RCNV is a community, a place, and a virtual space to learn and grow in our commitments for a better world. Antiracism and nonviolence are methods of engaged learning and action. We learn from people impacted by racism and imperialism. We learn from people impacted by our actions. We learn from social movements around the world. We learn from the successes and mistakes of our own efforts.
Book circles, trainings and seminars meet in person and online in small groups with experienced activists, organizers and facilitators. RCNV hosts speakers who have made life commitments to antiracism and nonviolence. We learn from experiences and insights of everybody involved. One participant said recently, “we cannot do this alone.”
Born of Liberation Movements, Promising Human Culture.
Nonviolence and antiracism are methods everybody can use to make our societies more fully human. We can learn from multiracial campaigns and liberation movements around the world and throughout history. Nonviolence and antiracism value the people involved while resisting and transforming policies and behaviors that violate people. Both methods are energized by resilience people discover in themselves and one another in response to racialized trauma and violence.
Nonviolence was born in movements of resistance throughout history. Since 1976 the Resource Center for Nonviolence has learned from and supported multiracial and People-of-Color-led nonviolence freedom movements including: Black, Latinx, Indigenous, Middle Eastern, African, Asian, and Latin American movements.
In RCNV we learn from movements like Black Lives Matter, youth-led climate strikes, the General Strike of 2006 (Day Without Immigrants), LGBTQ liberation campaigns, women-led labor strikes, liberation struggles in Palestine, Mexico, Nicaragua, South Africa, draft resistance against the Vietnam War, civil disobedience campaigns for nuclear disarmament and nuclear-free and fossil-free energy. Activists have discovered more than 300 types of nonviolent action, to protest, intervene, withdraw cooperation, and assert new forms of cooperation. People power, or nonviolent civil resistance, has defeated empires, liberated peoples, and achieved democracy.
In a culture dominated by violence many people do not know about the power of active nonviolence. For some people who suffer U.S. domination and violence, to hear Americans advocating “nonviolence” seems like a joke–like not taking violence seriously. In RCNV we are connected with organizers who apply the active force of nonviolent resistance in violent circumstances. We assert that nonviolence is not a nice way of being that denies the violence of our society. Nonviolence is using human capacities to resist, without repeating harms.
In every violent situation, people apply their hearts and minds, their bodies, their whole selves — to cultures, campaigns and communities of resistance and life. Nonviolence was named “love in action” by Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh during the US war on Vietnam. Histories of nonviolence begin with individual and small group refusals to cooperate with racism, state murder, economic exploitation, and warfare. Histories of nonviolence include organized, persistent, massive resistance to British, Spanish, American, and Soviet empires.
In RCNV we find resilience in learning histories of resistance like the Haitian and Mexican revolutions that abolished slavery, the Indian independence movement that resisted economic, cultural, and political colonialism, the farm workers union movement that won dignity for migrant laborers.
Many of us in RCNV have been asked personally by colonized sisters and brothers to organize here, where the empire starts, to withdraw our consent to structures of oppression, in everyday ways, and in strategic campaigns–to actually succeed in stopping United States violence.
Nonviolence and antiracism are wholistic approaches to social and personal change, not techniques. Born of liberation struggles, they call us to deep liberation as human beings, as social beings. “Freedom does not equal individualism; freedom equals community” says nonviolent action trainer Rev. James Lawson.
RCNV invites your discoveries in antiracism and nonviolence. We begin with daily experiences, traumatic impacts of violence on us. We begin also with personal resources, as simple as breath, attention and imagination. We create new relationships with one another, with society, with the earth, and with ourselves. We elevate Black and Brown lives. We commit to courage, love, and mutual support. We replace white-body supremacy with Beloved Community. We commit to community organizing for racial equity. With nonviolence and antiracism we heal our bodies, change our roles, change the policies of our institutions, and create new stories and new cultures.
From TEDx Tysons: The son of an American woman of Dutch heritage and a Navajo man, Mark Charles offers a unique perspective on three of the most misinterpreted words in American History. Written in the Papal Bulls of the 15th Century, embedded in our founding documents in the 18th Century, codified as legal precedent in the 19th Century and referenced by the Supreme Court in the 20th and 21st Centuries, the Doctrine of Discovery has been used throughout the history of the United States to keep “We the People” from including all the people. (Video run time is 17:44).
“The most effective action both resorts to power and engages conscience. Nonviolent action does not have to beg others to “be nice.” It can in effect force them to consult their consciences—or to pretend to have them. Nor does it have to petition those in power to do something about a situation. It can face the authority with a new fact and say: accept this new situation which we have created.” —Barbara Deming
At the center of nonviolence stand people. Nonviolence is also called people power. This phrase was voiced in the Philippines popular movement that overthrew the dictator Ferdinand Marcos with mass nonviolent noncooperation. People have power to change their situations–each moment, in each institution, and in nations. People power is owning our power to consent or object to the power of others, an insight Gene Sharp presented in The Politics of Nonviolent Action in 1973.
Nonviolent action emphasizes that politics relies on people. People suffer violence; people are agents of violence. People identify with suffering in others. People cooperate, or noncooperate, with illegitimate authority. People hold one another accountable. People reconcile. People sustain policies. “Racial inequity is a problem of bad policies, not bad people” says Ibram X. Kendi. Kendi argues, in How to Be an Antiracist, that individualizing racism as bias, discrimination, or even hate sustains racism because it takes the focus off policies that create racial inequities. The target for change is racist policies, and people’s behavior that supports violent policies, not the people themselves, as Martin Luther King also said. The work of antiracism and nonviolence is building people power to support humane policies.
People power takes on new meaning in recent insights by antiracist and nonviolent leaders like Resmaa Menakem (My Grandmother’s Hands) and Michael Nagler (The Third Harmony). They invite us to pay attention to the bodily experience of violence and trauma, and to learn real power comes from a centered, grounded expression of our humanity.
Nonviolence is personal. We learn nonviolence by practicing it everyday. “Relate personally whenever possible” is one of the Metta Center for Nonviolence 5 core practices of nonviolence. This does not mean that nonviolence is only interpersonal conflict resolution. In systems of racism and colonialism, patriarchy and economic oppression, personal is political. Part of personal experience is learning our position in structures of violence, learning how historic traumas continue to reside in our bodies. The nonviolent method unmasks people who hide behind roles of power and authority and deny personal responsibility for institutional decisions.
We take nonviolent and antiracist action from who we are, where we are. Nonviolent action by Black, Brown, Asian, and indigenous people may be different than nonviolent action by White people. White progressives who stand in racial, economic or gender privilege often begin activism by resisting complicity with militarism, white supremacy, or patriarchy they were trained in. Black, Indigenous People of Color often begin with acts of liberation and community defense, and acts of healing from racialized trauma. Organizing multiracial action requires listening to interests and visions of each potential partner, and seeking mutual consent for coalitions, instead of white groups “including” People of Color in their programs.
Nonviolent action calls people to ground ourselves in our own freedom and values and in human community, to draw a line against cooperation with oppressive practices, policies and regimes, to stand with people harmed by oppression. Nonviolent action begins, not with intentions, but with risks — criticism, disapproval, ostracism, retaliation, loss of status or job, jail, imprisonment, banishment, harm, death. Nonviolence is resistance and resilience amidst violence. Risks fall on different racial groups differently. BIPOC activists begin their day with risk in a White-body supremacy society.
It helps to start with a core group. People power is forged in personal communities, in learning together about histories of resistance, learning from those impacted by violence, and sharing stories of impacts on ourselves. We analyze pillars of power and potential allies. We define our goals and message. We engage in a series of actions, welcoming people, training newcomers, preparing for risks, trying new ideas, bringing music, art, culture into public action, pausing to recuperate, review, learn, and act again.
Nonviolent action uses persuasion and coercion. It uses empathy, solidarity and personal change as well as peer pressure and organized noncooperation. Nonviolent activists refuse to kill, refuse to justify violence, minimize harm, confess our own violence, our mistakes, our racism, our sexism, our complicities. And we refuse to be paralized by our failures. Nonviolence is courage to act in an imperfect series of “experiments” and “discoveries,” as Gandhi called them.
Nonviolence is a dynamic force disrupting the status quo and constructing a better world. Nonviolence promises authentic realization of human capacity and community.
Language of Nonviolence Defined
(See also ANTIRACISM DEFINITIONS ON PREVIOUS TAB)
Nonviolence: resistance to oppression rooted in reverence for life and energized by the human drive for liberation, using every human capacity, in creative refusal to cooperate with violence, and creative strategies and tactics to organize social power that transforms human and institutional relationships, so that violence is minimized and no longer justified and society becomes interconnected communities.
Violence: Harm to people and groups of people, murder, systemic oppression, use of lethal means to force dominance.
Non-violence: not violence, absence of violence, avoidance of violence, passive, negative peace
Nonviolent Action: Individual or collective action that exposes violence; uses the power of people to change their conditions, uses vulnerability as a power the oppressor does not have; strategic way ordinary people come together to wage struggle, often doing the unexpected, to accomplish a goal without use or threat of injurious force.
Direct Action: Face to face engagement by people with agents, symbols or structures of power
Civil Resistance: people power organized to resist oppression and assert liberation
Nonviolent Direct Action (NVDA): Public direct action embracing a discipline to prevent harm to people. More than 300 types of nonviolent direct action have been identified.
Civil Disobedience: intentional violation of laws that protect injustice, often taken in open willingness to receive punishment, fill jails, and overtly express defiance of the unjust institution or regime
Social Disobedience: What Paul Goodman called “drawing the line” between free and natural action and oppressive conventions; risking disapproval of companions and community.
Soul Force: name Gandhi and Martin Luther King gave to the force of people expressing their fundamental dignity and connecting with the dignity of others
Campaign: An intentional series of actions seeking to achieve a declared goal. Kingian nonviolence identifies six steps of a campaign–Investigate the situation, prepare the activists, educate the community, negotiate with agents of power, wage an escalating series of actions that mobilize power, achieve the goal with reconciliation and accountability between adversaries.
Movement: A series of campaigns, with vision for the future, goals to achieve, many sectors of society involved, variety of public action, cultural expression, inspiration, resources, connection to other movements.
Justified violence: a common practice Albert Camus identified as more evil than violence itself in his essay “Neither Victims Nor Executioners.”
Pacifism: Refusal to participate in war
Nonviolence as a Way of Life: commitment to practice nonviolent principles in everyday living, vocation, economic behavior, cooperation and noncooperation with social convention, study, spirituality, often supported by an intentional community.
Reconciliation: Reverence for Life
Socio-drama: Show moral dilemna
Strategic Nonviolence: Belief that nonviolent actions and movements (no harm, no physical damage inflicted on opponents) allows for greatest range & numbers of participation and persuasion. No moral belief necessary
Antimilitarism: Opposition to the dominance of military budget priorities, military bases outside our nation, military culture and symbols entering sports and advertising, conflating heroism with military service, voicing military realities when military recruiters invade schools to persuade young people to volunteer, advocating social spending that supports employment instead of militarist “economic conscription, opposition to military solutions to international conflict, opposition to US military defense of imperialist racial capital dominance.
Anticapitalism: Opposition to a national reverence for the culture and laws that protect capital at the expense of people, support for local, socially and environmentally responsible, cooperative economy.
Antisexism: Support for gender and orientation dignity, freedom, multiplicity.
See Also, “Nonviolence & Antiracism: Twin Methods for Transformation”
Language of Antiracism Defined
(These definitions were composed by Ibram X. Kendi in his book How to Be an Antiracist. They were edited by Silvia Morales and Alain Desouches.)
Racism: A powerful collection of racist policies that produce racial inequity and are justified by racist ideas.
Racial Inequity: When two or more racial groups are not standing on equal footing.
Policy: Written or unwritten laws, rules, procedures, processes, regulations, guidelines that govern people.
Every policy in every institution in every community is producing or sustaining either racial equity or inequity between racial groups. There is no such thing as race-neutral or nonracist policy.
Racist Policy: Any measure that produces or sustains racial inequity.
Racial Discrimination: takes our eyes off the central agents of racism: racist policy and racist policymakers or racist power.
Racist Idea: Any idea that suggests one racial group is inferior or superior to another racial group in any way.
Antiracist Policy: Any measure that produces or sustains racial equity between racial groups.
Antiracist Idea: Any idea that suggests the racial groups are equal in all their apparent differences – that there is nothing right or wrong with any racial group.
As part of our nonviolence and antiracism education we offer and collaborate on a number of different programs. Please visit our Programs page for a full list of our programs offered.
Beloved Community Cafe
Antiracism Book Circles
Santa Cruz County Community Coalition to Overcome Racism (SCCCCOR)
Nonviolent Action Training
Art of Nonviolence
Palestine Justice Coalition
Nonviolent Action Campaigns
Culture of Nonviolence
Community Groups Meeting and Presenting in the RCNV Facility
Internships and Volunteer involvement
Examples of Nonviolent and Antiracism Practice
Practices for antiracism and nonviolence:
Learn my role in racism, militarism, economic exploitation, patriarchy, and other violence
Learn stories of nonviolent and antiracist activism around this land and world.
Learn histories of liberation struggles.
Attend to the impacts of historical and racialized trauma on my body and emotions
Learn my connections with marginalized people
If I am white-bodied, seek out communities and actions organized by People of Color, when invited; refrain from “including” People of Color in my plans; join with People of Color when invited, to organize multiracial coalitions that express the voices and goals of People of Color.
If I am a Black, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian, Middle Eastern, Pacific Islander, African Person of Color, join with others for community.
Pay attention to my connections with all life in some practice— meditation, music, nature, reading, journaling, reflecting with others, meeting new people, art, poetry
Take nonviolent and antiracist interventions in personal and political life.
Learn from my mistakes and my successes—and from others around me
When engaged in conflict, actively respect all people involved
Organize a campaign to change racist policies.
Organize a nonviolent action campaign
Build a community of activism, solidarity, mutual respect, and commitment to nonviolence and antiracism.
Relate personally whenever possible (from the Metta Center for Nonviolence)
The Politics of Trauma offers somatics with a social analysis. This book is for therapists and social activists who understand that trauma healing is not just for individuals—and that social change is not just for movement builders.
More to come…
Recommended Resources for Nonviolence and Antiracism
Online toolbox and creative campaign incubator. Also a book and a strategy card deck! Beautiful Trouble is an international network of artist-activist-trainers helping grassroots movements become more creative and effective. It’s an action lab and training hub. Check it out for great ideas for your action.
Global Nonviolent Action Database https://nvdatabase.swarthmore.edu/
Free access to information about hundreds of cases of nonviolent action for learning and for citizen action. The cases are drawn from all continents and most countries. People are shown struggling for human rights, economic justice, democracy, national and ethnic identity, environmental sustainability, and peace.
Nonviolence International’s Tactics Online Database: https://www.tactics.nonviolenceinternational.net/
300 different nonviolent action tactics–beyond marches and vigils!
Civil Resistance Tactics in the 21st Century
by Michael Beer, International Center for Nonviolent Action monograph, 2021.www.nonviolent-conflict.org.
Important update of Gene Sharp’s fundamental book, The Strategies of Nonviolent Action.
Waging Nonviolencewagingnonviolence.orgWaging Nonviolence is an independent, non-profit media platform dedicated to providing original reporting and expert analysis of social movements around the world. Since 2009 they have published reporting from more than 90 countries — with a special focus on overlooked movements in the Global South, and issues that commercial media ignore.
Nonviolence News nonviolencenews.org
Each week, Nonviolence News brings 30-50 stories of “nonviolence in action” to readers, illuminating the scale and scope of how nonviolence is actively shaping our world. The weekly e-newsletter shows the hopeful, courageous, and inspiring ways people are changing the narrative, culture, society, and politics across the globe. We cover stories on environmental, racial, economic, and social justice. We share working models of nonviolent alternatives. We spotlight individual acts of bravery and kindness. We explore how ordinary people are making extraordinary change.
The African American Policy Forum aapf.org
Founded in 1996 by Kimberle Crenshaw, The African American Policy Forum (AAPF) is an innovative think tank that connects academics, activists and policy-makers to promote efforts to dismantle structural inequality. We promote frameworks and strategies that address a vision of racial justice that embraces the intersections of race, gender, class, and the array of barriers that disempower those who are marginalized in society. AAPF is dedicated to advancing and expanding racial justice, gender equality, and the indivisibility of all human rights, both in the U.S. and internationally.
Campaign Nonviolence: https://paceebene.org/campaign-nonviolence/
Campaign Nonviolence is working to end war, poverty, racism and environmental destruction —and build a nonviolent culture. We organize The Nonviolent Cities Project, The Nonviolence Training Hub, and the annual Campaign Nonviolence National Week of Action, where every September we mobilize across the country and around the world for a culture of peace, economic equality, racial justice and environmental healing.
East Point Peace Academy https://www.eastpointpeace.org/about
East Point Peace Academy was founded in 2013, initially as an organization dedicated to spreading the teachings of Kingian Nonviolence Conflict Reconciliation. Over the years, trainings have expanded, including Fierce Vulnerability, More Than a Protest, Gandhian Iceberg, Healthy Conflict Engagement, and Alternative Organizational Structures. In addition to our public trainings, we have teams of incarcerated nonviolence trainers in several prisons and county jails across the state of California, and are building a powerful direct action movement addressing climate change and racial healing.
Metta Center for Nonviolence https://mettacenter.org/The Third Harmony film; The Practical Idealist newsletter; Nonviolence Radio; Nonviolence 101; Nonviolence Daily: 365 Days of Inspiration from Gandhi, and many more resources in Gandhian nonviolence curated by nonviolence educators Michael Nagler and Stephanie Van Hook.
RCNV has an incredible library of texts available to the public as well as books for purchase. We also hold book circles several times a year that help to create community by bringing people together to learn about nonviolence and and antiracism. Here is a list of recommended books (most of which can be found in our library) and films.
Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity, or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world”
RCNV is here to support your action. This website, and our staff, volunteers and programs, are resources for your growth.
Nonviolent and antiracist action may be stopping to listen to impacts and reactions in your body and settling into your presence, it may be confronting a decision maker about racist policy that must be changed–and it may be both.
Explore actions people take around the world for liberation and justice, learn about the power of nonviolent action campaigns, find books, organizations and web links to go deeper into antiracism and nonviolence.
Then contact us to converse about what you find. See also upcoming programs RCNV offers for community learning.
Practitioners of nonviolent struggle have discovered many different nonviolent actions. Political scientist Gene Sharp listed 198 of them, classified into three broad categories: nonviolent protest and persuasion, noncooperation (social, economic, and political), and nonviolent intervention. A reduced list is below. Use the list to inspire your imagination.
METHODS OF NONVIOLENT PROTEST AND PERSUASION
speeches, petitions, declarations
banners, posters, leaflets, zines, radio, TV, social media, political cartoons, picketing, lobbying
“haunting” individuals, vigils at residences, places of work, direct appeals to individuals
songs, street theater
marches, parades, religious processions
political mourning, mock funerals
teach-ins, assemblies of protest or support
walk-outs, silence, renouncing honors, turning one’s back
METHODS OF SOCIAL NONCOOPERATION
student strike, boycott of social affairs, noncooperate with customs or social rules
sanctuary, stay-at-home, personal withdrawal from social institutions
METHODS OF ECONOMIC NONCOOPERATION
Boycott: consumers’ boycott of services or products, boycotts by workers, producers,
Divestment from companies: withdrawal of bank deposits, refusal to pay fees or dues, rent strike
The Third Harmony tells the story of nonviolence, humanity’s greatest (and most overlooked) resource.
Host a Community Screening
“Hats off to the Metta Center for this intellectually challenging but completely accessible film that seamlessly addresses both theoretical and practical aspects of nonviolence. Viewers will go away not only appreciating the film’s main theoretical point – that nonviolence is an essential human characteristic – but they will also find themselves face-to-face with the film’s very practical challenge to take up the work of nonviolence in their own lives.”Charles R. DiSalvo, Professor of Law, West Virginia University, Author, M.K. Gandhi, Attorney at Law: The Man Before the Mahatma
Eager to raise awareness about the power of nonviolence? Host a community screening of The Third Harmony! We’ll boost your event with a link to the film, along with a toolkit to spark post-film discussion.
Without doubt, a large number of additional methods have already been used but have not been classified, and a multitude of additional methods will be invented.
A description and historical examples of 198 methods can be found in volume two of The Politics of Nonviolent Action, by Gene Sharp, and at downloaded from the Albert Einstein Institution: http://www.aeinstein.org.
Examples of Nonviolent Action
Black Lives Matter demonstrations, large and small
Sanctuary cities, churches and centers
Occupy Wall Street encampments
Radical self-care healing and attention to racialized trauma
Hong Kong resistance to Chinese colonialism
Civil rights sit-ins and marches
Liberation actions by Gays, Lesbians and Transgender people
Draft resistance to the Vietnam War and to Israeli occupation forces in Palestine
Civil disobedience at nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants
Civil disobedience and community protest at fossil fuel pipelines and mines
Peoples’ revolutions in Eastern Europe, the Philippines and Iran
Accompaniment of human rights activists in Nicaragua and El Salvador
Boycotting and divesting from companies that profit from military occupation of Palestinians
Speaking up when peers are afraid to
Intervening in support of a person who is attacked on the street
Facilitating resolution of interpersonal conflict
Refusing to serve in militaries
Refusing to pay taxes that support militaries
Refusing to justify violence for any reason
Stop and attend to my breathing, look around me, check every part of my body for sensations, in conflict, when I react, any time.
Ask open-ended questions of my companions, removing my expectations and imagination about their experiences, listening to them.
Take a risk. Speak an uncomfortable truth. Do something valuable that does not conform with patterns by your peers.
Confess a mistake
Intervene in support of a victim of conflict
Participate in a group seeking antiracist, nonviolent change
Donate to a group working for antiracist, nonviolent change
Converse with someone familiar or strange to you about antiracism and nonviolence values and visions
Withdraw cooperation from violence in some way, such as
Boycott goods and packaging that damages the environment and your body
Boycott goods manufactured in unfair labor conditions
Boycott goods when profits will go to oppressors or exploiters
Refuse to apply for a position with a company that has racist policies
Walk, ride a bike, use public transportation, work from home
Refuse to pay a portion of your federal taxes that fund the military
Refrain from mass media
Effectiveness of Nonviolent Action
Why Nonviolent Direct Action
In the new film and book The Third Harmony, Michael Nagler advocates one practice that summarizes the method of nonviolent action campaigns, “relate personally whenever possible.” A Nonviolent Direct Action Campaign is a strategy to organize people in a series of personal and political actions that directly engage people who are involved in power relationships, and uses direct engagement to leverage change.
A campaign consists of Preparation for direct engagement in conflict in a manner that communicates and moves change; Planning to learn how people are part of power dynamics, and people who are different parties to the conflict may move change; Education of the issues and goals aimed at all people involved; direct Negotiation, personal conversations, confrontations, and meditations of the issues; direct Engagement in varieties of creative acts to persuade, pressure and mobilize power; and Reconciliation to ratify transformed personal and power relationships.
The purpose of a nonviolent direct action campaign is for people to organize together and use their creative human capacities to win a change in institutional policy, a change in institutions, or win power for a disenfranchised group. Nonviolent action campaigns are essential supports for democracy. Elections do not bring change for justice unless people are organized to hold politicians and institutions accountable. Without popular multiracial mass movements, entrenched leaders, wealth, and white-body supremacy dominates laws, budgets, and policies.
Mass movements need local and national nonviolent action campaigns to mobilize power and achieve victories. Campaigns are the methods of building movements. Nonviolent action campaigns expose the nature of institutional oppression, elevate the voices and power of people impacted by injustice, win active support from partner groups, withdraw belief and allegiance from the status quo, develop active constituencies for just solutions, and implement social improvements for justice. Nonviolent action uses the power of popular consent and political solidarity by withdrawing conformity and obedience to an unjust status quo, and by building new social arrangements, creating a democratic renewal of society.
Sometimes single nonviolent actions are important too — to protest injustice, advocate visions for justice, resist the complicity of silence, or spark a movement. A nonviolent action campaign goes further than demonstrating the problem and solution. A campaign mobilizes people power behind achievable goals consistent with visions for change, engaging many people in a variety of actions, with different levels of risk, different forms of expression, building participation and power. Nonviolent action campaigns are not standard electoral, legislative and institutional processes. They apply community creativity unconfined to conventional procedures and customary tactics. While campaigns have often been waged in a locality they could be even more focused, and waged within an institution. Labor unions have long practiced campaigns within single businesses for employee rights. Employees and constituencies of agencies, schools, nonprofits as well as businesses could wage nonviolent action campaigns for antiracism, antisexism, climate protection, and other justice goals within single institutions.
A key quality of nonviolent action campaigns distinct from some other methods of community organizing is that people are at the heart of action. The nonviolent method seeks reconciliation, victory that is agreement with, rather than triumph over adversaries. Nonviolent methods center voices of impacted people, and expect that everybody along a “spectrum of allies” as well as opponents and bystanders will be moved, by persuasion or pressure to join in solutions that serve all people, beginning with those who have been historically marginalized and excluded. Persuasion and pressure, face-to-face dramatic action, acts of sacrifice seeking to touch hearts, acts of firm noncooperation—these are all nonviolent action. Nonviolent means create nonviolent ends. Asserting equity from the start establishes equity in the end.
A nonviolent action campaign seeks to create public drama moving toward a crisis in which institutions must change because active popular support will no longer cooperate with the injustice. While a social or political movement seeks long range goals, such as human rights, or cessation of corporate power over the political system, a nonviolent action campaign is a series of actions over months or years aiming to achieve measurable goals consistent with long range goals of a movement.
There have been thousands of nonviolent action campaigns around the globe. Explore this Global Nonviolent Action Database: https://nvdatabase.swarthmore.edu/ that continues to grow. Find various frameworks for organizing campaigns. Gandhian campaigns for Indian Independence emphasized community self-reliance and exhausting all normal channels before launching a “satyagraha” campaign. Gandhian campaigns involved both civil disobedience and constructive programs. US campaigns to stop nuclear power plants emphasized decentralized “affinity groups” and repeated civil disobedience. John Lewis named the hundreds of local campaigns for local and national civil and economic rights the “nonviolent movement for America.” Farm worker campaigns united workers in strikes and consumers in boycotts to win improved conditions for workers.
RCNV borrows components from Kingian Nonviolence theory developed by Dr. Bernard Lafayette, and amplified by Kazu Haga and others. We edit, arrange, and rename the components with input from other frameworks, still naming six. We recommend that nonviolent action campaigns include all six components. We do not see the components as sequential steps. Preparation and reconciliation are important from beginning to end. All six components may be applied in the first month, and should be repeated often during the campaign. Activists will rearrange and adjust from experience in your own action and situation.
See tab on Outline for Nonviolent Action Campaigns
Study examples of nonviolence and nonviolent direct action campaigns
Assess personal capacities for commitments to nonviolence, multiracial organizing, sacrifices, risk-taking, time commitment, impacts on personal lives, seeing the campaign to completion
Commit to nonviolence
Consider White Body Supremacy in the core group, and commit to multiracial organizing, which means in part that white-body organizers do not ask BIPOC organizers to join them, rather explore pathways for collaboration and mutual goals, or join with BIPOC leadership when invited
Decide decision-making, communication, and participation structures for the campaign
Make clear commitments to the campaign and to one another
Train and practice, try actions, reflect on the experience, prepare for risk, learn new skills
Analyze relationships among people and pillars of power, and judge how to change the situation
Learn the issue
Analyze the situation
Who is impacted—meet them, learn their experience?
Who is responsible for policies the campaign seeks to change?
What “pillars of support” buttress the unjust policies or resist change?
What are the interests of adversaries?
Use a “spectrum of allies” tool to identify groups involved and plan how to move them to active support
Specific, measureable, achievable, realistic, time bound
Define one or more goals within the capacity of a campaign to achieve in 1 to 5 years
Frame goals so that the community can hold institutions accountable after goals are won
Identify common interests and values among parties in the situation
Define the message of the campaign, the injustice, the goals, values, and vision
Plan action with reconciliation in mind
Design nonviolent direct action
More than protests, vigils or marches
“Socio-drama” actions that expose the problem and demonstrate the solution
“Dilemna actions” in which any response by adversaries will be a win for the campaign
Some actions accessible for people of all capacities
Design to build momentum, growing participation, and heightening pressure for change
Consider more than 300 different methods of protest, noncooperation, intervention
Constructive actions, build the just policy as part of the campaign
Include cultural expressions, art and music that build spirit and communicate
Decide disciplines of the campaign
Expected commitments of participants
Who speaks for the campaign—in negotiations, with media, police, communities
Decision making process, communication and implementation of decisions
Education and training mobilizes participants, and prepares them to be knowledgeable advocates
People are the power of the campaign. When they learn the issues, impacts of the injustice, campaign goals, power analysis, potential of nonviolent action, who is involved, they will work together to build the campaign.
Communicate to the community. Own the message, use public speaking, public rallies, street theater, socio drama (actions that tell the story in the action), social media, leaflets, publications, conversations.
Assert direct person to person contact with adversaries and all parties
Elevate voices of those impacted via personal encounters with potential allies and powers
Appeal personally to partners and potential allies
Create ongoing lines of communication with agents of power
Prepare and train for negotiations
Decide role and power of negotiators
Identify minimum essential goals
Hold firm to essential goals and principles, compromise on non-essentials
Apply Nonviolent Direct Actions throughout the campaigns; direct action may be used early to call attention to the issue, spark interest, engage key parties, appeal for support; successive direct actions may address short term goals; different actions involve different constituencies; actions work together to achieve the goal.
actions as designed, and create new actions from action experience
Retain the initiative in ever-changing circumstances
Plan a flow of actions, seeking to build momentum and power from action to action, and considering capacity to recover after each action
Establish support roles: Logistics, equipment; safety support; water and food; media liaison; law enforcement liaison; legal observers; paralegal or attorney resources; fundraising; culture—art, music, messaging
Reconciliation establishes new power and personal relationships that incorporate the justices sought.
Win the goal in agreement with, rather than triumph over, the adversary
Work all during the campaign and at settlement to practice healing measures
Reconciliation includes Accountability—Use campaign power to enforce follow-through on goals achieved
Evaluate and tell the story—learn from successes and mistakes, spread news of success.
NOTE: While nonviolence is an expression of people’s best selves, the method does not require perfection, it benefits from preparation. Chesar Chavez sent neighborhood organizers to 10 day trainings to learn how to conduct house meetings that in turn trained every boycott volunteer in tactics, message, discipline, and accountability for measureable results. Otpor’s successful nonviolent overthrow of dictator Slobedan Milosevich in Serbia required its members to train in message, analysis and movement discipline for several months (see the story in This is an Uprising by Paul Engler and Mark Engler, and in Healing Justice by Kazu Haga). Gandhi trained 78 core volunteers for 15 years before he embarked on the salt march campaign involving thousands of Indians in their simple assertion of independence from colonialism.
Sources: James Lawson, Kingian Nonviolence, Kazu Haga, Michael Nagler, Bill Moyer, Rivera Sun, Carl Zietlow, War Resisters International, Beautiful Trouble, Joan Bondurant (Gandhian), This is An Uprising, Movement Action Plan summary by Andreas Speck, Spectrum of Allies by Nadine Bloch, Engage workbook by Pace e Bene, Gene Sharp, Erica Chenoweth, Maria Stephan. Composed by Peter Klotz-Chamberlin, Resource Center for Nonviolence.