Campaign Nonviolence National Conference - Commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the US atomic bombing of Hiroshima Ashley Pond Los Alamos New Mexico
Nearly three hundred citizens from across the country and local New Mexico communities gathered at the birthplace of atomic bomb, Los Alamos, to meditate, march, and renew the commitment to peace, nonviolence, and nuclear disarmament. Father John Dear led the traditional Christian sackcloth and ashes ritual of repentance from violence and nuclear weapons. The line of marchers processed along Trinity Drive with signs and banners. They sat along the busy road in silent contemplation and vigil as they demonstrated for nuclear disarmament. Then, the citizens marched back to Ashley Pond, where speakers delivered remarks underneath the swaying strings of 70,000 Cranes for Peace folded by people from around the world. Medea Benjamin of Code Pink, Kathy Kelly of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, Beata Tsosie-Peña from Santa Clara Pueblo, Ken Butigan of Pace e Bene/Campaign Nonviolence, and Rev. James Lawson.
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.
Medea Benjamin is a cofounder of CODEPINK and Global Exchange. Described as "one of America’s most committed -- and most effective -- fighters for human rights" by New York Newsday, and called "one of the high profile leaders of the peace movement" by the Los Angeles Times, Medea was one of 1,000 exemplary women from 140 countries nominated to receive the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the millions of women who do the essential work of peace worldwide. In 2010 she received the Martin Luther King, Jr. Peace Prize from the Fellowship of Reconciliation.
Since the September 11, 2001 tragedy, Medea has been working to stop the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and promote a U.S. foreign policy that would respect human rights and gain us allies instead of contributing to violence and undermining our international reputation. Her work for justice in Israel/Palestine includes taking numerous delegations to Gaza after the 2008 Israeli invasion and organizing the Gaza Freedom March in 2010. In 2011 she was in Tahrir Square during the Egyptian uprising and in 2012 she was part of a human rights delegation to Bahrain in support of democracy activists when she was tear-gassed, arrested and deported by the Bahraini government.
A former economist and nutritionist with the United Nations, Benjamin is the author/editor of eight books. Her latest book is Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control, and she has been campaigning to get lethal drones out of the hands of the CIA. Her articles appear in outlets such as The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, Huffington Post, CommonDreams, Alternet and OpEd News.
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.
Ken Butigan is Pace e Bene’s Executive Director. A peace and justice worker, workshop facilitator, and writer for two decades, Ken also teaches at DePaul University in Chicago.
Since the early 1980s, Ken has worked with numerous social movements, including movements for a nuclear-free future, an end to homelessness, and freedom for East Timor. He was the national coordinator of the Pledge of Resistance and a national organizer for the Declaration of Peace. Ken joined the Pace e Bene staff in 1990. He developed and for several years directed Pace e Bene’s From Violence To Wholeness program, and was actively involved in creating Pace e Bene’s Engage: Exploring Nonviolent Living program.
Ken earned his Ph.D. in the Historical and Cultural Studies of Religions at the Graduate Theological Union in 2000. He has been a lecturer in the spirituality and practice of nonviolence at the Franciscan School of Theology in Berkeley, and directed the Spiritual Life Institute at Saint Martin’s College in Washington State for three years.
Ken has published five books, including Pilgrimage through a Burning World: Spiritual Practice and Nonviolent Protest at the Nevada Test Site.
Ken lives in Chicago with his spouse Cynthia Okayama Dopke and their daughter.