which is heavily emphasized in Kingian Nonviolence. Dr. Lafayette was one of the organizers of the Nashville lunch counter sit-ins, along with other noted civil rights leaders like Diane Nash and John Lewis. In the process, many of them received trainings in nonviolence from Rev. James Lawson, and their training lasted a full year before they engaged in direct action. Mohandas Gandhi and his followers lived in their ashram and trained themselves for 15 years before they embarked on the Salt March.

While it may not be realistic to expect everyone involved in a populist movement to have been trained in nonviolence, it is critical that the movement’s leadership has a strong foundation in nonviolent social change. The work of reversing society’s ills and standing up to injustice is not easy, and we need to be willing to invest the time and resources necessary to prepare ourselves just as much as a military prepares its front-line soldiers. Social change and the process of social transformation is not something to be made up on the spot.

Radical social change will not come overnight, and it will not come easily. Our challenge is not a matter of simply getting more bodies out into the streets, but building a real nonviolent army — one that is grounded in the power of agapic love, one that recognizes the importance of long-term strategy, one that understands the role of direct action and can frame issues in a way that speaks to the masses, one that is committed to building democratic decision-making structures within the movement as well as in the larger world and one that is disciplined even in the face of repression. Those characteristics will not appear automatically.

While the initial momentum of the Occupy movement has slowed down for now, many of the relationships that were built in it remain in place. Countless thousands of people were “activated” by Occupy for the first time in their lives. Now is the time for us to be strengthening those relationships and networks, training ourselves so that the next time that moment comes, we are more prepared than ever to take advantage of it and ride the wave toward fundamental change.

If we as a nation are going to continue to use Dr. King’s name and image as a moral compass, then we owe it to him to continue his legacy of struggle. We owe it to him to remind ourselves that he was not only a loving person who wanted everyone to get along, but also a radical who was not afraid of confrontation. We must remind ourselves that he was a man who called for a movement that is “nonviolent, but militant, and as dramatic, as dislocative, as disruptive, as attention-getting as the riots.”

We owe it to him, to ourselves and to our future generations to train ourselves to build such a movement.

ABOUT Kazu Haga

Kazu Haga is a trainer in Kingian Nonviolence and currently serves as operations director and Bay Area coordinator for the Positive Peace Warrior Network. Born in Japan, he has been involved in social change movements since he was 17. As part of PPWN, he current conducts trainings with youth, incarcerated populations and with activists in the Bay Area and around the country.

Nonviolent means, yes, as

Nonviolent means, yes, as Kazu Haga reminds us, and toward the end of racial justice, as CCRIDER27 chimes in. But Dr. King's most complete final challenge was spelled out in his last book, left wholly unaddressed to this day. In fact, the situation he described in the late Sixties has been vastly worsened by the tyranny of ideological capitalism that defines the ongoing Reagan Era. Even after Obama's first four years, I sometimes wonder if anyone in the Obama administration has even read Dr. King's terribly important last book.

Please do so! It's "Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?" (1968). Here, Dr. King asserts that only the *easy* part of the movement for racial justice has been achieved. The really hard part — translating the articulation of civli-rights principles into economic reality — can only come about at real cost to those privileged by the status quo in our society. "Rights" legislation was easy, he argued, compared to real change: just words and values.

The Memphis strike was getting at this underlying economic manifestation (which of course crosses actual racial lines, though the entire black community was uniquely involved, as King explains in this book). That strike had gotten violent the week or so before King arrived, to help restore a nonviolent ethos to this movement, the occasion for the important exchange of which Kazu Haza reminds us. But it was economic justice toward which the movement was headed, according to "Where Do We Go From Here?" and this is the part of Dr. King's dream that I fear has been lost.

Full employment was King's ultimate bottom line in "Chaos or Community?" If business didn't want or need people's work, our assurance as a nation should be that every citizen is assured a dignified, secure and well-paying job in public service. There's always more we can do to develop out communities' cultural lives, our public facilities, our human services. We should not have to worry about *whether* there's work to be done, or how to finance it: this is the fundamental purpose of government in a democracy, one comes to understand by reading Dr. King's final book.

Of course, he has much more to say on the subject, but this is the essence of what I consider to be Dr. King's final marching orders — with nonviolence the means, as Kazu Haga reminds us, and true multicultural justice the outcome.

Putting everybody back to work should have been President Obama's *top priority* in 2009, and it should be now, in his second term — not bailing out banks, praying for trickle-down from parsimonious rich people at the altar the Reaganistas built, or hoping for the "magic" of the market-place. With so many unemployed, and underemployed, so sane businessperson will invest in hgher labor costs: where are the customers? Everybody's scared: we're killing each other, and allowing anti-democratic forces to create false issues (like "deficit reduction" and gun control). None of this will change until we mobiize our ogovernment to do what we really need it to do.

Embrace full employment. It's what Dr. King saw from that mountaintop in 1968. It's up to us to reimagine and occupy the Promised Land, 45 years later. It's still not too late.

Since 1968, blatant racial

Since 1968, blatant racial injustice has evolved into blatant class injustice, an idea at least implicitly accepted even by American liberals. Americans today do, for the most part, fully accept those of all races -- as long as they are middle class. We very openly (indeed, without even thinking about it) embrace class injustice, fully accepting that those in poverty are something different, something less than far us. Even liberals of this generation (with VERY rare exception) have accepted without question Bill Clinton's welfare "reform" policies, which include the elimination of certain very fundamental legal and human rights solely on the basis of class. We simply censor the consequences of these horrendous policies out of the public discussion (and hey, who doesn't love Big Bill?). Beyond that, I think America's hypocrisy shines brightest at this time of year, when we remember Martin Luther King. Even liberals have been adopting revisionist history that writes the poor out of the story. For example, in 1968, Martin Luther King led a massive demonstration in Washington DC. This was not simply the "March on Washington," as I heard it called most recently. It was not the Middle Class Only march. It was the Poor People's March. Media has worked to paint Dr. King's work strictly in racial terms, and yet he had explicitly, deliberately, discussed white American poverty along with black American poverty, pointing to the necessity for those of all races to work together toward creating economic justice. The Clinton generation has been erasing this core issue from the history of Martin Luther King.

A speech by MLK that NEVER

A speech by MLK that NEVER gets any media attention - makes you wonder - was made exactly one year before his death: "A Time to Break the Silence."

It was a speech against war, US aggression and imperialism.

He pointed out that the US is "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today." And that the Vietnam war was but a symptom of "a far deeper malady within the American spirit." And that the US "can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over."

Also: "A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death."

I you read that speech and replace "Vietnam" with "Iraq/Afghanistan/Pakistan/Yemen/Somalia/Central America" and replace "communism" with "terrorism," then you have a speech that is possibly even more compelling today that it was in 1967.

Also: "We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the alter of retaliation."
"History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate."

For Obama, a prime purveyor of the very violence and imperialism that King railed against, to attempt to cloak himself in the garb of this great prophet is an unforgivable blasphemy. Shame on him and shame on this nation for not studying the entire message of King's life.

Here's the speech. We should all read it thoroughly on this day dedicated to possibly the greatest American ever:

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