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January 27, 2003

Honor the movement and the man, says colleague of Martin Luther King Jr.

By Louise Donahue

The civil rights movement was about more than one person, the Rev. James Lawson told a crowd at UCSC's Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Convocation on January 21.

Photo of Lawson at lectern

The Rev. James Lawson spoke January 21 at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium. Photos: Victor Schiffrin, UCSC Photo Services
Photo of Lawson

Lawson, who worked with King in the 1950s and '60s, urged his audience at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium to honor King while honoring the wider social justice movement. "This day honors a movement and a man. No one person can do what needs to be done," he said. "It must become a movement of the people." Lawson was the keynote speaker for the 19th annual convocation.

Lawson was crucial in developing the nonviolent strategy used by King, and remains an antiwar activist. "I am appalled that we have been debating going to war--how best we can vanquish a people who have not attacked us." A retired minister, Lawson was part of an interfaith group that visited Iraq in 2000 to support the lifting of sanctions against that country.

Lawson also reminded the audience that King pushed for economic rights as well as civil rights. "Economic warfare is more brutal and destructive than military warfare," he said. "Globalization is only a big word meaning the continuation of plantation capitalism."

In a wide-ranging address, Lawson also criticized the role of the religious right in the Bush administration. "I'm a clergyperson, but I don't want to be governed by clergypeople. We are in peril, whether we want to acknowledge it or not."

The convocation was presented by UCSC in cooperation with the Resource Center for Nonviolence and the NAACP Santa Cruz Chapter.

The day after the speech, Lawson took part in a panel discussion at UCSC's Mainstage Theater on nonviolent action. In addition to Lawson, participants included Professor Paul Ortiz of community studies, Professor Carolyn Martin Shaw of anthropology, and students Marissa Bloom and Angela Thibodeaux.

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