Nonviolence Training with Civil Rights Icon May 22

TAMPA, Fla. (May 14, 2009) –  Bernard LaFayette, Jr., a longtime assistant of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., will deliver the message that nonviolence can be learned as well as teach the necessary skills at the University of South Florida May 22 with students, faculty and invited guests from the Tampa community in attendance.  This event is free and open to the public and takes place at the USF Westside Conference Center Room E from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.  For more information, call (813) 974-5709.


LaFayette’s last conversation with King, at the Lorraine Hotel in 1968, hours before King was assassinated, concerned the need to internationalize and institutionalize nonviolence.  He has made carrying out King’s wishes his life’s work, spreading King’s ideas of an all-inclusive and caring society he termed “the beloved community.” 


Today LaFayette stands as an international authority on nonviolent social change and nonviolence education.  He has worked with a cross-section of people including gang members, police officers, business executives, journalists, schoolchildren and average citizens from Rhode Island to Detroit and Miami as well as the Middle East, South Africa, Haiti, India, Nigeria, Colombia, Mexico and the former Soviet Union.  Those trained in turn train others.


“Dr. LaFayette has built his methods on those developed by Dr. King and Mohandas Gandhi,” said Jerry Miller, director of research for the Jim Walter Partnership Center, in the USF College of Behavioral & Community Sciences School of Social Work.  “He has shown they can work anywhere and anytime because it’s all about human interaction. And you won’t find a more qualified teacher on this subject.  Freedom rides, voter registration drives, sit-ins, dozens of arrests, facing down the KKK, he was a part of it all and these experiences speak to his courage and commitment.”


Born in Tampa, LaFayette was the national program coordinator of the poor people’s campaign for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization co-founded by King in 1957.  He is the founder of the Association for Kingian Nonviolence, Education and Training Works and is now setting up a nonviolence center at Emory University where he is a distinguished senior scholar after successfully  launching a center at the University of Rhode Island (URI).  The Jim Walter Partnership Center at USF is poised to join forces along with Emory and URI to create a three-university collaboration.  So far LaFayette has helped start 22 centers around the world.   


 “Peace is not a lack of will, but a lack of skill,” LaFayette has said.  “The greatest danger is to learn to co-exist with evil and come to the conclusion that there is nothing you can do about it.”


LaFayette is the founder and national president of God-Parents Clubs, Inc., a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, a former President of the American Baptist College of ABT Seminary in Nashville, Tennessee, scholar-in-residence at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta and pastor emeritus of the Progressive Baptist Church in Nashville.   He is the chairperson for the International Nonviolence Executive Planning Board.  An ordained minister, LaFayette in a graduate of the American Baptist Theological Seminary and earned an Ed M and Ed D from Harvard University.  He has served on the faculties of Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta and Alabama State University, Montgomery, where he was dean of the graduate school.  Earlier in his career he was principal of Tuskegee Institute High School in Alabama and a teaching fellow at Harvard.


The University of South Florida is one of the nation's top 63 public research universities and one of 39 community-engaged, four-year public universities as designated by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. USF was awarded more than $360 million in research contracts and grants in FY 2007/2008. The university offers 219 degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, specialist and doctoral levels, including the doctor of medicine. The university has a $1.8 billion annual budget, an annual economic impact of $3.2 billion, and serves more than 46,000 students on institutions/campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland. USF is a member of the Big East Athletic Conference.