(Left to Right) Jaqueline Goncalves, Akshay Zadafiya and Terrell Parker study in the Multicultural Center, which has an immense history related to Martin Luther King Jr. Photo by James McIntosh.

The University of Rhode Island’s Multicultural Center holds within it a hidden history and a unique connection to the Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision.

At the heart of campus, in the Multicultural Student Services Center (MSSC) Room 202, lies the Center of Nonviolence and Peace Studies. This center’s current location was the former office of Bernard Lafayette Jr., a civil rights activist and a staff assistant to King.

Lafayette Jr. was a student activist in the 1960s in Nashville. Lafayette Jr., along with John Lewis, Diane Nash, James Bevel and other students, were a part of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). They studied and trained in Nashville and mobilized the Nashville sit-ins of 1960.

Lafayette Jr. played an instrumental role in organizing the march in Selma and getting ready to organize a large movement about voting rights.

“Selma was very dangerous,” Paul Bueno de Mesquita, director of the Center of Nonviolent and Peace Studies said. “The quote he says all the time is, ‘People say in Selma, the whites were too mean and the blacks were too scared.’”

On the night of June 11, 1963, Lafayette Jr. was beaten and almost killed in a conspiracy by the Ku Klux Klan. This was the same conspiracy that killed Medgar Evers, a popular Civil Rights activist and World War II veteran, in Mississippi that night.

One of King’s final movements was the Poor People’s Campaign. Lafayette Jr. was appointed as its coordinator and King was relying on him heavily for the campaign, according to Bueno de Mesquita. When they were held up in Memphis, Lafayette Jr. was asked to head to Washington, D.C. on the morning of April 4, 1968.

King believed that there was more to the campaign than just a march and it took studying, education and a lot of training to make it work.

“The last conversation they had before he left was that King said the very next campaign was going to be an international movement to educate people in nonviolent social change,” Bueno de Mesquita said. “He realized that the people in Memphis didn’t have those things and that’s why it failed.”

This was King’s last vision. Lafayette Jr., as a young man having worked as a staff assistant to King, took that as a special legacy. From 1968 to 1998, he travelled all around the country and the world, training people in nonviolent social change methods.

In 1998, Lafayette Jr. came to train the police officers in Providence, Rhode Island because an African American off-duty police officer had been shot mistakenly. There was an ongoing crime situation and a cry for help, so the off-duty officer responded. However, he was not in uniform and fellow police officers saw a black man with a gun and shot him, thinking he was the criminal.

“[Lafayette Jr.] was called in because he had done a lot of work with the police departments over those years,” Bueno de Mesquita said. “They launched a training campaign for all the police officers in Providence. While he was here at that time, he became acquainted with URI, the former [University] President Robert Carothers and some of the faculty who were interested in creating a center on how to address conflict.”

A few years later, he took another position at Emory University and the future of URI’s Nonviolence and Peace Studies Center became questionable.

“Shortly after he left, people all over the world were still calling here asking for him,” Bueno de Mesquita said. “At some point, people started looking to us for help. We retained the center, of course. So the office, that was more than just a desk and a telephone, became an operating center, which was Bernard’s vision anyway.”

Today, the Center for Nonviolent and Peace Studies organize diversity programs every year, with Lafayette Jr. training people every summer.

“Over a 1,000 people all over the world have come to study with him and us in the last 20 years,” Bueno de Mesquita said. “Many of these people are back in their countries doing the exact same training on the principles of Dr. King that was taught here.”

The center also organizes annual trips to Nepal where the students get to work with Non-Governmental Organizations and train in Kingian nonviolence principles. The Summer Institute also provides a training-of-trainers program. People undergo experiential learning, where individuals take a certification test in a week long program where they learn to be workshop facilitators and become certified trainers.

The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee started last year to spread the message of incorporating nonviolent methods to address conflicts in life and practice mindfulness.

“Its helping me to be more peaceful,” Jocelyn Malave, President of the SNCC, said. “ It forced me to make better personal life changes and we wanted to spread that. So we wanted to do some powerful thing on campus so we started this club.”

Nonviolent and Peace Studies was recently made available as a minor. The faculty believes that this way a student in any major can and should be able to partake in the minor, as they think it is a necessary life lesson.

“Growing up, I was never an aggressive person,” Will______  , a sophomore said. “It made me feel a little emasculated. When I learned more about nonviolence, I realized that that doesn’t define me as a person. One of the things that I learnt in my class is that nonviolent solutions are more effective and long lasting than violent ones.”

The courses helped students across different majors study and practice life lessons such as dealing with emotions, how to transfer negative emotions to positive ones, how to set up positive motivations, meditation and mindfulness, forgiveness and patience.

“I grew up in a very violent household,” Liv Hamill, a sophomore said. “My dad is very prejudiced and racist and very vocal about it. Those aren’t my values. I wanted to educate myself on how to be a better person. I felt that nonviolence was the right path and that lead me here. I am in a better place, my mind is more peaceful and it completely changed my life!”

The members of the SNCC also agree that even though nonviolent and peace is something that can be learned from books, campaigns, news and other methods, taking a course and training on it is the only way that can help anyone grow into it.

“Over the last 20 years this center has established itself as a place, across the world, where people see the training as something unique and adaptive,” Bueno de Mesquita said. “Everybody wants peace, but if you don’t know about it and how to create it, it’s just a dream.”

“Dr. King had not led any major movements since the 1955 Rosa Parks Montgomery Bus Boycott,” Paul Bueno de Mesquita, Director of the Center of Nonviolent and Peace Studies said. “He was active and promoting, but hadn’t had a real campaign so he was very impressed by what was going on there and they had gained recognition.”

The SNCC also became involved in the Freedom Rides, where they tried to desegregate interstate transportation.

“At that time all of the bus stations, facilities, bathrooms, tickets, everything was separated black and white,” Bueno de Mesquita said. “They were testing the law. The law said that it was unconstitutional but states were still having these laws.”

The Freedom Rides broke down soon because they started out with a small group of people. The group was stopped and attacked brutally, and buses were firebombed. The freedom riders were unable to continue their movement.

“The SNCC came from Nashville to take up their place and continue their rides,” Bueno de Mesquita said. “[Lafayette Jr.] was part of that student activist group. He eventually met Dr. King and became a part of the student wing of the Civil Rights Movement.”

The University of Rhode Island’s Multicultural Center holds within it a hidden history and a unique connection to the Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision.

At the heart of campus, in the Multicultural Student Services Center (MSSC) room 202, lies the Center of Nonviolence and Peace Studies. This center’s current location was the former office of Bernard Lafayette Jr., a civil rights activist and a staff assistant to King.

Lafayette Jr. was a student activist in the 1960s in Nashville. Lafayette Jr., along with John Lewis, Diane Nash, James Bevel and other students, were a part of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). They studied and trained in Nashville and mobilized the Nashville sit-ins of 1960.

Lafayette Jr. played an instrumental role in organizing the march in Selma and getting ready to organize a large movement about voting rights.

“Selma was very dangerous,” Paul Bueno de Mesquita, director of the Center of Nonviolent and Peace Studies said. “The quote he says all the time is, ‘People say in Selma, the whites were too mean and the blacks were too scared.’”

On the night of June 11, 1963, Lafayette Jr. was beaten and almost killed in a conspiracy by the Ku Klux Klan. This was the same conspiracy that killed Medgar Evers, a popular Civil Rights activist and World War II veteran, in Mississippi that night.

One of King’s final movements was the Poor People’s Campaign. Lafayette Jr. was appointed as its coordinator and King was relying on him heavily for the campaign, according to Bueno de Mesquita. When they were held up in Memphis, Lafayette Jr. was asked to head to Washington, D.C. on the morning of April 4, 1968.

King believed that there was more to the campaign than just a march and it took studying, education and a lot of training to make it work.

“The last conversation they had before he left was that King said the very next campaign was going to be an international movement to educate people in nonviolent social change,” Bueno de Mesquita said. “He realized that the people in Memphis didn’t have those things and that’s why it failed.”

This was King’s last vision. Lafayette Jr., as a young man having worked as a staff assistant to King, took that as a special legacy. From 1968 to 1998, he travelled all around the country and the world, training people in nonviolent social change methods.

In 1998, Lafayette Jr. came to train the police officers in Providence, Rhode Island because an African American off-duty police officer had been shot mistakenly. There was an ongoing crime situation and a cry for help, so the off-duty officer responded. However, he was not in uniform and fellow police officers saw a black man with a gun and shot him, thinking he was the criminal.

“[Lafayette Jr.] was called in because he had done a lot of work with the police departments over those years,” Bueno de Mesquita said. “They launched a training campaign for all the police officers in Providence. While he was here at that time, he became acquainted with URI, the former [University] President Robert Carothers and some of the faculty who were interested in creating a center on how to address conflict.”

A few years later, he took another position at Emory University and the future of URI’s Nonviolence and Peace Studies Center became questionable.

“Shortly after he left, people all over the world were still calling here asking for him,” Bueno de Mesquita said. “At some point, people started looking to us for help. We retained the center, of course. So the office, that was more than just a desk and a telephone, became an operating center, which was Bernard’s vision anyway.”

Today, the Center for Nonviolent and Peace Studies organize diversity programs every year, with Lafayette Jr. training people every summer.

“Over a 1,000 people all over the world have come to study with him and us in the last 20 years,” Bueno de Mesquita said. “Many of these people are back in their countries doing the exact same training on the principles of Dr. King that was taught here.”

The center also organizes annual trips to Nepal where the students get to work with Non-Governmental Organizations and train in Kingian nonviolence principles. The Summer Institute also provides a training-of-trainers program. People undergo experiential learning, where individuals take a certification test in a week long program where they learn to be workshop facilitators and become certified trainers.

The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee started last year to spread the message of incorporating nonviolent methods to address conflicts in life and practice mindfulness.

“Its helping me to be more peaceful,” Jocelyn Malave, President of the SNCC, said. “ It forced me to make better personal life changes and we wanted to spread that. So we wanted to do some powerful thing on campus so we started this club.”

Nonviolent and Peace Studies was recently made available as a minor. The faculty believes that this way a student in any major can and should be able to partake in the minor, as they think it is a necessary life lesson.

“Growing up, I was never an aggressive person,” Will______  , a sophomore said. “It made me feel a little emasculated. When I learned more about nonviolence, I realized that that doesn’t define me as a person. One of the things that I learnt in my class is that nonviolent solutions are more effective and long lasting than violent ones.”

The courses helped students across different majors study and practice life lessons such as dealing with emotions, how to transfer negative emotions to positive ones, how to set up positive motivations, meditation and mindfulness, forgiveness, and patience.

“I grew up in a very violent household,” Liv Hamill, a sophomore said. “My dad is very prejudiced and racist and very vocal about it. Those aren’t my values. I wanted to educate myself on how to be a better person. I felt that nonviolence was the right path and that lead me here. I am in a better place, my mind is more peaceful and it completely changed my life!”

The members of the SNCC also agree that even though nonviolent and peace is something that can be learned from books, campaigns, news and other methods, taking a course and training on it is the only way that can help anyone grow into it.

“Over the last 20 years this center has established itself as a place, across the world, where people see the training as something unique and adaptive,” Bueno de Mesquita said. “Everybody wants peace, but if you don’t know about it and how to create it, it’s just a dream.”

“Dr. King had not led any major movements since the 1955 Rosa Parks Montgomery Bus Boycott,” Paul Bueno de Mesquita, Director of the Center of Nonviolent and Peace Studies said. “He was active and promoting, but hadn’t had a real campaign so he was very impressed by what was going on there and they had gained recognition.”

The SNCC also became involved in the Freedom Rides, where they tried to desegregate interstate transportation.

“At that time all of the bus stations, facilities, bathrooms, tickets, everything was separated black and white,” Bueno de Mesquita said. “They were testing the law. The law said that it was unconstitutional but states were still having these laws.”

The Freedom Rides broke down soon because they started out with a small group of people. The group was stopped and attacked brutally, and buses were firebombed. The freedom riders were unable to continue their movement.

“The SNCC came from Nashville to take up their place and continue their rides,” Bueno de Mesquita said. “[Lafayette Jr.] was part of that student activist group. He eventually met Dr. King and became a part of the student wing of the Civil Rights Movement.”