Introducing… Mercedes Mack

Mercedes MackAs an intern at Metta Center, Mercedes Mack supports our mission in a variety of ways: she writes insightful, context-filled posts for our History blog; provides event and administrative assistance; contributes research and project ideas. She juggles quite a lot (and we’re incredibly grateful for her capacity to do so!).

Mercedes is currently working on her BA of Science in Political Science, at Sonoma State University in California, where she also participates in National Model United Nations (NMUN). With a passion for international cooperation, Mercedes applies nonviolence philosophy to her NMUN experiences, both in resolution writing and caucusing. Approaching solutions with the intention of preserving human dignity, she says, gives her a win-win perspective on international issues.

In 2012, Mercedes interned for Rep. Lois Capps (CA, 23rd District). Then in the fall of that year, she served as the regional political director for Gary G. Miller’s congressional campaign (R-CA13, 2013-2014).

Mercedes is with the Metta Center team for two semesters. It’s no secret to us that she makes many positive contributions toward a nonviolent culture, and that she has a bright career ahead of her. We thought you might like to meet her for yourself.

How did you first hear about Metta Center?

One of my professors, Dr. Cynthia Boaz in the Political Science department at Sonoma State University, introduced me to Metta Center when I expressed a serious interest in learning the theory of nonviolence. She has worked with Metta Center before. I checked out Metta on the web, I had an interview and the rest is history!

When did you start your internship, and what inspired you to join us?

I started in August of 2014. I joined the team with little expectation of what it would be like and an open attitude to serve. I was very ready to learn about principled nonviolence, Gandhi and how an organization would even start to spread the word about nonviolence.

What personal and/or professional goals might you like to accomplish through your internship?

I want to develop and strengthen my meditation practice. This was not a goal I had entering the Metta Center, but in my time here meditation organically grew into a personal goal. I have begun to understand the deep connection between meditation and nonviolence and feel it is both a service to myself and to others to practice meditation. Metta has been a very supportive environment to experiment with and grow in my meditation practice.

As a student of political science, I am absolutely fascinated by politics, law and human nature. Revisiting topics through a nonviolent lens has been eye-opening, to say the least. By studying nonviolence, I intend to integrate it in my career in international politics and represent the nonviolent perspective in government and politics. With knowledge of nonviolence from Metta, I could one day be a candidate for work as a peacekeeper, diplomat or in some capacity with the United Nations.

Are there any particular skills and knowledges you’ve developed as a direct result of your internship thus far?

I have developed skills in meditation, writing, event organizing and research. In writing History blog posts, I have learned how to find information on under reported events in nonviolence and explain the events in greater detail and technicality. I have found that many times the strategy behind, and the effects of, nonviolent phenomenon are not appropriately reported. Being able to expand on under-analyzed nonviolent events has allowed me to further “learn by doing” by explaining nonviolent strategies and outcomes in the context of each movement.

Through my service and involvement I have learned how a nonprofit works. By participating in roundtable discussions I have learned how to better clearly communicate thoughts and ideas to a large group in an open and collaborative setting. I’ve learned how tasks and projects are delegated among multiple people and layers of responsibility are established and maintained. It’s an aspect of nonprofits that I have never been exposed to before, and it’s very rewarding to learn from the nonviolent work ethic demonstrated within Metta.

Describe your internship experiences—what do you find most challenging and/or rewarding about interning for a small nonprofit on a big mission?

I find it most rewarding to work in a nonviolent environment, surrounded by people who are committed to the New Story, to uplifting human dignity to redefine our human experience. It is so great to see the breadth of involvement by Metta members, from all over the world and California, connect and work together in their respective communities.

A great challenge, and probably the most important challenge, is figuring out how to teach nonviolence to a larger audience, or an audience that is unfamiliar with nonviolence. Through my time here, I’ve realized that it’s not that we don’t know about nonviolence, it’s that we don’t consciously know we already know about nonviolence. So it’s not so much to teach, but to re-awaken what is already a part of our natural being. It is sometimes a trial and error process requiring patience and flexibility.

How do your studies and practices of nonviolence benefit you?

The benefits of cultivating a meditation (or yoga)  practice are a powerful daily benefit. It is so important to be intentional and present in everything I do.

Through my study of nonviolence, I am able to approach conflict from a place of understanding rather than response. I have also learned that conflict itself is inevitable and neutral. Conflict itself is not the “enemy”. I won’t continue life without encountering it; but how I handle it makes all the difference and that has been incredibly empowering.

What’s your favorite nonviolence quote?

“So the question is not whether we will be extremist, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate, or will we be extremists for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice, or will we be extremists for the cause of justice?” ~ Dr. MLK Jr., in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”

To give some context, Dr. MLK Jr. was responding to the criticisms that his strategies in Birmingham were too extreme. This is a common criticism that many social justice movements get, and I loved his response because it highlighted that it’s not being extreme that was the problem, it was being passive and cooperative by compliance to practices that do not honor human dignity that was the problem.

Feel free to leave questions or comments for Mercedes below. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.