The year 2019 marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi. The city of Philadelphia is celebrating the life and ideas of M. K. Gandhi through a series of symposia and events titled ‘The Year of Gandhi’ under the banner of "Our single garment of destiny". An event at City Hall on the 2nd of October, 2019 will mark his birth date with a resolution recognizing Gandhi’s historic role in moving humanity to a new stage of thought and development, as well as his importance to the Civil Rights and Black Freedom movements. The event will include citations to honor civil rights leaders Diane Nash, Bernard Lafayette and James Lawson, as well as peace fighter Romesh Chandra and anti apartheid activist E.S. Reddy. The event will highlight the deep historical links that tie India to Afro-America.
We are very excited to announce that Rev. James Lawson has agreed to speak at the event! We are fundraising to cover the costs for his travel, stay and honorarium.
Reverend Lawson was born in Uniontown, Pennsylvania on September 22nd, 1928. In 1947, he followed his father’s footsteps to become a Methodist preacher and joined the Fellowship of Reconciliation. In accordance with his beliefs, he refused the draft during the Korean War and was sentenced to three years in prison. Between 1953 and 1956, Reverend Lawson lived as a Methodist Minister in India, where he deeply studied the philosophy and methods of nonviolence, specifically Mahatma Gandhi’s methodology of Satyagraha, or truth force, to achieve social, political, and spiritual change.
Upon returning to the United States, Reverend Lawson was soon pulled into the burgeoning Civil Rights movement in Nashville by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who believed Reverend Lawson had the philosophical background and firsthand experience to help the movement grow roots in the United States, later calling him “the leading theorist and strategist of nonviolence in the world.” Reverend Lawson enrolled in the Vanderbilt Divinity School and started organizing workshops on nonviolent resistance for students and community members as part of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Many prominent civil rights were trained in those workshops, from Diane Nash, Bernard Lafayette, James Bevel, John Lewis, and Marion Berry. Lawson and his students would be the heart of the movement to desegregate Woolworth lunch counters, the 1961 Freedom Rides, the 1963 March on Washington, the Mississippi Freedom Summer, the Anti-Vietnam War Movement, and other movements for racial and social justice.
We honor Reverend Lawson for showing us what it means to be a lifelong Freedom Fighter. Reverend Lawson has continued to take a principled stance against United States military build up around the world, and to educate the American people about how the struggle for peace is intimately connected to the struggle for social and economic justice within the United States.
Reverend Lawson speaks with clarity to the younger generation about the need to transform ourselves to build a world founded on truth and nonviolence. We need this clarity more than ever. Bringing Reverend Lawson to Philadelphia on the eve of Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday would be a catalyst for a movement that finds the way forward in these times of pessimism and crisis. Please help us honor him for his courageous and pioneering work in building the Civil Rights movement. Help us raise money for an honorarium and his travel expenses!