Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is no stranger to USF life – his oldest son spoke on campus in January and his bronze bust overlooks the MLK Plaza.
Yet, a two-day training course that begins Friday at 1 p.m. hopes to make King’s philosophies more recognizable in the actions of students and the community at large.
The Kingian Nonviolence Training program is a free, two-day workshop that breaks down King’s teachings into a step-by-step program. Vierge Julien, a senior majoring in theater and psychology and staff member at the Jim Walter Partnership Center (JWPC), said topics include the six steps of Kingian nonviolence, six principles of Kingian nonviolence, nonviolence roleplay and nonviolence negotiation and reconciliation.
USF brought the national program to campus through the JWPC and partnered with Emory University and the University of Rhode Island. The power behind the program, said JWPC Director Manuel Rivero, is that it allows diverse community members – students, law enforcement officers and community leaders – to actively participate in exercises that challenge their methods of dealing with injustices.
“What I’ve taken out of it is that it makes you rethink how you approach certain things in life,” Rivero said. “It doesn’t mean that you’re not going to protest or take a stand on something … With the Freedom Riders, there was confrontation, but the confrontation was done in a nonviolent manner, and there are various techniques to how this is done.”
Some of the principles go back as far as Gandhi, he said, and work universally to deal with injustices without resorting to violence.
“Violence is not just physical,” Rivero said. “You can be violent in a verbal manner. Any time you degrade your fellow man in any way, you are perpetuating violence against an individual – whether you label them or call them a name or do anything physically to them.”
The Attorney General’s Office formerly funded the program, Rivero said, and the upcoming workshop was paid for with all leftover funding from a Kingian workshop held in February. To ensure that the program will be available in the future, he said the JWPC hopes feedback from workshop attendees will attract funding from the attorney general and Florida officials working with local law enforcement.
“We can all learn from reconciliation so we can come together for a common good,” Rivero said. “I’m hoping the (college) generation gets it right on some of this stuff, or at least builds on what prior generations have worked on. I always think younger generations are more malleable to looking at certain concepts because they have a lifetime ahead of them to test them.”
There remains five open seats available for the workshop, which will be held at the University Area Community Development Corporation at 14013 N. 22nd St. Anyone interested in attending can register at jwpc.org/Kingian-Nonviolence.asp.