Katherine Alford reflects on Third Act’s second Non-Violent Direct Action (NVDA) training in New York City.

All images courtesy of Liz Sanders.

I signed on to be part of the Summer of Heat, a campaign against the banks and insurance companies that are supporting and profiting from climate destruction. This meant I was fortunate enough to participate in the two-day Non-Violent Direct-Action (NVDA) training in NYC hosted by Third Act. NVDA is defined as nonviolent resistance to injustice. There are hundreds of forms of nonviolent direct action including marches, boycotts, picketing, sit-ins and prayer vigils.

It wasn’t my first training, but one of the most insightful. I went to the training thinking that this would be nuts and bolts on the how to’s of NVDA: how to hold the line, what to expect from police. Maybe we’d learn a couple songs and chants. Cover a little history and participate in role play. 

And that was all there. The excellent training team of Cathy Hoffman, Marla Marcum, and Leif Taranta was smart, honest, and so grounded in this work. It was inspiring. I learned there is both an art and craft to NVDA.   

What I didn’t anticipate was that we’d also build and nurture our Elders movement for change– to be thoughtful, strategic, and intentional in our work, to the powerful potential of our Third Act community. Bill McKibben spoke of our unique role in the movement, and how NVDA is an important tool in our work. His advice was to also find joy in our activism. 

I am awed by all those willing to put their bodies on the line for change, at Greensboro, Stonewall, Act UP, Standing Rock and so many others. During the training oversized images of brave activists hung around the room. The iconic image of Dorothy Day – writer, activist, person of faith – standing up for farmers workers against the police, stood out to me. She emboded authority and grace, and inspires me to continue the struggle for justice and a better world.

Dorothy Day
Dorothy Day on UFW picket line faces sheriff. When arthritis made standing difficult, Day confronted sheriffs from her portable three-legged golf stool (Lamont, California, August 1973). Photograph from Bob Fitch Photography Archive


After the first day, I lay in bed energized, yet questioning my role How far I was willing to go? Did I understand the risks? Was I willing to be arrested? Where was my place in this movement? 

The next day one of the many exercises was an exploration of our personal “comfort/stretch/panic” zones. It’s easy to get attached to our comforts and be risk averse, but ease doesn’t lead to growth. When we take risks and stretch, that’s when we thrive and learn. It’s also important to know your boundaries and limitations.

With these tools and community support, I am ready to stretch.

Katherine Alford
Deborah Mahar
Deborah Mahar


 I was recently asked the Colbert Questionert, a parlor game that the late-night host asks celebrities. The first of the 15 questions is, What’s your favorite sandwich? The last, Describe the rest of your life in 5 words. I immediately thought of the connection, joy, and purpose I experience making good trouble with our Third Act community. 

My answer: be present, be of service. 



Just recently landslides tragically smothered thousands in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea, Midwest storms devastated communities and left hundreds of thousands without power from Texas to Montana, and New Delhi just recorded all time high temperatures of 127.22 F degrees. 

Our collective call to action gets louder every day.

Katherine Alford

Katherine Alford

Katherine Alford is the Co-facilatator of Third Act New York City. Her second act included a career in food – as a Chef, Greenmarket Manager, Culinary Instructor, writer  and a decades long career at Food Network, ultimately as Senior Vice President of Culinary. She is the co-author with Kathy Gunst of Rage Baking – the Power of Flour Fury and Women’s Voices. She writes about food for the Provincetown Independent, a local newspaper on Cape Cod. She is a Friend (Quaker) and a member of Morningside Monthly Meeting.