Women’s March co-founder Tamika Mallory — who has become a lightning rod of controversy since attending an incendiary speech given by the Nation of Islam’s Louis Farrakhan in February — was out and about in New York City on Wednesday, stopping by various school walkouts to lend her support.
“You all are the missing link!” Mallory, speaking through a megaphone, told a group of more than 200 students from Grace Church School who had gathered in Washington Square Park for a peaceful morning protest. She said she has been fighting gun violence for 17 years — ever since the father of her son was shot and killed — and told the students, “Right now, you have the attention of America and the attention of the world. Don’t stop. Keep pushing.”
Mallory’s presence made sense, as the Women’s March youth contingent was the planning force behind the March 14 nationwide school walkout that marked one month since the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
But regarding the Farrakhan controversy that’s been trailing her, Mallory told Yahoo Lifestyle, she has been laying low and processing the situation — watching it play out in the media, and speaking to and writing for just a handful of publications.
“I’ve been taking a lot of time to sort of remove myself from the issue, and to really read these things from an objective standpoint, versus being so immersed in it,” she says. “But what’s more important, particularly as a leader, is to be able to read and digest and really understand some of the underlying issues that some folks are talking about.”
Mallory added, “I’ve already stated multiple times that my work with the Nation of Islam has been very related to gun-violence work. This is work that I’ve been doing for a very long time and they have been involved in it.”
Still, when asked why she will not couch her support of Farrakhan with a clear and direct denouncement of his anti-Jewish and anti-LGBT statements — a repeated theme that has earned Farrakhan a long and scathing bio on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s website — she offered Yahoo Lifestyle a brief explanation before ending the discussion: “That’s not my language,” she says. “Read the Kingian Nonviolence principles and you’ll understand.”
The philosophy of Kingian Nonviolence — an approach to conflict reconciliation laid out by Martin Luther King Jr. and codified into six principles by his longtime partner in activism, Bernard Lafayette — is actually a foundation of the Women’s March organization, according to its website. And Wednesday was not Mallory’s first mention of the philosophy in the wake of the Farrakhan controversy. As she told the Atlantic recently, “I study in a tradition, the Kingian nonviolent tradition. I go into prisons and group homes and I don’t come out saying, ‘I just left the criminals or the killers.’ That’s not my language. That’s not something I do. I don’t speak in that way. In the tradition that I come out of, we attack the forces of evil, but not people.”
So what are the principles, exactly? And how might they possibly explain Mallory’s refusal to condemn a man whose hate-laced speech is not exactly nonviolent?
In an attempt to more fully understand where the feminist activist may be coming from, Yahoo Lifestyle spoke with Victoria Christgau — who does not know Mallory and certainly “cannot get inside Tamika Mallory’s head,” but who is a Kingian Nonviolence expert and advocate, and the executive director of the Hartford-based Connecticut Center for Nonviolence, which she co-founded with Lafayette. Here’s what she had to say about the philosophy.
What is Kingian Nonviolence?
“It’s a framework to understand and manage conflict, and a set of principles to help you apply to the conflicts in life on every level — personal as well as institutional — and it addresses the root cause of problems, not just the aftermath of the root cause,” she explained.
“In Martin Luther King Jr.’s autobiography you have reference to it, but this road map was laid out by Bernard Lafayette. He worked with Martin Luther King directly, who told him, ‘We have to institutionalize and nationalize nonviolence.’ Bernard Lafayette brought this training into being, and taught it in Atlanta at the King Center.”
How many people get trained in this philosophy, and who are they?
“There are thousands of people trained. We don’t have an actual tracked number, because many of us work through independent centers, but thousands trained in this country and around the world, such as in Palestine and Nigeria. There is a large movement in Rhode Island, and at the East Point Peace Academy in California they teach Kingian Nonviolence in prisons. We throw out a wide open net and have worked with everyone from professors to law enforcement people, a lot of teachers, social workers, and people who were formerly incarcerated — young people too, high school students who become trainers of other youth,” Christgau said.
Mallory’s refusal to denounce Farrakhan and its relation to Kingian Nonviolence seems to most clearly relate to principle No. 3: “Attack forces of evil, not persons doing evil: The nonviolent approach helps one analyze the fundamental conditions, policies and practices of the conflict rather than reacting to one’s opponents or their personalities.” Can you walk us through that idea?
“You want to get to the root of the concern. If she just attacks Louis Farrakhan, then she’s attacking another person and calling him something that may not be the total of his character. We want to, as Kingian practitioners, look at the entire picture, the whole picture, and we also weigh things out. Martin Luther King understood philosophers and the way Georg Hegel looked at things — the dialectical thinking, the truth lies in the whole,” she said.
“So rather than just throw somebody out because of one perception of what they are, you would look for what’s good in them — you would look for what’s also true, because you can’t just throw it all away. The truth lies in the whole. And what Farrakahn has done with the Nation of Islam, sending young men into neighborhoods to help escort kids to school … those are some very positive things to do, rather than leave them to rot in their communities. … He is supporting black identity and black strength; there’s some really good work there, so you wouldn’t just throw him out entirely.”
But how do you balance the non-attack of evildoers with what should then be the active attack of evil itself?
“You would not stand with that which is racist, because Martin Luther King called the ‘triple evils,’ in Kingian language, racism [which explicitly includes anti-Semitism], poverty (such as materialism), and militarism (power over, or overpowering). In this, any racist rhetoric has to be examined. And then you’d want to get at the root of the problem of: Why does this person have so much racism? Why is this person behaving this way?”Christgau said.
“We know two wrongs don’t make a right — but we have a president in power who is just saying one horrific thing after the next about so many groups of people, and claiming so much hatred, and he’s still not ousted; he’s still in power. Why would we so vehemently go after the black leader?”
I would say that half the country, at least, is vehemently going after the president. … But how does a Kingian justify their support of someone who is a proponent of one of the philosophy’s “triple evils”?
“I think your article ought to be left with that question. There’s no answer for that. I don’t have an answer for that, because I don’t know her. She’s grappling, probably, with where she stands on some of these issues. But certainly by moving the Women’s March along, she’s doing great things for our country,” said Christgau.
”I think we’re human beings; we’re flawed. We are sometimes pulled in opposites, and the idea is to eventually align your words and your actions, and perhaps over time she will start to develop more of that alignment. … I understand that there’s a desire for independence and leadership, and Farrakhan is probably one of the only ones who’s stood up to leadership over and over again. It’s unfortunate that it’s couched with ugliness, too, because not everything he says is horrible. And that’s the bottom line, and maybe what she’s saying.”
Read more from Yahoo Lifestyle:
- Tamika Mallory of the Women’s March is a fan of Louis Farrakhan and people are outraged
- 13-year-old activist and author Marley Dias to leaders of the women’s movement: ‘We must be taken seriously’
- Faces of Power to the Polls, the Las Vegas Women’s March: ‘Our voices are finally being heard’