One of the most famous living contemporaries of Dr Martin Luther King Jr is the Reverend James Lawson, who currently lives in Los Angeles but made his reputation organizing the civil rights fight in Nashville that became the model for desegregation battles across the South. After making several other appearances, he came to Reverend L. Charles Stovall's home church in East Dallas. An amazing group of civil rights veterans turned out to dialogue with Reverend Lawson on how to achieve justice today.
Many of those history-making activists were among the crowd, including:
Lawson spoke on the “science of nonviolence” and lamented that it is not acknowledged nor taught in the U.S. He outlined his own role in desegregating Nashville and in providing the volunteers that carried the freedom rides through after racists thought they had stopped it.
A good discussion on how to achieve unity in the progressive movement was initiated by Lori Stafford of United Methodist Women. It is a constant question that activists try to deal with. We always wonder why we are not acting together as a progressive unit. Reverend Lawson had the answer. He told the group to get active on whatever project is at hand. Unity is a long and difficult process that does not precede activity, but is born alongside it.
Several of the veteran fighters, including Reverend Lawson, had harsh words to describe the state of justice in America, both in domestic and in international affairs. Peter Johnson said that churches are again being burned in East Dallas. Bob Lydia brought up a number of legal cases in which African American people were treated unfairly. In one case, he said that a woman had received a 180-day "contempt of court" sentence for having said, "Oh Lord!" in a courtroom.
Even while we celebrate the victories of the past, we must prepare ourselves for the challenges of the present and the future.