Campaign Nonviolence National Conference - Panel Discussion Nuclear Weapons Los Alamos and Nonviolence
Jay Coughlan, NukeWatch New Mexico, lays out the startling facts on the current state of the United States nuclear arsenal and current modernization plans which are leading to what some people are calling the “Second Nuclear Age”. Bud Ryan, filmmaker of The Forgotten Bomb, relates the personal story of traveling to Hiroshima with his Japanese-American wife, and the galvanizing effect the trip had on him. Marian Naranjo, founder and director of Honor Our Pueblo Existence (HOPE), and a potter and organizer from Santa Clara Pueblo, opened with a prayer and asked everyone to remember whose homelands the conference was taking place on. Marian also asked all participants to take action with the pueblo, including writing letters to tribal officials. Beata Tsosie-Peña from Santa Clara Pueblo offered remarks and a beautiful, evocative, and eye-opening poem. The panel concluded with Rev James Lawson’s clear eloquence on his personal experience of the atomic bomb as a high schooler in 1945. Rev. Lawson went on to discuss the connections of nuclear weapons to many forms of injustice and domination perpetrated by the United States.
Martin Luther King, Jr. once called his friend and colleague Rev. James Lawson “the leading theorist and strategist of nonviolence in the world.”
Civil Rights leader James Lawson was born in Uniontown, Pennsylvania in 1928. His father and grandfather were Methodist ministers, and Lawson received his local preacher’s license in 1947, the year he graduated from high school. While in college, he joined the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), which first exposed him to the nonviolent teachings of Gandhi and Howard Thurman.
In 1950, Lawson became a draft resister and was arrested and sentenced to three years in prison for refusing the Korean War draft. He spent fourteen months in federal prison (1951-1952). In 1953, he sailed for India where he taught at Hislop College in Nagpur, India. There he met with many of Gandhi’s colleagues, including Prime Minister Nehru. While in India, Lawson eagerly read of the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the emerging nonviolent resistance movement back in the United States.
When he returned to the United States in 1956, he enrolled in Oberlin School of Theology in Ohio. He met Dr. King in 1957, and decided to move to Nashville where he served as Southern secretary of the FOR. He enrolled at Vanderbilt Divinity School and began holding seminars to train volunteers in Gandhian tactics of nonviolent direct action. Drawing on the example of Jesus’ suffering and nonviolent resistance, he taught growing numbers of black and white students how to organize sit-ins and other forms of nonviolent action to confront the immorality of segregation. His workshops led to the Nashville sit-in movement and desegregation campaign.
Initially, Lawson had to convince other African Americans that nonviolence was “deeply rooted in the spirituality of Jesus [and] the prophetic stories of the Hebrew Bible.” For Lawson, the civil rights protests were not just a political movement. “It was a moment in history when God saw fit to call America back from the depths of moral depravity and onto his path of righteousness.” John Lewis calls him “the architect of the nonviolent movement in America.”
James Lawson helped coordinate the Freedom Rides in 1961 and the Meredith March in 1966, found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and served as director of nonviolent education for SCLC. While working as a pastor at the Centenary Methodist Church in Memphis, he played a major role in the sanitation workers strike of 1968.
In 1974, Lawson moved to Los Angles to serve as pastor of Holman Methodist Church, his base for the next thirty years. He hosted a weekly call-in show, “Lawson Live,” where he discussed social and human rights issues affecting minority communities. For many decades, he has spoken out against racism, and challenged U.S. military involvement throughout the world. He has worked extensively with Janitors for Justice and other unions in Los Angeles, and continues to teach and offer workshops in active nonviolence to this day. He has taught at Harvard, USC, UCLA, Claremont and Vanderbilt. He is featured in the film, “A Force More Powerful.” He and his wife Dorothy live in Los Angeles, CA.
Marian Naranjo is the founder and director of Honor Our Pueblo Existence (HOPE), a community-based organization located at Santa Clara Pueblo, New Mexico. She is the mother of four and grandmother of seven, and a lifelong traditional potter. She has worked actively for over twenty years to address environmental and health issues for her region and the Santa Clara Pueblo. The Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) is located within her ancestral homelands. Currently, she serves as the Communities for Clean Water supervisor/mentor for the Youth Council Initiative Project. Her work with HOPE also includes cultural preservation and reclamation projects within the Santa Clara Pueblo that promote sustainability for traditional lifeways. She also supports and participates in projects that preserve and protect sacred sites in New Mexico.
Beata Tsosie-Peña is an activist from Santa Clara Pueblo, near Los Alamos, New Mexico. She is a mother, poet, farmer, musician, and certified in infant massage. She also serves as an educator and in permaculture design. She is a “Green For All Fellow” and has served on several local community boards near Espanola, New Mexico.
She is on the staff of Tewa Women United, a non-profit organization based in New Mexico, where she advocates for justice, a clean environment and health. She has lived all her life near the nuclear weapons complex at Los Alamos, and supports her Pueblo’s vision of peace. She believes in the practice and preservation of land-based knowledge, spirituality, language, seeds, family and the Earth. She has dedicated herself to the healing, wellness and sustainability of her community and the Earth for future generations.
Bud Ryan is an anti-nuclear activist, filmmaker and organizer with Pax Christi for the annual Hiroshima peace vigils at Los Alamos. Originally from New York City, Bud and his wife Tomoko moved to rural New Mexico in 1991 and built a solar house in an off-grid community. His first visit to Hiroshima in 1991 started him on his path as an anti-nuclear activist. After working for years with Pax Christi New Mexico to help organize the annual peace vigils, he decided to make a film about nuclear weapons. Along with Stuart Overbey, he spent four years making and producing “The Forgotten Bomb,” a powerful documentary about nuclear weapons which went into distribution and was seen at many film festivals. It won Best Feature Length Documentary at the Irvine International Film Festival in California. He lives near Madrid, New Mexico.
Jay Coghlan is the Executive Director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico. He has worked on Department of Energy nuclear weapons and environmental issues for 26 years. Early on, he helped initiate campaigns that stopped radioactive incineration and an advanced plutonium facility at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). He has been central to efforts that successfully obtained national public review of the nuclear weapons complex, aninjunction against construction of an advanced nuclear weapons design facility, and a federal court ruling that LANL had been out of compliance with the Clean Air Act for over six years. He initiated litigation that resulted in a $6.25 million settlement fund that supported citizen and tribal studies of DOEcleanup issues. He successfully asked Senator Jeff Bingaman to legislatively mandate independent expert review of the reliable lifetimes of plutonium pits, the radioactive cores of nuclear weapons.
The subsequent conclusion that plutonium pits last a century or more seriously undermined aggressive proposals for new nuclear weapons designs and expanded pit production. Coghlan has fought against major new plutonium facilities for nuclear weapons at Los Alamos and elsewhere for 26 years, so far successfully. He lives in Santa Fe.
James Doyle, a political scientist at Los Alamos National Labs for 17 years, was fired in 2014 over a report he wrote calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons. His article was an impassioned critique of the political theories undergirding the nuclear arms race and an embrace of President Obama’s vision of a nuclear-free future. Doyle believes his sudden firing was in retribution for his refusal to support the Lab’s central mission—its continued development and production of nuclear weapons, at a cost of $2 billion per year.
Doyle was a specialist in the nuclear nonproliferation division at the Los Alamos Labs from 1997 to July 2014. His professional focus is on systems analysis, strategic planning and policy development. Dr. Doyle holds a PhD in International Security Studies from the University of Virginia. He lives in New Mexico.