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Birmingham Hosts its First Training Camp for Activists, Organizers and Peacemakers

Onoyemi Williams, Deputy Director of Faith in Action Alabama’s Birmingham chapter. (Nicole S. Daniel, The Birmingham Times)

By Nicole S. Daniel

The Birmingham Times

Onoyemi Williams, Deputy Director of Faith in Action Alabama’s Birmingham chapter, on Tuesday stood before nearly 50 attendees gathered at the Western Health Center in Midfield for Peacemaker Boot Camp Training and explained the difference between an activist and an organizer.

“You can become an activist by accident,” said Williams. “For example, Rosa Parks, she just didn’t want to get up. She was tired of the bus driver and in that moment, she didn’t have a long-term plan about the bus boycott; she was just sick and tired and took a stance right there.

“When you’re organizing, there’s a methodology. You’re looking at demographics, you’re understanding who you need to include, you’re bringing the community into the conversation, the community isn’t just watching the process, they’re actually engaged in the process, they’re walking with you through the process . . . organizing is relationships,” Williams said.

Williams spoke during the two-day Boot Camp the covered topics such as Data Evaluation, Heartland Alliance and Relationship Building. It also allowed attendees to learn that others are working in the same space.

Boot camps are held four times annually and this is the first it has been hosted in Alabama. Previous sites have included states likes California and New York and cities like Chicago and Philadelphia,

“This training came about because of my work across the state of Alabama and my national work,” said Williams, who is also lead organizer for LIVE FREE USA, a nonprofit organization that fights for gun violence reduction, police reform among many other issues.

“Alabama doesn’t get a lot of training,” she said, “…since the Civil Rights movement, there has not been intentional investment in training people how to organize, or getting people to organize. Because of that, less and less funding (for gun violence strategies, counselors) is going into Black and brown communities.”

As an organizer with Faith in Action and LIVE FREE, Williams travels to different cities in Alabama to discuss issues as it relates to gun violence with other organizers across the state.

Rosie Bryant, Director of Program and Organizing for LIVE FREE, was among the speakers at Birmingham’s sessions.

During an interview, Bryant said she came to the Magic City to provide resources to trainees because “it doesn’t matter where you live. If one community is not safe, we’re all not safe. Part of our work at LIVE FREE is supporting organizations on the ground that are doing this type of [activism].”

Bryant said LIVE FREE and Faith In Action Alabama make for a perfect collaboration.

“They have been doing a lot around gun violence. They have a hospital-based program that’s trying to get up and running right now and we wanted to support them in that and give them the resources and the tools on how they can actually make it safer here,” Bryant said.

Her ultimate goal is to reduce gun violence in all communities, she said. “I think children should grow up playing in the playground. Children should be able to go to school. I believe that mothers and fathers should be celebrating birthdays, instead of planning for funerals and posting GoFundMe used to bury their child. I believe that we should have a community where everyone’s safe,” Bryant said.

During her session, she discussed organizing which is an area of expertise for her.

“One small piece of organizing is having a power analysis and understanding what power is, how to use it, what your job is as an organizer, and why that’s important to make things happen in our community,” said Bryant.

For more on Faith in Action Alabama visit www.faithinactionalabama.org

For more on LIVE FREE visit

LIVE FREE | Reducing Gun Violence and Mass Incarceration (livefreeusa.org)