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August 10, 2015

The “Love” in Beloved Community

If you've followed Move to End Violence’s blog, On the Move, you may have noticed that we talk a lot about love (love and truth,  love and strategy, and love with power). Cohort 1 was introduced to the concept of beloved community by Puanani Burgess (faculty emeritus) and Grace Lee Boggs, paving the way for our ongoing core practice of  building beloved community.

Our understanding of beloved community is grounded in Martin Luther King's vision for it. King’s vision of beloved community was not an unrealistic utopia, but rather a realistic achievable goal that could be accomplished with a critical mass of folks who practice principles of nonviolence.

King’s early references to the concept of the beloved community came on the tale end of the famous Montgomery bus boycott. At a rally to celebrate the Supreme Court's decision to desegregate, King declared that that was not the end. King spoke of beloved community as the end goal of nonviolent boycotts. King believed that political and/or economic power were not the end goal(s)--they are just mere ingredients to the greater objective we seek. King declared, “the end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the beloved community. It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform opponents into friends. It is this type of understanding goodwill that will transform the deep gloom of the old age into the exuberant gladness of the new age. It is this love which will bring about miracles in the hearts of men.” —Martin Luther King, Jr.

Why beloved community for Move to End Violence? Move to End Violence centers building beloved community to ensure that we, as social justice activists, are connected to one another’s humanity. Because we believe that by building beloved community we will be our most powerful collective, it is a fundamental element of all Movement Makers gatherings. Cohort 3 was invited to truly see one another; instead of introducing them to one another vis-a-vis a traditional biographies, we shared “love notes” about each participant. Rather than sharing their “role selves,” or emphasizing what they do, we shared  their “real selves” highlighting who they are. Movement Makers were then encouraged to spend time reflecting one another’s interconnected humanity, sharing snippets of their culture, heritage, ancestors, gifts, strengths, full self, history, legacy, lived experiences, truths, etc. This allowed Movement Makers to embrace, embody, and show up fully into the space and begin building authentic relationships with one another.

Building beloved community offers us the opportunity to know and care for one another as human beings and to build the trust needed to successfully leap into the unknown together - to dare, to imagine, to disagree, to risk.  From there, great change is possible. Many of us have experienced the limitations of transactional relationships which are based on our roles and structured to benefit our organizational interests. These collaborations tend to be fairly narrow in scope of impact, are often time-limited and unable to withstand significant change or pressure. At Move to End Violence, we believe that we will only move at the speed of trust. And if it is truly transformational change we're after, we need to transform how we are together.

At our recent convening we experimented with a fun tool for building beloved community, Love Notes, introduced to us by Move to End Violence core partner, Movement Strategy Center. It was a phenomenal success! Please click here for a brief description of the tool -- we hope you fall in love with it and each other!

Art by lizar_tistry