Civil Rights Chief and CSUN Teacher Lawson Honored by NAACP

The Rev. James Lawson

Rev. James M. Lawson Jr., the renowned civil rights leader and instructor for CSUN’s Civil Discourse & Social Change initiative, was recently honored by the country’s oldest civil rights organization, the NAACP, during a ceremony held on BET and numerous ViacomCBS. is transmitted networks.

The story of American history in the 20th and 21st centuries cannot be written without Lawson, whose influence has touched almost every social justice movement over the past few decades. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. called Lawson “the leading theorist and strategist of nonviolence in the world.”

Lawson’s teaching and his work with students were instrumental in several of the most iconic protests of the 1960s in the United States, including sit-ins at the lunch counter to end racial segregation, the 1961 Freedom Rides, and the 1966 Meredith March key role in the plumbing strike in Memphis from 1968, which resulted in better wages and working conditions. King was in Memphis to support this cause when he was murdered.

Lawson’s ideas and leadership still resonate today. He plays an active role in labor movements and struggles for social justice and joins trade unions to fight for and model a more just and just society. Last year, Lawson spoke at the memorial service for United States Congressman John Lewis (D-Georgia), a senior civil rights leader of the 1960s who attended Lawson’s workshops on nonviolent struggle.

The NAACP recently honored Lawson with its prestigious NAACP Chairman’s Award during its 52nd Image Awards event. The award recognizes individuals who demonstrate exemplary public service and who use its diverse platforms to create agents of change after the NAACP. Previous recipients include Lewis, then a senator. Barack Obama, Congressman Maxine Waters, filmmaker Tyler Perry, and U2 singer Bono.

Lawson said he appreciated the award, which he saw as a national endorsement of his methods.

“I’m more interested in what it means to a lot of people in the black community,” Lawson said. “It means that the oldest civil rights group in the country recognizes my work and life as a nonviolent organizer. More than acknowledging me, they acknowledge the fact that the way I’ve done my job, the work I’ve done and do is on the right track. “

Lawson was recognized because his work continues to inspire those who participate in ongoing protests for racial justice.

“Last summer we saw millions around the world take to the streets in the strongest protests for racial justice and civil rights in a generation. These protests were inspired by the work of civil rights leaders like Rev. James Lawson, “NAACP Chairman Leon W. Russell said in a statement. “At this crucial moment in black history, there is no better time to recognize Rev. Lawson’s tremendous contribution to American history and to live up to his example.”

Since 2010, Lawson has participated in CSUN’s Civil Discourse & Social Change (CDSC) initiative, which combines education, community engagement, and sustainable activism to address issues of social justice and change. His work at CSUN includes workshops and public lectures, and he still teaches a course on nonviolent struggle, civil rights and social change. The course, which is an advanced level in communication studies, covers the history, philosophy and methods of nonviolent social change and links this knowledge with the ongoing struggles for justice and justice.

Lawson’s knowledge and experience have profoundly influenced the work of the CDSC, said Kathryn Sorrells, professor of communication studies, who co-founded the initiative with Marta Lopez-Garza, professor of gender and women studies. The CDSC is now jointly led by Khanum Shaikh, Associate Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies, and Clement Lai, Assistant Professor of Asia-American Studies.

“The Reverend Lawson has served the CSUN community as a visionary civil rights activist, mentor, teacher, and activist for over a decade,” said Sorrells. “He has consistently and courageously delivered the vision and blueprint for nonviolent social change to the CSUN community while our students are in the midst of attacks on colored communities, segregation from public education, and the increased visibility of white supremacy in US society. His leadership has been a critical force in the vision and maintenance of CDSC. “

CSUN students and alumni have brought Lawson’s teachings into the world.

José Juan Gómez-Becerra ’11 (Chicana / o Studies), MA ’13 (Spanish) was a student activist who worked through the campus organization Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA de CSUN) to advocate for problems affecting the working class concern, particularly the issues affecting Latinx communities. In spring 2012 and spring 2013 he was a teaching assistant at Lawson.

“Learning from him was a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Gómez-Becerra, who is now an assistant professor of Spanish at Eastern Kentucky University. “It meant learning about history from a historical figure. It meant being closer to the struggles and victories of the past and being able to make connections with efforts and movements working to eradicate systems of oppression in the present. It meant closing the pain and joy of struggling for social justice and just humanity.

“My experience of working closely with Rev. Lawson has taught me to face the struggles with grace, peace and confidence,” continued Gómez-Becerra. “I learned from him that there is a more powerful force; that is the strength in the conviction that what we stand for is just and right. The power to learn to trust and have faith in one another by seeing others through our own hearts gave me the patience to deal with internal struggles and the difficulties that arise when witnessing social injustice and oppression. This teaching has impressed me very much in everything I do. “

While many of Lawson’s alumni have carried on his tradition of nonviolent protest, for others his teachings are manifesting in a change in thinking and the way they hold their own in the world.

“The most important development for every student is that he or she realizes that if he wants a world without racists, as a young adult, as an adult, he has to change his or her own life in order to be a non-racist. racist life, ”Lawson said. “On the positive side, they have to shift their lives and jobs to reflect compassion, love, and beauty for all of the people in the world, from their own friends and family to the intimate and extended families they work with. In my opinion, this is the most important element in how every person uses their gift of life to be on the side of the truth. “

Civil Discourse and Social Change Initiative, Department of Communication Studies, Mike Curb College of Arts Media and Communication, Rev. James Lawson

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