Published on: Wednesday, February 1, 2017 Takoma Park Newsletter

Residents “workshop” King’s legacy of nonviolence

By Helen Lyons

More than 50 people gathered at Historic Takoma on Martin Luther King Jr. Day to attend a workshop on Nonviolent Direct Action led by Takoma Park resident Nadine Bloch.

“This isn’t just an anti-Trump thing or anti-Fascist thing, but a way that we can actually transform how we live and take care of each other,” said Bloch, who described herself as “a neighbor, activist, educator, and artist.”

Participants honored Dr. King’s legacy of nonviolent protest during the Civil Rights Movement by coming together to learn about the various forms of peaceful resistance and their effectiveness in ushering in political change.

“I want to welcome people into the waking-up place,” Bloch said in her opening remarks for the workshop, “and I want to also remind us that we’re in a position right now that’s really different than my 35 years of being involved in the movement, where the masses of people are potentially woke and ready to take action.”

That action, according to Bloch, is more effective when it’s nonviolent. “Twice as successful,” Bloch said. “Let that soak in. If we take a look at what has changed the world, it’s not violence. It’s people-powered movements. In order to not miss this moment of transformation, we need to dedicate ourselves to overcoming the systemic violence of the system.”

Joe Bentley and Sam Contrino plan to be a part of the movement growing in Takoma Park in response to the election of President Donald J. Trump. “A friend of ours lives over on Sycamore Avenue, and she sent us an invite to the training,” Bentley said. “I’m frightened for what could happen going down to a protest, so I’m here to learn the right responses and plans for action so that I can be prepared for various situations.”

“I want to participate, not just talk,” Sam Contrino added. “And I want to learn from others instead of teaching myself.” Some of the learning that took place at the workshop included using hand signals to communicate with other activists and showing agreement without talking over a speaker by wiggling fingers instead of applauding.

Many of the attendees had decades of experience in nonviolent movements, and some Takoma Park residents said they attended the workshop to brush up on skills and knowledge they hadn’t used since the 1980s.

Emily Warheit, a graduate student at the University of Maryland, came as part of her preparation to participate in the Women’s March on Jan. 21. “I’ll be more confident if I feel more prepared,” she said.

The workshop was an active one, with participants moving about the room in various exercises, including one in which they were asked to transform their bodies into sculptures that represented nonviolent resistance. Many struck poses reminiscent of Dr. King delivering his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

Bloch asked the room, “What do we want?” And the response was a shout of “power,” which Bloch went on to explain was “not power to, but power with,” emphasizing the need for unity in times that many Takoma Park residents feel are divisive.

“When we fight with weapons, we fight in a way that they are going to win,” Bloch told the participants. “That is their playground. When we fight in another way, in a more creative way, it’s not their playground; it’s our playground.”

This article appeared in the February 2017 edition of the Takoma Park Newsletter. The Takoma Park Newsletter is available for download here.