In this Spotlight on Nonviolence, I had the great privilege of talking with George Lakey, a retired professor of peace and conflict studies at Swarthmore College, lifelong activist and author of several books including How We Win: A Guide to Nonviolent Direct Action Campaigning and Viking Economics: How the Scandinavians Got It Right and How We Can, Too. In Part 1, George and I discuss his work in the civil rights movement, his thoughts on the successes and failures of the Black Lives Matter movement, and his extraordinary experience as a nonviolent bodyguard for human rights lawyers in Sri Lanka. In Part 2, George and I discuss lessons that labor activists in America can learn from the labor movement of the Nordic countries and his experience fighting for LGBTQ liberation. I was struck by George's immense warmth, passion, and intellect. George has dedicated his life to social movements and talking with him, seeing the gleam in his eyes and hearing his hearty laugh, I got the sense that he has been a "happy warrior" for peace and justice.
George has the ability to reframe an issue in a way that makes you see it in a new light. During a discussion of the slogan "defund the police" and the radical vs. reformist debate, George shattered that simple dichotomy by distinguishing between means and ends, both elements that activists must think about deeply. As a queer man myself, it was quite moving to talk to someone who has spent decades fighting for LGBTQ rights and never gave up hope that the struggle was winnable. I particularly enjoyed George's framing of coming out as a powerful nonviolent tactic. I wouldn't be able to live my truth if it weren't for the courage of George and other queer elders who illuminated the path to liberation. His practical advice for activists- articulate your vision in common sense terms, always go on the offensive- is essential for the ongoing fights we are waging for a more just economic system, a habitable planet, a world free from senseless wars and the senseless killing of Black people by police. George is truly a teacher- never pedantic or patronizing- but ever enlightening. I found our conversation deeply inspiring and insightful and I hope you will too.
Learn more about Peace Brigades International here- https://www.peacebrigades.org/
Learn more about Black Lives Matter here- https://blacklivesmatter.com/
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