This Black History Month, Salem residents can receive hands-on training in civil disobedience during sessions hosted by the Salem-Keizer NAACP.
The method played a significant role in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Protesters facing fire hoses, dogs and vitriol on American streets and in diners didn’t do it alone, and they didn’t do it unprepared.
Many were trained in civil disobedience, an organized refusal to abide by certain demands or laws. Examples include the sit-in movement, where Black students sat at segregated lunch counters, and the Freedom Rides.
The presentation will be offered on Friday, Feb. 3, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and again Saturday, Feb. 4, from 2 p.m to 4 p.m. Both are free and public with no sign-up necessary, located at the Kroc Center, 1865 Bill Frey Dr. N.E.
Rev. Osagyefo Sekou, who was the keynote speaker during the NAACP’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day event, will be hosting the sessions.
Lindsey Radke, the NAACP’s fundraising and membership committee chairperson, attended a similar course taught by Sekou in 2021, and is one of the organizers for this weekend’s event.
“When I think of the civil disobedience in the civil rights era, I’m thinking of very strategic planning,” she said. “They didn’t just go on to the streets to engage in this, they worked together diligently, chose out locations, had times, had plans for emergencies, knew how to respond, so it was just that much more powerful of a movement.”
Radke described herself as a rule-follower. She said the two-hour course is centered on “deep, abiding love.”
“I obey the laws,” she said. “We are, in a deep and compassionate way, going out to express our concern and our worries and desire for change in a public place.”
Radke joined the NAACP after the 2020 murder of George Floyd by Police officer Derek Chauvin, which sparked nationwide protests.
The Salem classes, she said, are an attempt to prepare for future protests. The classes were scheduled before the death of Tyre Nichols in Memphis, Tennessee, who died on Jan. 10 after being severely beaten by five police officers.
Sekou received his training in civil disobedience from the Highlander Research and Education Center, a longstanding advocacy organization that also trained civil rights learners including King and Rosa Parks.
The course, Militant Nonviolent Civil Disobedience, will focus on safety and organizing, such as how to help someone who has been pepper sprayed. The militant component comes from learning calls and responses like when to sit down or stand up, Radke said.
“Yes, there’s the word militant, but there’s also this beautiful component that people are coming together and doing this out of compassion because they see something that’s not right, and they’re willing to go out into a public space to share those concerts,” she said.
The event space can host up to 100 people, she said, but if more would like to come she said they will find a way to accommodate everyone. The event is also wheelchair accessible and will have ASL interpreters.
Radke said the event is relevant for Black History Month, and for addressing current issues of police brutality.
“If we want to make change, we need to do it together. I think that’s where the most change can happen,” she said.
Contact reporter Abbey McDonald: [email protected] or 503-704-0355.
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Abbey McDonald joined the Salem Reporter in 2022. She previously worked as the business reporter at The Astorian, where she covered labor issues, health care and social services. A University of Oregon grad, she has also reported for the Malheur Enterprise, The News-Review and Willamette Week.