How did you deal with it?


Renaldo Rivera


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Have you ever found yourself intervening within a conflict or party? Where one of the parties is split.

Answer:
Yes, I have but it doesn't work out that well. If within a party they are split and they are fighting with each other and you intervene, that's fine. What you're better off doing is getting a third one from that group to help the two that are in conflict process their issues. You are much better off. I've tried it directly, but the focus can come on me so directly, so easily or I can appear to be taking one side or the other because I'm trying to help them to keep their issues on the same table that the one who feels devalued winds up more problematic or not contributing at the full table, at the first table negotiations later. I've found it easier when I have these parties around or when there are problems or when they've called a caucus and they have their differences of views, to try to raise the group process. "I understand what's going on, this is what seems to be happening to me. What do other people think?" That lets the rest of those parties, at least, have input into it and then they'll break off and deal with it most of the time. At least the major part. Then by the time I get to speak to them, an antagonist or protagonist like this, I'll say, "I know that its hard for you and this is difficult, I say can you live with what the other members are saying to you, or is it too difficult to continue and if it is why don't we talk about that some more." It keeps me out of the primary role. In other words the interventions happen without me being in the primary role. It winds up much more effective. I think it takes a little bit more skill around the group process stuff and permitting others to take emerging leadership roles, but it winds up more effective from my experience.

Question:
You said first table is when everyone is at the table. What about "second table."

Answer:
With each of the parties and whatever constituent groups they represent.

Question:
Is that different than a caucus?

Answer:
It's really similar to a caucus. It's that sometimes the people in a caucus also have to go back and talk to their community memberships, so that's why sometimes it's described as second table. Because the caucus doesn't comprise the entire community constituency, it just has representatives.






Stephen Thom


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

So that really meant that the Native American Heritage Commission and CRS would spent months going into sweat lodges and homes over weekends, meeting with all the different tribelets, to make sure that, first, they would participate in pre-meetings to prepare for the negotiations, and second get them to come to some consensus.



Stephen Thom


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

What do you do when you see a conflict within one of the parties?

Answer:
Every once in a while you listen to the same party negotiate and they're talking about different things and that's a cue that something's wrong over there. Sometimes you see these expressions like, "What are we talking about?" When I see that kind of disruption within a party, usually that's time for a caucus. "I'll meet with both sides and make sure everything's okay. I try and give them about the same time. I might say, "Let me give you an example of what I heard you say. I didn't know where you guys are coming from. Do you need to pull this together? Let's look at this issue again and make sure that you're together on what you're asking for and why you're doing that? Is there a reason? Are we talking about two different issues, Are we talking about the same issue? I didn't know?" Of course we try to frame it so there's a spokesperson for each group so we can get them to conduit their information. That's theoretical. We start off that way saying who's going to be the spokesperson for this group so we get a leader. Inevitably, participants chime in on the discussion and so once in a while you need to reestablish the leadership role so that we have a funnel for whose really going to speak on the key points so that we know who has control over the secondary chime in and then make sure that they collectively agree on where the party is going. I think again it's a regrouping. The other technique that I use often is just to summarize. "Let me summarize what I hear you guys are saying," and pull it together for them in front of the other party so that we all get, and correct me if I'm wrong.

Question:
How about conflicts before you get to the table, when you see factions within a coalition?

Answer:
We talk all the issues out. I've had situations where I've had groups of the same organization, all parents, all taking different stances and trying to say, "Wait, wait, wait. Do you want to negotiate all things? What are your principle issues?" It's pretty much like the Native-American tribelets because you end up having to get some kind of consensus of what you are really asking and what is of value to you. If you don't, then you can't go to the table at all because it's just chaos.






Edward Howden


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Did you ever have to mediate conflicts within one group, between group members?

Answer:
Yes. A higher-level person in our agency did raise a question as to whether we could properly take jurisdiction. In California, where we don't have large tribes, there are rancherias that may consist of only a handful of households, or maybe a hundred to two hundred people, and in many of those cases, long term antagonisms between groups, between families-- almost like clans within the tribe--continued or festered. Well, we took on one like that. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) called us in that one, saying there was a tribe that needed a constitution. The two factions within the tribe could not convene peaceably in order to get one written and submit it to a vote. And BIA couldn't force it, yet BIA also couldn't discharge its legal responsibilities to deal with the tribe unless it had a duly constituted government. They called us, I then called the two sides, I got names from BIA and made some phone calls and they said "yeah, come on down." So there were two factions within this band. We had an intensive all afternoon meeting with one side, all evening with the other side, then it was mostly done. I think we came together the next morning with the elements of an agreement as to how to proceed to get a constitution written and acted on. I left the next afternoon. It doesn't always go all that smoothly, but they got off the ground on that. The jurisdiction question for CRS was raised internally because this was not a minority community vs. the outside world or an establishment party, so how do we get jurisdiction? My rationale was that these minority communities are there by virtue of history and the establishment and they have serious residual problems which obviously emanated from the actions and policies of our dominant society.




Efrain Martinez


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Was she initially part of the group?

Answer:
No, she wasn't. She came in later and she's not a minority person. The group was trying to portray itself as inclusive, so how can you be inclusive if you're going to throw her out? Find ways of working with her. She can contribute. She's extremely smart. She may upset the police chief, the way she says things, but look at the overall contribution that she's making. You'll find that there are more pluses than there are negatives. Just work on educating her as to what approaches she should take.




Will Reed


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
So did you then try to mediate within the group, or let them handle it?

Answer:
No, no, no. They were going to handle it. Time was fleeting and the issue was too hot for me to start doing any mediation.

Question:
Is that always how you handle internal conflicts?

Answer:
It just depends on the elements around and the factors that exist. You're in a prison, you have a warden who doesn't want you there in the first place, you have all kinds of hostilities going on, so you identify the main issue and all those things that are side issues. You've got to know, you've got to be able to judge what's important as well as the timing of all of this. The fact that they were having squabbles amongst themselves, sure it's important, but something else is more important. They're going to get beaten up and hanged; you can see that. The best thing they can do is just listen for a minute and come to a meeting of the minds as to who's going to be the spokesperson. And put a damper on this kind of stuff. There are times when you have to do that.

Question:
And they responded after you put it to them just like that?

Answer:
Not only after I put it to them like that, but they knew the handwriting was on the wall because some of those other groups in there were going to have their way. You learn that by going into prisons, understanding that there may be multiple groups in there. Some of them perceive themselves as fighting for white civil rights, black civil rights, Brown civil rights or whatever, so there are many different points of view.




Wallace Warfield


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
As a CRS intermediary, did you ever or commonly get involved in mediating between different groups in the minority community?

Answer:
Happens all the time. I think that it was rare, but as I said, minority communities are not monolithic. I’m trying to remember a good example of that. Well, in Brooklyn, New York, this was in the ‘70s, before the -- actually, it was in the ‘80s, before the -- no, I have to get this straight now. I left New York in ‘79, so the first time it happened was in the late ‘70s. There were problems in Crown Heights even before the 1991 riots there. Again, it was a situation where there were tensions between Hasidic Jews and the black community, and what you would have is, in some instances, more middle-class blacks who lived in the community wanting to take one negotiated stance, and that was being complicated by more militant groups of people coming in from the outside, who actually weren’t in that community but felt they had a role to play, because in these situations, more militant black leadership "shopped” for disputes, shopped for conflicts to be involved in. It’s kind of like a – it’s a community version of the garbage can theory. (laughter)






Edward Howden


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
When you were doing a mediation between a tribal community and the majority group, did you have to do mediation within the individual side before you were able to bring groups together, or did you figure that outside your role?

Answer:
No, I would not have considered that outside the role if, in order to arrive at meaningful, potentially useful negotiation and mediation, it was necessary to help folks get themselves together.




Ozell Sutton


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
How did you address that conflict?

Answer:
There was conflict between the ministers and the labor union, which represented the sanitation workers. They had authority going beyond them. All the way up to the top of the labor, ASME -- that's the union to which they belonged, and that was the union that was waging the battle. Then there were the preachers, there was the NAACP with its leadership, and the Urban League with its leadership. The NAACP was very strong and had some powerful leadership that was not ministerial. Maxine Smith, who was the executive director of the NAACP and a member of the national board of the NAACP; there was a guy named Jesse Turner, the national treasurer of the NAACP, who was a CPA, but a member of the board, the Tri-State Bank in Memphis, and the insurance company in Memphis, Universal Life, and that was the money. Universal Life and the Tri-state Bank. That's where the movement would put their finances. Then you had the Invaders.

Question:
The community.

Answer:
Yeah. The group of young militants. They always carried crazy names, one name was Cabbagehead, one name was Sweet Willy Wines, and these names. Cabbagehead was the overall leader, Sweet Willy Wines was less of a leader but a leader nonetheless.

Question:
They were young people?

Answer:
Yes, young black men. All 18, 19, 22. All very young.

Question:
So was the conflict between the styles and how they communicated? One group was more militant than the other group? What was the actual conflict?

Answer:
When you came to the Invaders, that was the problem. They didn't believe in non-violence; everybody else believed in non-violence, but the Invaders wanted to use whatever means were necessary to make their point. That was the attitude of the Invaders. The rest of them were where Martin was, in terms of non-violence. But petty jealousies occurred. For instance, the ministers always had lime-light because they were always the ones speaking at the mass meetings at night. Several thousand people were present. "Who's speaking? The preachers are speaking."

Question:
Were you asked to mediate that tension between the two groups, or did it just exist?

Answer:
It just existed, and I was able to move around it. I didn't have time to be trying to heal things between them, because it didn't cause that much of a problem. Most of it was sort of petty jealousies that always exist in conflict situations. I'm used to it, and I expect it. As long as it doesn't last to the point of great division, then you just go ahead and do something else. Anytime three black folk get together, one is contrary, sometimes two.

Question:
Would you say what you did to help it not get to a point?

Answer:
I really didn't have to deal with that very much. You see, it all depends, in these situations, on how present the enemy is. If the enemy is so strong that you don't have time to differ with one another, you have to keep your eyes on the prize and they did that. They knew where the enemy was. They may have different techniques, or differences "Whether we ought to accept this, or not do this, or not do that," but the enemy, in their mind, is so strong and so eager they didn't have time for that sort of thing. I didn't have time for it either.







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