Civil rights activist the Rev. James Lawson, who was once hailed by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. as the “greatest teacher of nonviolence in America, will explore the Gandhian method for social change during an appearance at Cal State Northridge on Tuesday, Nov. 9.
The lecture, which is free and open to the public, is the fourth in a series of discussions Lawson has led as part of a yearlong, campus-wide initiative on “Civil Discourse and Social Change.” Lawson is scheduled to give eight public lectures and will facilitate eight student workshops over the course of the year.
His latest lecture, “From Theory to Practice: Gandhi and King’s Perspectives,” is scheduled to take place from 4 to 6:30 p.m. in the Presentation Room of the Oviatt Library, located near the center of the campus at 18111 Nordhoff St. in Northridge. Those unable to attend the lecture will be able to view it live via a webcast on the university’s homepage www.csun.edu.
Lawson’s first lecture explored the current status of civil discourse and social change. His second introduced the concept of nonviolence and dispelled any misconceptions about nonviolent social action. His third included an analysis of society’s current state.
“In this lecture, he will elaborate on the Gandhian method for social change,” said gender and women’s studies and Chicana/o studies professor Marta López-Garza, an organizer of the initiative. “Most of us in this country are unaware that India’s Gandhian movement set 350 million Indians on the road to democracy without the use of violence against the British empire. Mohandas Gandhi was the first international figure who advocated for the equality of women and other disenfranchised groups.”
Rev. Lawson will discuss the relevance of Gandhian to the 21st century, she said.
The Civil Discourse and Social Change Initiative was launched earlier this year in a proactive effort to educate and equip the campus community with the skills for civil discourse and affecting social change.
Lawson has long been an advocate for nonviolent social change. In 1951, he declared himself a conscientious objector and refused to report for the draft. He served 14 months in prison after refusing to take either a student or ministerial deferment. After his incarceration he lived three years in India where he studied satyagraha, the principles of nonviolence resistance that Mohandas Gandhi and his followers had d
Upon his return to the United States in 1957, Lawson was recruited by Martin Luther King Jr. to assist with the civil rights movement. He began holding seminars to train student volunteers in Gandhian tactics of nonviolent direct action, emerging as a central architect of the movement. On the eve of his assassination, King called Lawson “the leading theorist and strategist of nonviolence in the world.”
In 1974, Lawson moved to Los Angles to be the pastor of Holman United Methodist Church. During the decades since, he has spoken out against racism, unfair labor practices and U.S. military involvement throughout the world. In retirement, Lawson continues to speak out against injustice protesting with the Janitors for Justice in Los Angeles, with gay and lesbian Methodists in Cleveland and with immigrant rights groups around the country. Lawson has taught at various universities and in the last three years was a member of the faculty at Vanderbilt University.
For more information about the Rev. Lawson’s lecture or about the Civil Discourse and Social Change Initiative, visit its website at http://www.csun.edu/cdsc/.