What We Do
The Kingian Nonviolence curriculum, Dr. King’s approach to nonviolent conflict reconciliation, explores nonviolence as a way of life, conflict analysis and de-escalation, and a process for creating change both interpersonally and to address larger systemic issues. Our services are primarily targeted to in-school and out-of-school young people 12-24 years of age. The feedback on our training has been overwhelmingly positive: Youth report that they leave the training feeling “Hopeful and Empowered.”
How We Got Started
We were inspired by the 70 percent reduction of in-school violence that occurred at North Lawndale College Prep High School (NLCP) on Chicago’s West Side after our colleague, chemistry teacher and social justice advocate Tiffany Childress, began a program in 2009 to train students in Kingian Nonviolence. That percentage has been sustained and improved upon over the past seven years. Today, violence at NLCP is down by 90 percent and a culture of peace within the school walls has been established. This does not mean that a fight never occurs at the school; it means that students are committed to preventing violence and when a conflict does happen they work quickly to de-escalate it. The results of their positive actions show in a peaceful school climate.
Peace in the Schools
In 2016, the co-founders of the AWC were moved to expand the good work being done at North Lawndale College Prep High School to more young people through a citywide pilot project involving three high schools. Unique features of the program include peer training and the joining together of students from different schools for trainings, to share ideas, learn from each other and to create strategies for addressing social issues across traditional boundaries. Some of the students in the program continue training to become Kingian Nonviolence Trainers within their schools and communities.
With the pilot phase completed, the program is now in the Implementation Phase as we begin work with a second cohort of high schools. Once trained, the AWC continues working with students through Peace Warrior groups formed at the schools and/or through our Enrichment Series (see below). Student Peer Trainers train incoming freshmen, thereby creating a process for institutionalizing nonviolence to transform school culture. The Addie Wyatt Center also employs student trainers that we have certified to co-train young people in after-school and summer programs, as well as adults in community organizations.
Peer trainers keep their eyes and ears open and intervene if they suspect something is about to “jump off.” The students contact an adult in the school and arrange for a peace circle or mediation session with both parties to iron out their disagreements. Student Peace Warriors encourage students not to retaliate; but to think first and work to de-escalate violence by bringing down the intensity of the altercation. Given the catalytic role of cyber-bullying in escalating conflicts to school and street violence, certain Peace Warriors monitor social media and report to administrators posts that students and school officials deem dangerous to certain students or to the student body; thereby mitigating the viral and spiraling effect.
Training for Young People in After-School Programs
To meet the needs of all interested young people, the AWC offers its basic Two-Day Core training through after-school programs in units and during the summer and to youth-serving agencies that operate after-school programs. For example, we have established a partnership with the Chicago Youth Centers that operate eight centers around the city. Through this program, we provide services for specialized groups of young people, such as students in foster care. The after-school programs contain the same content, interactive activities and rigor as our traditional full-day workshops. The AWC provides a safe space for students and teachers to discuss their community concerns and ideas for the future.
The AWC aims to offer Kingian Nonviolence training to young people ages 14-24 years old who have criminal records and are returning to their communities. The purpose of this programming is to provide opportunities for personal transformation and the acquisition of nonviolence conflict reconciliation skills and to decrease recidivism. The goal is to increase each person’s likelihood of success on the outside.
The youth with whom we work with have expressed a deep interest in knowing more about their history. Knowing one’s history promotes understanding about how events, laws, practices and attitudes evolved; it shows how we have been historically connected and disconnected from one another; and knowing your history can instill a sense of pride in what generations before you have accomplished and endured. In the words of a young male high school student we met, “If I don’t know my history, I don’t know how to value myself.” The AWC Enrichment Series focuses on Black and Latino Chicago and on religious tolerance. The Series also builds skills, exposes young people to non-traditional experiences and sites through field trips, and provides opportunities for young people to practice the nonviolence skills they have learned.
Nonviolence Training for Teachers and Youth Workers
To support our work with young people, the Addie Wyatt Center trains teachers and representatives from youth-serving agencies in Kingian Nonviolence, skills that they can then apply in their classes and after-school and summer programs. Some of the teachers and youth workers continue to become Kingian Nonviolence Trainers. This program offers participants a basic grounding in the philosophy and practice of nonviolence, as well as trainer and basic organizing skills necessary to mount a nonviolent campaign on behalf of a social or economic cause.