Homeward Bound

Phew….. After a long and fulfilling trip, I’m finally on my way home

And as I think about being able to sleep in my own bed tomorrow night, I am also pondering the idea of “home.

Kazu & Jeremiah

Kazu & Jeremiah

Right now, I am on my way back from San Diego, where I just had dinner with my friend and Peace Warrior Jeremiah. Jeremiah was one of our inside trainers at Soledad State Prison, where we just recently surpassed 500 men who have gone through our workshops.

After helping us lead many of those workshops in the tail end of his 20 years of incarceration, Jeremiah came home in January!!! I’ve been talking to him on the phone regularly since his release, but this was the first time I’ve gotten to see him and give him a hug. And it felt awesome.

Jeremiah talked to me about how important it is to have positive programs inside the system. Programs like Barrios Unidos, Kingian Nonviolence and other opportunities that allow men to go deep and transform out of a culture of violence.

Will you donate $10, $25 or $50 to help us sustain and grow these types of programs inside, and continue to support men like Jeremiah?

It’s been amazing keeping in touch with Jeremiah, hearing the joy in his voice, and now seeing the joy on his face as we sat down over some barbeque. Hearing about what he has been able to do now that he’s home – spend time with his family, enjoy the sun and the ocean, share his inspiring story to “at-risk” youth in the San Diego area – was so inspiring and a great way to end my trip.

We are looking forward to him coming up to Oakland to help facilitate our two-day Kingian Nonviolence workshop in July!!!

Oxnard Nonviolent Organizing Workshop

Oxnard Nonviolent Organizing Workshop

After an amazing two-day workshop with new (and one old) friends in Oxnard, I also got to visit some friends in Los Angeles. Paul Engler, co-author of the new book, “This Is an Uprising,” (highly recommended reading for everyone) and I talked about the need to build nonviolent movements. Lori, Kingian trainer who not only trains but spreads nonviolence through her incredible music, played me some of her new songs which are about to be released. And Vishnu, who I met through nonviolent communication work, and I had great conversations about diversity, conflict and more.

I feel blessed to be surrounded by so many incredible peacemakers, each contributing to Beloved Community in their own ways. And I feel blessed that each of you are part of that community!!!

Paul's book "This Is An Uprising"

Paul’s book “This Is An Uprising”

We are still running our three-week fundraising campaign, and I will continue to send short updates as our work continues. I will be back in San Quentin tomorrow, our work in the county jails continues this week, and I am excited to speak at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center for the first time after another two-day workshop in Soledad prison.

Please consider supporting our fundraising campaign by donating $10, $15 or $25. Your contribution will go towards supporting all of our programs, on the inside working with men like Jeremiah, and on the outside supporting communities like the one I was just at in Oxnard, with new activists learning how to build powerful movements.

Thank you all for everything that you do in the name of peace!!!

Until next time,

Kazu Haga

Budding New Activists Build Emerging Movements For Justice

A few months ago, I received a call from a young woman named Gaberila about the possibility of us coming down to her region in Southern California to do a training.



“I’ve never been an activist before, but after Trump’s election, I knew that I needed to do something,” I remember her telling me at the time.

“I started looking online for trainings so I can figure out what to do,” she went on. “It started with a selfish tone, because I didn’t know a lot about activism and I wanted to take a training that would help me. But as I started talking to people, I realized that A LOT of other people were feeling the same way – wanting to do something but not knowing what.”

So today, I am driving down to Oxnard, California for a weekend-long training on Nonviolent Organizing. Will you consider donating $25 or more to help more trainings like this?

Gaberila has been a tour de force since our first conversation. As someone who has never organized before, she quickly found funds to cover our travel, found a training location, and began building relationships with organizations all over her region.

The registrations started to trickle in, and we are now looking forward to a packed audience of new and old activists from all over Ventura County and beyond.

Gaberila told me that when she was little, “My mom would always put on movies about the holocaust and other social injustices. People look back at those times and say, “that’s terrible, if I were around in that time, I would have done something to fight it.” It’s easy to say those things in retrospect, but while those things were happening, too many people sat around and did nothing. I told myself that if I were ever in that situation, that I would do something.

My dad is Palestinian, and even though I saw him face discrimination, it was still easy to live in blissful ignorance. But when Trump was elected, I knew millions of people were in danger, and I had to do something.”

There are people like Gaberila – budding leaders in an emerging movement for justice – all over the country. As an organization grounded in a Gift Economy, money will never be a reason why we can’t work with people like her.

But that means we also depend on people like you to make our work possible. Please consider becoming a monthly so we can continue to work with all of the Gaberilas of the world.

I look forward to updating you about this workshop after the weekend is over. In the meantime, please continue to share our updates with your friends, communities and networks so that we can continue to expand our Beloved Community.

In Peace,

Kazu Haga

500 Peace Warriors & A Story of Reconciliation

Beloved Community,

Last Friday, we surpassed 500 men who have gone through a Kingian Nonviolence workshop in Soledad State Prison!!! It was an inspiring milestone, especially since the majority of those men went through a workshop facilitated by their peers.

unnamed (1)The men who were present were treated with a special surprise, in the form of a visit and presentation from Carmen Perez, an old friend, advocate of Kingian Nonviolence, executive director of the Gathering for Justice and national co-chair of the Women’s March. After a morning workshop filled with incredible stories, Carmen’s speech left the 50 men in awe.

Will you donate $25 or more to help raise $500 this week to celebrate our 500th participant? Your support will help us reach the next 500 men!

I also want to share an incredibly inspiring story shared to us by one of the 500 men we’ve worked with at Soledad, one of our inside facilitators, Chris Diep.

“In October of 2000, four days after my birthday, my best friend whom I had known since I was 5 was murdered. I am currently incarcerated for a retaliation murder.

In 2013, I was transferred to Soledad. When I got here, I found out that the person who actually murdered my friend was here 

For the first several weeks, I was completely stressed out. I was feeling angry, frustrated, worried and conflicted. I wanted to take revenge, and felt that if I didn’t do something, my peers would look down on me. At the same time, if I did take revenge, I knew it would affect my family.

For a few years, I avoided him at all costs. I didn’t do anything, but inside I was filled with anger and hatred. But I wanted a chance to eventually go home, so I just kept my distance.

When I started to learn about Kingian Nonviolence, I realized how that anger was affecting me, and how avoiding him was only creating a negative peace. Kingian Nonviolence helped me accept my friend’s death, and move towards forgiving the person who took his life. I learned that holding onto anger was an act of violence I was doing to myself, and the importance of reconciliation.

I reached out to him. Now, I am able to sit and talk to him, about our purpose in life, about the type of men we want to be when we go home. He was actually in the room today as I was facilitating.”

This is the type of work that your donation of $25 or more will support. Please donate to support our three-week campaign to raise $5,000!!!

Peace requires reconciliation on a personal level like Chris embodies, and it requires communities to resist violence and injustice, like the participants in our workshops last weekend in Oakland and this coming weekend in Oxnard.

Please consider supporting our work, supporting Chris and the rest of our relatives on the inside, and communities throughout California that we are working to empower.

I look forward to sharing more exciting updates later this week.

In Peace,

Kazu Haga

Policing Isn’t Working for Cops Either

Originally Published by Waging Nonviolence on July 11th, 2016

“It’s okay mommy…. It’s okay, I’m right here with you…”

Those were the words of four-year-old Dae’Anna, consoling her mother Lavish Reynolds after she witnessed the police shoot and kill her boyfriend Philando Castile.

Those words are now scarred into the psyche of America, much like words that came before it: “Hands up, don’t shoot.” “I can’t breath.” “It’s not real.” [Read more...]

“Comfort Women” and Negative Peace in Japan

Glendale’s bronze ‘Comfort Women’ memorial. Tetsuya Mizuno/The Yomiuri Shimbun/AP Images

I was born in Tokyo, Japan, and consider myself a proud Japanese citizen. I love my country, my culture, my heritage, my people. While I now live in the United States, I will always consider Japan to be my home. I am committed to doing whatever I can to contribute to a real lasting peace in my homeland, because peace is something that we all want, we all desire, and we all deserve.

But gross misunderstandings of “peace” can be harmful and dangerous.

Over the past couple of months, there has been an issue on the table for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, to support the construction of a memorial to recognize “comfort women.” These “comfort women” were sexual slaves used by the Japanese Imperial Army during the war to give “comfort” to its soldiers. By some estimates, over 200,000 women from throughout Asia were brought – some against their will, other coerced – into these “comfort stations.” [Read more...]

Pondering on Justice

Image from goodmenproject.com

Principle #6: The Universe is on the Side of Justice. …. 

As the country celebrated its “independence” last weekend, I found myself reflecting on the concept of justice.

Earlier that week, I watched a young man I’ve known for three years receive a life sentence. I watched the District Attorney and the friends of the victim advocate for “justice,” which for them meant this young man receiving the maximum penalty. And I found myself frustrated at how far apart our understanding of the concept of justice is. I watched the judge hand down the sentence, nonchalantly “doing her job” as she left another life and another family [Read more...]

The problem with wanting “peace” in Baltimore


Originally published in Waging Nonviolence
By Kazu Haga
April 29th, 2015

Click here to read the original article on www.wagingnonviolence.org

Peace disgusts me.

Let me clarify.

We all want peace. Even in the prison system, where I often work with people who have committed serious acts of violence and who are very comfortable using violence — people want peace in their lives.

But calls for people to be “peaceful” in the face of the most recent police killing infuriate me. The calls for “peace” that act as a euphemism for “stop protesting” sickens me. When law enforcement and politicians tell people to protest “peacefully” as a way of saying “stop being so mad,” it repulses me. The gross and dangerous misunderstanding that people have of the concept of “peace” disgusts me.

In 1956, a young woman named Autherine Lucy became the first black student enrolled in the University of Alabama. From the first moment she stepped foot on campus, there was violence. People rioted. And in response, the school expelled her, blaming her for inciting the violence. The next day, with Autherine expelled from campus, the riots stopped. The local newspaper ran a headline that read, “Things are quiet in Tuscaloosa today. There is peace on the campus of the University of Alabama.”

And that peace disgusts me.

People too often associate “peace” with quiet, with calm, with candles and kumbaya. People too often understand “peace” simply as the absence of tension. And that is a problem.

In a sermon he gave in response to the incident, Marin Luther King Jr. described this peace as a “negative peace.” A false peace, the simple absence of violence that came at the expense of justice.

It is this understanding of peace that allows people to justify going to war to create peace. “If we just kill all the bad people, then we will have peace.” It is this understanding of peace that allows us to justify mass incarceration to create peace. “If we just lock up all the bad people, then we will have peace.” And it is this understanding of peace that allows people to demand “peace” from the Black Lives Matter movement. “If the protesters would just stop yelling, we would have peace.”

And it’s true, if all we want is the quiet, calm, polite “negative peace.” If all the protests stopped, Baltimore would be quieter and calmer than it has been recently. If we simply arrested all the protesters, Baltimore would be “peaceful.” But as King reminded us, “This is the type of peace that all men of goodwill hate. It is the type of peace that is obnoxious. It is the type of peace that stinks in the nostrils of the Almighty God.”

Yes, these protests are loud. Yes, there is tension in the streets. Yes, the marches are disruptive. And that’s the point.

Peace is a messy process. Justice is loud. If people think that building “peace” in a society as violent as the United States is a neat, calm and pretty process, they are in for a surprise.

Yes, there has been violence in the streets of Baltimore. And as a trainer and practitioner of Kingian Nonviolence, I don’t think breaking windows is the most effective tactic. However, it infuriates me each time I hear some talking head denouncing the violence and criminalizing the protesters who are in the streets.

Yes, windows have been broken and police cars have been smashed. But in Kingian Nonviolence, we teach that all conflict has history, and we typically only see the moment that the conflict erupts. We have a tendency to look only at the moment of eruption to try to understand what is happening. Sometimes, a conflict has days or weeks of history that we don’t see before it erupts. And sometimes, a conflict builds for 500 years before erupting. What is happening in Baltimore is the result of 500 years of systemic racism and violence. Much like Autherine Lucy being accused of inciting violence, accusing the protesters of violence is ignoring the much larger systems of violence that they are responding to.

The actions that the protesters have been engaged in are a response to that violence. The violence of police brutality. The violence of poverty. The violence of structural racism. People are fed up, and their actions are not violent as much as they are actually a cry for peace — the positive peace that only comes about through justice. It is the deep yearning and desire for peace and justice that is moving people into the streets.

Former Baltimore Ravens star Ray Lewis recently implored the protesters to “stop the violence.” Ironically, that’s exactly what the protesters are trying to do. They are the warriors fighting for peace in a society that seemingly doesn’t honor the value of their lives. They are the ones who are sick of the violence.

I am a trainer and a practitioner of nonviolence. I believe that nonviolence is the most effective way to create change, and the only way to create “beloved community,” the reconciled world with justice for all that King lived and died for. But just as with the concept of “peace,” “nonviolence” is a highly misunderstood concept.

Extreme forms of violence call for extreme forms of nonviolent responses. And nonviolence can be as loud, as unsettling, and as assertive as violence. King called for a movement that was “nonviolent, but militant, and as dramatic, as dislocative, as disruptive, as attention-getting as the riots.” So if people think King would have called for “calm” in Baltimore, they would be sadly mistaken. And if those calling for “peaceful protests” are hoping for calm, quiet, neat and orderly marches, they do not understand the dynamics of violence or peace.

Less than a month before he was assassinated, King said, “It is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard.”

The biggest misunderstanding that exists of nonviolence is that it means simply to “not be violent.” You can watch someone get beaten and killed right in front of you and not do anything to help, and you would be “not violent.” You can watch police get away with murder after murder and not take a stand, and you would be “not violent.” However, true nonviolence is about taking a stand against violence and trying to transform unjust situations. A riot, as inarticulate as it may be, is an attempt to transform unjust situations. It is the cry of a people who have been unheard for generations. And it’s time we listen.

Shut It Down: Reclaiming the Radical Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The real Martin Luther King Jr. was angry about injustice, radical in his politics and militant in his tactics

The real Martin Luther King Jr. was angry about injustice, radical in his politics and militant in his tactics

On January 19th, politicians from both sides of the isle, corporations and institutions around the country will be celebrating one of the great leaders of this country. Unfortunately, every year the celebration of this holiday feels like a disservice to his legacy. Every year, it feels like Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy has been watered-down and appropriated, used to benefit whatever political motive people may have.

For the past several years, the city of Oakland has had a tradition of gathering citizens to walk around low-income neighborhoods picking up litter from the streets. The same streets where police violence is common place. The same streets where gun violence is a daily occurrence. The same streets where homeless people sleep, where people are being displaced from their homes, where young people are being lost to drugs, where women are being trafficked.

You wonder what King would have thought about those issues, the issues that he was working on during his life. Yet in his absence, we go about our day, celebrating work that happened 50 years ago and remembering that he had this nice dream one night.

And that is a shame. That is a disservice.

We are not celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. by picking up trash while ignoring the fact that black lives are being treated like trash by state institutions. No, we are “remembering” a whitewashed and “Mcdonald-ified” version of King, as someone recently said at a #blacklivesmatter meeting. We are remembering a false narrative, an image of King who simply wanted people to hold hands and light candles.

We are not remembering the radical, militant King who organized to demand justice. We are not remembering the King who called the American government the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world.” We are not remembering the King who called for a movement that was “nonviolent, but militant, and as dramatic, as dislocative, as disruptive, as attention-getting as the riots.”

But this Martin Luther King Jr. Day, 2015, things may finally look different. This year, young black leaders in Ferguson and beyond have put out a call to organize a weekend of disruptions to “reclaim” the legacy of Dr. King. To remember that he was nonviolent and motivated by Agape love, but also radical in his politics and militant in his tactics.

Resurrection City

Resurrection City

The Militant King
We all remember the “I Have a Dream” speech, and that speech gets played (out) in every school across America. But we forget that at the time of his murder, he was organizing the Poor People’s Campaign. We forget that part of the Campaign was an effort to call on poor people of all races from around the country to come to Washington DC and create an encampment on the national mall, and to use this “resurrection city” as the hub of operations for a mass campaign of civil disobedience that would shut down the entire city, to “cripple the operations of an oppressive society.”

Had he not been shot, and had the Poor People’s Campaign gone off in the way he envisioned it, it would have created mass disruptions and inconvenienced a lot of people. And as the #blacklivesmatter movement continues to put pressure on an “oppressive society,” it is imperative for a country that so often uses King as a moral compass to remember that King was not afraid of confrontation, and that nonviolence is not afraid of tension and disruption.

King once wrote that, “Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and establish such creative tension that a community that has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored.”

After 500 years of slavery, lynchings, Jim Crow, redlining and mass incarceration, this country still witnesses the killing of a black man by law enforcement, security guard or vigilante every 28 hours. According to Michelle Alexander, author of “The New Jim Crow,” that is about the same rate as lynchings during its peak.

If people feel like the actions that may take place over Martin Luther King Day weekend are causing a disruption, we need to acknowledge that that’s the point.

500 years of progress, and still a murder of a black life every 28 hours. That qualifies as a country that has “constantly refused to negotiate.” And the disruptions and inconveniences are designed to make people uncomfortable, to dramatize this issue and force the country to deal with this epidemic in a real, meaningful way.

For those who say that these actions are causing tension, King wrote that, “we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

For those who say that we should be trying to advocate for changes through legal means such as the courts, King stated during the Birmingham campaign that, “the only way we’re going to break Birmingham is to fill the jails [through civil disobedience].” He also reminded us that, “everything Hitler did in Germany was “legal,” and every thing the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.

For those who say they support #blacklivesmatter but are bothered by the militancy of the movement, King wrote, “I have reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council or the Ku Klux Klan, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom…. Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.

For those who say that young people need to be more patient, King reminded us all that, “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet engaged in a direct action movement that was “well-timed,” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation….. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse kick and, even kill your black brothers and sisters……. then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair.

#blackbrunch demonstrators

#blackbrunch demonstrators

So if your brunch is disrupted this Martin Luther King Day weekend, if you get caught in traffic because of a blockade, if you are inconvenienced in some way, let us all take that moment to acknowledge that those are the ways in which you can really celebrate the legacy of Dr. King. That moment of inconvenience is simply the turning of the wheels of progress, brought to you by those with the courage to stand up and say, “enough.”

 “Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.”

 If you are in the Bay Area, consider supporting the call from the Anti-Police Terror Project and coming to a Bay Area Spokescouncil for MLK Weekend, culminating in a Jobs and Economy for the People march on Monday the 19th.


#Ferguson: Privilege, Indignation, Discipline, Vision

Honestly, if anyone was surprised by the Grand Jury’s decision to not indict Darren Wilson, you have not been paying attention.

I have a lot on my mind – the need to articulate justice, privilege in the movement, long term strategy – so I’m just gonna start writing and we’ll see where this goes.

Let me just say one thing quickly. I have often times been critical of movements that to me lack long-term strategy or discipline, and I’ve been open about voicing them. And some have criticized me for criticizing the movement. Which is fine. I welcome criticism, as long as a willingness to dialogue comes with it. [Read more...]

Why Don’t We Build A Movement?

What if all organizations in Oakland who work for social justice put down their egos and worked to create a COLLECTIVE work-plan for the next 10 years? Not just deciding to work together on 1 campaign for a year. Actually built integrated workplans that allow us to still do what each of us do best, but with a grand strategy of how we’re all contributing to the same change? What if nonprofits stopped their turf wars? What if nonprofits stopped feeding into the capitalist, individualistic mentality of this culture and took the idea of movements and collaborations seriously? What if we told all of our funders that after spending down our current grant, we’re all gonna change directions slightly and start to work together for real? What if….

I posted that a few days ago on Facebook, and have been thinking about it since.

I’ve been employed by various nonprofits and grassroots organizations for the better part of 13 years, and have been involved for a few years longer than that. Over the years, I’ve participated in many campaigns, been through several strategic planning processes, helped to develop countless workplans. [Read more...]