Gandhi’s Global Legacy – Keynote 1: James Lawson & Mary Elizabeth King
Articles,  Blog

Gandhi’s Global Legacy – Keynote 1: James Lawson & Mary Elizabeth King

(bright music) – Good evening, everybody. Thank you so much for braving the traffic and the parking, and
coming to Fresno State. I’m Honora Chapman, the Interim Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, and on behalf of President Joseph Castro and Provost Saul Jimenez-Sandoval, I wish to welcome all the
faculty, staff, and students, community members, and
especially our visiting scholars who have come from so far, all over the country and the world, and our remarkable keynote
speakers, Reverend James Lawson, an eminent leader of the
civil rights movement who worked alongside Dr. King, Dolores Huerta, transformative activist who continues to fight for justice, Ramsey Jay Jr., one of
our own star alumni, and Nipun Mehta, an
inspirational human being who lives Gandhi’s teachings. We wish to thank our wonderful Philosophy Professor, Dr. Veena Howard. (audience applauding)
Yay! She’s been working
tirelessly for over a year to bring together all the scholars that you’ve witnessed
today and tomorrow as well. She’s also a remarkable teacher. She’s a beloved teacher. She has been an award-winning teacher who has been asked by the students to speak here in this hall
for Fresno State talks. Her students love her in her classes. She’s also an amazing scholar of Gandhi, and Asian religious traditions, and she inspires her students to reach new intellectual heights through how she teaches her classes and with the speakers
whom she brings to campus for events such as this
amazing conference. And yet, she’s found time to author books, she has written her own book, as well as editing books
of other scholars’ essays, and numerous articles as well. Her most recent volume is called “A Handbook of Indian Philosophy “and Gender with Bloomsbury”, and she has a major Oxford
bibliography on Gandhi. Dr. Howard has been asked to speak at various international conferences focusing on the issues of peace, interreligious dialogue,
and social justice. To ensure that so many great speakers could attend this celebration
of Gandhi’s legacy, Dr. Howard has worked
tirelessly to secure the support of many campus and
community organizations. We are thankful to the Ethics Center and Dr. Andy Fiala, the
Henry Madden Library and Dean Hornbuckle, the
President’s Commission for Human Relations and
Equity and Francine Oputa, with the Cross Cultural and Gender Center, and many departments
and community partners. We are especially grateful
to our major donors, the JP and Renu Sethi Foundation
and the Uberoi Foundation. (audience applauding) Thank you so much, both of you. Just a little background, JP and Renu Sethi lived
in the San Joaquin Valley before moving to San Diego. Their philanthropic
foundation is committed to helping those in need
through organizations such as Poverello House and
the Marjaree Mason Center. JP has said that in his childhood he was deeply influenced
by Gandhi’s teachings, and he believes that it is fitting that Gandhi’s teachings of nonviolence and uplift of everyone be
taught to our students. We thank the JP and Renu
Sethi Foundation so much for their generous support.
(audience applauding) Those are our students, Ingrid and Liz, who are presenting their gifts. We are very grateful as well to the Uberoi Foundation
for Religious Studies, which devotes itself to supporting various scholarly projects of
Dharma traditions of India, and has given a generous
grant for this conference. (audience applauding) Two of the members of
the Board of Trustees, Mrs. Anu Bhatia and Mrs.
Jyothi Bhatia have come all the way from New Delhi, India, to participate in the conference. Thank you so much.
(audience applauding) Thank you. We genuinely are honored
by all of you here, and we are grateful now to introduce Dr. Veena Howard to the stage to provide a preview of this conference, including her own thoughts
as a Gandhi scholar on Gandhi’s legacy, as
well as to introduce our esteemed speaker tonight,
Reverend James Lawson. Thank you so much for joining us. (audience applauding) – Good evening, everyone. Welcome to the Gandhi Conference,
we did it, we are here. (audience applauding) I am so grateful to our
Dean, Dr. Honora Chapman’s, kind introduction and remarks. We can’t go wrong when
we have leaders like her, and our own Associate Dean, Dr. La Porta, I don’t know whether he’s here, and our Provost and President, I have support of them so
much throughout this process. So, thank you, Dean
Chapman, appreciate it. So, this conference, as
you saw on the program, is truly interdisciplinary, right? And colleagues and students
as you saw even today, across the departments and disciplines have supported me. It does take a lot of work
to pull them all together, but it has been fun. And I am so humbled by
the help of so many. But I would like to give my
special thanks to Dr. Fiala. Are you here, Dr. Fiala? Can you stand up?
(audience applauding) He’s a Director of Ethics Center and Professor in the
Department of Philosophy. He has been truly a partner,
support, in this endeavor. Thank you so much. I would also like to
acknowledge the support of Dr. Francine Oputa.
(audience applauding) She’s Chair of the President’s Commission for Human Relations and Equity, where I also have served for
the last, almost four years. And she also Director of Cross
Cultural and Gender Center. What she has done for last year or so, she has guided me and mentored me through the planning of this conference, and she will be moderating
this evening’s event. So, after our speakers have spoken, then she’s going to do the
question and answer as well. So, we are, like Dr.
Dean Chapman mentioned, that we are grateful for the sponsorships of so many on-campus and
community organizations, and to our generous donors. Without their support, it
would have not been possible to put such a conference event together with this kind of size and scope. We need financial support
for doing good work, believe it or not. We do believe. So, Gandhi lived in poverty,
we know that, right? But he knew that any social
work requires resources. He was smart, he kept
his rich friends near him so that he could be supported by them. So thank you, our donors,
appreciate that very much. It’s so wonderful to see
many of our campus leaders, deans, community members,
faculty, and students here. Thanks for coming this evening. So, dear students, this
is all about you, right? Always is, universities are for you. The sign-in sheets are in the back just in case you’re
looking for extra credit. (audience laughing) And you’ll get opportunity
to ask questions to our eminent speakers,
so please take notes and be ready to ask questions. So, I extend my welcome to all of you, especially to our keynote
speakers and esteemed scholars, and who have traveled long distances to participate in the conference, from India, Detroit, Virginia, Hawaii, North Carolina, Georgia,
Oregon, and many other states. Could you please stand and be recognized, my dear scholars.
(audience applauding) Thank you so much. So, the reason I want you to look at them, because they’re going to speak tomorrow. So, you have to come tomorrow
to listen to their talks and learn from them. So, keeping in spirit of
Gandhi’s own life and works, we wanted to make this commemoration events of Gandhi’s 150th birthday available to all people. So, there’s no registration fees, it’s open to public, all the events, and we wanted to make it available for community members and students, after all, we are studying Gandhi. In today’s world, Gandhi’s
teachings can offer tools and constructive programs for addressing our modern day challenges, and we will learn as we go
through this conference. Before we invite Reverend
James Lawson to the podium for sharing his words of wisdom, and Dr. Mary Elizabeth King
to offer her reflections, I would like to provide a brief context about the impetus of such a conference. So, as you have noticed, this conference is not a
typical academic conference where only scholars invited, right? Exclusive, we know about those. The conference is sort of, hybrid, as my research itself, which
combines scholarly analysis with practical applications. I have been working on the project of Gandhi’s global legacy
for the last few years, and I’m surprised by his
far-reaching global influence. So, last summer in Singapore, where I was invited to give a talk at a very high-power conference, I met a 93-year-old Muslim
business man and philanthropist. He was born in India and
met Gandhi as a child. He told me how Gandhi inspired all colonized nations
to fight for freedoms. Not just India, all over Southeast Asia. He lamented how Gandhi has been co-opted, and times his life and legacy have been misinterpreted
and misunderstood. He told me that he still remembers Gandhi’s remarkable presence as a child. So, how do I came to Gandhi’s studies? I know students ask me that question. About two decades ago when my friend, Professor James Earl from
the University of Oregon introduced me to Gandhi’s studies. I was the Indian philosophy
scholar, or student, rather, and then he introduced
me to Gandhi’s studies. I did not know much about
Gandhi at that time, his epic life, his influential teachings. We are glad that Professor
Earl is here with us and will be presenting tomorrow afternoon. Professor Earl, could you please stand? My mentor, my teacher.
(audience applauding) My study of Gandhi’s life, his writings, speeches, letters, and about him has been quite revealing to me, and my views about Gandhi has evolved. Gandhi’s writings and
words have now recorded in hundred volumes and 50,000 pages. Imagine studying Gandhi. There are more than 500
biographies about Gandhi, and thousands of scholarly books that analyze his life and legacy, and they continue to grow each year. As a student and teacher, I realized that to really understand him, we must look at his
journey, his struggles, his writings, his
conversation with his critics, he was very good with
speaking with his critics, and his actions. Gandhi’s life represents
a journey of a man who did not claim to be perfect, and he was not perfect man
because he was a human being. But he did not hesitate to
admit his failings and faults, which many of us don’t
have courage to do that. Who did not have all
answers to all the problems, and at times, his answers were simply either too idealistic or not correct. However, it is refreshing
that as a politician he often admitted his mistakes publicly. Can you believe in today’s world people saying, “I messed up,
sorry, I won’t do it again”? We want to hide it. He called his mistakes Himalayan blunders, and seriously engaged with his critics and sought to uphold truth. George Orwell once
remarked, simply regarded, “As a politician and compared
with the other leading “political figures of our time,” which was long time ago, and now if he was talking to you, I don’t know what will happen. “How clean a smell he has
managed to leave behind.” How clean a smell he
managed to leave behind. So, Gandhi was committed
to secure India’s freedom from the British rule, but
he was equally dedicated to providing constructive programs for uplifting all, and
addressing the issues of health, sanitation, poverty,
use of local products, Hinduism unity, equal dignity for all, improving the life for those
who live in rural areas, systemic structures of violence. I mean, he had really talked about various structures of systemic violence. Hindu laws relegating
women to lower status, and child marriage, all the laws that relegating women to lower status. Gandhi’s ideas are complex,
multifaceted and dynamic. They demand serious study, and
these scholars who are here, and activists, they have done so, not simply cliched saying
and caricatured images. The two individuals you’re
going to meet tonight who have done serious
study of Gandhi’s writings, experimented with the
matters of nonviolence in American civil rights movement, and for securing the rights
of other marginalized groups, these two individuals are
Reverend James Lawson Jr., and Dr. Mary Elizabeth King.
(audience applauding) Now this is a moment
we are all waiting for, it’s my honor and privilege to introduce Reverend James Lawson. Reverend James Lawson is the architect of nonviolent movement
in the United States. Reverend Lawson learned Gandhian tactics of nonviolence during his
visit to India in 1953. He had been studying before that, much before Martin Luther
King Jr. visited India. He worked in the civil rights movement and his work is legendary. He was invited by Martin Luther King Jr. to join him to end
injustices and oppression. He calls Dr. King Martin,
so that’s something, we will call that, right? Dr. King called Reverend Lawson “A great theoretician of nonviolence”. He developed unique tactics of training to desegregate national,
and much of the South. What I found intriguing in his method was his unique and innovative training to prepare student activists. If you haven’t seen documentary, “A force More Powerful”,
I highly recommend it. He sacrificed much in
service to peace and justice, he chose to go to prison instead of war, he suffered physical assaults and verbal humiliations during protests. I believe that as a scholar
and a student of Gandhi that Gandhi’s methods of nonviolence and passive resistance
became known to he world because of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Reverend James Lawson’s
adaptions of Gandhi’s philosophy in a new context, and Gandhi
had predicted that in 1930s, he said that, that “Because
of this civil rights movement “my methods will be all over the world.” But it wasn’t just the U.S. South where Reverend Lawson worked. He has worked nonviolently
for peace and justice for workers in hotels and field works, including alongside Cesar Chavez. And he’s still active
on behalf of students. This morning, Reverend Lawson went to the Sunnyside High School
to meet with his students. Has a long day for him, he chose to go to the Sunnyside and meet
the kids where they were. So, he continues his work
for teaching students. He’s continued to be active
on behalf of students today, and he continues to hold
workshops every month in L.A. if you want to go attend it. I met him in 2016, and
he was difficult to find. He doesn’t do Facebook,
he doesn’t do email. Nobody can find his phone number, but he has been one of the
most valuable finds of my life. He’s a living embodiment of Gandhi’s philosophy and principle. I did not meet Gandhi, I’m too young, but I’m so grateful I met him. And now, you will also have the chance to meet him and hear him. Please join me in welcoming
Reverend James Lawson. (audience applauding) – I am pleased and delighted to be back at Fresno State again this
evening, to be in this place and to be with so many
of you who are here. I want to extend my
thanks and appreciation for the invitation to
this Gandhi conference. And we’ve already said once tonight how important this conference is and how grateful we are
to Professor Veena Howard for pulling it all together. So, I will not repeat what I
had in my head to say at all, except to say that we do want, clearly, to acknowledge that. I hope I do not talk too long, but it is now 6:30, we’re
supposed to end at 7:30? Something, 7:30? Huh?
– 7:45. – 7:45, all right. Well, I have a note in
front of me that says, “Keep your hands out of your pocket. (audience laughing) “See the people, look straight ahead.” (audience laughing) I remind myself of these things. It also says, “30 minutes only.” (audience laughing) I hope I can fulfill that last 30 minutes. I wanna say a word about
Mary Elizabeth King because probably Mary Elizabeth
King, who was a volunteer to the Student Nonviolent
Coordinating Committee, of which I was one of the founders and organizers of the conference. She is probably the only
other person that I know of, out of, not the civil rights movement, but the Rosa Parks Martin Luther King Jr. nonviolent movement of America. I hope you heard that, because
it’s critically important. She’s the only person besides myself who has continued to give, study, and teaching of Gandhi and nonviolence and of nonviolence struggle both here in United States
and in other places as well. She’s an outstanding scholar and author of some of the best studies of nonviolence in the 20th century. So, I’m more than
delighted that she is here to share in part with all of us today. She represents our struggle… in the mid part of the 20th
century very, very well. Better than… most people, I think, that I know of. I wanna say a word also about the fact that one of the reasons a
Gandhi conference is critical is because the Academy has
really left out of its teaching, by and large, the nonviolent
struggle of people over the centuries of the human family. So, we get these American
textbooks on history in high school and they
exclude the struggle of labor for the Social Security
Act, as an example. Or the struggle of the women
of the 1910 to 1920 movement, Alice Paul and Lucy Burns and others who use nonviolent tactics to force a president of the United States to change his mind, and
to make women’s suffrage the 19th amendment a major speech before both houses of congress when he kept saying he would never do it, that he couldn’t do it. And in wartime, (chuckles) in wartime, the Lucy
Burns Alice Paul segment of the Women’s Suffrage Movement forged a power and a spirituality that caused Congress to
pass the 19th amendment, and then sufficient number of
states to vote on it so that, this has been mentioned
today, August 19th, 1920, we have an anniversary
of that 19th amendment. It did not come from the
17th century, mind you, it came because women put together a nonviolent struggle
that made it inevitable. And the Academy tends not to teach that. I never saw that in a
history book in college or in graduate school. Never saw that issue. I have a real issue with the Academy even though I continue to teach at places like UCLA in L.A. the Academy, especially the
social sciences and history have left out the ancient history of what can be called soul force struggle. It is not true that all of the conflicts of the human race across maybe 4,000 years of written history were primarily conflicts that were managed by the use of violence. That’s not in the books, and the Academy needs to correct it because it is critical, it seems to me, of the change of our country and for what I want to say this evening. And so, a conference like this can help point the way
towards the universities becoming more aware of things like, in the United States where there have been creative boycotts and strikes and picket lines and demonstrations against segregation in 1840
in Pennsylvania, New England, all with illustrations of soul struggle, that are critical, it
seems to me, occurred. I wanna take a little excursion to say that before I met Gandhi I had been practicing nonviolent struggle for something like nine years. I did not call it that. As I looked back, I know that my own… perspective on soul force
comes from my parents and their interpretation of
the religion of “The Bible”, and their interpretation
of the religion of Jesus. It was nondogmatic, but primarily on how we human beings can live together, and work together. And I know that I learned the way of love, which is one of the
definitions of nonviolence and soul force in that my dad’s church in Massillon, Ohio from
age four to age 18, where I had a loving
congregation who felt that… we lived in a climate of love. And it is there that I
learned the black song. Oh Mary, don’t you weep, don’t you mourn. Pharaoh’s army got drowned, oh Mary, don’t you weep don’t your mourn. Or, where I learned as a child, go down, Moses, go down,
way down to Egypt land. Tell Pharaoh to let my people go. Those are some of the patterns out of the black
experience that I grew in, and that convinced me. That way of compassion and truth… was the way of strength,
and the way of nobility, and the way of character. Then in 1947 I read, for the first time, Gandhi’s autobiography. Gandhi’s autobiography
not only persuaded me of the power of the creative
force of the universe, or personal living, that
also then changed my language so that I began to use
the terms that Gandhi used and introduced to life. Nonviolence and soul force,
life force, God force, truth force, and the other terms that are so important to me today. So, Gandhi affirmed in me where I was exploring the fact that… struggle against racism, which
began for me at age four, that I did not have to
become an alternate racist to resist the ills of
criminalization of racism. That has greatly expanded my
understanding and my life. I wanna put a different edge on the meaning of Gandhi for our times, because you may or may not
realize that Gandhi said, “Nonviolence is a science
of social change.” If we learn it and use
it, it will never fail. If we use it with
discipline and creativity, strategic sensibilities,
it will work every time to bring about political,
social, economic, spiritual and moral change. And I would want to lay that on you, that the history now of the recovery of this science of nonviolence is weighed with a record from history, a record from the lives
of millions of people, a record of all sorts of demonstrations that took place in the
20th century and earlier, so it is time for the Academy to maybe adopt Gandhian’s notion, which is also one of the
things that King followed in. Nonviolence is a science of social change, a science of how you bring about justice, and freedom, and equality,
and the beloved community. So, I propose to you today that we see Gandhi as the
father of nonviolence, not the inventor, but the
father of nonviolence, who, like Albert Einstein, used his life around the same time that Einstein was understanding the theories of relativity and
the use of gravity and force, and presented it to science and became, therefore, the father of science, the father of physics
out of the 20th century. I want to insist that Gandhi
is the father of nonviolence. And I wanna go further to say that back at the end of the 20th century Time magazine did a
contest of several years in which they wanted to try to name the top figure of the 20th century. And the two finalists… were Albert Einstein, look
this up on the internet and get that edition of the final choice of the man of the century. And the runner up was Gandhi. So, a very influential journal and corporation in this nation called Einstein and Gandhi the two most significant figures of the 20th century. And I’m here to try to say that I would say that Gandhi
is the superior figure because he did the hard, relentless work of learning, and studying, observing, and thinking, and preparation, and discovered nonviolence as an ancient force in human history, and pulled it together in a fashion that he could talk to
us about it as a science but also as a practical way
of transforming our own lives, and transforming the lives of others. And in that sense, I honor Gandhi tonight and speak of his work. I have to tell you something, my friend Professor Howard, I have not yet decided to
connect with the notion of calling this beautiful planet, or the world family, I have not yet… reconciled myself to
speaking of it as global. I happen to think that that language is an effort to codify the Earth. I have a beautiful globe that sits right to my left of the computer on my desk at home. It is a pure glass globe, beautiful thing that helps
me to think about the world and to meditate on the world, and struggles of the human race. But I want nonviolent struggle and thought to demand that it’s not a globe, it is a beautiful living… planet, that to the best of our knowledge is the only planet in the universe that has sustained, and supported, and created life such as we know life. I want to talk about it
not as a globe at all, but to talk about the home of this seven, or eight, 9 billion human beings who represent so many different shades, and so many different creeds, and so many different
nationalities and ethnicities, and countries, represent
so many different forms of understanding culture and life, so many different languages. I want us to understand
that about ourselves before this globalization goes wild and turns us into artificial intelligence rather than as people.
(audience laughing) So, here’s the major point
I wish to make tonight. The second major point. The first major point is this. The world in which you and I live is a world that has been largely shaped by the underbelly… entities and demands of
Western civilization. The world, as our
Pentagon says every year, is not a dangerous world, it has been made more vulnerable and more fragile by, in many ways, the thrust
of Western civilization. The Western exploration
of the 15th century that sent ships over to discover Africa, and South America, and
Australia, and North America also carried with them some soldiers and cannon and guns for
the purpose of conquest. Those ships also carried people who expected they might
find gold and wealth and use it for themselves. They had a mandate coming
out of Spain or France, or Portugal that said
that if you find the land that has no Christian ruler then you can claim that land for yourself and for your king, or for your queen. So, that Western exploitation was not as we are taught in
United States, all good, all wonderful for the shape
and forming of the world, or the shape or forming of the human race. It brought with it the dirty notion that the best, most superior civilization is European civilization. It brought the dirty notion that Christianity is the only valuable true religion of the world, and you must be Christian. It brought the demand that your cultures must submit to our culture
from the European area. Now, now all of that was the case, (audience applauding)
but I wanna push hard the fact that the Western civilization has been the major intellectual, spiritual, moral force for
the world in which we live. ISIS did not make this world
like it is, we made ISIS. Here in the United
States, we falsely assume that we are the best nation in the world, and that we have the right
to tell all other nations to do as we want them to do. So, my major point, Gandhi
as the father of nonviolence represents the necessity of the world choosing a new paradigm. Not the one that we live under primarily, but a different paradigm. Gandhi represents the challenge that Western civilization as it introduced so much into the world must change. It must move from a conquest civilization and a domination
understanding of the earth to the notion of justice and truth. It must move from its
preoccupation with power as being primarily lodged
in the gun or the bomb to a notion that power is
primarily the power of life and compassion and truth, and that life needs to be organized not under the notion that human beings are commodities, and things, but on the notion that human beings are the precious gifts
of life for the earth and for the world.
(audience applauding) So, put this as why Gandhi is important. That he provokes us, he challenges us, many of the issues with
which we contend today, Gandhi thought about them
and talked about them and worked to change
them back in his own day. If you’re talking about women’s equality, gender justice, well, Gandhi
was concerned about it in South Africa more than 100 years ago. What I’m trying to say to you is this, that the Gandhian understanding
of nonviolence as power, the creative force of the universe, is a question to Western
civilization and to every nation. We pursue the course the world is taking, and we doom ourselves,
either with “The whimpers,” W.H. Auden said, “or with a bang.” We either allow ourselves to be exhausted through chaotic climate needs, all while the use of chemicals that pollute the earth,
or the use of plastic that is beginning to cause great, great, great
damage in all our oceans, we continue that course,
we extinguish ourselves, and we may very well turn our
planet into an ice planet. We follow the course of the United States, whether in Vietnam or in
Syria or in Iraq or in Iran, we follow that course,
and we commit ourselves to the continued chaos in our
own country, in our world. We support the military operation of the United States, 800 military bases in more than 100 countries, ignoring that we need
to be a people who have, as our chief budgetary needs, the quality of life for every baby born, and for every boy and girl in our land everywhere across the 50 states. We continue that course
and we therefore put off the need for us to become
a more humanistic society. We follow the course of our land, this United States of America, and we prepare for the massive violence that will explode in Africa, where our Pentagon and our policies now have 6,000 troops on the ground in 43 countries… laying the framework for future, not of Africa being able
to rise up and awake, and become its own people, but to be a place like Syria, and Iraq, and Afghanistan, and wherever
else we are operating today. I say this as strongly as I can say it, which is why I contend
that we need to understand more diligently and more faithfully from a nonviolent perspective the work of Martin Luther King Jr., who agreed with Gandhi… nonviolence of nonexistence, co-annihilation coexistence, which calls for paradigmatic change, the way in which we live and operate and understand ourselves
and understand this nation, that is the U.S.A. And so, I propose that if you wanna understand Gandhi better, then I say to you, make the
nonviolent movement of America, 1953 to 1973… a place of research, and
study, and examination, which is not being done… period. In that 20-year year period, in at least 18 of those years, there was a major nonviolent campaign in a place like
Birmingham, or Mississippi, Freedom Summer movement, Freedom Summer. Or in Albany, Georgia. Major campaign of direct action that began to change
the face of the nation, and then along with that major campaign, there were many other kinds
of demonstrations around, especially the Southeast
and the South Central, but around the nation. Los Angeles called their
campaign in the 60s, the civil rights movement, it was a multicreedal, multidisciplinary, multipeople ethic, 10, 12, 13 years. Chicago called it the
civil rights movement, but in Memphis, we called
it the Freedom movement. It was the sanitation strike, we call it a movement
for justice and equality. In Birmingham, Alabama, we
called it the Freedom movement. That movement demonstrated
protracted struggle and demonstrated a high level of personal and social discipline. The activism the United States today will not cut the mustard
for the change we need in the United States.
(audience applauding) Will not do it. Gandhi insisted, if
you want social change, Martin Luther King Jr. the same, if you want social change, you need to use nonviolent
strategy, methods, discipline. A political social movement
that’s going to help dismantle the injustice and
allow justice to increase will be a movement that is
systematic and disciplined. One of the things that
was said in the press, in the media in the 1960s was about how so many people
in so many different places seem to reflect in their sit-ins or picket walks, or
swim-ins or church-ins, or economic boycotts represented
such a magnificent picture of personal and group discipline. That’s what Gandhi said is needed for every social movement. You cannot have people running all around with all kinds of noise
and agendas and theses, if it’s going to be a movement that means a better scene than we have
today in the United States, it’s going to mean solid understanding of nonviolent soul force
energy preparation and work. This is what King-Gandhi represents, this movement in the United
States is largely neglected because it is called too often
the civil rights movement, when we rarely use that term, except in certain circles among us. We talk freedom and equality and justice, we talk the beloved community. We talk the dismantling of
the segregationist system. All of its ideologies,
all of its institutions, all of it in every way possible so that we could then have a people freed of those shackles on the mind, and on the spirit, and the imagination, so that we could then work to create a different society. The present moment in the United States is still a part of the
awakening of the nation that came out of the
movement of nonviolence. Rosa Parks, Martin King
movement for nonviolence. And another part of that
interpretation, for me, is this, that our present political scene may very well get worse
before it gets better. I know no one wants to think about that. President Donald Trump is an icon of the forces of spiritual
wickedness in our country that have, for too long, gripped the minds and the
spirits of too many people. Forces of sexism and racism, plantation capitalism and violence. It’s those poisons that have produced the Trump in our midst today. He is probably a… The worst of the tyrants who
are available to our country. The next tyrant will be
probably far more sophisticated and modeled and handsome
with the right language and the right sort of
way to attract people. Beware! Beware that what we experience is but a surface of the forces of wrong that still inhabit too many of us. And I see little or no leadership that recognizes the depth of our problem. We do not have a political party that wants justice for
all and equality for all. (audience applauding)
We the people may have to produce a party that will want the dismantling of gender inequality, and of sexism, and violence, so that new ways of democratic
understanding and truth might have the chance
to move in our country with great vigor and power. So, again, the challenge of… Mahatma Gandhi, Mohandas K. Gandhi, is the singular question. Will there be the kinds
of people’s movements of nonviolence in the United States across our world that
will help the human race regain new power centers that will change the direction of the world
over the last 500, 600 years? Our response to Gandhi
and to that paradigm may, in fact, not only shape you, but shape me as well. Now Gandhi talked about the arduous, the long arduous struggle
for truth and justice. Martin King spoke of the long, bitter, beautiful struggle. And I would end simply on that note. We of the human family have not yet tapped the creative forces of life,
of the universe in a fashion, so we have some understand
of Gandhi and King saying, struggle ahead is long and tedious, in some ways dangerous. In the meantime, however, those
of us who commit ourselves to nonviolence, soul force,
life force, love force, truth force, beauty force, learn of that history and that… method, that form of strategy, that form of protracted struggle, we must be ready… through on a daily basis, understand the passionate, the bitter, as King at one point said, but beautiful struggle. I am often astonished… at where people commit
themselves to that struggle, to that work in the spirit
and power and truth of life. I am often astonished by what that means in terms of nobility and humanity. And King and Gandhi put
their fingers on it. Nonviolence is not just a
phrase or a methodology, it is a way of life, it’s a way of being, it’s a way of struggle. It’s a way of doing the truth. It’s a way of living. So, I commend it, especially to all of the students who are here, and to all of us, to reclaim the life that can be called the life, using the most creative
force of the universe. You will not be disappointed. You will be astounded. (audience applauding) – There aren’t, I don’t think, very many people that can help you see some harsh, harsh realities, and at the same time give you hope. I think that’s what’s happened
here, wouldn’t you agree? Yeah.
(audience applauding) What’s going to happen now, is I’m going to introduce
Mary Elizabeth King, who’s going to give some brief reflections on what we’ve experienced right now, and what’s going on, what she’s thinking about right now. Thank you so much, Reverend Lawson. And I really appreciate him affirming who Mary Elizabeth King is, because if you look in the bio, it says that uniquely
among SNCC personnel, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, she has built her academic specialty on the study of nonviolent
civil resistance, and is an acclaimed
authority on the subject. And I appreciate him
affirming that about you, because if you wondered,
now you know, right? Now you know. She’s a prominent scholar of Gandhi, and professor of peace
and conflict studies. And… I really appreciate the fact that she has authored five major books in the field and around Gandhi’s legacy. She’s now a Professor of
peace and conflict studies at the UN affiliated University for Peace, the main campus in Costa Rica. She is also a distinguished Rothermere, American Institute fellow at the University of Oxford
in the United Kingdom. You can read more about her in her bio, we don’t wanna take up too much time because we wanna hear directly from her. Let’s welcome Mary Elizabeth King. (audience applauding) – I had to make a slight adjustment so that I could see each and every person, because when I came up here before, I realized that I would not
be able to see the front rows. Now I can see you all. Well, I’m very deeply moved to be here, and very grateful for the invitation. Professor Veena Howard has just been a joy to work with in making these arrangements. I’m delighted to know
about what is happening in this university, and the leadership of the many people that I’ve met in only one day of being here. Now, Professor Howard asked that I give some personal reflections. So, there are many
things I could be saying about what Reverend Lawson
talked with us about, but I’m going to follow your request. When I went to work for the Student Nonviolent
Coordinating Committee, I had very, very little to offer. I had just been graduated
from Ohio Wesleyan University. I had almost nothing to offer, apart from the fact that
I could read and write. But when I was in campus, I had traveled with the
campus YWCA to Nashville, Atlanta, and Tuskegee in my senior year, and because of that trip, I met people like John
Lewis, also in SNCC, Student Nonviolent
Coordinating Committee, SNCC, SNCC pronounced. I met Julian Bond, James Forman, so many people that I would
then soon be working with. But how did I get into SNCC? It wasn’t listed in the yellow pages. A telephone call came as I
was about to be graduated asking if I would come for an interview with Ms. Ella Baker and
Professor Howard Zinn. And so, I phoned my parents and said, “I’m not coming home, I’m flying
to North Carolina because,” and then I told them what had happened. So, I was invited into the movement by one of the advisors of SNCC. SNCC didn’t do everything right, but it had brilliant advisors, Chief of whom was Reverend Lawson, who was also uniquely the primary advisor to Dr. King’s organization. You need to understand historically the role that he occupied. He was the major agent for
the transmission of knowledge on the Gandhian struggles
and Gandhian philosophies, theories, and practice
to the United States, and the primary advisor
to Dr. King’s organization and to the student wing. He has a unique spot in
United States history. Don’t lose sight of that. So, I went on to SNCC staff
at $20 a week before taxes, which was double what
the field secretaries working for SNCC got out in Arkansas, or Alabama, or Mississippi. And because I was able to read and write, I was asked to go to work with Julian Bond handling communications. What does that mean? In a sense, communications
is nonviolent resistance, everything we do in nonviolent
resistance is communications. Whether it’s a silent vigil, or carrying a placard, or
releasing a news release, or issuing a statement,
it’s all communications. It’s communications of the
claims and the demands. The grievances, the oppression,
what needs to be altered. Well, for us, it also had
a life-saving element, because if I could only
get a reporter to a jail where one of our people was held, or a local person was held, it might save their life. So, I was put to work on communications, which allowed me to use what I had learned as an English major. And as a result, I began to be exposed to the work of Reverend Lawson in helping to guide us in understanding the basic theories,
the basic philosophies, the basic practices of civil resistance. And I would have to say that apart from my wonderful parents, he has possibly been the most
important person in my life. And I met him in my early 20s. So, what I’m going to talk
with you about tonight and tie it together with him, is about this discussion
that we’re having, this wonderful dialogue, is a
matter of lifelong knowledge. This is not something passing. This is something that
can change your life and potentially has the ability to alter our society. But how did the knowledge
get to the United States? Well, I’ve already
mentioned Reverend Lawson, but let me also say that African
American-owned newspapers were reporting diligently on
what was going on in India, including the situation
with The Untouchables. So, this was significant. Reverend Lawson’s family subscribed to the Pittsburgh Courier, so even as a child he was
reading newspapers coming in reporting from India, and
beginning to be exposed. He starts studying Gandhi in 1947. Those African American
newspapers were very significant because the editor of
the Pittsburgh Courier had traveled to India. So, they are bringing
reportage from India directly of the Gandhian struggles. Then, the historian, Sudarshan
Kapoor has documented that for 40 years there was a steady flow of black leaders traveling
to India to visit with those in the various satyagrahas, but also to learn for themselves how something that they thought that might be applicable in
the United States could work, to understand what was going on. It went on from 1919 to 1955, a steady flow of people
like Howard Thurman, Benjamin Mays, the President of Morehouse, whose chapels weekly are
when Martin Luther King first heard about Gandhi. There was a steady flow of
African American leadership traveling to the United States. When Bishop Edward Caroll
of the Methodist Church met with Gandhi in 1936, Gandhi asked him, “Why don’t you have “all of the Negroes in America
stay home on a certain day.” I happen to have known Benjamin, I happen to have known
Bishop Caroll as a child because my father also
was a Methodist minister, and he was a frequent guest in our home. This is the kind of intelligence that was flowing as a result of those leaders traveling to India. With Reverend Lawson, we got someone who was a pivotal theoretician for us. When he decided to oppose conscription in the Korean War and to become
a conscientious objector, he knew that he might be imprisoned, and indeed, he was sentenced to three years in federal prison, of which he served 13 months. The Methodist Church went
to the federal government and asked that they
release him from prison and allow him to travel to
India where he could teach. And so, he went to India for three years and taught in a college right
in the crossroads of India. This was very important,
because it gave him a chance to visit the sites of
he various satyagrahas, and to meet with people
who were satyagrahis, that is, working in those struggles, so that he developed a knowledge that no one else had in the Western world. There is no one else who had that exposure other than Reverend Lawson. Even before he went to India, though, he had realized that there
needed to be what he called, mass education and training on nonviolent direct action techniques. So, he already realized that the United States
of America was in need of what was happening in India, of that knowledge that
we needed that knowledge as much as anyone else in the world. Now, I can’t begin to tell you how much I learned from him, but I did, in preparation
for meeting you tonight, spend a bit of time thinking deeply about what I had learned
from Reverend Lawson, and I remember his exact words one day when he said to us, “They
will call us radicals, “but you need to understand
what the word radical means. “It means going to the root.” He would talk with us
about how pursuing justice must be combined with action. Just believing something’s not enough. He would talk with us about
the importance of openness, that there be no secrecy, it’s one of the characteristics
of nonviolent struggle, openness with authorities and officials. Transparent communication of your claim. Respect of the opponent. Viewing the opponent as someone who ought to be enlisted to your side, rather than someone to be criticized, or castigated, or put down, or worse. He would say, “We’re not
looking for victory over anyone, “we want justice for everyone.” And he would talk with
us about the connection between the means and the ends, and those of us who grew
up in the United States, unfortunately, have grown up in a society in which the predominant viewpoint is that the ends justifies the means. This is mostly what we hear
coming from Washington. Within the movement, however,
we were understanding what Gandhi meant about how you fight effects the results that you get. Well, today I’m older than Ms. Baker and Professor Zinn were when they contacted me, but what I want to suggest to you is that you have an opportunity
to be in this for life. On his way home from India, Reverend Lawson went to Oberland College to prepare for further studies. And he happened to have lunch with Martin Luther King Jr. at Oberland who was there to give a lecture. As he talked with him, I don’t believe Dr. King had
his doctorate at the time, so I’m not going to call him Dr. King, ’cause I’m not really sure
at that historical point. But as he talked about
what he had been doing for three years and learning
about the Gandhian struggles, Martin Luther King said to him, “Come South immediately, we
don’t have anyone like you,” which was true, Martin Luther King was still using the
term passive resistance, which Gandhi was very, very disturbed by, disturbed enough so that
while in South Africa, he made sure than another
term could be coined. So, Professor Howard mentioned “The Constructive Program” this evening, and it went by very, very quickly, but I’m just going to do with fast, but I’m going to mention
something important. In 1941, Gandhi published
what was basically a booklet called “The Constructive Program”. And what he was saying,
is that with some problems that are so deeply egregious, so oppressive, so negative, the best thing to do is to withdraw from the source of that oppression, and to begin building institutions, construct new institutions,
that’s where the name “Constructive Program” comes from. Begin building the new order while you are still
living in the old order. this is a very, very potent concept. It’s surprising to me
how many scholars I meet who think they understand what they call the U.S. civil rights movement who don’t understand the
meaning of this at all. And what Gandhi laid out
were 17 different components, which Professor Howard
enumerated some of tonight. Extremely important, but this idea that while you are still
under terrible pressure you can begin creating the
institutions of your future, is a very deeply potent one, indeed. In Mississippi in 1964, we adopted this in a very serious way. We had credit unions, we
organized cooperatives. We set up an alternative political party because “The Constructive
Program” encourages parallel institutions or
alternative institutions. You have a wicked such and such, create a new one that’s clean. You have a filthy political situation in which only white people are allowed in the Democratic party, I’m speaking of the way we spoke, create an alternative party. So, we created the Mississippi
Freedom Democratic party, and we challenged the seating of the all-white delegation
at the national convention. We almost won. Almost won. I can’t go into the detail and I won’t, because I see Professor
Howard is looking at me. But I want to point out
that one of the things that we were able to do in SNCC, and SNCC was largely the leader in the Mississippi Freedom Summer, even though we had a
consolidated organization that allowed all of the civil rights organizations to be involved, SNCC had something like 120
field secretaries in SNCC. I was just one, and I was doing communications the whole time. And as a matter of
fact, there’s an article that was published on Monday about my work in communications that Professor
Howard has had duplicated. There’s a picture of
me working in the midst of the tumult of the headquarters of the Mississippi Freedom Summer. And you see me talking quietly
on the phone with a reporter. That’s what I did most days, I did it for often 12 hours a day, many, many weeks in which
I worked seven days a week. We also were able to break the back of the terror groups and vigilantes that had controlled the southland, basically, since the tragic
end of reconstruction. And the way we did it was
with nonviolent discipline. Reverend Lawson spoke at some length about the importance of discipline. This is a word that the
millennials don’t like, I noticed. It’s fundamentally extremely important in the success of nonviolent action. Because of our discipline,
because of the way we maintained that communications program, we had no support from the FBI, which James Comey admitted in 2016. He went to Birmingham to the church where the four little girls were killed by the Ku Klux Klan, and he admitted that we and the FBI were late. Well, that’s a very
minimal way of putting it. I mean, we all knew that
the FBI was in collusion with the Ku Klux Klan
and the terror groups. But as a result, as a
consequence of the 60,000 sum local people who
registered to be involved, and think that there are
tens of thousands other people in the Mississippi Delta, the African American Black Belt counties in which there might be
85% black population, we were able to break the back of that violence in that summer. Regrettably, we lost three of our workers, James Chaney, who was with CORE, Michael Schwerner, also with
CORE, and Andrew Goodman, a volunteer who had just
arrived from New York. The country, the United
States, was deeply affected by the tragic losses of
these three young men. And it gave us an opening, a listening, a listening began. And there began to be some changes. I think we have to be skeptical
about legislative changes, but there began to be some changes. I want to mention one thing in closing, which is, what I’m here
to tell you tonight is that this is something
you can do for life. I also want to share with you that our knowledge is inadequate. About five years ago,
I went to see the head of the Oxford University Press political publishing wing in Oxford. And I told him that Dr. Jean
Sharpe had approached me and said, “Mary, I think
you need to do a study “on a struggle where everything “we think we know is probably wrong. “Everything we think we
know in the literature “is probably wrong, you’ve
got to take on this project.” Well, you can appeal to
me on the basis of duty more easily than anything else. If I think something is my duty, I’m much more likely to
do it with enthusiasm (laughing) than any other motivation. You can’t get me with money or prestige, but you can get me by saying, “Mary, it’s your duty to work on this.” what the Oxford University
Press editor told me is, “Mary, we have no one in Oxford “who can work on anything like this. “we just don’t have the capacity. “You’ve got to go to the
Oxford University Press “in New Delhi,” which I did. And in 2015 they published a book that resulted from 15 years of work. The United States Institute
of Peace gave me a grant, I had a grant from my institute in Oxford, it took me 15 years, many, many trips. I spent my life in the archives in Kerala, and in New Delhi, and finally,
the report was produced. Scholars like Richard Greg
and Joan Bondurant were… idealizing and romanticizing something that had not happened. They said that the Brahmins
in the village of Vykom, spelled V-Y-K-O-M, had been so affected by the suffering of The Untouchables that the changed their practices and embraced the Dalits, which is another name for Untouchables, it’s from the language of
Ambedkar, his mother tongue. There is no substantiation
for that at all. What I’m here to tell you tonight is that there are many Gandhian struggles that are, as yet, undocumented. I hope that some of the
students that I’ve met today will think about this seriously. We need more people to be doing more work on the Gandhian struggles that have never had any social
scientists look at them. The Indian social scientists got involved in subaltern studies. They decided not to pay any attention to the Gandhian struggles, basically. I want to invite you to join me in working on unresearched
Gandhian struggles, and I also want to share with you that you will get tremendous energy, and uplift, and gratification by taking on this topic
that Professor Howard and Reverend Lawson have elaborated on and brought so many
brilliant people together. This is something you can do for life. This is lifelong knowledge
I’m talking about, and remember that knowledge is not like a great big brick, unchanging, it’s something that’s always altering. So, there really is a tremendous need for young scholars and young organizers. Tremendous. Thank you very much.
(audience applauding) Thank you. – Let’s give Mary King
another round of applause. (audience applauding) You know, I can’t help but think when we think of the folks that we lost during the movements that they are even here, right? That they’re even here
is a wonderful thing and we are so honored by
your presence, both of you. Our time is far spent,
but we do wanna give an opportunity for some questions. Do you remember who Veena said all of this is for at the beginning? The students. We have such a short period of time, and so, we’re gonna allow for questions, but we’re gonna allow
for it from the students. Is that all right with everyone? (audience applauding) So students, this is your opportunity. We’re only going to be able to
get three or four questions. So, if you’re a student and
you want to ask a question of Reverend Lawson or of Mary King, let me see you throw your hands
up in the air, very quickly. One, two, three, come on forward. Four, I think that’s what I see. Perfect. Come forward, two at this
mic and two at that mic. And since you’re the first one
at the mic we’ll start there. – [Student] Thank you. I’m really honored to be here
and have this opportunity. My question is for you, Reverend Lawson. What do you say to the young people today who have taken their frustration regarding social
injustice and release them by means of social media posts rather than true field work? – I didn’t get part of that question. Go with U.S.A culture
rather than nonviolence, is that the meaning of the question? – No, my question, let
me rephrase it, was, what would you say to
the young people today who take their frustrations
in regards to social injustice and release them by means
of social media posts rather than true field work? Like posting on Facebook or Instagram their beliefs and how
they feel about injustices rather than seeking true work. – Well, you’ve had an excellent example in the last few days. Last week or week before of
the thousands of demonstrations that went all across the world, social media by the
16-year-old high school person who started a strike in
Sweden over the issue of climate chaos, climate change. So, that indicates the power of the media used
rightly, and social media. And the other side of the coin, though. Those demonstrations
represented only one tiny tactic or methodology of the nonviolent… tactics that are available. A much more important tactic is developing a protracted struggle. So, the question that could be asked is, will each of the major marches in every city across
the earth now divide up into a strategic protracted
struggle locally, in which there are demonstrations that may go on every week at places where the power
levels can be pulled until such time as those
power levers begin to move in the direction that
those protracted struggles want them to go in. The nonviolent movement
of the United States was not mainly large marches. We were mainly, for an
example, 1960, ’59, ’60, the sit-in campaign, that was
primarily sit-in campaigns, going into restaurants, theaters, five and 10 cent stores
week after week after week. In Nashville we did
demonstrations two days a week, Saturday and Wednesday
afternoon and evening. So. Thank you very much.
– You’re welcome. – So, the question. The nonviolence, it seems to me, that Gandhi persistently pushed– – Thank you.
– Was not the nonviolence of major marches, but the nonviolence of protracted struggles
with targets and goals, many of which could be accomplished. Does that?
– Yes, very much so. Thank you. – So, there’s a role, perhaps, for both, but in the United States, we
need a protracted struggle over many months of
work at the local level. – Thank you.
– Without announcing that you’re going to be
out there every week. – Yeah. – You must not give away the plan. – Thank you.
– Thank you. And we have a question here. – Hi, my name is Elizabeth. So, I study political
science and philosophy here at Fresno State,
and through my studies I came across this term of state. And basically what that
means, in political science, is a country in normal terms. And with the notion of state, there comes this characteristic of having a monopoly on the use of force or violence on your people. And I just wanted to know
what you thought of that as Gandhi scholars, and
what that means to you in terms of, do you view that
as a positive kind of notion of protecting your people, or do you feel like the
injection of force or violence is just inherently bad? – I can’t understand. Can you understand the question? – Your question is about up against the violence of the state, how do you protect your movement? – No, what I’m saying is, is that a requirement, in the
definition of what a state is, is that the state has the monopoly of use of force or violence on its people. And what I’m suggesting is, is that do you, and through
my study, I don’t like that, I don’t think that a state should have a monopoly of use or force, and I know that through your talk you mentioned a lot about politics, and I was wondering if
you had a standpoint on that particular
characteristic of a state. – Yes, that’s, of course… Lennon and Marx both recognized that the state very often has a heavy amount of control of the
power in a community. But Gandhi and others in
this area of nonviolence have said that that state power requires the consent of the people. Even under dictatorship,
even under tyranny. And that if people begin
to remove that consent, even silently, no longer support it, then that power is under real threat. Does that make any kinda sense? – [Elizabeth] Yes, it does. – I’m quoting some of the
literature now that is available. – [Elizabeth] It does, thank you. – Could I please add a
couple of words to that? I also have another article, I believe, which I’ve written just last week in which I’m talking with
the critics of Gandhi who are charging him with being racist, or being this, that, and the other. That’s supposed to be available
for you at this conference, it’s been photocopied. Take a look at it,
because in there I mention that in 1906 when he was in his early 30s in South Africa, Gandhi had figured out that no system can stand if the people stop
cooperating and obeying. This is the core of his
understanding of non-cooperation as the primary way that
civil resistance works. So, I want you in particular to get it ’cause the quote is in that article from Gandhi in 1906, and I think that that will be something that you’ll be able to find
with the help of a librarian, you can go and read a little bit more of what he had figured out. It’s one of the most profound discernments because it challenges the
origins of state power, with which we have all
been brought up with. – Thank you.
– Thank you. – [Elizabeth] Thank you. – Hello, my name is M.Z., I
am a public relations student here at Fresno State. I have one question for the both of you. As Mary had said that
the millennial generation would not like that we have
to be disciplined nowadays, especially to create social change. What suggestions do you have for us to be able to learn more discipline, and also to spread it
throughout our peers? Because as a public relations major, it is kind of my job
to get ideas out there, and I feel like this is
an idea worth sharing, and it must be learned by more people. – What is at the heart of
your question, the core? – What are your suggestions for us to get the idea out there and spread it towards more people in my generation? – What is the best idea
for getting more people of your generation involved?
– Yes, with nonviolence. – May I take a shot at this?
– Yes, go ahead. – Yes. One of the things that you
may be interested in knowing is that quantitative scholars, that is, people who are
interested in numbers, I’m a qualitative scholar, I
do long, deep case studies. But quantitative scholars studying hundreds of violent and
nonviolent struggles since–
– 1906. – 1906, what was?
– 1906 to 2006. Are you talking about America?
– Yes, yes, I am. – Yeah.
– Yes. Found that the violent
struggles were less effective than the nonviolent struggles. This was earthshaking data because people like Reverend Lawson had always suspected that this was the case, but finally we had some numerical data. So, I think that this is something that you can find easily by going onto the web and looking for Erica Chenoweth. She writes often in the Washington Post and the New York Times, very accessible. I think that you will find that if you circulate some of the things that she’s written that you will have a lot of people following you and wanting to ask if you’ve got more. – [M.Z.] All right, thank you. – And our final question. – Hi. So, Ms. King, you touched
upon this a little bit before the last question, but I would just like to know both of your opinions on this. Many people have great
reverence for Gandhi and his work through nonviolence, however, there are select few who believe he has much
to be criticized for, and I would just like to know how you would address those
people and their criticisms? – First of all, we must
get you my two articles. But let me say that we
have a tendency sometimes as human beings to think that we can look at what happened in previous eras and past times and judge
it through our values and our perspectives of today. If you do that with Gandhi,
you miss the authenticity and the truth of what
was actually going on. He is born into a situation where there is a
theoretical interpretation of purity from pollution that
governs the caste system, which took thousands of
years to develop in India. It’s completely theoretical. He is there under British rule, imperialism was supported
by very deep racism, Reverend Lawson abutted this area tonight. So, Gandhi grows up with theoretical arguments of inferiority. Racism on the one hand, untouchability on the other. He has to get rid of all that baggage before he can become the
person that he was in maturity where the entire human race is part of the same compass. So, I would say to you, that
the most important thing with your colleagues is to say yes, but we cannot judge
somebody by our standards, we have to understand
their historical context. We also need to understand
that as human beings, we are capable of growth, we are capable of evolution, and this is precisely
what happened with Gandhi. Yes, of course, he couldn’t
grow up in British-ruled India under the caste system and not have some ideas about
inferiority, including women. He thought like an upper
caste middle class man thought women belonged
in the home, cloistered, but he would eventually lead the destruction of gendered hierarchies after he returned home from South Africa. He becomes an advocate. He wants women involved in all
nonviolent struggles by 1920. He is encouraging women to take leadership in local struggles. He is really advocating for
the involvement of women in all aspects of the work he’s doing. It starts in South Africa
with a Natal Indian strike, when his own wife and three other women go into the Transvaal
to encourage a strike. You saw some footage of
it today in the film. He becomes a leader of change. This is a remarkable alteration, we’re all capable of that alteration. So, talk with people in those terms. – [Student] Thank you. – Yes, who in 1900… Or 1905, who among the world leaders or the business leaders of the world, who are the scholars of 1906, who were critical of racism, gender discrimination, critical violence in economic structures. In that sense, Gandhi was a pioneer, as early on he begins to
speak out against racism and caste, and whatnot. Sometimes we, in the King movement, get criticized by… academics and others, for an example, I’ve read two, or three,
or four different volumes on black women in the movement. And in it, there will be a criticism that is sometimes nuanced,
other times quite bold, that why didn’t you
all deal with the issue of women’s equality? Well, who in 1955 had any, what women’s group did you
have around the country that was hammering away (chuckles) at what the Me Too
people are talking about? Or male chauvinism, or sexism, or the lack of equality of women. Who was doing that in 1940, 1955 in the United States? So, you can’t read back into the 1953, ’73 nonviolent movement, you can’t read about into that, whether women had a role to play or not. In actual fact, I would say to you, whether some have reported it or not, the bus boycott began
because of black women who, for at least two to five years were organizing and protesting against the mistreatment of black people in the buses in Montgomery. They even had a number of conferences with the mayor and the
president of the bus company before the bus boycott. Those women are the ones who caused the bus boycott to happen.
(audience applauding) It should teach that. In Nashville, Tennessee
where SCLC and King and other people who have
committed to the bus boycott were thinking about,
what’s the next campaign? I deliberately tried to
organize in Nashville with a number of other people who were friends with SCLC,
or affiliated with SCLC, a systematic four-point
Gandhian methodology to organize the sit-in campaign
of Nashville, which we did. We chose a topic, we
chose a demand for change. We had six months of meetings weekly to make the decision where we would act. We said, “We must have a
nonviolent campaign in Nashville “in order to show the nation “that Montgomery was not an accident. “That it can be done again,
and again, and again.” That was the part of our motivation. It was largely black women
in Nashville who then boldly, maybe following the leadership
of women in Montgomery, to change the strategy
of the whole movement. They said to us, and I shiver
when I still think about it, they said, “We must desegregate
Downtown Nashville.” Can you imagine that? I’ll always remember my own thought as we came to that conclusion. I could not have chosen that target. I had not the slightest notion what the target should be, but it was black women whose understanding of segregation in Nashville, and running and managing their families in Nashville in the segregated city where most of the shopping was downtown, even grocery shopping, who persuaded me that they were right. No matter how big the target, no matter that no one else had chosen that as a
target, they were right. So, we adopted the target. We will desegregate Downtown Nashville. You have no idea what that meant. But that became, then, the target. Dismantling Jim Crow
law, Jim Crow practice. Do you have any ideas what it is to walk into a downtown area where you have signs
that say “No wetback”, “No chink,” “No Jew,”
“No colored, white only”? This is how many cities
across the country operated. And it wasn’t just in the South. But in any case, they made the decision. So, people wanna talk about what. Well, from my perspective,
it was the women who helped us launch,
more than any other group, the nonviolent campaigns
of America, 1953 to 1973, and women who became the backbone of much of the movement. – [Student] Thank you. – (sighs) Let’s give our speakers
another round of applause. (audience applauding) It’s really interesting to me, my second-born daughter
and I were just last night having a conversation about allowing folks the chance to reform, from where they are at one point, do we allow them the grace
to reform, or transform, from where they were at
one point in their life? So, thank you for that. One more round of applause
for our presenters. (audience applauding)

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