Author: Kimberlyn David

Q&A: Author Patty Somlo

Author Patty Somlo at Copperfield’s Books in Santa Rosa, CA. Photo courtesy of Patty Somlo. Where do art and literature fit in the broader picture of peace and justice? That’s a question I’ve been fascinated with since 2009, when I served as Co-Founding Editor for a small book publisher. Part of my work involved reviewing manuscripts, contracting authors, and directing the design process. That’s how I first met the author Patty Somlo—by signing on her short story collection, From Here to There and Other Stories. Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of working with Patty elsewhere, including here. Through my former Metta Center role as Editor & Creative Director of Nonviolence magazine, I selected a couple of Patty’s stories for publication, because they reflected the organization’s mission to advance a higher image of the human, not to mention a greater sense of justice and dignity. In Patty’s latest collection, Hairway to Heaven Stories, faith and spirituality play a key role. The 15 stories present a microcosm of many US neighborhoods in cities where people of different races, ethnicities, class and sexual orientation live in close proximity to one another, with neighbors being both strangers and friends. Hairway to Heaven was recently published by Cherry Castle Publishing, a black-owned press committed “to practice literary equality and to embrace work that is informed by the social, political and cultural vigor of our times.” So what do you think: Where do art and literature fit in the broader picture of peace and justice? Read on for Patty’s take. What’s the inspiration behind this collection of short stories? Hairway to Heaven Stories is a linked short story collection set in what had been a predominantly African American neighborhood that is now in the process of gentrification. The initial inspiration for the book was my desire to write about gentrification and the pricing out of low and moderate-income residents from many American cities. One morning, I heard a story on National Public Radio about a traditionally African American neighborhood in Washington, D.C. that was undergoing gentrification. A community leader who was interviewed said that many longtime residents of the neighborhood could no longer afford to live there. I was saddened by this news. I knew the neighborhood, because I had spent time there many years ago, observing classes at Malcolm X Elementary School, while finishing my bachelor’s degree in Art Education. I had also experienced the effects of rising rents on a more personal level. In San Francisco, where I had lived for 20 years, and where my husband was born and started elementary school, rents and real estate prices started soaring in the 1990s with the dot-com boom, and then just kept on climbing. People were being evicted all the time, including low-income elderly, from homes they had lived in for decades. Once evicted, there were no places in the city these people could afford. Like many moderate-income renters in San Francisco, I worried that my husband Richard and I would be next. Finally, […]

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The Metta Center at Google

Michael Nagler, our founder, and Stephanie Van Hook, our executive director, recently spoke at Google. Hmm… Any guess on what they might have spoke about? You guessed it: They talked about the transformational powers of nonviolence. In his main presentation, Michael outlines the principles of nonviolence and how we can apply them today. He also discusses: how nonviolence has developed since Gandhi and King, the forces impeding the progress of nonviolence currently, how to shift the paradigm so as to release the power of nonviolence, and how to find our unique roles in the process of shifting the paradigm. At the very beginning of his presentation, Michael shares a preview of the documentary we’re working on with Metta friend Lou Zweier (thanks for all your amazing work, Lou!). It’s called The Journey Home, and we think you’re going to love it. Check out Metta’s presentation—and enjoy the preview of The Journey Home.

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Poetry: Submissions Call from a Volunteer

Lamisa Mustafa is a Metta Center volunteer and a first-year student at Southern Methodist University, where she is double majoring in Human Rights and Sociology, and minoring in French. She is passionate about the power of narratives in social justice. Through her poetry project Voices of Resilience, she will be creating a print and web-based anthology. Voices of Resilience will celebrate human diversity and the human experience. Lamisa seeks poems on any theme, in any language, and in any style (form, free verse, spoken word). Submissions will be welcomed by new and veteran poets alike. To submit: Email up to 3 poems by December 17, 2017: This project began with Lamisa’s participation in the Pangea Network’s Young Women’s Leadership Conference and is funded by the SMU Caswell Leadership Program. Lamisa is a talented poet herself. We recently ran her autobiographical poem “See the Dignity in Them, in Us” at She’s one to watch! Download the call for submissions flyer

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Metta Center in the New York Times

Yesterday, the New York Times ran an op-ed about—get this—nonviolence. Published in the wake of the horrible expressions of white “supremacy” in Charlottesville, VA, the piece extols the effectiveness of humor and nonviolence principles/strategies to dispel displays of racist hatred. The op-ed, written by Moises Velasquez-Manoff, quotes two members of our Metta Center staff. Here’s the snippet featuring Michael Nagler, our founder and president: Violence directed at white nationalists only fuels their narrative of victimhood—of a hounded, soon-to-be-minority who can’t exercise their rights to free speech without getting pummeled. It also probably helps them recruit. And more broadly, if violence against minorities is what you find repugnant in neo-Nazi rhetoric, then “you are using the very force you’re trying to overcome,” Michael Nagler, the founder of the Peace and Conflict Studies program at the University of California, Berkeley, told me. The piece also picks up points from Stephanie Van Hook, our executive director. It references the noted scholars Maria Stephan and Erica Chenoweth as well. Check out yesterday’s op-ed and let us know what you think. Feel called to share it? Please do!

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Press Release: Metta Center at the UN

Metta Center Named a Special Consult to the United Nations Petaluma nonprofit granted status with the world body PETALUMA, CA, May 10, 2017 – The late peace researcher Kenneth Boulding once articulated a tongue-in-cheek theory called “Boulding’s First Law.” It states that if something can happen anywhere, then it is possible everywhere. As far as the Metta Center for Nonviolence is concerned, the most urgent and possible “something” needed today is nonviolence. The United Nations seems to agree: it has granted the Petaluma-based Metta Center special consultative status with its Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Consultative status permits the Metta Center to engage with ECOSOC, along with the United Nations Secretariat. The nonprofit may also participate in UN events and attend meetings at the General Assembly, Human Rights Council and other decision-making bodies. One task high on the nonprofit’s consultative priorities is linking with organizations striving for similar aims at ECOSOC. For example, the Metta Center plans to support the international NGO Nonviolent Peaceforce in advancing unarmed civilian protection, a peacekeeping strategy that has shown to prevent, reduce and altogether stop violence in conflict zones. Another top priority will be promoting a higher image of humankind, an image that values the true potential of every human being and realigns our social systems to work in harmony with the earth. “It’s not about putting the right person in power but about awakening the right power in people,” as Michael N. Nagler, the Metta Center’s founder and president, is noted for saying. Even with its new role on the global stage, the Metta Center remains committed to collaborating with area organizations and individuals on making nonviolence a reality at the local level. To make deeper inroads locally, the organization recently moved from a rural Bodega Avenue location to a downtown office on Keller Street (205, Suite 202D). “Petaluma, a town centered in family and agriculture, has everything it needs to build a nonviolent model for our schools, businesses, local politics and, most importantly, our interpersonal relationships,” said Stephanie Van Hook, the organization’s executive director. “Local economies and relationships of trust are grist for the mill of the nonviolence movement worldwide.” Area residents are encouraged to participate in the Metta Center’s community-building initiatives, from its monthly Family Program to its weekly meditation group. The nonprofit also organizes a monthly Hope Tank, a creative antidote to the think-tank model. To help promote its mission, the Metta Center produces its own media, the biweekly Nonviolence Radio show that airs on KWMR and the biannual print magazine Nonviolence. ### For questions about the Metta Center’s special consultative status at the United Nations, please contact our executive director, Stephanie Van Hook:

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In 2017, I resolve to…

I’m not one to make New Year’s resolutions, but I am a big fan of daily resolve. Each day brings the opportunity to reflect on where we’ve been, to renew our intentions and ideals. The Metta Center’s Pledge of Nonviolent Resistance offers a bold take on daily resolve. As the title implies, and as you’ll see here, the pledge largely centers on resisting harmful forces. The word “resistance” can trigger strong reactions like fear and anger for many of us. I find it helpful to work through these energies by remembering that resisting injustices, untruths and authoritarian styles of leadership is rooted in personal-societal transformation. We must be willing to confront, with all the courage our hearts and minds can muster, troubling realities. Without this willingness, there can be no transformation within ourselves or the communities to which we belong. Here’s another way of putting it, from Jack Kornfield: “We need to take an honest look and see what we are supporting as a society. And then we speak out truthfully, and stand up for what is wise.” How any one of us speaks out and stands up for what is wise will of course stem from our own interests, viewpoints, and dispositions. How might you translate the Pledge of Nonviolent Resistance so that it flows with your personal path at this time? My version of the 2017 pledge looks like this: In each day this year—and for as long as it takes—I resolve to use my creative strengths and inner capacities to: investigate more deeply the violent conditioning within myself so that I can better serve as a social bridge-builder when divisions arise. observe more sharply any patterns of prejudice, scapegoating and hatred within myself so that I can play a larger role in weakening our collective addiction to militarization, along with its correlating forms of violence, from the physical to the psychological. develop greater compassion for all beings so that I can act more lovingly in the world, especially if/when the moment calls for obstructive strategies. explore additional ways to live in good relationship with the earth so that I can participate more fully in non-exploitative means of meeting our human needs. See the New Year’s Pledge of Nonviolent Resistance.

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Spotlight: Miroslava Sobot

Currently dividing her time between Austria and Croatia, Miroslava Sobot is a multidisciplinary graphic designer. She has been working on Metta Center projects for the last couple of years, from laying out brochures to designing the cover and interior of Stephanie Van Hook’s Gandhi’s Search for Truth: A Practical Biography for Children. It’s simply too much for one person to both edit and design a 60-page magazine (I know, because I’ve been that said person), so we also brought her on board to take over the layout of Nonviolence magazine (stay tuned for our Winter/Spring 2017 issue—it’s coming soon, and it’s incredible!). Time and again, Miroslava goes far above our requests and expectations. As the creative director and editor of Nonviolence magazine, I’ve worked really closely with her to produce our next issue. She deserves some major kudos: In addition to seamlessly carrying over our original design, she fine-tuned every element, taking them to a new level. And on top of that, she contributed a lot of extra design time, without charging us. We highly recommend her services, which are highly professional and reasonably priced. To learn more about Miroslava’s work, please visit: What inspired you to become a designer? Well, it wasn’t actually an inspiration but a tendency to express myself visually since my early childhood. I was constantly full of ideas and creating something—drawing, painting, making collages, modeling clay, building things with LEGOs. In high school, when the time came for me to decide what to study and which university to choose, I tried to picture myself in the future and could only imagine myself doing something creative. So I decided to study design, and it has turned out as a right choice for me. Is there anything special we should know about the name you work under, Mika Art? When my nephew was a little kid, he found it hard to pronounce my name, so he gave me a nickname, Mika. Later, I decided that Mika Art would be a good name to work under. As you’re based in Europe: What might be some of the joys and/or challenges in working for clients with different cultural backgrounds than your own? For the last few years, I have been working with clients from all over the world, and it’s been a great experience for me. At the beginning, it was definitely a challenge for me to learn how to communicate effectively with people from different cultures and backgrounds. But I began to realize that there are numberless ways to observe (and comprehend) this world of ours, and numberless ways to live in it. Eventually, I started developing long-lasting work relationships with some really great clients and wonderful individuals. Your diverse work includes designing materials for campaigns against human trafficking, info booklets for migrant workers and various identity pieces for the arts. Does the design process work differently for social campaigns than it does promo materials for the arts? In general, the design process is always the same, […]

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Metta Center 2016-07-11 20:45:49

For the Summer/Fall issue of Nonviolence, we look at democracy—unifying theory and action. Inside: Q&As with Erica Chenoweth and David Ragland, pro-democracy activist Hua Ze writes about the  challenges that dissidents face in China, essays that explore the roles of history and education in democracy. Plus, nonviolence case studies, poetry and short fiction. Exciting news: the Nonviolence website is coming soon. Stay tuned… In the meantime, why not become a regular supporter? When you donate $10/month or more to the Metta Center for Nonviolence, you automatically receive a print subscription for Nonviolence (we publish the print edition biannually, in July and December). Want to make a donation on someone else’s behalf, as a gift subscription? No problem, just add that person’s name and mailing address in the Comments box on the Donate form. Thanks to our Summer/Fall 2016 contributors: Sally Armbrecht As a copy editor, Sally has a hawk’s eye for sentence structure, style, and grammar. She lives and works in Finland, but she provides copy editing services for English-language clients everywhere via Singing House Productions. Ira Batra Garde Ira is a physician, poet, wife and mother. She lives with her family in California’s San Francisco Bay Area and is currently at work on a book. Maja Bengtson Maja is a Metta Center board member, creator of the Inner Leadership method for individuals and interpersonal transformation and founder of the collaborative for integral sustainability. She contributed a poem to the Summer issue. Sample her poetry. Todd Diehl A member of our Strategic Advisory Council, Todd is based in Texas, where he is an AVID educator. Todd contributes his talents to the Metta Center in various ways, from consulting to blogging. Lucky for us, we can turn to him for his fantastic proofreading skills too. David Golding David is a PhD student in the Education and Social Justice program at Lancaster University. He teaches Peace Studies, International Development, and Sociology for the University of Colombo and the University of London in Sri Lanka. For our Winter issue, David wrote an essay about mindfulness meditation. Miki Kashtan A co-founder of Bay Area Nonviolent Communication, Miki consults at the Center for Efficient Collaboration and blogs at The Fearless Heart. Her latest book is Reweaving Our Human Fabric: Working Together to Create a Nonviolent Future. Travis Mellott Based in Conway, Arkansas, Travis is a permaculturist and radical simplicity enthusiast. He is co-creating a gift-economy space for permaculture instruction/certification as well as conflict resolution and vulnerability training. Okke Ornstein Okke is a veteran media producer and journalist whose  reports have repeatedly been nominated for European broadcasting awards. His latest work for NTR has taken him to Syria, where he traveled with a Dutch aid organization in 2013, and Greece, where he met refugees and trekked with them through Europe. He contributed his own photos and served as the photo editor. Robert Shetterly In his portrait series Americans Who Tell the Truth, Robert paints images of courageous Americans, past and present, who stood up for […]

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New Story: The Essay & The Film

In his 1978 essay “The New Story: Comments on The Origination and Transmission of Values,” Thomas Berry essentially coined the term “the New Story.” In that essay, he spoke of a troubling disregard of the earth by both religion and science. “The earth will not be ignored, nor will it long endure being despised, neglected, or mistreated,” he wrote. “The limitations of redemption rhetoric and the scientific rhetoric can both be seen, and a new more integral language of being and value can emerge.” (Read and/or download the 17-page essay.) Berry gave contour to what he called the New Story with three themes: 1. Differentiation – recognition and appreciation for the variety of life forms that Earth brings into being 2. Inner awakening – reverence for life and our own sacred qualities 3. Intercommunion – interdependence: even the minutest particle of life is in relationship with every other aspect of life; one could not exist without the other One of his concluding paragraphs weaves these themes together: If the dynamics of the universe from the beginning shaped the course of the heavens, lighted the sun, and formed the earth—if this same dynamism brought forth the continents and seas and atmosphere, if it awakened life in the primordial cell and then brought into being the unnumbered variety of beings and finally brought [wo]man into being and guided him [or her] safely through the turbulent centuries—there is reason to believe that this same guiding process is precisely what has awakened in [woman] his [or her] present understanding of himself [or herself] and his [or her] relation to this stupendous process. Sensitized to this guidance we can have confidence in the future that awaits the human venture. In several ways, the 90-minute documentary An Enquiry into a New Story for Humanity: Change the Story, Change the World reflects Berry’s call for a more integral language of being and value. The film grew out of the 2014 New Story Summit at Findhorn Foundation, the conscious-living community and spiritual learning center in Scotland. It features an array of interviews with Summit presenters and participants, who hailed from 45 or so countries. Each person interviewed addressed healing the story of separation and its devastating consequences, from colonial/capitalistic exploits to dehumanization and gender-based violence. The Summit, organized along gift-economy lines, brought together people from diverse professional, activist, and spiritual backgrounds—indigenous wisdom, engaged Buddhism, corporate and policy leadership, education, philosophy. The film’s ending call-to-action could be encapsulated as points of willingness and responsibility. I’m paraphrasing (but not spoiling—watch the film!) those here: Serve what’s needed at this moment in our human history. Maintain a reverence for life. Recognize the unity within the diversity. See problems as opportunities. Believe in messages of the heart, along with our creativity. Accept grief as part of our healing and impetus to our motivations. Be OK with experimentation, “failure,” uncertainty, conflict. Learn more about the film and/or watch it online:

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Campaign Nonviolence: Call Recap

Each month, Campaign Nonviolence (CNV) hosts a National Conference Call to build community and share ideas for participating in CNV’s upcoming Action Week in September. April’s call was held yesterday. Moderated by activist/author Rivera Sun, the 60-min conversation packed in plenty of inspiration and take-action tips. At the start of the call, Ken Butigan (Pace e Bene’s director) and Rev. John Dear (Pace e Bene’s outreach coordinatior) recalled their recent experiences at the first-ever nonviolence conference at the Vatican, where participants called for an end to the Just War theory in favor of a Just Peace doctrine. For Ken, a highlight was acknowledging Church violence, an important step in turning toward nonviolence. He then called for all of us to do the same: to look at the violences within our own traditions so as to turn them toward nonviolence. As the call’s guest speakers, the Metta Center’s Michael Nagler and Stephanie Van Hook discussed Constructive Program (CP), the building of positive alternatives to oppression. For his part, Michael looked at the philosophical, practical, and strategic aspects of CP—the outer work of constructive program. Stephanie followed with the inner work: what we do as individuals to transform our relationships with ourselves and others. As Michael noted, the aim of constructive program is to break dependency on an outside power while simultaneously uniting people. He drew on the example of Gandhi introducing the charka, or spinning wheel, as a tool to undermine the Raj. In spinning their own cloth, Indians simultaneously loosened their dependency on the British for clothing and worked towards the common cause of independence. Philosophically speaking, their charka work served to contrast the brute force of the Raj and the positive force of nonviolence. From the standpoint of practicality, CP offers a set of interlinked actions and benefits: Needs-based projects that go beyond obstruction – People collaborate to make the opposition’s institutions obsolete by establishing ones that meet real needs for an entire community/society. Healing – Collaborating to meet our needs and fulfill our potential helps melt away built-up tensions, thereby undercutting the opposition’s reliance on divide-and-conquer modes to stay in power. Effectiveness – Done well, CP may on its own topple the opposition, with no need for obstructive actions because CP essentially delegitimizes it and renders it powerless. Perhaps most importantly, CP projects provide movement continuity. In between actions and/or during opposition crackdowns, people can continue building parallel institutions. (Quick side note: Examples of CP we see today are community/urban gardening projects, parallel banking and currency experiments, transition towns, housing and business cooperatives.) As far as strategy is concerned, Michael pinpointed two phases: The first phase is non-confrontational yet wholly impactful. As with the CP spinning wheel campaign in India, this phase revolves around an action that is neither illegal nor likely to be deemed threatening. It flies under the opposition’s radar, and it also allows everyone to participate, paving the way for mass-scale obstructive actions if/when they’re needed. The second phase ups the ante with confrontation. Here, the […]

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