By Steve Berry, a Pace e Bene Board Member
We had 35 persons register for the 2-day From Violence to Wholeness training conducted by Campaign Nonviolence Action Organizer Glenn Cratty and Pace e Bene Board Member Steve Berry on January 14 and 15, 2018 at Grace Congregational Church in Rutland, Vermont.
On Sunday evening we had twice that number, between 65-70 in attendance. Both Glenn and I led different portions of the program that lasted for three hours that night. Glenn led exercises that had been suggested in the Engage training manual but as with the entire weekend, which was very well planned, we had to flex our schedule to accommodate the needs of the group and their involvement.
We had everyone introduce themselves. This was a long process because we had so many people, but it was worthwhile. As part of that process, when attendees had completed their introductions we had them read quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day, Gandhi, Walter Wink, John Dear, Jim Douglass, Hannah Arendt, Flannery O’Connor, and a host of others that we had printed on posters. They were then placed upon the walls of the large Fellowship Hall at Grace Congregational Church where the gathering took place.
We got publicity for the weekend on the website of the Lt. Governor, David Zuckerman. We were in VTDigger online internet news service and were publicized through churches and interfaith councils as well.
We concluded our Sunday evening session with a 13-minute clip of Erica Chenoweth on the statistics behind the truth that Nonviolent Action works, followed by discussion.
Following that we had a worship with a 30 voice choir and Rep. Kiah Morris gave the sermon. Kiah is an African American woman whose grandfather and grandmother were at the Mississippi Church that was burned to the ground and where three civil rights workers murdered. (The story of this was featured in the film Mississippi Burning.) Kiah told the personal and powerful story of what happened to her family members—her grandfather was a deacon in the church.
The next day, Monday, we had 53 attendees at the program. So overall we had more than 80 different people for the weekend!
The Lt. Governor, State Senator, and Representative were all engaged. Some of the program felt like a Vermont Town Meeting because we gave people the opportunity to participate.
We also had Ryan Clayton join us, a professional political strategist with TYT who then went on to Americans Take Action.
I have slated Ryan to return on Presidents Day, February 19, to Grace Congregational Church to offer us a Nonviolence Bootcamp for people who want to commit to doing more and to help change the political dynamics of despair and cruelty. Ryan is a top trainer in this regard so we anticipate some good outcomes for 2018 based upon his efforts and that of his organization, Americans Take Action.
I worked with Ryan C. to get the first resolution in the United States passed through legislature calling for the reversal of Citizens United. Vermont was the first state, followed by California. Ryan Clayton and his team accomplished that and then did so in other states—this is a citizens’ action because Congress refuses to debate free and fair elections.