<i>"The Name of Our Country is América" - Simon Bolivar</i> The Narco News Bulletin<br><small>Reporting on the War on Drugs and Democracy from Latin America
 English | Español November 19, 2017 | Issue #65


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“There Is No Modern Day Equivalent of the Civil Rights Movement”

An Interview with Rev. James Lawson at the School of Authentic Journalism


By Andrew Stelzer
National Radio Project

June 11, 2010

One need not delve deeply into his biography to realize that James Lawson is a living legend. Working with Martin Luther King, SNCC, and the SCLC in the 1950s and 1960s, Lawson played a major part in perhaps the most inspiring peoples’ movement of the 20th century.


The Rev. James Lawson gave the keynote talk at the 2010 School of Authentic Journalism in Mexico on “Journalism and Civil Resistance.”
Photo: D.R. 2010 by Noah Friedman-Rudovsky
But I only had time for a quick sit-down with Reverend Lawson, and while rehashing the battles of the ‘50s and ‘60s would have been electrifying and educational, I was more interested in how his decades of experience since then have shaped his views. Where is the movement at in 2010? Had MLK not been assassinated, where might we be today?

I also asked Lawson about adherence to non-violence, whether non-violent civil resistance could still work in 2010, and whether lessons from the deep south could be applied to Latin American social movements of today.

While Lawson’s views on the current state of affairs might seem pessimistic, it’s hard to dispute the wisdom of his years, both on the planet and in the struggle. In this interview, he calls on (North) Americans to focus on eliminating racism, practicing non-violence, and working against the system of ‘plantation capitalism’, as he calls it, wherever it rears its ugly head. He calls for a ‘convergence’ of issues and activists, to see their struggles as one in the same, and not silo themselves, thereby weakening the movement. He also won’t budge on non-violence as the only tactic that works, with an interesting asterisk applied to comrade Fidel in Cuba.

Towards the end of the interview, I asked him about the legacy of Martin Luther King, and how its been whitewashed by the media. “The media is always going to domesticate issues in the United States.” Lawson responded. But Lawson didn’t put the blame on the press, a press that has never favored his side, in 1960 or today. Lawson instead calls on the left (and white left in particular) to step up, to celebrate Dr. Kings legacy and educate society about what it really means, and in the wake of Kings teachings, to continue the non-violent struggle today.

Lawson believes that change takes decades to achieve. He was part of a generation that proved that to be true. The question remains—do we still have the patience and the discipline today?

Take a listen and judge for yourself.

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The Narco News Bulletin: Reporting on the Drug War and Democracy from Latin America