Last Friday, March 24 in the Mountain View Room, Barak Gibson and Ronald Smith came to KSC from an organization called Something New, based out of Clarkston, Georgia, to present and educate students on nonviolence Training.
There were two sessions; the morning session included informing the trainees about nonviolence training, while the afternoon entailed some role playing and interactive learning.
Gibson and Smith have unique backgrounds that gives a bigger meaning to them training others in nonviolence.
Gibson said he grew up thinking he was better than others, further beyond that, better than people in the black or muslim community. Others had approached him with love and saw past his hate to really see who he was. “Something has to change inside of you to be able to change what’s outside of you,” Gibson said.
Gibson was able to move past his hateful attitude and saw issues within the United States by going on civil rights experiences and moving to Alabama at one point. Gibson said, “I got exposed and it started to challenge some of the things inside of me. I was taught before to operate within this system, and inside of that, I was taught not to challenge that and protect the status quo.”
He continued, “I realized by not standing, I was just as much a part of the system. I stood up against the hate inside of myself, and when I started to take steps, I found my own personal freedom to be myself.” Gibson said he realized,“Courage is just a muscle that you slowly step into and it grows.”
Smith said his father once worked for a large property owner in Alabama and made a deal with him which said if he worked for him for three years, then the owner would sign the land over to Smith’s father. Once the three years was up, the property owner did just that and Smith’s father built the home that his mother and father raised him and his 16 brothers and sisters in.
“Of course my father loved us, but they [his parents] were birthing children because my father needed labor,” Smith said.
Smith told the room, “People are people; we just come from different places.”
The two present the nonviolence training as a full time job now at colleges across the country and have been doing so for the past four to five years.
Smith said, “The way nonviolence training was started is that Dr. Lafayette Jr. would come and speak during Alternative Break programs probably about seven years ago. He would come and speak to them, he would come and talk to them about nonviolence and then when he took us [Smith and Gibson] through training, we realized that it should be something that we could all participate in so we could give them a tangible experience, or some information to take back to their campus or their community.”
According to Smith, Dr. Bernard Lafayette Jr. was one of the co-founders of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). He was a student and led nonviolent protests. Lafayette did a lot of trainings in 1963, ‘64 and ‘65, in Selma, Alabama, and Nashville, Tennessee. He was one of the young students at the time, but he has been doing trainings ever since then. He now does it globally. Gibson added that Dr.Lafayette Jr has done trainings in prisons in Colombia and changed some of the violent culture there, in high schools in Chicago and other places all over the world.
Dr. Lafayette Jr. trained Smith in 2013. “When he trained me, I realized that the first hour I was there, I had two pages of notes and I was like, ‘Okay, so something is actually happening in me,’ and I felt something start to get stirred up. And during that time he was training me, he was living at Barak’s house. He stayed at Barak’s house for that week and Barak had a chance to just spend time with him, and I did a training later on that Barak was in and that’s actually how I got involved in training, through Dr. Lafayette.”
Gibson said having Dr.Lafayette staying in his home changed his perspective. “Up until that point, I had thought that nonviolence was kind of a weak approach, just misinformation. But then hearing his stories and hearing the type of courage that was required to do what he did I would say it inspired me to start to learn more about it. But I think the biggest thing that I saw was that it changed their lives also, and there was something in me, there was just a lot of fear, and I think finally getting the courage to stand up against that and using the tools of nonviolence that I wanted to take it and give it to everybody. I wanted to see people have that freedom,” Gibson said.
Gibson and Smith said they enjoy going to colleges and educating students. Smith said, “I see how a lot of young people have been disconnected from some of the bigger movements, and nonviolence training has a way of connecting them back to their history, even seeing the benefit that they have.”
Smith describes educating college students as good because they are looking for change. “I think [they are] hungry for change and hungry for something different, even with what you’re talking about, different experiences and getting exposed to whether it’s different cultures or just different ways of life or different people [or] different ways that people live life. So they’re hungry for that, and then what I’ve seen happen is as we go through the nonviolence training, it can start to expose some of the things inside of them, whether it’s some of the internal biases whether it’s some of the judgements they can have towards themselves or some of the pressure they can put on themselves,” Smith said.
This past year, students from the KSC’s Alternative Break program were able to travel to Georgia and train with Gibson and Smith. Junior Katie Masso-Glidden was able to lead that Alternative Break trip, do an internship this past summer in Alabama and go on an Alternative Break trip the year before to attend Gibson and Smith’s trainings. Masso-Glidden said her mindset has changed over the past year after attending these nonviolence trainings.
“I think we are genuinely a pretty liberal, left-sided campus and we mostly all think the same, but so many of my friends don’t take the next step to go further to make a change. Exposing yourself to a new community and getting out there, you learn about the new issue.”
Masso-Glidden’s experiences have shaped her values and beliefs. She has been able to interact with people from different countries and cultures, which makes her realize what other people suffer through.
Masso-Glidden said, “Yesterday, I took a bath and was just sitting there laughing at myself because here I am bathing in a full bathtub and I’m in more water than people across the globe have access to. I’m blessed for the opportunities, and the fact that some people never have these opportunities is something I have realized and became aware of.”
Emma Hamilton can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org