Fifty years after a day known as Bloody Sunday, because of the unmitigated violence against marchers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the Selma Center for Nonviolence, Truth and Reconciliation (Selma CTNR) was established near the bridge to address the continued violence and conflicts that still plague Selma and the Nation. The founders of the Selma CNTR include Dr. Bernard Lafayette, a comrade of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. Lafayette was a primary architect of Selma 1.0 (the Voting Rights Movement) and was nearly killed by white supremacists in Selma in 1963 while organizing youth for voting rights. Following Dr. King's mandate to “institutionalize nonviolence,” Dr. Lafayette, the Master Teacher for the Selma CNTR, has taught nonviolence throughout the world for the past 40 years. Dr. Lafayette has returned to help create Selma 2.0: Finishing the Unfinished Business of bridging divides and building the Beloved Community. The unifying vision of the Selma CNTR is to bring to fruition in Selma, Dr. King’s dream of the Beloved Community, while also functioning as a model for other communities across the U.S. to bring that same vision to life in their local contexts.
Several organizations have come together to establish the Selma CNTR to address these issues through nonviolent methods to bring about truth and reconciliation that heals families, communities, Selma, Alabama, and eventually the Nation. Over 150,000 people from around the world gathered in Selma—now a small town of less than 20,000 people—during the 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday in 2015. During the commemoration, the KKK distributed thousands of recruitment flyers in the area. Also within days after the Jubilee commemoration, two young people and two adults were killed in Selma. Although the work of the Selma CNTR was initiated many years ago, these killings and act of racial violence have inspired the hope that Selma can heal and help heal the Nation, prompting the establishment of the Selma Center for Nonviolence, Truth & Reconciliation.
Consequently, the Selma CNTR has been incorporated and a building, the Healing Waters Retreat Center, has been secured to house the Selma CNTR and its programs. The founding organizations include the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), founded by Dr. King, The National Voting Rights Museum, The Ancient Africa, Enslavement & Civil War Museum, The 21st Century Youth Leadership Movement, and Wallace Community College (named after Governor George Wallace, who allowed and helped maintain a culture of violence that, among other things, claimed the lives of four little girls and two little boys in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963). The Selma CNTR presents workshops, trainings, and symposiums that teach nonviolence and conflict resolution skills, as well as engages the community in a process of truth and reconciliation. We also expect the Selma CNTR to have an economic impact on hotels, restaurants, and other businesses in the area.
The mission of the Selma Center for Nonviolence, Truth, & Reconciliation is to partner with institutions to promote love, the establishment of justice, and build the Beloved Community. The Center is committed to transforming and healing the root causes of physical, political, psychological, environmental, economic and racial violence at personal, family, community and systemic levels.
The Voting and Civil Rights Movement in the deep American South has impacted the world. However, it birthed hope of promises that have not yet been fulfilled. In the 1960s, many leaders of the movement held a long-term vision beyond desegregation and the ability to participate in the voting process. They envisioned a nation, indeed a world, where the systems and institutions that governed citizens and families were based on love and justice. For the Selma CNTR, these and other key values are encapsulated in the primary values of nonviolence, truth and reconciliation. The architects of the Voting and Civil Rights Movement called this vision the Beloved Community.
The Selma Center for Nonviolence, Truth and Reconciliation envisions the Beloved Community as a world where there is a spirit of cooperation, where people’s similarities and differences are celebrated, and where policies in government and community institutions, as well as the culture they create, support fairness, equity, harmony, compassion and love in our interactions, as well as the sharing and preservation of resources for generations to come.
Through building people up with the power of love, instruction and utilizing Kingian nonviolence and conflict resolution as our primary philosophies, the Selma CNTR works to create a shift in our way of life. We will also work in solidarity with all people of goodwill to create local sector-level changes in areas such as our justice system, economy, and social/cultural institutions that make Dr. King's vision of the Beloved Community a defining part of our everyday lives in Selma and beyond.
The Selma CNTR works in nine sectors, partnering in institutional contexts to address the root causes of physical, mental, emotional, economic, political and racial violence—including racial profiling—with the two-pronged goal of implementing long-range solutions to systemic violence and building the Beloved Community. The implementation of the programs in each sector will occur according to our strategic plan timeline.
Those nine sectors are:
FAMILY - To create a culture of harmony through nonviolent conflict resolution in families—helping families to develop new traditions and practices and to deescalate conflict rather than escalate conflict within and between families. Families are a major pillar of the Beloved Community and therefore families must also develop just and loving relationships, foundational to just systems for generations to come.
Education - To partner with schools and colleges to develop curriculum as well as model classrooms where there are peer-to-peer conflict resolution processes, and Beloved Community World History, as well as to support the development of parent/student advocacy Selma CNTRs and adult learning forums that promote the values of the Beloved Community.
Law/Justice Systems - To use a restorative justice model in the development of community courts and mediation centers by partnering with families, the judicial system, schools, and other agencies to address the unresolved complaints of citizens, especially youth, which can lead to violence or unfair outcomes. To focus on reconciliation amongst community members from different factions and groups. To help develop models, such as the Due Process Committee and the Criminal Retainer Program, that allow everyday citizens to influence and enhance the justice system where it lacks support in order to help eliminate mass incarceration and the school to prison pipeline.
Governance - To work with a Council of Elders in each community to help solve community problems and build community social infrastructure. This council will help develop community patrols to reduce police intervention and racial profiling, allowing police to focus on more severe threats to the community. This will also allow community members to participate in governance in a way that will inspire them to be more participatory as citizens as they have personal experiences with the fruitfulness of self-governance. To advocate for policies that encourage the community to participate in government and to vote, including voter restoration for people convicted of felonies, automatic voter registration and prohibiting purging of inactive voters.
Community, Social, and Cultural Institutions - To encourage the use of the arts and artistic venues, such as community choirs and theater, as well as, social contexts such as neighborhood homes, community centers, and the NeighborCircles program to promote racial healing and understanding through dialogue and cultural education. To use our planned community restaurant, stage, and local vegetable garden to build meaningful relationships between people from different backgrounds, in part by providing a physical space, basic facilitation, and food to help people engage in the age-old practice of breaking bread together.
Health Care and Well Being - To holistically address internal violence birthed from health-related issues, such as lack of nutrition, exercise, and stability. Additionally, numerous studies have shown that racism, isolation and loneliness all negatively impact health. Therefore, to deal with traumatic effects of our collective history, the Selma CNTR also facilitates therapeutic opportunities like counseling and Sister Circle in order to encourage healing.
Economic - To support the development of local economies by supporting unemployed and underemployed people in developing their own businesses and reaching their dreams, with a particular focus on promoting worker-owned and community-owned cooperatives. To convene community members and business leaders to promote a spirit of cooperation and develop a plan to bolster local economies. To use nonviolence and conflict resolution training to help prevent and resolve customer service and employee Human Resource issues in existing businesses.
Faith Communities - To help faith communities focus on those principles of their belief systems that deal with conflict resolution. To bring people of different faiths together in order to build relationships and collectively solve problems in their communities.
Media - To promote communication, culture and related images and sharing of information that enhance the building of the Beloved Community.
The Selma CNTR helps to create new relationships across race, class, religion, and other common divides using practices of popular education, institutional and community trainings, and community organizing. We will also work in solidarity with civic and social organizations, businesses, police departments and other government agencies, so that the Beloved Community becomes our new reality.
The Selma CNTR has a primary goal of helping people in community to resolve conflict (personal, interpersonal, and systemic) through nonviolent means by the development and implementation of creative ventures, workshops, training models and activities that teach and enhance skills and motivation to identify and address conflicts in ways that promote healing, harmony, compassion and just outcomes. Ultimately, the Selma CNTR wants to help make a cultural shift from violent conflict to nonviolent conflict resolution in our region, country, and world.
The Selma CNTR has a goal of promoting understanding and healing through the development of dialogues, sensitivity trainings, and new social relationships across race, class and other divides that enhance respect, understanding and appreciation for racial, cultural, religious and other differences. Additionally, the Selma CNTR recognizes that economic healing is necessary due to broken relationships. The Selma CNTR seeks to reconcile relationships and reimagine a more democratic, cooperative economy in order to spur equitable economic health in Selma and beyond.
The Selma CNTR has a goal of facilitating the creation of spaces and places where “unarmed truth”, as Dr. King called it, can be sought among people with varying opinions to help resolve conflict. This truth-telling includes sharing the history and her story of people throughout the African diaspora and celebrating the rich culture and history of all communities. Much conflict arises from the denial of truth. The Selma CNTR recognizes that until we are able to hear each other’s truths and acknowledge each other’s pain, conflict and violence will continue to erupt and hinder reconciliation.
OUR SHARED VALUES
At the Selma CNTR through faith and projects, we believe:
The beloved community is the journey and not just the destination, it’s the means and the end--it’s how we do the work and why we do the work.
That broken relationships within and between communities have led to broken economies that have led to broken communities; we do not believe people within communities need to be fixed, but that collectively we can heal relationships, the economy, and communities.
That there is value in sharing our stories and hearing the stories of others.
That we are innately powerful and cannot be empowered, but that our power can be ignited, mobilized, and resourced.
That directly-affected people are leaders with power, and should not just be at the table or participating at the table, but have power at the table--and building new tables.
That we are more than victims and collaborators or allies, but that we are in a struggle for collective liberation.
That we who believe in freedom cannot rest, and yet that I must rest, because we value self-care
In legacy leadership.
Rules without relationships breeds rebellion. We refuse to win the argument and lose the relationship.
In justice globally and locally, externally and internally (in our nonprofit and in our relationships).
We are more than the worst thing we have ever done.
In meeting people where they are and we are going to love each other forward.
In both resisting oppressive institutions, cultures, and systems, and building new institutions, new cultures, and new systems.
That it is necessary to encourage a shift in hearts and minds and not just laws, creating a cultural shift that the laws eventually reflect.
That hurting people hurt people, and that healing people heal people.
That truth comes before reconciliation, and that relationships facilitate the hearing and sharing of our truths, and that sharing our truths facilitates relationships.
That forgiveness is essential but that forgiveness is not exoneration.
In the power of love--speaking the truth in love, hearing the truth in love, and holding each other accountable in love.
In truth and reconciliation within and between communities, and within and between families and individuals--beginning within oneself.
If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together.
That our self-interest is inevitably connected to our communal and shared interest.