Selma, Creativity, and Our History Healing
Presentation on Thursday, February 26, 2015 • Kurland Lecture Hall, Valley Performing Arts Center
The Mike Curb College of Arts, Media, and Communication together with the Department of Communication Studies and the Civil Discourse & Social Change initiative presents world leader of nonviolent activism,
Reverend James M. Lawson Jr. in this year’s Commerce of Creativity Distinguished Speakers Series.
Reverend Lawson worked with Martin Luther King, Jr. to train students and volunteers in the Gandhian tactics of nonviolent direct action. He helped coordinate the Freedom Rides in 1961, 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.”
Today, Lawson continues to teach and inspire others to stand up against social injustice. For the last five years, he has been affiliated with the Civil Discourse & Social Change initiative (CDSC) at CSUN.
Reverend James M. Lawson Jr. is a revolutionary activist who worked with Martin Luther King Jr. and went on to lead multiple historical protests. He practices and teaches the Gandhian tactics of nonviolent direct action. Lawson’s lecture will focus on how we as a human family are capable of envisioning and creating another, more viable world—a world of equity, liberty, and justice for everyone.
>> Pretty weather across the country. I want to thank you for braving the difficult weather we have here and joining us today. I'm Jake Kvapil, I'm the Dean of the Mike Curb College of Arts and Media and Communications, who sponsors this Series. On behalf of the College, the Department of Communications Studies, and the Civil Discourse and Social Change Initiative we are pleased to present today's featured speaker, Reverend James M. Lawson, Jr., a world-renowned leader in nonviolent direct action to affect social change. Reverend Lawson is here today largely through the efforts of one person, that person is Professor Kathryn Sorrells, who is also Chair of the Comm Study Department.
[ Applause ]
She has also been a key part of the CDSE [Assumed Spelling] initiative for several years. Kathryn, a little background, received her Ph.D. in Comm Studies with an emphasis in Intercultural Communication from the University of New Mexico. She is going to introduce Reverend Lawson today, and thank you, Kathryn.
[ Applause ]
>> Thank you very much, Dean Kvapil, for sponsoring the Commerce of Creativity Series and for inviting Reverend Lawson. I also want to thank Associate Dean Dan Hosken, Mike O'Ryan, Jennifer Potosi [Assumed Spelling] from the Mike Curb College of Arts, Media and Communication. And certainly having Reverend Lawson here on campus I owe also to my colleague, Marta Lopez-Garza, who cofounded Civil Discourse and Social Change with me. I'll mention other folks who have been involved a little bit later. It's been really a collaborative effort and it's been a great pleasure to have him here on campus. I do have to thank Provost Harry Hellenbrand because without him Reverend Lawson's presence here over the last five years would not have been possible. I really also want to acknowledge the classes who are here. I understand that Professor Lotta Mendenes' [Assumed Spelling] class is here.
>> Woo, hoo.
>> Are they in the house, yes? Okay. Professor Ana Sanchez, your class here? Quietly. Professor Martha Escobar? Yes, and Professor Maria Elena Fernandez. Okay. I'm so glad you all could be here. It's a great honor, I'm really thrilled with this opportunity. It's been an extreme pleasure. All of us meet special people in our lives, many people are special to us and some are particularly special. It's been an incredible honor over the last five years to get to know Reverend Lawson. I think that Reverend Lawson's life, his story and his experiences have provided me and I hope you with valuable lessons and important questions, particularly for young people, but I would say for all of us. So working with him for the last five years has been quite remarkable and for me a clarifying experience. As a young man, a college student like many of you, Reverend Lawson committed himself to social justice and a search for alternatives to violence. This commitment was just taking shape at Baldwin Wallace College, which is a Methodist College in Ohio. While he was there he joined the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the oldest interfaith peace organization in the United States. He also joined the Congress of Racial Equality, which like the Fellowship of Reconciliation advocated nonviolent resistance to racism. His beliefs and actions were also undoubtedly deeply shaped by growing up in a large loving family. He's the son of a Minister and a strongminded mother, and like all of us his convictions were tested. We can believe something, but can we act in alignment with our beliefs? During the Korean War Reverend Lawson took a stand and refused to participate in the war. By refusing the draft he said no to engaging in a culture of violence, a culture of violence enacted and perpetuated through war and militarism. This was not a passive position, this was a very active and forceful form of resistance. He felt so strongly there had to be another way. For that he spent over a year in prison for his convictions. The question is what do you feel so strongly about? What do you believe in so powerfully? Reverend Lawson obtained his B.A. in 1952 and then chose to spend the next three years as a Campus Minister and Teacher in Nagpur, India. He went to India to minister, to teach and to learn. Among other things he wanted to learn more about the philosophy and methodology of nonviolence, developed and practiced by Mahatma Gandhi, one of the greatest leaders of nonviolence social change in the 20th Century. He felt so strongly there had to be another way. What do you feel so strongly about that you would devote years of your life to learn, to understand and to practice? While in India Reverend Lawson read about the Montgomery bus boycott and the emerging nonviolent resistance movement back in the United States. When he returned to the US he entered the Graduate School of Theology at Oberlin College, expecting at some point to go south. As it happens, he was seated next to Martin Luther King at a lunch when Dr. King was visiting his campus for a lecture. Dr. King invited Reverend Lawson to come south - we need you in the movement. Following this call he moved to Nashville, immediately enrolled in the Divinity School at Vanderbilt University and began working with local clergy and training students on the tactics and strategies of nonviolent direct action in service of social justice. He organized one of the first and most successful lunch counter sit-ins where students, like you all, put their bodies, their minds and their hearts on the line to challenge segregation, dismantle racism and envision a world where all people are seen and treated as fully human. He and so many others felt strongly there had to be another way. Reverend Lawson, along with the students he taught and mentored - Diane Nash [Assumed Spelling], Marion Barry [Assumed Spelling], John Lewis [Assumed Spelling], Bernard Lafayette [Assumed Spelling] -- played critical roles in the 1963 march on Washington, the Freedom Rides of 1964, the Selma Voting Rights Movement. He was also instrumental in organizing the Sanitation Workers Strike in Memphis in 1968. On the eve of his assassination Dr. Martin Luther King called Reverend Lawson the leading theorist and strategist of nonviolence in the world. In 1974 he and his family moved to Los Angeles. He became Minister at Holman Methodist Church for nearly 30 years. He has spoken out against war and violence in all its many forms. He has put his mind, his spirit and his body on the line to organize and march for labor rights, LGBT rights, immigrant rights, to fight against war and violence. He felt so strongly there had to be another way. We've been blessed here at CSUN to have him for the last five years. Reverend Lawson has worked closely with myself, Dr. Marta Lopez-Garza, Dr. Theresa White, Dr. Marcy DeVeaux, and then Dr. Amy Caria Roe [Assumed Spelling], who are the current Co-Directors of CBSC. Through all of this his commitment to find another way, an alternative to violence, to war, to militarism, to plantation capitalism and institutionalized racism, sexism, heterosexism, and other forms of discrimination that diminish and decimate the human spirit, all of that has guided us and strengthened us. Reverend Lawson is many things. He's a Minister, an activist, an organizer, a strategist and a thinker. He is also most importantly a teacher. His life, his work and his words teach us to consider what do we fundamentally believe in, what are our convictions, what is important for ourselves, our community and humanity to put our whole body, mind, spirit on the line? How can we envision and create another world? Please join me in welcoming Reverend James M. Lawson, Jr.
[ Applause ]
[ Pause ]
>> James Lawson: Well, I'm very pleased to be here this morning and it's a great delight and a joy for me to have the privilege of being a part of CSUN through the Civil Discourse and Social Change initiative, which I think ought to be a kind of an initiative throughout higher education because our country desperately needs a full conversation about the world in which we live, about ourselves, about the universe, about the issues that appear all the time in Congress or in our economy or in a campus or on a campus and the rest of it. And we have many handicaps for conversation. One of the handicaps that I've grown up under in the United States, and I do not disparage my life here in this country, I'm more than delighted that I was born here and that I have lived here all my days except for my excursions overseas from time to time, especially in the '60s and the '70s. So I do not disparage the USA experience by any means, but it is an experience that in many ways have been self-destructive of the creative juices of human life. Take, for example, the way in which for almost 80 years now, actually over 80 years we have had forces in our society that want to push us into either being liberal or conservative, or communist or anti-communist, or pushing us now in the business that we must fight terrorism as the major obstacle to human life, which it is not, as horrible as it is, as destructive as it is, it is not the major option for life at all. Either or, well, we're seven billion human beings in the world. This earth is like no other planet or space in the universe and we know anything about. We are the singular living species that has been able to learn to speak, to raise families, to build villages, to create airplanes, to create a whole technological world, a revolutionary world. The only species the biologists say that maybe 50 billion living things that the earth has produced across the four or five billion years of existence. And we are the most unique species that we know anything about. If we believe the Ancient World we're a species that must learn to integrate life, to understand ourselves and to understand others. The Negro scriptures say that we are a secret being, human being, and that we have the heart, the mind, soul, and almost infinite capacity of life in us. As far as we know there's no species exactly like us, and the staggering thing about that is that there is no other living species exactly like you or you or you or you anywhere in this universe of ours. And that in my mind means that we have special responsibility, we have unique responsibility, and we have to the best of our ability push ourselves and do the noble purposes of being as fully alive as we can become and as fully loving as we can become, as fully human as we can become. All together goals that we establish for ourselves will be of little weight if we do not exploit this extraordinary gift of life, itself. We have 100 different careers, we can gain so much power that we have a share of the market value, that 5% of any commodity. We can become President of the United States or President of China with massive power. Or we can become President of a trans-national corporation that has a larger income, a budget and profits than 75% of the nations on the earth today. But if we do not cultivate what it is to be a living species, a living thing, a human we will probably gain very little of anything. And so I want to - I have notes for this talk, and I've entitled it Selma, Creativity and our Healing History. But I want to push here at the very beginning to simply suggest to you, especially you who are students in the University, that your major task has to be to cultivate the you that is the instance of creation to you. Robert Louis Stevenson, the writer of the 19th Century, has said something like this. To be what you are and capable of becoming what you are becoming, to be what you are and capable of becoming what you are becoming is the single role, the single role, the single purpose of life. And it's something out of that sentence that I personally have tried to live and operate and work. And it's from that sense that I want to lift up just very briefly this notion of Selma, creativity and our healing history, our healing history because that it seems to me is part of the collective purpose that we have. I don't know how many of you have seen the film, Selma, but I was greatly struck by it, and I had the chance to see it with two pre-teen youngsters, grandchildren, besides my wife and myself. And I was very impressed with the fact that our 13 year old stayed entrenched, riveted in the screen, and our eight-year-old grandson who said as we were going to the theater for the premiere said, Papa, I'm going to probably fall asleep, but he did not. He watched it throughout. It is also a film, a wonderful film, I came away greatly impressed and inspired by it, so I want to talk a little bit about its meaning because it shows the creativity of the Director Ava DuVernay and it has something to say to us even today. The film is not a repetition of history, it is not a rehearsal of history. In fact, the director and the writer have focused in a very, very limited way on the film. The film tells us an astonishing little story and only a piece of the story, it speaks of only three months, its secret [Assumed Spelling] in the context of the State of Alabama. Now discussions in 2015 in the United States about issue after issue fails to tell us that our history has had its own tyrannies across our 300 or 400 years of existence. In the State of Alabama was such a tyranny for black people in the '50s and the '60s, it was a dangerous place to live in. It was thoroughly segregated, signs everywhere, white only, colored only, even on drinking fountains. Black people were subject to most menial kinds of tasks a good part of the time. School teachers got no respect, pastors, dentists, medical people in the black community got no respect from the rabid ideology of racism, that you are inferior, you do not matter. That's the way the society was organized. We, I as a boy growing up in Ohio was aware of the lynchings that took place in the southern part of the country. They took place also in Ohio, but at a greater level in Alabama. I was aware of it from the newspapers, black newspapers especially that came to our home. Alabama was a state of tyranny. Now it has moved only maybe 50% away from that now, you should understand this, because your lives are being shaped by it. When we speak of a group called the Tea Party, Tea Party people are fundamentally people who want to be sexism, racism, economic exploitation, power alive for themselves only, for themselves and for their own purposes. They, therefore, in Alabama have a state where some of the lowest standards of living [inaudible] for a sizable percentage of the people. But Selma, the movie, doesn't reveal any of that. It sharply focuses on how ordinary young people and ordinary men and women went after tackling that tyranny through peaceful means, exposing themselves to the danger of finding ways to dramatize their issues. The screenwriter and the director puts a kind of silence on the experience, you get only this beginning of the cross, the movement across the bridge, what's now called in books, A Bloody Sunday. You get the person of King, but there is a kind of silence on the other bit of the history. You do not learn, for example, that voting registration was something that was always a part of various key black figures in the State of Alabama long before 1965, 50 years ago this year, in fact, beginning now in March is the fiftieth anniversary of that campaign. You don't know that. You don't know that in Alabama in the midst, the Black Freedom Movement of nonviolent direct action began to emerge, 1955, that's not in the film. We talk about the Civil Rights Movement, but I want you to understand that the Black Freedom Movement in the South was one dimension of the Civil Rights Movement that became the generator of the whole struggle in the '50s and '60s and beyond into the '70s. The director imposes upon history a kind of a silence so that you know none of that. You do not know that a woman by the name of Amelia Boynton [Assumed Spelling] began registering, making the effort to register herself as early as the '50s. We don't learn that the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955, where black people walked for 381 days rather than ride. It was the indignity of the segregation, the [inaudible] practice and behavior of those buses - 381 days they walked. They created ultimate transportation in automobiles, voluntary for the most part. They elected a man by the name of Martin Luther King, Jr. as their President for that boycott. And they held together some 50,000 people. The United States had never heard of that before. And they called it peaceful. Then they called it nonviolence. Then they said it represents our deepest spiritual and religious values. We are not going to imitate the hatred. We're not going to burn crosses, like the KKK does in Montgomery and elsewhere around Alabama. We're going to be alive and human by respecting ourselves so much that we're not going to just disrespect the humanity even of our opponents and our enemy. It was unheard of in Western Civilization and in the United States. That is not revealed in the film, but this is the creativity of the writer and the director. Just a few miles away from Montgomery in Troy, Alabama there is a pre-teen boy by the name of John Lewis. He is already aware of the fact that the society in which he is living is a society that wants to destroy him and his life, and he's already begun to say that's not going to happen because I'm going to fight this with all my might. He said it not so much in language, but in the way in which he applied himself to the books, he applied himself to school, he applied himself to the church, he applied himself to his family. John Lewis is in the film now, Selma. He's now a Congressman from Atlanta, Georgia, but at the time of the beginning of the emergence of a movement that said with our own bodies we will resist this and we will change our country, he was just a middle or early teen fellow pushing his life to the best of his ability, and the rest of it. The film doesn't concentrate on that, but I'm using it as an illustration that there's so much more that the screenwriter and the director may have wanted, but they wanted to focus the film in such a fashion that you would get a singular idea. Let me see if I can talk about that idea with some sense of simplicity and yet in a way in which you will understand what Ava DuVernay is saying. And she shows, in my mind, massive creativity that's available for any artist or filmmaker or a painter, a writer, a poet, any kind of a filmmaker, any kind of an artist it seems to me has the power of that kind of creativity. She wants you to focus on Martin Luther King, Jr. as a singular kind of teacher, pastor, theologian, scholar, activist, nonviolent practitioner. She puts the entire focus of the screen to try to introduce you to the notion that he was an ordinary man in the midst of our society who determined because of the push of the people in his life to commit himself to changing the American society for all time. And then without an army, without a word of hatred, without wealth, without any elected official, then with the power of the people who sensed that they had in their own lives the stuff that could change history, change Selma, change the United States, change the mind of the President, change the very way of tyranny in which they were. I want to press this hard because I don't want to on the one side pretend that you have to have generals and great, great extraordinary people to do these things, and I would push the fact that Martin King was very much of an ordinary person. We played in staff meetings touch football together, we played, we went swimming together, we played basketball. He was a person who loved to sing and dance and laugh and joke and make fun. He was a person who loved to eat, and we often did that in many, many different kinds of settings of all sorts. So he was not, you know, somehow a nonhuman being in the midst of us. He was like you and me in so many different categories and ways. but the director was using creativity to suggest to you this is the voice, this is the word we need to hear in the 21st Century, this represents immense people happening ways to affect power and change that we, the people of this country, must exploit in the 21st Century if we collectively but also personally are to achieve the vast possibilities of [inaudible]. I could go into this in many different ways, but I want then to push this, that the Selma movie tries to suggest to you that we have a history that has bitterness in it for multiple people, our Indian sisters and brothers, Mexican-Americans, Asian-Americans. It has bitterness for women in so many different ways that we don't ever talk about. It's bitterness for black people. But at the same time that history, if we know it and understand it and use it, and are willing to pit our own ounce of life to change it, that history can be healed, that history can be made new. I will warn you our society today is in a course where that history is being badly repeated to the detriment of our own lives, though most of us may not say it publicly or otherwise. Just take the University scene, in the '60s many of us saw the possibility of the Federal tax dollar making University education free education for every boy and girl anywhere around the country. We saw that possibility. The John F. Kennedy Administration began studying the private scholarships and grants that were available for students and had an aim in mind in 1961 that they would move the Federal Government in such a fashion that education in a quality fashion for every boy and girl anywhere in the country would become fully accessible, fully available. Well, forces such as we have in the Tea Party determined that that wasn't going to be, so now all we have is almost a trillion dollars of student debt in the United States. And according to Senator Elizabeth Warren the Federal Government, itself, will make $22 billion of interest from that student debt because the forces that do not want equality and liberty and justice for all have moved to turn what was a hope of a different kind of society into a disaster and into a nightmare. The history as known will be relived, whether we like it or not. We're in the midst of Black History Month. We're facing Women's History Month. In time, we're facing Hispanic History Month and the rest of it. These items were created in the past, sometimes against the wishes of the Academy, and very often not with the goodwill of the portions of the Academy today. But these were created by people in the past out of the '60s, mind you, because there's a need for us to get our history recovered to enlarge it. It's not for the purpose of identity politics or any form of narrow nationalism, it is for the purpose of us enlarging our history, become aware of the fact that we of the United States, we the people of the United States have an extraordinary story, quite unique in the world today. For we have Native Americans raised here, it was their land, their culture, their languages, their religions. We seized the land. There were Mexicans here already, it was their land. We helped to seize the land. In large the history so that we can see the traps of the past that made the history. Let me name one such trap, it is this. When the nation is debating right now in Washington the issue of what kind of aid should we give to Syria, if you follow the news at all you will discover that so far there's no option that suggests that the military is the solution. The President has said there's no military solution. He's asked the people, he's asked Congress if we're going to give special aid to Syria will it be effective? If we're going to give special aid to Ukraine will it be effective? He's getting no answers out of those questions. Because the truth of the matter is that violence can destroy a building, but violence cannot build a University or a family home or a church or a fraternal order, or a farm or a business. Violence can devastate a people. Look at some of the scenes in Syria today. But it cannot create a city where people can live well and peace and with a sense of the worth of their own life. Here we are in an age that all those many years of continuous violence around the world and we do not have a better world. The human spirit has not been ignobled rather. Women and children take the brunt of the devastation and for the most part their cries go unheard, whether in the Congo of Africa or in [inaudible] Iraq or the Ukraine or Syria or [inaudible] their cries go unheard. The military option, the violent option is no good. What we in the nonviolent movement in the United States try to say is [inaudible] that you as a person, of value for yourself, and your life has had its best opportunities within the understanding of love and truth and the mystery, the beauty and wonder. And I say that that love is power. It can change not only your life, but other lives. It can turn injustice into justice if we learn how to tap it. But it's our task not to run off after the powers that violate life. The very gift of our life is the most powerful instrument of living that any one of us can ever know. Use it well. You will be astonished. It's unimaginable possibilities. So Selma is a movie of incredible creativity and suggests that the arts and the sciences, that the media, the film, the television, all forms of the art, and the vehicles to make us think at our best and [inaudible] and cause us to sense that each life is incredibly powerful. The creativity in Selma also, secondly, pushes the notion that we can heal our history. And I want to push that for just one moment. I'm going to give you a concrete illustration. One of my regrets has been that I lost contact with a 16-year-old boy who was in the Selma Bloody Sunday March and got his head battered, was even a concussion, and yet on Monday morning after that march, the seventh march on Sunday, this youngster's name I never have learned, was at the barricades around the Helen Church [Assumed Spelling], which was the sort of staging area for the demonstrations in Selma. His head was all bandaged because he had insisted that he was going to be back on the front line Monday morning after having been assaulted by the nightsticks and clubs from the state troopers and others [inaudible]. And so people were teasing him, some of his friends are taunting him. And one of them said to him, you know, those people want to kill you. He said, yes, he knew that that was what they intended in that massive charge with the clubs that hammered his head. And a reporter said to him, well, what is the use of you trying to love such people, you ought not to be here? And the boy said something like this, he said I know that they hate and want to destroy me. Then he said but now I have my dignity and no one will ever rob me of it again. That's how our history can be healed. We cannot reverse the Ferguson's or the LA killings of youngsters, but we can so achieve a sense of our basic humanity that we will not fear tackling chores that we have that will make a difference. Impress that one little song that was demonstrated at the Oscars, the film of Selma - Glory, Glory, the war is not over. Our greatest weapon is peaceful - the war has just begun. But when the war is over we will all, we will all know glory and glory. My challenge to you is that you find ways in whatever area of life you move, you find roads to understand a movie, like Selma, has the creative juices of a handful of people, to challenge and inspire and encourage us. Don't live by the conventional and the status quo, live by the largest [inaudible] of poetry and cause, that is your life. Do it with others. In the 21st Century our nation needs the movements of we the people, who nonviolently demand that the spirited forces of our nation, the values of our nation make the equality, liberty and justice and [inaudible]. Not nice words, but the lived reality of the way of life of this people, we the people of the United States.
[ Applause ]
>> Thank you, Reverend Lawson. Incredible, inspiring, as he has been for us for five years. We're going to open it up to your questions. Got one right here?
>> I'm actually from this area and you mentioned ...
>> James Lawson: Yes, okay.
>> ... you mentioned [inaudible] and I'm wondering what do you think a solution would be for what's going on?
>> James Lawson: What do I think?
>> A solution would be?
>> James Lawson: Well, the killing and the fighting and the divisions, the emergence of ISIS is not the way of the future. It means only continuation of the tyrannies, the Assad government that some people do not want, and the various rebel groups that would like to have a different kind of government. But what is the solution? Well, there's no simple solution, but the way in which we in the United States approach it will not change it. Former Prime Minister of Israel, Shimon Peres, had a long article in the LA Times on page two, I think Monday a week ago. This is what he suggests, regarding ISIS and the extremism that is going on there and the killings - all killing is extremism as far as I'm concerned, I should say right away - he suggests that instead of the United States going it alone that Europe and the United States go to the Arab League, which has armies and navies and air forces, and together with Russia, and I would add with China, I would add with members of Brazil or Argentina, I would also add with maybe a country from Africa, perhaps with India, go to the UN and see if they could produce with the UN a plan to fight ISIS and end that. On the other hand, propose the means by which the nation, Syria, can find peace and the cessation of the violence, and begin the process of healing and rebuilding. Now that's a 91-year-old Israeli statesperson, who suggests we cannot do it alone. Exactly. Another illustration of this [inaudible] not to know, Congress doesn't know it, the President don't know it, the Pentagon does not know it, the Administration has begun the process of changing our relationship with Cuba. We broke the relationship with Cuba in 1959, I watched it, I knew it was wrong then. And what happened, the Pope talks about it. Secret negotiations going on in Canada. The Pope writes letters. The Pope encourages change. The Administration kept it a secret, and they could do it. That's the use of diplomacy and also our other power and leverage in our country, in our world [inaudible]. The point I would make to you is this, my beloved nation, we the people must demand it, our nation must stop trying to be the police officer of the earth and pull in our military bases, our navies, our air fleets, and begin the process of helping the peoples of the earth to find alternatives to the violence, to the hatred that's going on in our world. That is still possible. That was the vision that came out of World War II, where I was a junior high and a high school person and which I relished and supported very strongly. It was the aim or World War II, international law and all the nations of the earth bending together to international principles and values that the earth could be made over. And something I left out of my remarks is this, that the present way our nation, our economy is operating destroys and limits creativity and human potential for what all of us would anticipate and like for ourselves or our children and beyond unless we can change it. Then the great President, Abraham Lincoln, once said this experiment could perish off the face of the earth. I'm not trying to scare you, at all, but I insist there is built into the University, itself, the notion that you cannot - the man of Nazareth said it, Jesus of Nazareth in the 1st Century, you cannot get grapes from a thistle bush, you cannot pick figs from a briar patch, you have to get figs from a fig tree. The same is true you cannot create justice out of hatred. You create justice out of compassion and a common sense about humanity. You cannot create the beloved community out of violence, it will not work. You cannot build a family rooted in verbal or physical or mental violence. Families require the bonding and the stability of care of life and attention. So we need to deal with this issue of the violence in our streets, in our cities, in our rural areas, violence in our homes, violence in the workplace. Rape in the university area. We have to deal with these things. They must be dealt with openly, but we can be healed, we can change, and we can make changes. Any other comments or questions? Yes, sir? Yes, I saw you taking notes. Beg your pardon?
[ Inaudible ]
>> James Lawson: We can only keep history from repeating itself, and what I've suggested is already that we have to recover our history, women, people of color are trying to do this, GLBT elements are trying to do it, so we can recover the history that needs to become the common history and the recovery of history is so that we live out the new understanding of our history and not live out of the ideological shackles. In some ways I'm a very mean human being in this regard. I think that a great number of the policies and practices of our nation over the last 30, 40, 50 years - I'm not going to talk about before that, but in my lifetime our practices and policies which come out of the ideology of racism, the ideology of sexism, the ideology of violence. The mental conditioning of what I call plantation capitalism. As an illustration, the American people on average in the United States have not had a major increase of wages since around 1979. Wages across the nation for all kinds of people are essentially at the same level that they were in 1979. This is part of the way in which the forces of spiritual awakedness have confused us all across the nation about what our purposes are. So the money has moved from the people into the coffers of the 1% or the 5%. That doesn't have to be the case, it has to change. Most of those policies and practices, whether of the JPMorgan Company, the largest bank in the country, or of our Pentagon, or of the CIA, or of Scott Walker, the Governor of Wisconsin, there what they push comes out of their being shackled by the theology of racism, sexism, violence and plantation capitalism. They are not operating out of the stuff of freedom or out of the stuff of truth. So we have to get that clear in our nation, and so it does mean that you may need to be the generation that helps to make this clear through our society. That past history is still living on in our practices and policies today and it can change and it must change. So that's high words, but it's essential. Yes, sir? Yes, ma'am?
>> You spoke about pulling back military bases.
>> James Lawson: Leave them, yes.
>> You spoke about them.
>> James Lawson: Yes.
>> Well, wouldn't that leave us, wouldn't that leave terrorists to have more room or freedom for destruction? Wouldn't that actually worsen?
>> James Lawson: Our world is not unstable and threatening because of the terrorists. Our world is unstable and threatening because of the policies and practices of Western Civilization for the last 600 years. And big business in the United States is committed to the transition of plantation capitalism, which has created such wealth in the Western world, big business is currently the Chamber of Commerce committed to a transition that is human, financial and mineral resources of Africa and Asia and elsewhere will continue to come to the West and not benefit the people let's say in the Congo, as they do not now. That's the issue is 600 years, 700 years of Western expansion in which we moved across the world with the Bible and a sword and with a lust for gold, for wealth or power. I mean that's what the Columbus story that we celebrate 1492 on, that's what the Columbus story in fact actually has meant. So I just - and that's the problem, not the tyranny is a consequence of our bad policies and bad practices.
[ Inaudible ]
>> James Lawson: Begin with your own.
[ Applause ]
I don't know how to say it other than that. we have to begin somewhere and we have to begin where we are, and we have to determine that our own - we have to do something like this, we have to say that my life as I try to live it will not encourage disease and hurt and brokenness, but will encourage love and compassion and truth and life at its best, to the best of my ability. I will live in America, I've made this decision as a kid, I will not support any form of racial prejudice or religious prejudice towards any other human being under any conditions. That was a commitment I made by the time I was in high school. Racial bigotry are wrong and I will not tolerate them for myself, I will not have them in my own life, I will do the best with my ability to get them out and not be influenced by the anger. The same could be said in terms of sexism, must be said in terms of sexism, the same must be said in terms of violence. We do not have to want them, we do not have to adopt these conventional wrongs in our society. The same power that has got us to this place can get us to a new place, a generation of now. The same power of making a bomb can be transposed into building a house or building a school. In California the same powers that we have used to build our massive prisons can be used to heal people, the same power. We have to make the choice of how we're going to use the power that we have personally. All right, thank you so much. You've been a good audience, I appreciate being here.
[ Applause ]
>> Thank you, all, very much.