Reflections from the 2022 OCG Summit: A Call to follow the path of Kingian Nonviolence

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By: Alison Edwards, OC Human Relations and Chancellor “Chance” Patterson, The King Center

In October at the OC Grantmakers Annual Summit, we – Ali Edwards, CEO of OC Human Relations, and Chancellor “Chance” Patterson, Head of Marketing and Communications at The King Center – led a breakout session conversation around social justice. It was a fireside chat, informal and casual, but around a topic that’s critical and meaningful to us personally and professionally. In this blog post, we break down the key take-aways from our conversation.

In 1967, in a speech in Atlanta, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. shared that progress had been made in civil rights, but warned that the three “evils” of racism, poverty, and the Vietnam War would stall gains for Black Americans. In fact, the promise of the major social justice achievements of the Civil Rights era was undermined throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s by large-scale reductions in many of the Great Society programs across housing, healthcare, food stamps, education and childcare – disproportionally impacting Black communities pushed into new levels of systemic poverty without the safety net that existed for generations.

Today, in 2022, Black Americans and people of color are still faced with extreme poverty, still sitting in unequal schools, still twice as likely to be unemployed as whites, and still battling income inequality. While the government can play a significant role in eliminating unjust policies and laws, the nonprofit sector is more important than ever in the effort to dismantle structural racism and build up resources and opportunities for a healthy, safe, and fulfilling life experience. Nonprofits, supported by foundations, businesses, and individuals, form the fabric of the modern safety net to protect those in harm’s way.

For all who are working to solve personal, community, cultural, and societal conflicts, Kingian Nonviolence is the methodology to uphold. It’s a philosophy and method designed to address unjust policies, systems, and laws – ensuring that government works effectively for all. And it’s an evidence-based approach to addressing injustice based on facts and a commitment to a love-centered way of engaging, acting, and communicating. We’re all well aware that responding to violence and oppression with violence only begets more violence, which brings about our own destruction. In that sense, nonviolence is the answer ensuring society’s fundamental continuous existence.

The six steps of nonviolence (information gathering, education, personal commitment, negotiation, direct action, and reconciliation) lead to personal and societal transformation, as demonstrated by the landmark achievements in civil rights led by Dr. King.

That same sense of community and love of self and others at the heart of King’s nonviolence philosophy is inherent to nonprofits. The challenge is for nonprofits to marshal and cultivate relationships with corporate and philanthropic organizations, and for corporates and foundations to trust nonprofits to do the work.

We are all part of the same community, that which Dr. King called the Beloved Community, where we can be free of harm, hate, and violence. By definition, every nonprofit is a contributor to achieving the Beloved Community.

In our current ‘purpose economy,’ let us all – nonprofits, foundations, corporates, and individuals – seek to collaborate more effectively to create a society where social justice exists everywhere for everyone. Let us build the Beloved Community together.

For more information on The King Center’s nonviolence training, please visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=17&v=Vvt9E3JI7jE&feature=emb_logo and https://thekingcenterinstitute.org

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How do we build a compassionate and inclusive America in an age of distrust? WAJAHAT ALI knows from personal experience that when we come together to be the superheroes of our own stories, we can create honest social change. The beloved TED speaker has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, and The Atlantic about our urgent issues—immigration, politics, parenthood—with boldness, hope, and humor. His memoir Go Back to Where You Came From, one of Amazon’s Best Books of the Year, follows his life as a Muslim Pakistani-American on a surprising, emotional, and challenging quest for the good life. Iconic journalist Katie Couric says that “we are all so fortunate to be on the receiving end of his intellect, his humanity, and his heart.”

Wajahat Ali

“With wit and charm, Ali delivers a masterful meditation on growing up brown in America...he gives us a clear-eyed affirmation of the country America could be.” — Mara Gay, New York Times

Wajahat Ali uses his platform to fight tirelessly for the social change we need in our country—and he isn’t afraid to get personal while doing it. The Daily Beast columnist and former New York Times writer, TED speaker, award-winning playwright, and Peabody-nominated producer of the documentary series The Secret Life of Muslims offers us his experiences of triumph over hardship as a beacon of hope and resilience in the face of life’s impossible situations. From his experiences of Islamophobia growing up as a Muslim Pakistani-American to his two-year-old daughter’s liver cancer diagnosis, Wajahat is living proof that when we share our authentic stories, we build the America we wish to live in.”

In his memoir Go Back to Where You Came From: And Other Helpful Recommendations on How to Become American, Wajahat teaches us how to create our own superhero origin story, invest in hope for the future of America, and enact real social change. The book was called “biting and funny and full of heart” by NPR. Representative Ilhan Omar called Wajahat’s work “hilarious” and “deeply moving”, and legendary writer Dave Eggers said it was the book he’d “been hoping Wajahat Ali would write for ten years—hilarious, stylistically fearless, deeply humane.”

Wajahat is also the author of The Domestic Crusaders—the first major play about Muslim-Americans in a post-9/11 world. He was the lead researcher and author for the Center for American Progress’s seminal report “Fear Inc., Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America,” and served as a national correspondent for Al Jazeera America, where he told stories about communities and individuals often marginalized or under-reported in mainstream media.

As Creative Director of Affinis Wajahat Labs, he worked to create social entrepreneurship initiatives to support and uplift marginalized communities. He also worked with the US State Department to design and implement the “Generation Change” leadership program to empower young social entrepreneurs. Wajahat initiated chapters in eight countries, including Pakistan and Singapore. For his work, he was honored as a “Generation Change Leader” by Sec. of State Clinton and recognized as an “Emerging Muslim American Artist” by the Muslim Public Affairs Council. 

He has given keynote speeches around the world such as TED, The Aspen Ideas Festival, Google, the United Nations, and The New Yorker Festival. His writing appears regularly in the New York TimesThe Atlantic, the Washington Post, and The Guardian. He’s a Senior Fellow at The Western States Center and Auburn Seminary and co-host of Al Jazeera’s The Stream.