Civil Discourse and Social Change (CDSC) is a campus-wide initiative that combines education, community involvement and sustained activism on issues around social justice and social change. The initiative operates under the auspices of the Provost, offering dynamic programming designed to provide social justice education opportunities to students and faculty.
CDSC was co-founded by Dr. Marta López-Garza and Dr. Kathryn Sorrells in 2010 to address student concerns regarding access to education, their future aspirations, and broader issues of social justice.
At the invitation of CDSC, Reverend James L. Lawson Jr., who is a prominent leader of the civil rights movement, serves as a visiting scholar at California State University, Northridge, conducting workshops and teaching courses on nonviolent activism. Reverend Lawson is credited as the architect of America’s nonviolent movement for social change was recognized by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as the “greatest teacher of nonviolence in America.”
"Nobody's free until everybody's free."
Fannie Lou Hamer
(1917-1977) American voting rights activist and civil rights leader
Celebrating its 5th year, the Civil Discourse & Social Change Initiative (CDSC) at California State University, Northridge embraces the 50th anniversary of “Freedom Summer.” Our theme, “Freedom Summer: Looking Back and Looking Forward,” focuses on the summer of 1964 when thousands of students and young adults descended upon Mississippi to enact social change by registering black people to vote. Mostly students from colleges and universities around the country marched into Mississippi believing they would knock on doors and hand out leaflets encouraging people to vote. They encountered something very different: “Over 10 weeks, 37 churches were bombed or burned. Four civil rights workers were killed. Many more were hurt” (PBS newshour).
In the spirit of the 50th anniversary of "Freedom Summer," a turning point for voting rights in the South, the mission of CDSC in the 2014-2015 Academic Year will help faculty bring the stories of these civil rights pioneers into the classroom. This will take place through a pedagogy that reflects on the past and encourages students to see themselves as agents of change as they embrace current social justice movements in our communities and around the world. We see these current issues as immigrant rights, putting an end to mass incarceration and police brutality, and the Arab Spring movements.
Through “looking back and looking forward,” the goal is to empower our students to recognize that social justice movements begin with them, young adults, and to inspire them to look for opportunities to change the world by learning about and supporting social justice movements -- wherever and with whomever that may be.
Toward that end we created an online library resource, “Teaching Commons,” available on our CSDC website for faculty (and students) to locate material generating discussions or to support and enhance discourse already taking place in the classroom setting. These resources are designed for faculty teaching various disciplines in all 8 of CSUN’s colleges. Inasmuch as this is a “living site,” which will include regular updates, additions and refreshed material, we welcome your contributions. You will find these materials in two locations on the website, “Teachings Commons” and “Resources.”
The problem is not a budget crisis but a vision crisis.
Reverend James M. Lawson Jr.
Reverend James Lawson, a close associate of Dr. Martin Luther King and a leading architect of the Civil Rights Movement, remains committed to working closely with California State University, Northridge campus community on our Civil Discourse and Social Change Initiative. Devoting his life to nonviolent social change informed by the philosophy practiced by Mahatma Gandhi, Reverend Lawson, now in his eighties, reminds us that nonviolence does not mean passivism. Rather, nonviolent action means engendering another view of power—an alternative to violent, destructive power—where people power is used to create equity and justice.
Reverend Lawson's Bio
James Lawson was born in Pennsylvania in 1928. His father and grandfather were Methodist ministers, and Lawson received his local preacher's license in 1947, the year he graduated from high school. At his Methodist college in Ohio, he joined the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), America's oldest pacifist organization.
After spending time in prison for refusing the Korean War draft, he obtained his B.A. in 1952, and spent the next three years as a campus minister and teacher at Hislop College in Nagpur, India. While in India, Lawson eagerly read of the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the emerging nonviolent resistance movement back in the United States.
By 1957, Lawson decided he could no longer sit on the sidelines. He began holding seminars to train volunteers in Gandhian tactics of nonviolent direct action. James Lawson helped coordinate the Freedom Rides in 1961 and the Meredith March in 1966, and played a major role in the sanitation workers strike of 1968. On the eve of his assassination, Martin Luther 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 Methodist Church. He spoke out against racism, and challenged the cold war and U.S. military involvement throughout the world. Even after his retirement, Lawson was protesting with the Janitors for Justice in Los Angeles, and with gay and lesbian Methodists in Cleveland.
Congressman John Lewis, and recent author of March Book 1 recounts his activists years in the Civil Rights Movement, and mentions our own Reverend James M. Lawson Jr. as one of the most influencial men in his life. Watch John Lewis’ interviews with Bill Moyers (Jul 26, 2013) and with National Public Radio (August 14).
Source: PBS website http://www.pbs.org/thisfarbyfaith/witnesses/james_lawson.html