The history of nonviolence and the Civil Rights Movement — its past, present, and future — will be tangible when two leading figures of the era – Dr. Clayborne Carson and Dr. Clarence B. Jones, take the stage at Allen Temple Baptist Church, Saturday, November 7 at 7 p.m.as part of the Barbara Lee & Elihu Harris Lecture Series.
Fifty-two years ago, Dr. Clayborne Carson, the Founding Director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute and Professor of History at Stanford University, attended the March on Washington as a 19- year- old college student. Earlier that same year, King’s attorney and long time confidant Dr. Clarence B. Jones smuggled the hand-written notes out of King’s prison cell which became Letter from a Birmingham Jail.
At the invitation of King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, Carson spent the past 30 years directing the ongoing editing and publishing of the breadth of King’s papers, most notably the The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr. which now comprises seven volumes.
Jones remained a close associate of King, editing first drafts of both King’s speeches, “I Have a Dream” and “Beyond Vietnam,” when King first linked “the giants of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism.”
As important as their personal testimonies, the speakers will also explore the relevance of nonviolent struggle today. Co-produced by the middle school and high school students of The Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center (www.mlkfreedomcenter.org) and Merritt College, the talk is subtitled, “The Future of Nonviolence in America, Chaos or Community: Where do we go from here?”
“We are not anticipating a history lesson but a message from those who made history,” explained Roy Wilson, Freedom Center director, during a visit to the center Merritt College offices.
Freedom Center staff and students are planning and coordinating all of the day’s activities, the culmination of which is the evening lecture. Earlier in the day, Carson and Wilson will talk with the current cohort of 45 students, comprised of youth participating in the center’s two- year Nonviolent Leadership Program.
The Freedom Center recruits students from six East Bay school districts during the fall, winter, and spring with the largest group entering during the summer months.
According to its website, the Freedom Center “promotes the principles of nonviolence and offers an environment where young people actively seek peaceful, nonviolent solutions to the difficult challenges we face in our communities.” With these ongoing problem-solving and community building activities, students are ready to provide service.
Or as Wilson put it, “Students learn how to construct networks, the first step in building movements. They do so by developing a nonviolent lifestyle and, while they are not directly organizing, they are organized for action.”
The nuts and bolts organizing of the Clayborn-Carson lecture this Saturday is itself an exercise in planning mass education, a tool of the Civil Rights movement. Expect to see the young Freedom Center students leaning forward, looking for ways to apply its lessons close to home in Oakland.
The Barbara Lee & Elihu Harris Lecture Series, a partnership with Merritt College, promotes an exchange of ideas to help inspire and move forward new leadership. All lectures present civil rights leaders who worked closely with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and who continue to work tirelessly for social change.