Image courtesy of the Nonviolence Teach In event
Join the UCLA Labor Center and UCLA Residential Life on May 30 from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. in De Neve Auditorium for a Nonviolence Teach-In led by Reverend James Lawson Jr.! The teach-in features Reverend Francisco Garcia, United Teachers of LA’s Ilse Escobar, and Black Worker Center’s Lola Smallwood Cuevas, among others. The event will be a timely reminder of the power of nonviolent social action and the need for training and solidarity in social justice spaces today.
In addition to this powerhouse panel of speakers, and a presentation by civil rights leader Lawson himself, there will be a film screening of “Love and Solidarity” and some student performances. The event is put on with the help of UCLA students as the culmination of the spring undergraduate course “Nonviolence and Social Movements.” The class is taught at UCLA by James Lawson and Professor Kent Wong, former union attorney and current director of the UCLA Labor Center.
“Nonviolence and Social Movements” is a popular undergraduate course housed in the departments of Labor and Workplace Studies, African-American Studies, and Chicano Studies. At the height of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, Lawson worked closely with leader Martin Luther King Jr. and taught nonviolence teach-ins to students in the south. Today, he uses this course and teach-in to pass on his personal knowledge about nonviolent struggle in order to equip students with the tools to inspire social change.
Lawson and Wong have taught the course for many years, and, in attempts to share Lawson’s story with a wider audience, they worked with graduate students to combine Lawson’s teachings into a book. “Nonviolence and Social Movements, The Teachings of Rev. James M. Lawson Jr,” delves into the art of teaching nonviolence and the philosophy of nonviolence, as well as its role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Nashville Sit-Ins, the Grape Boycott, the Hotel Workers in the context of the Labor Movement, and the rise of the immigrant youth movement. The class expands upon these themes as well as international nonviolent struggle, and offers students the chance to learn from some of the pioneers of civil rights advocacy and labor organizing in Lawson and Wong. Before the book was published, Lawson’s life work was honored and documented in the aforementioned 2014 film “Love and Solidarity,” which will be screening at the teach-in as well.
The teach-in comes at a time of great urgency. In light of national protests around issues like gun rights and more local battles such as UCLA’s service worker union’s (AFSCME) recent three-day strike, nonviolent struggle continues to serve as a powerful tool in battling systems of oppression.
Lawson and Wong ground their work in the current political sphere, building off their long list of past successes by serving as leaders in their local community. This past month they offered their expertise in the act of nonviolent struggle by leading the final march of the UCLA AFSCME strike, spreading their message beyond the walls of academia to the hard-working service employees who make schools like UCLA a reality.
The teach-in is free and open to the public, and is a precious gift from the Labor Center and nearly 90-year-old Rev. Lawson. Make sure to follow the event on social media (twitter: @UCLAnonviolence, instagram: @UCLAnonviolenceteachin #forcemorepowerful) and show up on May 30 to hear from these influential leaders, both young and old.
As a current student in the class, I speak for myself and my classmates when I say that it is a valuable and unique opportunity to learn from these leaders. Hope to see you there. In love and solidarity.